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Congress of Starlings- Aerin Tedesco & Andrea Bunch: Press

REVIEW OF "1" The Old Town School of Folk Music's Songbook.

"For those of us who've shakily strummed songs from the Old Town Songbook, this first installment of folk classics serves up equal parts reassurance and revelation.

Some of the Chicago's and America's finest--including Dan Zanes, Wilco's John Stirrat, Robbie Fulks, Alice Peacock, the Mekons' Jon Langford and Janet Bean--turn in spare, playful and often elegant renditions of standards such as "Wabash Cannonball," "Erie Canal," "Goodnight, Irene" and "Midnight Special."

The brightest gems come from more obscure corners as on local gal Rita Ruby's haunting "Aragon Mill" and Andrea Bunch & Aerin Tedesco's sweetly aching "Don't This Road."

It's a very unique and fun collection of tunes, you can buy it at www.blooshotrecords.com.
Individually, Andrea Bunch and Aerin Tedesco have been working hard to make names for themselves. Together, the real-life couple has joined forces to become Congress of Starlings. Albedo (Egasage), the duo's full-length debut, is the best of both of their worlds, in which lovely harmonies and timeless acoustic instrumentation dominate, while elements of programming ground the whole project in the present, with an eye and an ear towards the future.
Gregg Shapiro - Bay Area Reporter, Out Smart - Houston (Jan 10, 2007)
No genre, with the possible exception of men’s R&B, has gone as long without a substantive leap forward as women’s acoustic singer-songwriter fare (for lack of a better catch-all marketing term, but you know what I mean). Since the breakthroughs of such superstars as Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls, and Dar Williams, coffeehouse strummers everywhere have largely been spinning their wheels in the worn, albeit beautifully worn, ruts of those icons. Happily, Chicago musicians Aerin Tedesco and Andrea Bunch have joined forces as Congress of Starlings and are breathing much-needed new life into the circuit, incorporating fresh sounds and idiosyncratic vision into their intricate, deeply felt songwriting.

Longtime touring and recording veterans on their own, Bunch and Tedesco bring different, yet complimentary talents to the table. Tedesco’s primary instrument is a four-string tenor guitar, which lends itself well to both her alto voice and her brisk, energetic songs. Even slower, more reflective pieces such as “Fallen”, (“Blue sky over Erie / It’s where I see things most clearly), sound driven and momentous. Bunch is responsible for, among other instruments, programmed beats and found sound which weave seamlessly around Kenny Dread’s Portuguese guitar on “Fishing” and clatter and clang over the thought-provoking, political “Killing Wage”. Her soprano harmonizes perfectly with Tedesco’s slightly deeper register on both women’s compositions, from the contemplative “Green” to the imagistic “Empty Me”, reflecting the symbiotic push and pull of their respective styles and perspectives.

Much of Albedo seems concerned with the idea of progress, or lack thereof. But there is no shortage of ambition or progress in Congress of Starlings, who aim to fly as high and unified as their namesake.
“Albedo”/Congress of Starlings (Egasage Records) - According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “albedo” is defined as “... reflective power; specif.: The fraction of incident radiation (as light) that is reflected by a surface or body (as the moon or a cloud).” That not only explains the clayish appearance of Congress of Starlings’ Aerin Tedesco and Andrea Bunch on the duo’s first disc, but it also is a perfect metaphor for the quietly potent magic contained in “Albedo’s” 11 tunes. This thankfully ain’t your tired, two-artsy-chicks-with-guitars folky stuff: Gently blurring the edges of folk rock with elements of the experimental (in addition to cellos, violins and guitars, of course, you’ve got appearances by cicadas, running water and cement cutters - you know, the usual), Congress of Starling’s sound borders occasionally on folktronica/Bjorktronica but without any pretense or wackiness. Drumwork and percussion lend a primitive wallop to the songs’ poetically emotional cores, which address everything from abandonment and the plight of the working class to struggling to keep one’s personal demons at bay while reaching out for salvation. Highlights include the catchy instrumental Tol Eressea; Idols, which features a mild Middle Eastern flavor over which the pair’s vocals weave in and out eerily; the haunting Underworld, sounding as if it wandered in from Tedesco’s awesome solo album from 2004, “Birthmark”; and the gorgeous Fallen.

