I meant to leave off posting until today so that I could discuss and remark upon the two most rewarding days of my life: Monday and Wednesday. To most, they are just ordinary days of the week. And because we’ve finally returned for classes, it’s easier to grumble and nag about having to go back (not to mention all the work that comes with it). But not this week; not for me. And it’s all because of The Decemberists.
Monday night Run-down:
Now, I’ve only ever listened to their music, over and over again because I can’t get enough of them, so this was my first experience seeing them live. The backdrop resembled the cover work from The King Is Dead – a forest of trees, that would reflect and change colors according to the light scheme. They arrived on stage after being summoned by a recording that resembled something along the lines of the banter Colin Meloy did for “Bandit Queen” on his solo album: Now close your eyes, and imagine you are walking through the woods. A band of travelers are off in the distance. As you approach they pick up their instruments and begin to play. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you THE DECEMBERISTS. The crowd goes wild. I know, because I am one of them. They open with “Down By The Water” from King. Here’s the list, from night one:
Down By The Water
Rox in the Box
We Both Go Down Together / Dracula’s Daughter – one verse
The Soldiering Life
Los Angeles, I’m Yours
Rise To Me
Yankee Bayonett (I Will Be Home By Then)
The Rake’s Song
This Is Why We Fight
The Island: Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel the Drowning
I went absolutely nuts when Colin got playful and added the opening verse of “Dracula’s Daughter” (the worst song he ever wrote) right before ending “We Both Go Down Together.” My friend Nick came along with me, and I can assure you that we both screamed out in glee like little girls. We weren’t sure if anyone else noticed, or got the reference, but we looked at each other and knew that this night was too good to be true. I mean, I had mentioned to him earlier, as we were talking about the songs we wanted to hear most and hoped he would play, and I joked saying: wouldn’t it be awesome if he played D’s D? I know he won’t, but you never know; so it looks like I got my wish. But then they went right into “Engine”, and everything just clicked. I’m not one to listen to “Los Angeles” on repeat, but hearing them perform it live gave me a better perspective – as Colin said, “we’ve now entered into the groovy part of our set.” I yelled out during one of the quieter moments, “YOU’RE THE BEST EVER!” which got a few laughs, and then some guy somewhere near me followed up saying, “WHAT SHE SAID!” and everyone rejoiced. From “July!” to “Valencia” was where the energy amped up; “Rake Song” was awesome live – especially because the rest of the band (Jenny Conlee, John Moen, Chris Funk, Nate Query, and Sara Watkins) were each playing on drums in unison – the dah dums increasing in rhythm – (listen to it, it makes more sense than me explaining) and everyone in the audience was standing, singing along “alright, alright, alright!”, and in high spirits. I know I was. “Valencia” was incredible. As was “The Island”, which was totally unexpected but completely welcomed. It was a fantastic concert.
Wednesday arrived and I was dying for 8pm by the time I got out from class. By a stroke of luck, and sheer coincidence, I noticed a tweet (I feel weird commenting about Twitter on a blog) from The Decemberists saying they were going to be downtown to kick off the opening of The Impossible Project, which showcased 50 original Polaroids hand selected by photographer Autumn De Wilde – depicting the band in their most ‘natural’ states. Frankly, I think she did a spot on job of capturing their ‘image.’ I’ve never been able to successfully explain what The Decemberists remind me of (in terms of what period in history) or how they sound without confusing both myself and my listener, but Autumn managed to get it right. It’s simple, once you look at these pictures.
I went with my friend Mike, who’s also a fan, and knew more about Autumn’s work than I did. We got to meet and greet with both Autumn and the band, while enjoying the photography and the refreshments provided. I was extremely nervous and excited, but seeing how down to earth they all are – we talked with Autumn, Jenny and John – made it so worthwhile. Unfortunately, Colin left rather quickly, didn’t come back, and I missed out on that opportunity. I also missed out on Nate. But I told Chris I liked his hat. He might have heard me – I might also have lost my voice. Here’s 5 out of 6. Someone’s missing.
(Nate Query, Autumn De Wilde, Jenny Conlee, John Moen, Chris Funk)
Wednesday night Run-down (aka, the best show ever.)
Having seen Monday’s show and knowing they still had more to offer, I was giddy for last night. I knew Tuesday’s concert was probably the best in terms of set list – as it was their originally scheduled show, and that M & W were tacked on as side notes – but Wednesday meant the last show in NYC, which also meant there was a good chance that they’d go all out – and I wasn’t wrong. Here’s the list:
Down By The Water
Rox in the Box
Won’t Want For Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
The Engine Driver
The Soldering Life
This Is Why We Fight
The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid
Dracula’s Daughter (all)
The Chimbley Sweep
A Cautionary Song (Battle of Trafalgar)
Sons & Daughters
I knew there’d be a focus on King, and I was seriously hoping for “On the Bus Mall” or “California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade” or “Red Right Ankle,”; but after hearing that they had played the last two on Tuesday, I knew they wouldn’t repeat for Wednesday. So I was a tad surprised when most of the same songs from Monday came up. Not that it was a disappointment; it was actually much better, because they had SO much more energy, stage presence AND banter (“I’m going to keep saying Wintery mix because I like saying Wintery mix” (sounds like Wintry)) for the third night. Colin kept turning back to his band to chat, amusing the crowd, and even showed off his skills by jumping around and shredding. There was a ‘battle’ between Sara Watkins on fiddle and Colin on guitar sometime around “All Arise!” This was eventually followed by a ‘surprise’ – Sharon Warden, who was the lead female vocalist on Hazards, came on stage with a poof in her hair and a fantastic metallic silver shirt with big fluffy sleeves that matched her silver heels, and completely ROCKED out. She hit her notes like nobody’s business, and I couldn’t help but gush over how awesome her presence was. What a free spirit.
When the song finished and Sharon left the stage, I was wondering how they might possibly top that performance. Colin voiced this by noting that the only way to follow that up would be by playing ‘the worst song I ever wrote.’ Holy Bejesus, they did it again! (I remembered that I definitely told John at the gallery opening that I really enjoyed hearing “Dracula’s Daughter” on Monday night, so was it possible that he told Colin and they decided to add it, last-minute? Maybe I’ll believe this, it’s a nice thought) So this time, they ran through the entire two verses of the song and then rushed right into “Valencia!” I didn’t think it could get any better until “Chimbley” came on and Colin switched places with John to play drums while John played harmonica. Then they played drums simultaneously, until Colin made his way back to the stage to thank everyone for an awesome show. The first encore – “A Cautionary Song” was met with cheers; they stopped halfway to invite members of the audience to help John, Sara, and Chris reenact a rendition of the Battle of Trafalgar. Our seats were too far up in the balcony to actually see this go down, but I can assure you, it was probably entertaining. Nick had told me about a previous concert he went to where they closed with ‘Sons & Daughters,’ so I was extremely pleased to be able to see it for myself. Everyone joined in to sing, including Sharon who came back on stage, along with his wife and son. It was too sweet. And “June Hymn” as the second encore – a reason to keep thinking towards the summer – nearly brought me to tears. I think the only reason I didn’t cry was because I was too happy to produce tears. (I don’t know if that’s possible, but I’m not going to worry about it)
I didn’t take pictures, because I didn’t want to be ‘that person who spends the night taking pictures instead of watching the show.” But I hope this play-by-play is enough. Maybe you’ll understand why I love this band so much. Here’s a link to the Impossible Project: Exhibition Opening. Check it out if you’re around SoHo.
And if anyone from The Decemberists ever reads this: You’ve made a fan very, very happy. Thank you.