Brotherhood of Birds: Taking Flight in Minnesota
by Kara M. Bachman
They’re just getting started, but the twin-cities-based Brotherhood of Birds — the bluegrass group with a unique name — is spreading its wings. They’ve only been around less than a year, and they’ve already released two recordings and have booked several successful gigs during a year that has been difficult for most all live performers.
“We had a pretty busy summer. We’ve been lucky to be playing outdoor gigs, so we haven’t had too much trouble,” explained Brotherhood of Birds guitarist, Willie Christianson.
When not performing outdoors, they used the past months to record music.“We kind of split it into two parts,” Christianson said. “Two shorter EPs.” The recordings — titled “Caged, Vol. 1” (released January 2021) and “Caged, Vol. 2” (released May 2021) — are now available for download on all platforms.
“My friend Gavin [Haskin] was playing in a local group [Ginstrings]…the band was slowing down. He asked me to sit in on a really informal pick-up gig, and we kind of clicked,” said Christianson, who started playing when he was around 11 or 12. “My brother was into the Grateful Dead and the jam band scene…he’d kind of let me hang around and jam with them.”
Christianson said he’d played himself in a few bands over the years — generally rock or related genres — but Brotherhood of Birds is a first.
“This is actually the first-string band I’ve played in,” he said. “It’s been really fun getting back into it with my brother…it’s been really rewarding.”
The band’s name is curious. And yes, there’s a bit of a story behind it.
“One morning at Gavin’s house in St. Paul,” Christianson explained, “we looked out the window and there were like 20 or 30 people out there with binoculars.”
A rare species of bird had been spotted in the neighborhood and a group of birdwatchers had assembled there to look at it.
“The bird thing just kind of stuck,” Christianson said.
He said the group is positive about the future, but he was reluctant to give a specific outline of where they hope to be at this time next year. That’s probably wise, considering the uncertainties so many musicians have faced over the past year. There’s just no telling where things might be headed.
“It’s still hard to want to count on what’s coming up,” he said. “We’re just enjoying it in the moment while we can. We just want to keep playing live shows.”
As of now, there are several live gigs slated for this month and next. It’s a great opportunity to take in a little bit of what this up-and-coming band has to offer.
Dates currently on the schedule include September 3, Shangri-la Music Festival at Harmony Park (Clarks Grove, Minn.); September 4, Brotherhood of Birds Bluegrass Americana Art Show at Day Block Brewing (Minneapolis, Minn.); September 23, Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves with Brotherhood of Birds at Day Block Brewing (Minneapolis, Minn.); September 24 and 25, Gun Flint Tavern (Grand Marais, Minn.); and October 16, Pert Near Sandstone with Mae Simpson and Brotherhood of Birds at First Avenue (Minneapolis, Minn.).