But now, because of a bit of pandemic weirdness, Billy Pilgrim is back. On Sept. 4, they — along with Bush’s current bandmates in Dark Water, Brandon Bush and Benji Shanks — will play a livestream from Eddie’s Attic. Fans can watch on Billy Pilgrim’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
In a joint interview at Eddie’s Attic — with everyone masked up — the pair laughed easily and made clear that this isn’t merely a throwback reunion.
“The intention is not to be here as a nostalgic poster. The intention is to show up to remind you that we’re here and that a band like this, creators like us, carry a responsibility,” said Bush. “We’re in a weird time right now. We have always told the truth in the things that we’re singing, wherever we were in our lives. And right now is a perfect time for us to come up for air, reconnect and start looking at the world in front of us. There’s a lot of healing to do. A lot of things are broken, and Andrew’s voice is one that can stitch things up that have torn.”
Hyra looked touched by Bush’s words. “That’s a lovely compliment,” he said.
The resurrection of Billy Pilgrim — named for the character in the Kurt Vonnegut novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” — began when Bush discovered the lone remaining copy of their unreleased album, “In the Time Machine,” while cleaning out his home in the early days of the pandemic quarantine.
Recorded at the turn of the century at Nickel & Dime Studio in Avondale, it was to be the band’s third release. But a fire at the studio in late 2000 burned the master tapes. Only one copy of the folk-rock album remained, and from it, about 500 CDs were pressed and sold at the 2001 performance at Eddie’s Attic that turned out to be Billy Pilgrim’s last.
In addition to the performance on Friday, “In the Time Machine” will be re-released, along with the entire Billy Pilgrim catalog, via Bandcamp and all digital streaming platforms.
And don’t think this is the last you’ll hear from the band. A vinyl release of “…Time Machine” is being discussed, as well as cross-pollination with Billy Pilgrim and Dark Water.
Billy Pilgrim had a brief reunion at Eddie's Attic in 2016 during one of Kristian Bush's annual Thanksgiving shows at the venue.
“That’s the thing about artistic connection,” said Hyra. “It’s such a stamp for your whole life. You can walk away from it, but it’s still there if you can rekindle it.”
During the livestream, expect to hear mentions of the National Independent Venue Association, the collective of live music havens that are appealing to Congress for federal aid to stay in business during the prolonged coronavirus shutdown.
“We’re making the best effort possible to bring both attention to the fact that the places hit hardest are the smallest places — and it’s where everything begins,” Bush said. “We even began on these floors (at Eddie’s Attic). These places will disappear if we don’t hold this up. And if we can come out of nowhere, so can this club and so can your favorite club (in any city).”
Andrew Hingley, talent buyer at Eddie’s Attic, understands and appreciates the connection between Billy Pilgrim and the Decatur venue.
“Kristian has a relationship with the previous stewardship (Eddie Owen), so it’s nice to know they value the establishment as much as the stewardship because no matter (who is running it), Eddie’s Attic will live on,” Hingley said.
While Bush and Hyra will ruminate only lightly on their musical past this weekend, the pair is determined about a future that includes Billy Pilgrim.
“It’s great to be back and making music together. But this is a calling because it needs to get better out there, and if we can do anything, we will,” Bush said, “If we’re gonna spend the time and effort, I’m not gonna do it because I want to write a song about my left shoe.”
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