Part expectation, part repetition, seasonal traditions can be both boon and bane. One person’s magical introduction to, say, The Nutcracker, is another’s numbingly dutiful 50th turn. The “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” remains a delightful music-box whimsy to one pair of ears, and a dread-inducing torture device to the next. But every tradition had to start somewhere, so credit creative souls like Andrew Bird for keeping the holidays fresh with new ideas. The 39-year-old’s semiannual Gezelligheid performances at the gorgeous Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue allow the virtuoso to explore his violin in solitude with minimal amplification and maximum atmosphere.
Bird’s seasonal shows have become so well-received that he’s added another hometown treat this year by returning to frequent haunt the Hideout for an intimate—though undoubtedly densely packed—charity performance, with proceeds going to Bird’s own Rock for Kids Scholarship Fund, directed to one lucky ChiArts student in need.
Sometimes you have to give to get, and in this case you get not only a Jay Ryan poster but also, possibly, a chance to hear songs from Bird’s new Hands of Glory EP, which includes covers of Townes Van Zandt and old cohort the Handsome Family. Unlike many set-in-stone annual traditions, each setting allows Bird to keep things loose and improvisatory, with the promise of visiting “friends” at the Hideout sure to provide further sparks of inspiration.