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Columbus Native Dane Terry Brings Acclaimed Bird in the House to the Wexner Center

Richard Sanford Richard Sanford Columbus Native Dane Terry Brings Acclaimed Bird in the House to the Wexner CenterDane Terry performs his solo music theater work Bird in the House, this weekend at the Wexner Center. Photo by Brett Lindell.
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Dane Terry is a talent Columbus should be proud to have some part in nurturing; one of the most distinctive and mesmerizing voices to ever come out of our town. During his time as a resident, he hushed and held rapt typically raucous bars with just his piano and voice. He played on bills with other left-of-center singer-songwriters like Time and Temperature and Jordan O’Jordan and art-rock bands like Terribly Empty Pockets. The coloring of his inimitable piano enhanced bands like Andrew Graham and the Swarming Branch live and in the studio.

Columbus native Dane Terry returns to perform Bird in the House. Photo by Ben Alfonso.

Columbus native Dane Terry returns to perform Bird in the House. Photo by Ben Alfonso.

Since Terry’s move to New York in 2010 we’ve been lucky enough to host a handful of appearances but this week the Wexner Center for the Arts brings a full theatre piece, Bird in the House, that’s racked up accolades at some of the city’s most prestigious theaters. Bird in the House builds around and upon the lush, barbed songs of his most recent album, Color Movies. 

There’s a fascinating thread running through the theatre the Wex brought Columbus in 2016: how the raw material of childhood, through the crucible of craft and context, turns into art. Bird in the House continues this trend but, like the other work, fires that raw material with a pure and unique voice. Terry told Next Magazine, “Childhood is scary because it’s the first time you’ve done it. It’s actually kind of horrible. Not to mention all of the lies you’re told. So I started writing songs about aliens, about America, about my father, about where I came from. I come from hillbilly stock, and we love our aliens—and the aliens tend to love us.” Drew Harper, writing for website Gayletter, described the work as “A childhood epic told in shades of Southern magic-realism, with the white working-poor experience, complete with homo awakenings at the pool and mystical encounters in the midnight woods.”

One of the best things art, of any stripe, but especially live performance can do is restore shades of color to an audience’s perception. Respect for ambiguity is vital for navigating the world. As Terry told the blog for La MaMa ETC where this work premiered in 2015, “That ambiguity is slightly anxiety inducing. Also, sure, it does reference a bygone era. The album is soaked in my childhood, but childhood is not only the events lived as a child but the world, and the past, as it was spoon-fed to us. So on the album, there’s the Cold War, WWI and WWII, The Challenger Disaster, Harry Truman, Spaghetti Westerns, Mickey Mouse and Unsolved Mysteries right alongside my mother and father.”

Dane Terry not only encompasses all that with deceptive ease, but he also does it with some of the catchiest hooks you’ll hear anywhere and landmine one-liners that would make Richard Thompson and Smokey Robinson raise an eyebrow. When I was in NYC this past January, Bird in the House was one of the things I heard the most overwhelming positive buzz regarding at the Public’s Under the Radar festival. This homecoming promises to end the year with a bang.

Bird in the House has performances at 8:00 pm on Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10. For tickets and more info, visit wexarts.org .

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