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On Target: Blind Pilot On Tour & What That Means For You

article by Maren Johnson

Considering the fact that they’ve shared the stage with big names like The Decemberists and were nationally broadcasted on Late Night with David Letterman, Blind Pilot has a surprisingly humble stage presence. A decent crowd for a frigid Sunday night turned out at Northampton’s Pearl Street Ballroom, buzzing with warm conversation as opener The Barr Brothers broke down their set, and eventually Blind Pilot took the stage: Israel Nebeker (vocals, guitar), Ryan Dombrowski (drums), Luke Ydstie (upright bass), Kati Taborn (banjo, dulcimer), Dave Jorgensen (keyboard, trumpet), and Ian Krist (vibraphone).

Blind Pilot

They opened their set with an energetic performance of “Keep You Right”, and it’s instantly impossible not to love the group’s chemistry. They each have distinctive attitudes while playing – Nebeker leaning forward onto the balls of his feet with his eyes closed, Ydstie curled over his instrument, and Krist with careful attention to perfection.

Occasionally, between songs, they take breaks to converse with the audience in a quiet, almost shy manner; after a comment about the fact that Northampton would be the coldest stop on their tour garnered an enthusiastic round of cheering.

Blind Pilot

Nebeker is a little overwhelmed after the setup for “New York” (which required a decent amount of rearranging), and it gave the audience enough time to shout out several questions, causing him to laugh nervously. “That’s a lot to respond to at once,” he says as he arranges his microphone. “Yes, I like accordions, that’s a great song, and this is called a harmonium,” he answers.

“New York” itself is absolutely spellbinding – the harmonium hums with a warm, full tone. The drums, strong and declarative, give the song an emotional timbre. Everyone stands in silence before bursting into enthusiastic round of applause.

The real showstopper is the closing “We Are The Tide”, which perfectly encapsulates the feeling of pure and wild happiness that the group exudes when performing together. You can’t help but smile at the way Ydstie’s entire body goes into his playing, or Taborn’s own sparkling grin.

There’s magic in the unplugged rendition of “Three Rounds and a Sound”, as the band joins the audience on the floor in an intimate and beautiful encore. Everyone sings along in hushed tones, creating a multidimensional sound that reaches into your bones and lets you forget about the cold outside for a while.

That’s a whole package event: talent, energy, and a knack for making memories. No one sees music quite like Blind Pilot.


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