The Bills Pay Off

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lauraine Leblanc
Eye Arts Scrutinizer

For those of you who only read the first sentence of any review, I say, go see The Bills. Thanks for reading. For the rest of you:

In 1991, I saw the Pogues play live. In fact, I saw the Violent Femmes open for the Pogues that night. That was pretty epic. Since then, I’ve seen lots of guys (and gals) on various stages doing some amazing things. But I’ve never seen anything like what The Bills did tonight. And apparently, they’re going to do it again tomorrow night.

The Bills, a folk-roots quintet from British Columbia, played the Arcata Playhouse, 1251 Ninth St. in Arcata, Tuesday, Sept. 24. Lucky for you, they’re playing again Wednesday, Sept. 25.

The Bills are Adrian Dolan (fiddle, piano, accordion, vocals), Chris Frye (guitar, shakers, lead vocals), Marc Atkinson (mandolin, guitar, vocals), Richard Moody (violin, viola, vocals)  and Scott White (upright bass, vocals).

These five guys play “roots music,” drawing inspiration not only from North American folk music, but European traditions, Latin American rhythms and Romany songs. They cover traditional tunes in their own arrangements, and write brilliant heart-rending ballads. The Bills have twice been nominated for JUNO awards (the Canadian Grammys) in 2003 and 2005. If they were American and played pop, you would have their names tattooed on you by now.

You may have noticed that each member of The Bills plays multiple instruments (okay, except for Scott White, but, hey, he’s the guy that left the band, toured as a chef d’orchestre with Cirque du Soleil and then returned to the (Bill)fold for this tour, so let’s cut him some slack) AND sing in four, no, what? five part harmony. They do all that brilliantly. Each member of the band is clearly a master musician and they each fully commit their years of experience to crafting a performance that soars like their voices.

Also, did you notice? TWO fiddlers! Playing at the same time.

The Bills’ Playhouse shows are part of their California tour promoting their new CD, Yes Please, and during the show, they played most of that recording. Tonight, they broke our hearts with “Pandora’s in Flames,” made us laugh at “The Plant Song,” rocked us to “Blackberry, Ivy and Broom” and then brought it home with “Bamfield’s John Vanden” (the latter from a previous release, Let Em Run.) In between, there was some Django Reinhardt, Ukrainian folk dance and a whole lot of heart.

Don’t miss a chance to experience one of the best bands to hit Arcata, or anywhere. These are The Bills you’ll be glad to see. Thanks for reading all the way through.

Tickets $15 general and $13 for students, Humboldt Folk Society and Arcata Playhouse members, and are available at Wildberries Marketplace and Wildwood Music. The Bills also teach a workshop in Vocal Harmonies for Roots Music (something about which they know a thing or two) on Wednesday, Sept. 25 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. for just $15. To sign up for the workshop, reserve tickets or for information call (707) 822-1575.


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