AA Bondy at the Doug Fir
Portland, February 27, 2009
AA Bondy is tall and lanky with dark curly hair; somewhat Tom Hanks and somewhat Johnny Cash. When he sings, a touch of his Alabama accent seeps through. When he plays guitar the whole history of southern folk music rushes out. It’s tone and style and fingers and it’s the soul of America. AA Bondy, like M. Ward, channels as many elements of American popular music as possible without sounding kitschy or patronizing—no, AA Bondy does not dress like he just walked out of a Depression-era film.
What was most interesting about Bondy’s set at The Doug Fir was the reaction from the crowd. Portland, as has been documented here, is an indie paradise. I mean, Modest Mouse is here, The Decemberists are here, Britt Daniel of Spoon lives here…Indie King Stephen Malkmus lives here! So it should come as no surprise that there’s a good turn out for music. What is surprising to me, coming from the notoriously obnoxious crowds of Chicago, is how engaged they are in the music. As Bondy made his way through the newly written chapters of the Southern American Songbook, guys in skinny jeans and white belts listened and danced and hooted and hollered. And I didn’t get the slightest impression that it was out of some code of conduct handed down in the post-ironic Obama age.
There are lots of musicians out there putting their personal touches on music as old as (and sometimes older than) our very republic. It’s a heady task that often leaves the pretenders wandering the landscape in search of a road that has long since been lost. Music is history. Who among us does not know “Yankee Doodle” and the funny story that goes along with it? Who can’t at least whistle “Dixie” and understand its cultural and historical place in the American canon? Music is as much a part of the fabric of our country as the words of our Constitution. It’s good to know that there are guys out there who understand that history and are active participants in it and not just passive students of it’s past. AA Bondy is one of those guys.
MP3s from 2007’s American Hearts: