This originally appeared here on the Ticket Files blog for the Eugene Register-Guard

Blind Pilot has a knack for making people feel good. The Portland folk band has won over its hometown with a bright folk sound, a slew of unusual instruments, and just the right dose of modest charm. The band packed Portland’s Crystal Ballroom just a month ago for a midnight show during MusicFest Northwest. By contrast, a Monday night gig at WOW Hall would seem like a small feat. But even for a smaller crowd, Blind Pilot delivered a live performance strong enough to far surpass any recording on their lovable debut album, “3 Rounds and a Sound.”

This was my fifth Blind Pilot show since stumbling upon the group at PDX Pop Now about a year ago. I have not left a show disappointed since. Lead singer Israel Nebeker’s voice is like warm milk and honey against the soft guitar strums, lilting banjo, and thumping upright bass.


The group opened the show with “Oviedo,” the first song on its album, and a perfect introduction to the band’s masterfully simple folk-pop sound. The audience, more varied in age than most WOW Hall shows I have attended, was captivated and smiling by the end of the song. The show got into full swing with the rhythmic sing-a-long chorus of “The Story I Heard,” a song that highlights Nebeker’s honest lyrics and the band’s blissfully rustic melodies. After that, the crowd was undoubtedly hooked.

For a band that has only released a single album of 11 songs, Blind Pilot puts on a lengthy show with enough variety to keep the audience glued to every word. A yet unreleased song called “White Apple” was an unexpected highlight. The song contains every signature Blind Pilot ingredient, but doesn’t belong with “3 Rounds and a Sound.” Perhaps it is hinting at where the next album will take us.

“Go On, Say It,” and “One Red Thread” kept the crowd bouncing and swaying to the beat, and often singing along, but the room lit up even more with the carefree and, dare I say it, rockin’, anthem “We Are the Tide.” With two band members beating the drums and lyrics like “everybody’s singing on the street like it’s Sunday,” it’s near impossible to resist dancing.

While the music that Blind Pilot plays certainly has a way of making people smile, it’s the band members themselves that make the group a joy to watch live. Upright bass player and backing vocalist Luke Ydstie is a fan favorite for his exuberant spirit; vibraphone player Ian Krist always has a sweet smile on his face; and multi-instrumentalist Kati Claborn brings it all together. They have a Pacific Northwest spirit all their own, and when Israel Nebeker sings on the tips of his toes, it’s really too charming for words.

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