Judging from “Albedo,” this is one “congress” that should be in session for a long time to come. (***1/2)"
Mark-Christopher Mitera - Gay Chicago Magazine (Jan 6, 2007)
Two of Chicago's best new performing songwriters.
Colleen Miller - Old Town School of Folk Music
Standing out from other bands, Andrea & Aerin make music that
swings from thunderous electronic rants to breathtaking
acoustic ballads.
National Women's Music Festival
PODCAST ALERT! Congress of Starlings appear on Windy City Queercast with Peter Mavrik and Amy Matheny! New songs and intriguing interviews! Visit www.windycityqueercast.com to hear it!
SPIN CYCLE 2004
... I was introduced to several amazing female artists this year, including Midwest-based Angie Heaton, who left an indelible mark with her "Let it Ride" (Parasol), the exceptional Andrea Bunch and her luminous Numinous, and the experimentation of Kristi Martel's "The Mule" (Sealed Lips) ...
Wow! Andrea & Aerin's performance was the highlight for me. I was totally stunned by the beauty, power and empowerment of it.
Aerin and Andrea have fantastic chemistry and clear vision. A
duo to watch!
Tedesco not only has a vocal range that goes from a quiet
tear-stained whisper to a ferocious razor lilt, but also a
telling feel for drama that's both arresting and vulnerable atthe same time. (see full review below!!)
"A great poet once said 'make it new'. The anti-folk songs on Andrea Bunch's distinguished debut album Numinous find a common place for acoustic instrumentation and clear and powerful vocals to be enhanced by unusual samples and synthesizer sounds".
Andrea & Aerin are extremely thoughtful artists. Their samples
and their voices ring with the same emotional intensity. What
you hear in their delivery is that everything is at stake.
Andrea & Aerin won the Indyindie 2004 Starsearch competition, which earned them a place on the SheRocks! stage at the National Women's Music Festival.
The song Species (Numinous) won Andrea BumpNGrind's title of Best Folk Artist of 2003.
Aerin & Andrea send lots of love to Cookie's family and friends. Cookie was an improtant supporter of many indy musicians. We are lucky to have had her in our community.
Cookie Holley - BumpNGrind Records
...sporting a unique look complete with styled sideburns, was Aerin Tedesco, who played next. Tedesco's most notable prowess was her songwriting. As she gripped her acoustic tenor guitar, she delivered self-reflective lines like: "I don't want to be dependent on anyone but me." Impressive.
Max A. Herman - Chicago Arts and Entertainment (Apr 12, 2002)

full reviews

“Albedo”/Congress of Starlings (Egasage Records) - According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “albedo” is defined as “... reflective power; specif.: The fraction of incident radiation (as light) that is reflected by a surface or body (as the moon or a cloud).” That not only explains the clayish appearance of Congress of Starlings’ Aerin Tedesco and Andrea Bunch on the duo’s first disc, but it also is a perfect metaphor for the quietly potent magic contained in “Albedo’s” 11 tunes. This thankfully ain’t your tired, two-artsy-chicks-with-guitars folky stuff: Gently blurring the edges of folk rock with elements of the experimental (in addition to cellos, violins and guitars, of course, you’ve got appearances by cicadas, running water and cement cutters - you know, the usual), Congress of Starling’s sound borders occasionally on folktronica/Bjorktronica but without any pretense or wackiness. Drumwork and percussion lend a primitive wallop to the songs’ poetically emotional cores, which address everything from abandonment and the plight of the working class to struggling to keep one’s personal demons at bay while reaching out for salvation. Highlights include the catchy instrumental Tol Eressea; Idols, which features a mild Middle Eastern flavor over which the pair’s vocals weave in and out eerily; the haunting Underworld, sounding as if it wandered in from Tedesco’s awesome solo album from 2004, “Birthmark”; and the gorgeous Fallen.

