It was in the misty mountains of the Balkans that Zach Condon got his musical inspiration. And his rare fusion of Eastern European folk, pre-rock era pop, indie and World music has been setting the airwaves alight since. The talented, former jazz player is now a master of an eclectic set of instruments, including the trumpet, mandolin, accordion, flugelhorn and ukulele and is backed onstage by Beirut’s formidable lineup. Perrin Cloutier (cello, accordion), Nick Petree (drums, percussion), Paul Collins (bass), Kelly Pratt (French horn, glockenspiel), Ben Lanz (trombone, tuba) and Jared Van Fleet (piano) are regular members in Beirut’s pulsating live concerts.
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Beirut has come a long way from its low-key beginnings in 2005. Not only have they expanded locally to more than a cult following but their appearance on a Brazilian mini-series shot them to instant superstardom. Beirut’s third studio album is expected in August and fans are scrambling for Beirut Tickets to watch the band in its true element. And for an act that prepares so meticulously for these live shows, the fans are surely in for a treat.
Beirut’s musical navigation is geared in the directions of Balkan folk music. The Balkan region consists of states on the Balkan Peninsula, including Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Romania, Albania & parts of Turkey. The Balkan ethnic gypsy groups mingled to give rise to this genre in the times of the Ottoman Empire. Beirut also incorporates influences of World music and western music, such as indie, pop and electronic.
The man behind Beirut, Zach Condon, was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1986. After switching back and forth between Virginia and New Mexico in his childhood, Condon took up trumpet-playing in a jazz band. By 15 he was already making DIY bedroom recordings. His electronic side project The Realpeople dished out a doo wop album and an original lo-fi album by the name of The Joys of Losing Weight that was never released. In 1971 the EP Small-Time American Bats was released when he was 16. All the while he studied at Santa Fe High School, until he dropped out a year later to travel to Europe. There began Condon’s love with Balkan music.
Exposed to world music and the engaging local folk tunes (especially those of Boban Markovic and Goran Bregovic), Condon studied the influences in detail. On his return, he studied at the University of New Mexico, but the music had made a solid impression on him and he joined hands with two like-minded musicians from A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Heather Trost and Jeremy Barnes. They recorded Gulag Orkestar, which was released as Beirut’s debut album on Ba Da Bing! Records in 2006. Through live shows, the hype built on. Condon then grew an affinity for French songs and the instrument French chanson. It heavily influenced Beirut’s next offering. After extensive nationwide touring and a successful double EP release, Beirut made its first US TV performance on David Letterman’s Show. Subsequent appearances in a Brazilian mini-series Capitu lead to Beirut being hero-worshipped in the country. The Rip Tide, Beirut’s third album, was recently announced to be slated for an August 30 release.
"Untitled I" from The Joys of Losing Weight is Condon’s standout single before the formation of Beirut. Gulag Orkestar received widespread critical acclaim, with Condon’s powerful, emotionally nuanced voice carrying songs like the celebratory "Bratislava" and the charged "Rhineland" all by itself. "Elephant Gun" became a massive hit with its music video. The Flying Club Cup featured collaboration with Owen Pallett of Arcade Fire and the French influence and instrumentation is very visible in it. The March of the Zapotec/Holland double EP saw Beirut expose its skill set further with thumping electronic music. Beirut’s wide fan base is perfectly encapsulated by the Beirutando frenzy in Brazil. Within months of their Capitu appearance, various Beirutando groups started as part of a massive movement to mimic the multi-instrumental masters, adapting their songs to Brazilian instruments.
Beirut’s commitment to engaging live shows is commendable. In 2008, they cancelled the European leg after an American tour simply because lack of sleep wouldn’t have allowed them to perform to their usual lofty levels for Beirut Ticket holders. Portland, San Francisco and New York await them in the coming months.
Beirut’s unadulterated folksy sound captures the grey and simple tunes of the Balkans very aptly. It is a great escape into a somber and unexplored realm that awaits eager fans with Beirut Tickets.
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