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Paper Bird Soar to Grand Heights

By David Goe

The Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival starts Friday, June 14, and features several noteworthy performers.

Of the 12 bands slated to play this year’s festival, focus your attention on an outstanding septet from the Front Range. They are Paper Bird.

I first heard Paper Bird at last year’s Underground Music Showcase in Denver and have been a fan since. Listening to the live stream over Colorado Public Radio’s Open Air 1340, Paper Bird’s blend of indie folk rock Americana easily cut through 243 miles of spruce, pine, and aspen and into my little living room stereo. Even on two five-inch Panasonic speakers, the strength of the seven-piece Denver outfit was obvious.

Paper Bird sounds a bit like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros or the Head and the Heart. Because the band is so large, it is able to do things harmonically and dynamically that other bands simple can’t pull off.

Seven members, seven songwriters, each bringing their own flavor to the group. Sometimes they sound like a gospel jazz band, other times they are a rock band jamming on African rhythms.

The band is so musical, they are an absolute joy to listen to. I love hearing new music from groups that are fearless and free. Paper Bird is such a band. It is not caged in by a particular genre or sound. It is a band of explorers, discovering new sounds without limitation. Paper Bird ascends to levels of creativity rarely seen by other roots-based musicians.

“As I Am,” the opening track off Paper Bird’s 2013 album “Rooms,” is a perfect example of what Paper Bird is capable of.

“As I Am” starts off with an atmospheric and chordal guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place on Jeff Buckley’s mid-‘90s rock standard “Grace.” A foot-stomping bass line leads the way to a bevy of beautiful birds — Sarah Anderson, Esme Patterson, and Genevieve Patterson, to be specific — collectively singing “these arms of mine/ were made for lifting up/ and when I set things down again/ I hope they are better than they were.”

A sweet acoustic guitar riff joins in, and, at this point, Paper Bird is soaring.

“These eyes of mine/ like what they see when they’re looking at you/ If ever I can’t see you anymore, I hope you’re more beautiful than before.”

As a listener and fan of what this band is doing, I humbly suggest my own lyrics: “These ears of mine/ like what they are hearing when they are listening to you.” That’s how I feel listening to the new album, anyhow.

Including “Rooms,” Paper Bird has produced three excellent studio albums and one live album collaboration with the Ballet Nouveau Colorado. They’ve been named one of the Top 10 Best Underground Bands in Denver three consecutive years and named the Top Local Band by 5280 Magazine in 2009.

It’s an impressive list of accomplishments for a band formed out of boredom on a vacation to Breckenridge.

Writing songs to pass the time, Paper Bird tested out its early material on street corners busking for cash. Apparently, they made enough money to keep this whole thing going, and I sure am grateful.

Paper Bird is such a nice addition to the Colorado music scene and my music collection.

Paper Bird makes romantic music perfect for an evening spent on the banks of the Colorado. Be sure to catch the group’s set at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 15, as it will be one of the highlights of this year’s festival.

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