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Sweet singing band Bowerbirds migrate to Iowa City

BY ERIC SUNDERMANN | JULY 20, 2009 7:15 AM

mp3 sample: Bowerbirds

"Northern Lights"

Male bowerbirds create bowers — or miniature huts — to attract females when courting. To do this, the male decorates each bower with shells and leaves — spending hours arranging the objects in a certain manner. Females flock to the males’ creations and search for favorites. When she finds it, she finds her mate.

“The nests are very intricate — decorated with berries and flowers,” Bowerbirds’ vocalist/guitarist Phil Moore said. “So that was pretty unique. I don’t know if there are any other animals besides humans that make things outside of their bodies pretty.”

Bowerbirds will take the stage at 8 p.m. today at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Megafun and Banjo Kellie & the No-Man’s Land Band will open. Admission is $8.

The band’s name is appropriate — the members are in a relationship — and their lyrics center on earnestly using natural imagery to paint pictures of romanticism and love. Bowerbirds creates a sound difficult to place — with choral vocals revolving around guitar, piano, and an accordion. The group’s latest album, Upper Air (released on July 7) stands as a symbol of the band’s growth, Moore said.

“On the newest album, there are more personal songs — more taken from my journal and ideas — more personal and from the heart,” he said. “Musically, the instrumentation is a little more diverse and the songs, in general, change more from song to song.”

Moore hails from Grinnell, and he attended UI in the early 2000s. He spent time spreading his musical wings at Gabe’s (now the Picador) but needed to expand beyond Iowa City.

“I think I needed to leave Iowa to start writing,” he said. “My music is basically about getting out of where I grew up and finding myself.”

Despite leaving Iowa, Moore still loves coming back.

“The feeling [of coming back] is wonderful,” he said. “I miss it quite a bit, actually. It’s a pretty special place for me. I miss the skyline and the speed of everybody. It’s one of my favorite places.”

The band will tour the rest of July and through August, venturing out beyond where the members live — North Carolina.

“I love the Midwest and the West, and I can’t wait to get out there,” Moore said. “We’re going to go camping — lots of camping.”


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