Birds of Chicago to take flight at Manhattan’sWritten by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When they take the stage May 12 as Birds of Chicago, JT Lindsay and Allison Russell will give Toledo what Lindsay promised will be an experience filled with “a lot of heartbreak, sex, loneliness, hope — with killer harmonies.”
The music is what Lindsay called 21st century roots music, a pressure cooker of a lot of traditions that mean a lot to them — blues, rock, soul and folk. Birds of Chicago is the 2011 evolution of Lindsay’s other band, JT and the Clouds, with the addition of Russell as a solo artist who Lindsay calls “our main jewel, a bedazzling thing.”
Russell has been singing with Lindsay for years. Her original band, Po’ Girl, and JT and the Clouds were brother/sister bands for a long time, touring together and playing on each other’s records.
“Anyone who hasn’t seen my partner — Alli Russell — needs to,” Lindsay said. “She’s honestly as good as it gets. It’ll cure what ails. This show will be a chance to see us in a really relaxed, intimate venue, which I think really adds to our songs.”
As full-time musicians, Lindsay and Russell think of themselves as troubadours, traveling from town to town, singing their songs, packing it up, hitting the road, going down the highway and doing it again in the next town, Lindsay describing it as “kind of a Woody Guthrie thing.”
The May 12 show will feature the music of the duo’s scheduled September-release album, titled “Birds of Chicago.” The album is currently in final mixes, and Russell said a digital copy will be available at the group’s website, www.birdsofchicago.com, in mid-May.
Russell also promised a dynamic show in which she said the audience will be encouraged to get involved.
“It’s kind of our church, in the sense of sharing our common human experience,” Russell said. “[My music is] my thoughts, and I hope it will speak to someone else’s life. We are very much present to the audience. That’s the mixture/alchemy of live shows that I’m addicted to.”
As songwriters, Lindsay and Russell are not linear storytellers. They use phrases that create an image, and listeners are encouraged to jump from one image to the next, allowing themselves to fill in and personalize each piece of music.
Lindsay, a native Toledoan and 1989 graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School, said he is eagerly anticipating the May 12 performance and “seeing a lot of folks I love and haven’t seen in a while. I miss Toledo. I wouldn’t trade my early years there for nothin’. ”
Lindsay said he enjoys Toledo performances because they give him a chance to return to his early years as a struggling musician.
“There will always be a comfort level in Toledo,” he said. “It’s in me. It’s part of who I am. That will never change. There’s also an extra little charge of adrenaline. You always wanna show your hometown folks that you are doing some good.”
Lindsay said his Toledo upbringing is a significant influence on the person, musician and performing artist he is today.
“This is a broad brush, of course, and trades in the kind of stereotypes of Midwesterners my dad hates, but overall, people are good in Toledo,” he said. “There is a lack of bullshit in communication and manners that feels more real to me as I travel the world. I use the worst, most polluted word of all — people are real around here … it’s true. It’s how it is, and I’m thankful for it.”
The two-hour May 12 show will begin at 8:30 p.m. at Manhattan’s, 1516 Adams St. The doors open at 7 p.m., and music begins at 7:30 p.m. when Old State Line, a local band performing Americana music, opens for the Chicago-based duo. There will be limited concert-style seating in the Union Square Lounge at Manhattan’s. Tickets cost $12 in advance (available at Manhattan’s) and $15 at the door.