Judging from “Albedo,” this is one “congress” that should be in session for a long time to come. (***1/2)
After the Queer is Folk Fest in June, I had been pursuing seeing Aerin Tedesco in a full gig… Lo and behold I was lucky enough to see her at her Ladyfest gig at the Local Grind. It was a nice surprise to see her in a bohemian-style coffeehouse filled with overstuffed couches and an attentive audience. Seeing her in a theater is definitely not the same experience, not nearly as personal. To be blunt, the Local Grind show blew my head off.
Looking totally boss in a suit and tie, Tedesco not only has a vocal range that goes from a quiet tear-stained whisper to a ferocious razor lilt, but also a telling feel for drama that’s both arresting and vulnerable at the same time. The only vocalist that I can think of who comes close to such a combination is Prince. But there is nothing smug about her confidence pushing across the lyric (which served him well), nothing removed about the emotional punch that she delivers in her phrasing (which served him well, until it got grating), and certainly nothing held back in her approach (after all, it was just her and a guitar). Playing mostly solo-acoustic (and I must add that this wasn’t A.T.’s headlining gig, she had the same amount of time as everyone else on the bill), she displayed a stately suppleness that slid into furious emotionalism, subdued tremors of drama and back again. “Downside Up” and “Crush” were operettas of high drama, but “Fire”, where she and a guest vocalist Andrea Bunch traded lilting choruses in a mesmerizing and intense volley, was on an alien plane. Music this powerful and haunting just isn’t made anymore. Do yourself a favor, go see this woman.
There are some secrets so good, the pleasure they induce so incredible, you're reluctant to share them with anyone- you jealously guard them, wanting to keep them to yourself so that when you do let slip, you can sort of bask in the glow of being one of those cutting-edge people who knows just the right kind of music.

Okay, kiddies, come a little closer and I'll let you in on one of those secrets: Aerin Tedesco's "Birthmark". Yeah, I can't claim familiarity with the Buffalo, N.Y. native's previous four discs- yet- but I'm already making room on my year-end best-of for this 11-track set of folk-rock.

Each song on "Birthmark" unwinds like the innermost thoughts of a close friend during one of those late-night "Do you have a few minutes?"- type of calls, with Tedesco brilliantly and painfully examining all sides of a relationship, from infatuation through break-up and healing. By taking a highly cognitive approach to songwriting, constantly questioning and probing, Tedesco comes up with a disc that gently haunts the mind and soul, particularly on such numbers as London and City Song, rich metaphors for the cacophony of the confusion of relationships; the slightly edgy Crush, which deals with the love's initial paralysis; the achingly beautiful and poetic Insight ("I don't want to give you words that float through the air/ I want to give you words that stay"); and the moderately uptempo and inspirational Stand Up.

But remember, kids, this is a secret. So go out and tell everyone. (****)
. . . With a flexible voice as delicate as gossamer but with the punch of a full-throated Met soprano, the 22-year-old Brant native sang as brightly as the morning star she described in "Star Song."

Tedesco weaves a tapestry of literary allusions and ambiguities, forcing listeners to fill in the blanks with their own personal experiences.  Many of her fans mouthed the lyrics in unison as she sang.

Her opening song, "Rock," had nothing to do with a style of music but alluded to loving relationships that depend upon a solid foundation . . .

"Rear View" summed up Tedesco's songwriting talents.  The song carried wispy images  of retrospection ("When you find you're way back"), distortion ("Things are closer than they appear") and destruction ("The mirror is going to crack"). 

To quote the Indigo Girls' "Virginia Woolfe" from their 1992 album "Rites of Passage," "each life has its place," and Aerin Tedesco's should be making music

Articles of Interest

It’s one of the oldest forms of entertainment: the traveling minstrel, a singer/songwriter with nothing but a guitar and a voice, going from place to place singing for his supper. In an age of Internet downloads and stage spectacle, the art of the singer/songwriter remains alive and vibrant in Indianapolis.

For several years, Nora Spitznogle, booking shows at the Cath Coffeehouse in Broad Ripple, was the godmother of the scene. In the wake of Cath’s closing last year, the scene has spread out among a wide array of venues. Boulevard Place, the Abbey Coffeehouse, IndyIndie.com, Vic’s Coffeehouse, Indy Hostel and Out Word Bound are only a few of the places picking up the slack, and even venues such as the Music Mill are getting into the act, booking performers like Melissa Ferrick.
Robin Coleman, who booked shows for Indy's Music House, before it closed down late last year now books acts through her new site, segmentofsociety.com.
“You’ve just got to know where to look to find stuff like that,” Coleman said. “Ever since Cath closed, a lot of us really stepped up to the plate and have carried on the Cath tradition. They loved Nora in Chicago. Cath became a real weigh station. You weren’t necessarily going to make hundreds of dollars, but it was a place to break in and gain new fans. I would go just to find new music. A lot of times people get in their familiar zone of who they like to listen to. Most of the time independent artists, you’re either going to pay nothing to go see them or very low cover charge, and you can’t beat that. And to me a lot of times the music is better.”

