Band of Horses’ front man, Ben Bridwell, ventures out on a solo mission under the quirky moniker Birdsmell. This solo tour will bring him to Asheville Wednesday, Nov. 6 (9 p.m., $20), where the backroom of LAB will cater to the tour’s warm, humble, and energetic nature. Those lucky enough to be present should look forward to Bridwell revealing a lighter, more carefree, and at times silly side to himself and his music.
The name Birdsmell reflects the rollicking and free-wheeling nature of the project. When he first announced his solo tour in August, Bridwell issued a statement saying, “I haven’t quite figured out exactly what I’ll be playing, or how I’ll be playing it, but I’m guessing it’ll be hilarious. And sad. And awkward at times.”
In this regard, it’s understandable for Bridwell to seek out smaller venues, like LAB, where he can just have fun and “not give a damn about anything” – a sentiment expressed in a statement on Band of Horses’ website.
Jeff Santiago, owner of Rozinante Mountain Music, works for both LAB and The Orange Peel as talent hire, and says after catching wind of Bridwell’s interest in bringing Birdsmell to Asheville, it didn’t take Santiago long to realize LAB would be the perfect venue.
“I think from a developmental standpoint of the project, Ben wanted to find a way to bring it to small groups of people and build on that,” says Santiago. “He wanted to create an intimate experience in the smaller venues where they know they can fill up the room and also create some sort of demand for what he is doing; and that’s exactly the kind of thing LAB caters to.”
Bridwell has made many connections to LAB over the years and maintains a close friendship with owner Steve Wilmans; Band of Horses even played the backroom’s private inauguration party. However, the idea to bring Birdsmell to LAB supersedes nostalgia; rather, it was a strategic choice to maintain a quieter more intimate tone.
In a sense Bridwell is seeking a musical lab, a place where he can test new songs like “Why Were You Born” and “Tulsa” – both of which will be pressed in to 7” vinyl singles and sold exclusively at each of the eight stops on the tour. These, along with a few other original titles, can be heard at soundcloud and, despite attempts to downplay expectations, are melodic cogent gems.
Disappointment doesn’t seem to be in Bridwell’s DNA and most likely won’t be a part of the Birdsmell tour either. In a press release, Bridwell explained, “As far as the shows go, I absolutely do give a damn about playing for everyone and I will try very hard to make the shows enjoyable. To help with this, I’m bringing along one of my favorite songwriters, Bryan Cates, to set it off each night. I’ve also enlisted a legitimate hype man in the form of Matt Gentling (of Archers of Loaf fame).”
Santiago relates to Bridwell’s musically adventurous spirit, saying, “As a musician myself, I can understand that you work with a group of people and it may be very successful, but you always want to branch out to something different. You always want to push yourself, or take an opportunity to play with other musicians that you might respect and care about and want to spend time with; which is what I think he is doing.”
Bridwell stated in a press release that touring as Birdsmell is something he’s been wanting to do for a while: The inception of the idea can be traced to back to 2009 in Minneapolis, where Bridwell covered the George Harrison song “Your Love is Forever.”
“The track ended up being released on a Starbucks compilation,” Bridwell explained. “A few years later, I enlisted those same musicians to record some songs of mine that had been sitting around for far too long, some of which could be said to be uncomfortably silly and devoid of all reasonable taste. I wasn’t exactly in a rush to get them out to the discerning earholes of the public.”
It appears that the time has finally come to let the caged Birdsmell sing.
Editor’s note: While Bridwell’s solo show at LAB is certainly an exciting prospect, the real win here might be getting the other two musicians in the same room. Cates is a longtime BFF and collaborator of Floating Action’s Seth Kauffman. Before they embarked on their individual adventures, the two wrote and performed together in The Choosy Beggars. Listen here. And Gentling: Besides being a local rock climber and stellar guy, he’s also the bassist of Archers of Loaf and has toured with Superchunk, the Poles, Analog Moon and Band of Horses.