By Laura Ferreiro
It’s hard to think of a more idyllic setting for a concert than the middle of a gorgeous, windswept Joshua Tree-filled desert. This was the setting for the Quietest Show on Earth – an intimate performance featuring Andrew Bird and Tift Merritt to support US National Parks.
The concert was sponsored by Nature Valley, purveyor of fine granola bars and nuts. As it happens, Nature Valley has a long-standing relationship with national parks, having donated more than $1.8 million to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), funding preservation projects at parks across the country.
The afternoon began with a two-hour hike into the Mojave Desert Land Trust – a parcel of land that will likely be annexed into the Joshua Tree National Park later this year. The concert was originally supposed to take place in the park itself, but the government shutdown that closed national parks across the country led to a last-minute venue change. Bird and Merritt hiked alongside eight sweepstakes winners who were flown from all parts of the country into California’s Mojave Desert to witness the Quietest Show (as well as a couple of journalists and a film crew).
After making our way past various obstacles including tumbleweeds traveling at high speeds and stinging cactus plants, we stumbled across the perfect spot for the performance. We laid blankets down on the sand as Bird pulled out his violin and Merritt strapped on her acoustic guitar. They delivered a completely unamplified, acoustic performance comprising several of Bird’s tracks including “Dear Old Greenland,” “Sweetbreads” and “Something Biblical,” which seemed perfectly suited for the desert environs. Merritt offered up gorgeous harmonies and Bird demonstrated his renowned whistling prowess and penchant for alternating between plucking and bowing his violin.
The Quietest Show on Earth lived up to its name, as there was no amplification or lighting of any kind beyond the microphones used to record the performance. Highlights can be seen here.
With the launch of QuietestShowonEarth.com, Nature Valley aims to raise awareness for America’s national parks and encourage consumers to do their part to support the parks via a donation to the NPCA. In addition to making a donation, visitors can download the playlist from the show and other exclusive content including videos of the performance, a behind-the-scenes look at the show and photos from the performance.
Bird, who loves visiting the parks and outdoor sports including hiking and mountain biking, said he was excited to do his part to help preserve our national parks. “What sold me is that this is all benefiting the National Parks Association,” he said. “Hopefully it will get people to pay attention to the fact that these parks aren’t as protected as we think. There are a lot of mining, drilling and logging interests threatening them. The government can’t protect them alone.”
Check out Andrew Bird and Tift Merritt performing “Give It Away” at the Quietest Show on Earth.