Arts & CultureMusicNightlife

Review: Blind Pilot and Margaret Glaspy bring summer back to HiFi Music Hall

On Sunday night, Oregon’s own pride and joy of indie-folk, Blind Pilot, came to the HiFi Music Hall with banjos, upright basses, guitars and lead singer Israel Nebeker’s resonant voice in tow.

With its warm and vibrant sound, Blind Pilot made the venue feel like a big family gathering somewhere on a coastal plain, despite the sticky floors grounding the crowd in reality. If only for a moment, Nebeker’s winding voice made the fall night feel like late summer, sunsets and breezes included. The lights on the band switched from blue to orange to purple, making a bonfire of sorts from the stage.

Opener Margaret Glaspy began the show with only her voice and her guitar. In some ways, she sounds like a contemporary version of Joni Mitchell. Glaspy’s voice ranges in versatility and warmth like Mitchell’s, but her songs are more sour and acidic.

Glaspy’s voice is one that moves from raspy to smooth and back again, all in the course of one song. Though her recorded songs are backed by a full band, Glaspy’s stage presence was solitary: just her, a guitar, some lyrics and that damn voice.

The warmth and raspiness of Glaspy came together at the best of times, like during her cover of Lauryn Hill’s “X Factor” when her voice held out during the word ‘crazy.’ The word extended into the audience, hovering over the room like a storm.

Dressed in a black jumpsuit and red lipstick, Glaspy played songs from her most recent kicker of a release, Emotions and Math. Glaspy often closed her eyes as she sang, almost as if she was trying to keep her voice caged inside her throat. Glaspy remarked that despite feeling ill, she was glad to be in Eugene. Except for the slight hesitation in her belting, it was hard to tell that Glaspy was sick.

The best moments in Glaspy’s set were ones like “X Factor” where she fell into the song, not the other way around. Glaspy’s cover of Lucinda Williams’s “Fruits of My Labor” was also a standout of the night. As she leaned into the song, Glaspy let loose and her voice rang throughout the room. Ending on the snarky “You and I,” Glaspy had finally found her groove just in time for Blind Pilot’s set to start.

Blind Pilot’s lead songwriter and singer, Israel Nebeker, sang every song like a lullaby — perfect for a Sunday night show where work lingers on the morning horizon. There is a sense of ease in the way Nebeker sings. His voice is smooth like a stream of water or a conversation with longtime friends.

There’s something entirely familiar and comforting about Blind Pilot’s music, even for those who may be unfamiliar with the band. Songs like “3 Rounds and a Sound” warm up a cold night, and the band’s live presence serves a similarly comforting purpose.

Shifting between acoustic and electric guitars, Nebeker moved through the band’s discography with ease. The band shifted instruments every so often to accommodate this change in sound with members playing the banjo, upright bass and accordion. The rendition of “Half Moon” from We Are the Tide was crystalline despite all the instruments involved.

Every Blind Pilot album was well represented, but the set did lean heavily on fuller sounding albums like the end of summer release, And Then Like Lions. Songs like “Packed Powder” and “Go On, Say It” brought some darkness to the room lyrically, but Nebeker prefaced them by saying, “We are all in this moment together.”

Just like the weather this weekend, Blind Pilot brought summer back to Eugene for a night.

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Sararosa Davies

Sararosa Davies

Sararosa Davies is the senior A&C editor at the Emerald. A former editor at the youth-run music blog Garage Music News, her written work has been featured in City Pages in Minneapolis, Eugene Weekly and Sirius XM's music blog. She's one of many Minnesotan transplants in Oregon.

Send her tips and questions at [email protected] or check out her work at