FRI/SAT 12:30am - WHEATLAND ROOM
FRI/SAT1:30 - ITR CRABDONKER MURDER BALLADS ROOM
SAT 11:50pm - WARMING HOUSE-MINNESOTA ROOM
SAT/SUN 1:10am - HICKORY RIDGE ROOM
"An excellent storyteller...with an impressively direct and matter of fact way of looking at our world."
-Laura Land (Chicago Crowd Surfer)
Joybird, a name for music that dreams and heightens and travels, music that lands with gentle force to disrupt the day. It is music created by Chicago fiddler, multi-instrumentalist, visual artist, and arts educator Jess McIntosh. Her project has evolved collaboratively since taking its name in 2017, though its core members have written and played together for much longer. By her side are faithful friends Aaron Smith (Horseshoe Bender, Honest John, Growler) and Bill Harris (Four Letter Words, Je’raf), with rotating fourth and fifth members, and queens of her heart, Emily Nott and Sara Leginsky.
For someone who has spent more than ten years collaborating with and supporting other artists, it’s not surprising that McIntosh’s debut album, Long Time Exhaling, (2016) inspired audiences and musical connections alike. It started out as just a song or two recorded in the studio of experimental jazz percussionist, Bill Harris, who also provided percussion. Then it was one more song, and another, until a full album was on the horizon. The need for a bass brought in Aaron Smith and the three found a groove. From those roots grew a wiley garden of alt-folk, old-time-inspired instrumentals, and modern balladry released under Jess McIntosh. Covering the grief of moving to a new city, ended relationships, and love lost, the songs on this debut bare the intimacy of a letter to a friend, noting each day’s particulars—the way a knife cuts through butter, the absence of a beloved’s jacket. At times playful, at times immersed in longing, the album is fiercely hopeful and deeply communal. “If all the world is a motherless child, we will fill up every glass,” Jess sings in the album’s title track. “We will sing to all our fears as the years go on to pass and we’ll wake up taller than the questions we have asked.”
Fast forward three years and one band name later, Joybird’s 2019 release, Landing, extends a broad focus on the communities we live in, the voices that define our nation, the joy of those who came before us. These songs prove a healing balm for burned-out activists, tired hearts, anyone who has tried and failed. Jess sings with gentle confidence, with a heart that does not soften as she compares “not good enough” and “should’ve tried harder” to dust in the corners of her mind, to be seen, then lovingly swept and discarded. McIntosh’s growth as a songwriter was accompanied by an expansion in musical collaboration as well. Beyond the original trio, this album features the likes of Dan Andree (The Henhouse Prowlers) on fiddle, Steve Doyle (The Hoyle Brothers) on dobro and telecaster, Sara Leginsky (Glass Mountain) on banjo and vocals, and Emily Nott on guitar and vocals, Cass Pautler on clarinets, and Anna S. Jacobson on French horn and trumpet. The album was recorded almost entirely live, highlighting the fluidity of a group that’s been together on the road, in bars and coffee shops, and in each other’s homes, in music and in friendship.