In Mike Birbiglia’s 2013 special My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Birbiglia basically tells only one joke: the story of how he got married to his current wife. Sure, there are many small sub-jokes, and every so often he decides to go a bit off-topic to provide backstory, but everything is focused on how he and his girlfriend eventually decided to tie the knot. This is Birbiglia’s comedy style, whether it be on his Netflix specials or while appearing on This American Life. Instead of jumping from subject to subject, with segways to link each bit together, Birbiglia decides to follow a cross between Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey theory and Dave Chappelle’s insight. He does not use any extreme ideas or absurdist routines.
The move from a small label to Warner Bros. for the Signs of Light album should leave no fan surprised that the stage production was as polished as the album’s established indie pop sound. Hanging lights and potted ferns were arranged across the stage, like a dreamy NYLON Mag photo shoot, and the draped reflective curtains in the back and twinkly lights atop the antique piano were impressive alone. An impressive light show weaved through the setlist, neon colors (sometimes a complimentary yellow over violet, but always bright) and floor lights always in motion created a stage your eyes couldn’t ignore. A disco ball was even added during the sixth song, and as Josiah and Jonathan crooned the last line of “Let’s be Still” the lights switched off right as the final chord was strummed, a beautiful quiet moment after long projections of light.
Tragedy strove to reverse itself in Byron Suber’s dance piece, Bach Solo Cello Suite No. 1, Circa 1986. Dancers in black fell to the ground one by one, like birds shot in midair — only to rise again, flinging their skirts with a death-defying joy.
Suber’s dance piece was performed at the State Theatre last Saturday for The Ithaca Ballet’s Winter Repertory Performance alongside with pieces by other choreographers. Bach Solo Cello Suite No. 1, Circa 1986 was an exercise in contrasts.
Dancers whirled together simultaneously with a frightening vigor — producing a dizzying juxtaposition of chaos and order. Neo-classical balletic movements jostled with modern dance techniques for a place in a piece where life and death are intimately intertwined.
Storming the florally adorned set of the State Theatre Friday evening, Toronto based indie pop group Stars immediately brought four fifths of the crowd to their feet. Building a swirling hurricane with golden organ and tin-laced percussion; the velvety vocal of Amy Millan weaved the band’s inaugural track.
Fuzzy purple lights wrapped the State Theatre in a cloud of warmth, as 30-foot tie-dye tapestries set the backdrop for the world’s most renowned Grateful Dead tribute band, the Dark Star Orchestra (DSO). Touring nationwide for over a decade, the Chicago-based DSO recreates original, song-for-song concerts from the Dead’s 30-year history. Last Tuesday night, the audience was treated to DSO show #1,611 — a rare original set list.
Frustrated with the half-hour delay, and already having chatted up the plaid-wearing I.C. boys next to me, I probably would have left my back-row seat in the State Theatre before the show even started Saturday night had I not been waiting to witness a true musical talent in the flesh.
When opening act for the night took stage, only a handful of people seemed really excited. (I found myself snickering when a middle-aged man jumped out of his seat to dance, for example.) It was a different story later on, however, when Sharon Jones pranced into the spotlight. Then, I was one of the only people left sitting down, because how can you sit down when a woman like that is onstage?
While Ithaca lacks most of the defining characteristics of a larger city — good shopping, vibrant nightlife, etc. — you don’t have to travel far from campus to find excellent performance arts. This past weekend, the Ithaca Ballet opened its 2008-2009 season with a set of matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday, downtown at the State Theatre.
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At first, I was disappointed with David Crosby and Graham Nash’s show at the State Theatre on Monday night. Mostly, this was because they didn’t perform “Fortunate Son” or “Bad Moon Rising.” Then I realized that I was confusing CSNY with CCR, and that expecting them to perform the latter group’s hits was somewhat unreasonable. After I came to this understanding, my entire perspective changed, and I found the concert quite nice.
“Welcome! Brothers, Sisters!” Eyes saturated with a sense of purpose, Billy Bragg inaugurated his Saturday evening performance at the State Theatre with scratchy, scathing electric guitar riffs as the firm backbone to a stream of political consciousness. Sporting dark blue jeans and a black 45-r.p.m. spindle throwback T-shirt, the graying folk-punk protestor drove the crowd to the verge of delirium by savagely pounding at his strings while firing off the words “democracy,” “unite” and “market fundamentalism.” Between songs, the Brit’s barely comprehendible rants featured profanities that we don’t even have in American English.
Andrew Bird put on a dazzling affair this past weekend at the State Theater. The Illinois musician and one-man army of sound captivated the 1,000+ people in attendance, juggling responsibilities as violinist and guitarist as he charmed the crowd with his banter.
Simply put, he was a blur of motion and sound on stage. Darting from one instrument to another, bird engaged the audience with his ethereal whistling and multi-layered, melodious compositions. Disarming everyone present with his unbelievable musical talent, the musician produced deep, rich and textured harmonies that saturated the beautiful old theater.