Last week marked the end of an era for Colorado’s music scene. After 11 years of performing wondrous melodies, Paper Bird announced their farewell tour.
Seeing the news on Facebook made my heart sink, not because it was unexpected, but because the group meant so much to me. Juxtaposed with my cross-country move to Colorado, the music entered my life during a transitional period and gave me a foundation for my new home.
My older brother Jon discovered them during his time in Boulder and when he came home with his iPod’s FM transmitter piping “Anything Nameless and Joymaking” to the car stereo, I was hooked. It was impossible to not tap along to the beat “Motown Man” and the chorus of “Jesus and Arizona” always got stuck in my head. The three part harmonies of sisters Esme and Genny Patterson along with Sarah Anderson in “Pennies” were unlike anything I had ever heard.
Just how my world changed from high school, to college, to adulthood, so did the band. Members and instruments were added and subtracted, transforming the sound from vintage-style bluegrass to experimental folk to rock reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac.
Stubborn nostalgia and fear of change naturally cause me to prefer Paper Bird’s earlier work but the entire portfolio is worth a listen. Their live shows—that usually end with a fantastically unique cover of Rhianna’s “Umbrella”—are a sight to behold. I regret not witnessing “Drekovsky,” “Storm,” and “Don’t You Run” choreographed with the Ballet Nouveau Colorado for their collaborative album “Carry On,” yet I heard it was magical.
Though the concerts have blended together, I believe the first time I saw them in person was at Hodi’s Half Note in Fort Collins. I remember that I sang along to “Lost Boys” with so much enthusiasm my concert neighbors noticed and complimented me. That song will always have a special place in my heart for giving me a rare tune that I can sing to with my low range. A year or so later I saw them just down the road at The Aggie and it was just as fabulous. I let the brass, vocals and guitar take me, swayed with the crowd and joined in the shouting of the uncensored expectative in their prideful anthem “Colorado” at the top of my lungs.
The last time I had the pleasure of attending a Paper Bird concert also remains the best performance I’ve ever been to. They opened for Amanda Palmer, DeVotchKa and the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks. That trio of talented Colorado musicality partnered with Palmer’s passion took my breath away. Feeling Mark Anderson’s drums of “As I Am” and “Hold It Down” reverberate in the amphitheater and in my chest moved me.
An eight-album discography and over a decade of work together is honestly remarkable, given that many bands don’t last that long. Esme Patterson left to pursue a solo career in 2014. I expected that to be the end before Carleigh Aikins stepped into the picture. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Now the members will be going their own divergent ways once more for new ventures. I’m excited to see what comes next and I’m ready to go on an auditory expedition to wherever they lead me. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes the new bird will hopefully be just as majestic.
Unfortunately I probably won’t be able to make it to their final concerts in December; however, I urge you to do so. Colorado is losing a piece of its soul, but before it passes to the other side it deserves to be celebrated with a wake like none other. It’s your mother’s favorite state, after all.