Coleman said that the various promoters are forming a strong bond and network with each other, helping each other line up and cross-promote shows, as well as communicating with each other to find venues when one of them gets an offer that they can’t fit into their own schedule.

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like the kid in Almost Famous. I wouldn’t mind continuing this as long as I’m able and can keep my sanity about myself. I think there’ll always be room for stuff like this, because you’ll always have the indie scene. You’ll always have kids coming up. It’s a never-ending pot of gold. It’s where everybody starts out. Stuff like American Idol makes me mad, because it’s mass-produced entertainment. That’s why there’s independent artists out there. They’re people who want to do their own.”

Cathy Schneider and Joyce Walker, who operate IndyIndie.com and book acts at their neighborhood clubhouse as well as Out Word Bound, started up their work in order to give a stage to female artists such as Michelle Malone, Aerin Tedesco and Andrea Bunch.

“At the time there was no place in Indianapolis for independent female musicians to play,” Walker said. “There’s a lot of really good little groups out there and no stage for them to be on. And it’s really about women’s community. We can’t seem to sustain a meeting place. We had Utopia, we had a few places in the past, and they just go by the wayside.

“It’s to keep the culture alive, keep the art alive,” Schneider said. “We’re in a Republican situation right now, and art is the first thing that suffers. This is our way of supporting art and keeping it alive. I want people 30 years younger than me to understand.”

Tammara Tracy works with Schneider and Walker to coordinate the “Music in the Stacks” biweekly series of shows at Out Word Bound book store.

“The frustration that I heard from many performers saying that there wasn’t anyplace to perform,” Tracy said. “IndyIndie is a monthly gig, and there are so many other traveling musicians that needed a place. And capitalizing on Indianapolis’ geographic location, as being the crossroads as the musicians are traveling the country, they need gas money and stuff like that. I’m hoping to contribute to the viability of the independent musician, and I’m hoping to introduce their music to more and more people.”

John Newton promotes frequent events in the intimate living-room setting of the Indy Hostel (Indyhostel.us), including a recent appearance by Jason Wilber and an upcoming series of Sunday afternoon classical performances at 1 p.m. every Sunday from March 13 through all of April.

“These house parties, it’s really a different scene. It’s more relaxed, people have a good time. I don’t make a lot of money out of them, sometimes I lose money, but it gets the place’s name out there,” Newton said. “Jason Wilber was a standing-room only crowd. Everyone enjoyed it, it was a wonderful show, it was low-key, smoke-free, lot of good food, good drinks. A lot of people made new friends. Another neat thing about a house party is kids can come. I can have high school students visit that are into music and gain admission because there’s no age limit.”

Spitznogle herself continues to promote the occasional show and a monthly series at the Harrison Center. She also runs an information hub of singer/songwriter events at her Web site, queenbeemusic.com.

“I think it’s amazing how from the ashes of Cath so many more venues have popped up,” Spitznogle said. “People who weren’t doing singer/songwriter stuff are doing it now, which I think is wonderful. There was a big outcry of people, wondering where, and maybe it was people who hadn’t thought about doing it before and saw some value in it. A lot of people still contact me and I try to contact different venues.”

She started running singer/songwriter events at the Cath five years ago; by the time Cath closed, she had performers nearly every day.

“It was like an underground railroad where they’d find a venue out there,” she said. “There were these New York singer/songwriters and all these people from across the country. We couldn’t afford to pay them, so we’d pass the hat and I’d put them up for the night and feed them. That was the hardest part for me, when we closed Cath. I felt like Cath had built itself into a great singer/songwriter venue, and I hated to see that go.”

Nonetheless, she sees a renaissance in the scene as more and more promoters take up the banner.

“I think it’s only getting better and better,” Spitznogle said. “The first year Midwest Music Summit was here, they didn’t have many singer/songwriters, and last year Cath was a venue for two days. More people are appreciating the value of original music. It’s warmed my little heart how many people have picked up where Cath left off.”

And ultimately, according to Coleman, the scene’s strength is in those who come out and take a chance on new music day in and day out.

“The new venues have given a new opportunity to the local artists and traveling artists who pass through,” Coleman said. “There’s a lot out there. Just go out there and give a chance to somebody maybe you haven’t heard of.”

For more information:
Queenbeemusic.com
SegmentofSociety.com
IndyIndie.com
www.indyhostel.us
OutWordBound.com
www.boulevardplacecafe.com
Paul F.P. Pogue - nuvo.net (Mar 8, 2005)