The more I see and hear Astronautalis, the more certain I am that Andy Bothwell is on the verge of big things. He HAS to be — provocative lyrics that are both immediate and mythical (like in “The Wondersmith and His Sons”), an evocative and memorable voice that can be both frightening and vulnerable, a great stage presence, not to mention personal warmth, charm, and kind of ridiculously good looks.
Astronautalis debuted here a couple days ago at The Wormhole as part of the Savannah Stopover Festival. Traveling with his new band, he ripped into his set with the crowd right against the small stage. The details immediately stood out to me: the quick and elegant movement of hands, the dancing eyes, the sheer joy in performing. He did “The Wondersmith and His Sons” early in the show — and I thought it sounded even better than in a recent Daytrotter session. I’ve posted the video before and it’s worth posting again:
A Jacksonville native, Bothwell from the stage recalled his last trips to Savannah: wandering around playing hooky from high school with friends who were taking mushrooms.
From my spot a few feet from the stage, the show seemed to be going great, but Astronautalis was obviously unhappy with the sound in the monitor, which wasn’t something that could be quickly fixed. So about 20 minutes or so in (the Stopover sets were scheduled to be under an hour), he jumped into the crowd, asked the band to play more quietly, and began performing without a mic. I didn’t have a flash for my camera so couldn’t get any shots in focus, but I was hanging right next to him for about half an hour as he launched into “Short Term Memory Loss” and other songs. He also did an extended freestyle with words thrown to him from the audience, like mushrooms, a bird skeleton, and on and on. He took a moment to give profuse thanks to Savannah’s Ben Norwood, who had gone to great lengths to meet all of the requirements of his absurd, post-modern rider — take a look here. He also told/rapped the story of losing his virginity at age ** to ***** ******* while he was out walking the family dog, who wandered away but then back when things were done ** seconds later. I’m not sure that’s a story that would have worked its way into a typical stage show.
However frustrating the mic problems might have been, Bothwell just kept the music and the art and the energy flowing — I got the sense of what it must have been like a decade ago hanging out with him in some kid’s basement. You have to love unintentional beauty like that.
Astronautalis stormed back on stage (the mic seemed fine) for “Trouble Hunters,” a flat out great song.
Sims, a great rapper from Minneapolis, opened for Astro — the two are playing a number of gigs together on their way to SXSW. Sims jumped immediately from the stage — with the mic — and pulled the crowd in a circle around him. As I’ve said before, lots of whiners I know dismiss rap and hip hop out of hand, but they haven’t seen the likes of Sims and Astronautalis.
The evening started strong, too, with a great set from Dreamend, the project of new Savannah resident Ryan Graveface of Black Moth Super Rainbow.
Enjoy a few pics: