On a rainy Wednesday night in Ithaca, Blind Pilot was set to take the stage. Before the doors to the Haunt were open, a line of excited concertgoers had formed at the entrance. Those in attendance ranged in age from young college students to middle-aged couples, all anxious about the return of the band after an absence of five years. Once inside, fans wiped off their glasses, shook their hair dry, and gathered around the stage in preparation for the night’s opener, Tall Heights.
The duo of vocalist/guitarist Tim Harrington and vocalist/cellist Paul Write warmed up the crowd up for the headliner. It’s safe to say that they did exactly that with their unique electro-folk, or “folktronica,” music style. Playing songs from their recently released album Neptune, the band shocked the crowd with their vocal range. The pair from Boston got creative during their set and instructed the audience to call their neighbor and activate speakerphone. This produced quite a bit of feedback from the phones in the audience which mimicked the sound of birds. This, paired with their electroacoustic looping techniques on the cello and synthesizer led to a somewhat overwhelming performance. Concluding with one of their well-known songs “Spirit Cold,” the band wrapped up their tour with Blind Pilot and handed the stage over.
Met with a dimming of the lights and the crowd’s welcoming applause, the featured musicians entered stage left. The six-piece ensemble jumped right into the set, opening with two well-known songs “The Story I Heard” and “Go on, Say It” from their first album 3 Rounds and a Sound. Lead vocalist/guitarist Israel Nebeker and drummer Ryan Dobrowski led the gradual development in the band’s sound with help from their fellow instrumentalists. The audience responded to each song positively with an eruption of clapping and whistling. Following each song’s uproar of appreciation there existed a moment of silence while the performers switched and tuned instruments. Once Nebeker’s bridge pin was fixed and the string regained tension, the mood became a bit more relaxed with “Moon at Dawn” from their most recent album The Colored Night. Continuing with their calming yet captivating set, Dave Jorgensen’s use of the trumpet and Ian Krist’s use of the marimba greatly enhanced the performances of “Umpqua Rushing,” “Oviedo,” and “Don’t Doubt.”
The atmosphere became somewhat intimate when half of the band members left the stage and the three who remained unplugged, in preparation for an acoustic version of “Just One.” Nebeker was on acoustic guitar, accompanied by Luke Ydstie on slide guitar and backup vocals courtesy of Kati Claborn. The audience proceeded to sing along to every word of the soothing tune produced by the trio. Following the crowd’s applause, the opportunity was seized to advocate for a partner non-governmental organization named SOS Children’s Village. While touring, Blind Pilot supports, spreads awareness and raises money to protect the interests and rights of children throughout the world.
The band continued with their set playing songs “Like Lions” and “Packed Powder” from their newest album And Then Like Lions. Nebeker described the album as a reflection on how we connect to the past. At one point, his lyrics offered some guidance “…don’t want to wait and miss my turn…” encouraging those to seize opportunities when they are presented to you. From there “3 Rounds and a Sound” offered the audience a more personal story regarding a past relationship. Bestowing the idea of meeting someone who opens your eyes, “…my eyes were dark till you woke me…,” to the wonders of the world and that moment being the start of everything. Besides the insightful lyrics, the addition of those band members on a variety of instruments added to the complexity of each song.
Blind Pilot began in Portland, Oregon with only Nebeker and Dobrowski, who toured the Pacific Northwest on their bicycles after the release of their first album. As time progressed, more members and instruments were added allowing for greater development in the band’s sound as we hear it today.
As the band left the stage, the crowd continued to cheer in hopes of an encore. To nobody’s surprise, the performers returned and were once again greeted with great admiration. One instrument that played a big part in the expansion of the band’s sound was the addition of a harmonium. It was used throughout the night by Jorgenson, but was truly recognized when Nebeker used it to open the song “New York.” They shared the story of how the harmonium was acquired, which involved losing a couple months’ food money and having a connection with a catering company.
Blind Pilot tied the night’s merriments together with “One Red Thread,” leaving the audience satisfied and in a state of relaxation. As the crowd began to clear out, those who stuck around seemed to be in denial that the night was truly over. Hopefully it won’t be another five years until Blind Pilot makes their return.