A word of advice: For any shows at The Kessler Theater, arrive plenty early to make your way around the venue for that perfect spot, because arriving close to the first set as I did means a packed venue, and I mean PACKED, thanks to the ultra responsive Blind Pilot show on Saturday night.
A bit about the pre-show: Walking around was very nearly impossible, and as someone who was only recently introduced to Blind Pilot, I was unsure how big the crowd would be at the show, and boy was I in for a surprise. Blind Pilot fans are fiercely loyal and all very nice, and very fashionable, may I say. I wore jean shorts, as I typically do at shows, and felt immensely underdressed. Even couples in their mid-40s and older were dressed to the nines. Observation #1: Blind Pilot fans are fashionistas.
But I had the same shoes as the keyboardist in Lost Lander, so all was well.
Opening act for Blind Pilot was fellow Portland group Lost Landers, who took to the Texas crowd very quickly (“I just said ‘y’all,’” noted keyboardist Sarah Fennell, “it rubs off on you very fast.”)
The group was a good fit for Blind Pilot and was able to get, not surprisingly, a large reaction from the audience, even with the very relaxed vibe of the music (with the exception of the last track, a strong, drumset-driven song that incited some nice swaying moves from both the band and the audience).
And after their set, the band members made their ways to the balcony to watch Blind Pilot after mingling with fans in the lobby.
Come time of Blind Pilot’s set the crowd was so energized I was worried there would be an explosion by the time the band walked on stage, and, surprise, there was (figuratively). It was then I could see why the crowd was so overrun with women – as soon as lead singer Israel Nebeker took his place at the mic, the women pushed up at the front of the stage were literally screaming with excitement. Not exactly the “Justin Bieber concert” kind of screams, but adoration was shouted from everywhere, the place echoing with “I love you’s!” before the first track even began.
These fans meant business.
Everyone has their bands where, when they’re at the live show, they know every word and sing and dance with every enthusiastic ounce in the body. Well, it seemed like literally every person in the crowd was that person, and not just the people at the very front. There were huge sing-alongs with every track, uproarious cheers and grandiose dancing. And the band definitely took notice and humbly thanked the crowd constantly, so when it came time for upright bassist Luke Ydstie to ask the crowd to sing along to a certain song, the request was easily met.
Observation #2: Lots of couples love Blind Pilot. Every direction I turned, there was a couple very nearby, both holding on to each other closely and singing every word. And this includes couples of all ages. And lots of PDA, surprisingly. It must have been the happy, friendly vibe the band gave, because I consistently saw this throughout the whole set.
Maybe it was the fact that every band member seemed to know how to play every instrument in creation. I saw at least 11 instruments on stage, including this crazy thing which I came to learn was called a harmonium.
One of the highlights of Blind Pilot’s performance was the acoustic session from Kati Claborn on the dulcimer and Luke on the upright bass with a Utah Phillips cover, which was an intriguing blend of tropical, jazz and country that kept the ball running near the end of the show.
And the encore was the perfect end to the energetic night, where the band got crowd-level and performed “3 Rounds and a Sound,” with trumpet player Dave Jorgensen in the center of the room (it was a personal challenge trying to spot him to get a photo, kind of like a musical Where’s Waldo?).
Huge thanks to the man in the crowd who tipped me off about this so I could make my way to the balcony to grab the shot (and to the very reluctant doorman who let me upstairs) – that particular performance was something everyone seemed to know was coming.
So all in all, an explosive performance by Blind Pilot, who were genuinely excited to be there performing. Bands with that kind of love always seem to make the best show experiences.
Check out our photo gallery here!