Blume in love

by Dan Haugen

The multi-media screen rises at Sursumcorda Saturday night, revealing something that looked more like a strange performance troupe than a rock band. Two burly percussionists (one wearing a Batman T-shirt) guard the stage’s back wall. In the foreground, Blume bassist Jill Bartyzal cuts the strings of her fretless, electric upright with a cello bow, as frontman Joe Blum bellows a series of hyper chirps and indecipherable hoots.

Wearing a Boys in the Hood T-shirt and an ear-flapped winter cap that would seem more appropriate on an ice-fishing expedition, Blum’s stage persona appears to answer the question: What would have happened if G. Love were, by some cosmic mix-up, born in Fargo instead of Philly?

Easing out of his nonsensical noises, Blum eventually calms down (somewhat) and, in an exaggerated and faux-French accent, thanks his stage predecessor Jamie Ness. His poorly affixed, fake mustache has already begun to wilt and will hit the floor before Blume finishes their first song.

Theatrical exaggeration is a common thread throughout Blume’s live set, tying together their ambitious blend of jazz, folk and hip-hop.

“We try to be dramatic,” Blum explained the following afternoon. “The mustaches were new, but last time I drew a mustache on my face and wore a navy outfit. Jill has dressed up in a Spiderman outfit before. It’s all pretty random.”

Blume’s music, too, might seem somewhat random. Their 2000 debut, Low Glider Bus Rider, fuses acoustic folk guitar with jazzy bass lines, funky percussion and an instrument list that includes strings, sitar, turntables, pedal steel, pots and pans and a saw. The concoction comes together better than one might expect.

“I think it morphed into [what it is now] more so when Jill joined the band. It’s been three years now, but Jill added a lot of jazzy influence,” Blum said. As for the other influences, he said “I just love so many different kinds of music that I get bored with just one.”

Blum said he penned much of Low Glider Bus Rider while riding public transportation.

“I spend a lot of time on the bus,” Blum said, “and you just have time to think when you’re not driving and stressed out.”

Blum’s songwriting environment definitely shows through on Low Glider Bus Rider. Not only do Blume’s songs carry a consistent, relaxing vibe, they are about as eclectic as the average 16A ridership.

“I love the quote-unquote-freaks that you meet and that sit down and talk to you that you would never meet by choice,” Blum said. “Seventy-five percent of what they say is completely crazy, but that 25 percent is just so true.”

Blume’s music may not be as hit-or-miss as your average bus commuter’s babble, but when it hits, it’s worth the fare.

Blume plays Friday at Bon Appetit (421 14th Ave. S.E., Mpls. 612-379-3002). Deje Blue, Sigliosi, Jai Henry Band, Turn on Red and Micah also play. 7 p.m. $5. 18+.