Exclusive Video: Bowerbirds Perform “Matchstick Maker” Live in a Williamsburg Surf Shop


From the archives of “Possibly 4th Street,” a video column in which we’ve invited musicians to perform live and impromptu somewhere in New York City, here’s some excellent footage of Bowerbirds performing in a Williamsburg Surf Shop.

After they re-released Hymns for a Dark Horse, but before they recorded, let alone released, their most recent Upper Air, the Bowerbirds (primary members and off-stage couple Phil Moore and Beth Tacular) met us just a block from the Williamsburg waterfront. Across the street, an electrical power station hummed. Down the street, jackhammers and condo construction dust, signs of the changing (pre-recession) Brooklyn shoreline. All obvious counterpoints to a moveable acoustic duo that’s gotten a lot of press for their solar panel-powered, AirStream-sheltered homelife in the austere hills of North Carolina.

They play the Bowery Ballroom this Friday, December 4 and Union Pool on Saturday, December 5.

Bowerbirds, “Matchstick Maker”

Bowerbirds frontman Phil Moore

In and around the Mollusk Surf Shop. (Thanks, guys!)

Other accoutrements:
Inside, surfboards. Outside, an old man (non-Italian) selling Italian ices from a cart.

You’ve been touted as the most eco-friendly band on the planet.
Not anymore. I mean, touring for three months you really cannot be. We’re eco-friendly when we’re at home, for sure, but on the road, I mean, we’re just burning gas.

I’m guessing since your lifestyle is part of your music publicity, how people know you, that you’re probably held to a higher standard. Is that ever a pain in the ass?
It is a pain in the ass. But I don’t know. Like in interviews now, a lot of the time we will say, “Well, we tour for three months out of the year. How can we be eco-friendly?” Or we talk about how it’s hard to be green, you know, because it’s more of a self-serving thing, being in a band. You know, if we really wanted to be an eco-friendly band we’d just play in Pittsboro [North Carolina, the closest town to the couple’s AirStream trailer]. But we want to see places and meet people and everything.

What’s harder: touring with three people in a very small van, or living in an AirStream trailer and a couple of solar panels with one other person?
I don’t know. It’s a tough question, really. Both are difficult. Traveling seems very easy these days. I think we’ve figured out a routine or something. And it’s always hard when the sun doesn’t shine and you want to send an e-mail to somebody or something, so maybe living in the AirStream is more difficult.

Not that touring at this level is the lap of luxury, but what of the non-eco-friendly road necessities do you miss when you get back home?
Well, just like eating out all the time. We get into such a habit where we don’t cook for ourselves or anything, and when we get back, actually, it’s such a big difference. We live 15, 20 minutes from any grocery store, like 20 minutes from Pittsboro, so it takes a lot of getting used to, not being able to just wake up where we are and go into a convenience store and get coffee or something. We have like a hand crank coffee maker. You know, an antique thing and you have to wake up and do that and put it in the French Press, boil water on the camp stove.

You’ve got to want it.
Yeah, yeah. Everything’s a process out there.

Interview with Phil Moore of Bowerbirds