"I’m pretty sure people in the front row can see my panties… which coincidentally are available at the merch table." – Inara George
In the 11 or so years I have been going to the Mercury Lounge, I have never seen such a line and general commotion outside the club as there was Friday night to see The Bird and the Bee. With an enormous guest-list, no advance tickets, a separate early show that had to vacate first, and one of the most buzzed-about bands of the moment, it meant the line to get in snaked through the construction detour to the corner of Ludlow. And bouncers did their best to keep the swarm (I swear these bee puns are a total accident) of confused people around the door from blocking the sidewalk entirely.
Once inside, though, it was your typical pleasant Mercury Lounge experience, not too crowded. And the show far exceeded my expectations, one of the most pleasant shows I’ve been to in a long time. Pleasant may sound a bit milquetoast but I do mean that in the best possible way. The Bird and the Bee make the kind of sunny, agreeable, somewhat glitchy tropicalia pop that you know is going to be played in coffee shops, hair salons, Barnes & Nobles and episodes of Grey’s Anatomy for the rest of the year. And as far as that stuff goes, it’s at the top of the heap. While I’m sure I will get sick of them soon enough, they are hard to dislike.
On record, The Bird and the Bee are Inara George and Greg Kurstin, both longtime LA music scene mainstays*, but live the duo flesh out their sound with a full band including drummer Joey Waronker and two female backup singers who, in pantaloons, looked a lot like the sirens in O Brother Where Art Thou? Inara George looked like something out of 1969 in a go-go dress that gave the front rows an early glimpse of that merch — it was all borderline precious. But the songs are kind of irresistible and Inara George is equipped with honeyed vocal chords that are quite impressive to hear in person. That, and the phenomenal musicianship on display, superseded any qualms I may have had about them.
In particular it was a real treat to get to watch Waronker play in such close quarters. Best known for being Beck’s drummer, he’s also toured with R.E.M. and has a resume that includes Elliot Smith, Smashing Pumpkins and Crowded House. It’s one thing to watch someone pound it out in a rock band, but the sort of finesse required for The Bird and the Bee’s music really showed off his range and abilities.
As far as I could tell, they played the entirety of their debut, plus a nice cover of the Bacharach-David easy-listening classic, "Do You Know the Way to San Jose." There was a smile on my face the whole show. I will say, this is the kind of show I would have rather seen at Joe’s Pub, but I didn’t mind standing up in the least.
Chris of Music Snobbery was there as well and brought his camera.
*Inara, whose father is the Little Feat’s Lowell George, put out a very nice solo album in 2005; Kurstin was one half of Geggy Tah (maybe you remember their mid-’90s alterna-hit "Whoever You Are") , released a celeb-heavy album under the name Action Figure Party in 2001 and is now an in-demand session musician and producer who most recently helped create some of the best songs on Lily Allen’s Alright Still.