Holy Cow! The Decemberists!

Posted: June 8, 2009 in Braak, reviews
Tags: ,

decemberistsHello, everyone!  While you guys were sitting around BEING BORING this Saturday, do you know what I was doing?  I was at a Decemberists concert.  Concerts, as you all know, are what INTERESTING and COOL people do with their time, and it’s what I was doing with my time, and not what you were doing with your time, so I guess that just goes to show who among us is more awesome, doesn’t it?


The Decemberists.  The Decemberists are more awesome.

I have actually only been to three concerts in my entire life–one was a free They Might Be Giants concert in the park when I lived in Brooklyn, and one was a Magnetic Fields concert that my friend had an extra ticket to.  I am not a routine concert-goer.  So, obviously, I don’t know what I’m talking about when I say, “Holy shit!  The Decemberists put on a good fucking concert!”

But I’ve said it, because they do.

I don’t know who the opening act was.  I feel like they probably told us, but I couldn’t hear them very well.  It was some old guys who were named after eggs, and they played a song called “Rachel Loves Sydney,” and it was okay, I guess.  The opening act was about an hour long, which I feel like is unusual, but what the hell do I know?  (The only other opening act I’ve seen was Andrew Bird opening for the Magnetic Fields, and I lost track of how long he was onstage due to his hypnotic whistling).

The first half of show was new stuff off of Hazards of Love, an album I haven’t heard yet.  It was not particularly easy to tell if this was six songs that segued into each other, or just an hour long song with little breaks in it so that Colin Meloy could switch guitars.  I don’t know, who cares?  It was awesome.

Warrne Ellis criticized “The Crane Wife,” the last Decemberists album, for making them sound like a Jethro Tull cover band, and this isn’t completely inaccurate.  “Crane Wife” definitely had a kind of prog-rock feel to it at parts; this only made me excited, because I like Jethro Tull.  But this new “Hazards of Love” is some kind of insane combination of their old Baroque-Rock style, some country/western elements (maybe just a dulcimer), and an avalanche of distortion-heavy electrics.

“My Brightest Diamond”‘s Shara Worden and “Lavender Diamond”‘s Becky Stark, who are both featured on the new album, were also there and sang.  I think Shara Worden is the one that was in black, and is some kind of rock and roll woman from my craziest rock and roll fantasies.  So, that was great.

Anyway, there was then an intermission (technically, a second intermission, because they had one after the opening act, too); I don’t know if this is typical.  My only past experience, again, was Stephin Merritt leaving the stage for a minute to–I SWEAR TO GOD–take a bump of cocaine in the bathroom.

After the break, they played some of their older songs.  When I call the Decemberists Baroque-Rock, I really mean two things by this:  one is that they often seem to be specifically evoking an old-timey period of history that may or may not be the Baroque era.  Two is that their music is just insanely complex in terms of timbre.  They were switching out instruments constantly, and now I understand why I have such a hard time getting Decemberists songs to sound right on the guitar:  half of them are rock lute tracks.  There are accordion sounds and harpsichord sounds and Chris Funke had a dulcimer at one point, and then suddenly everyone was playing the drums, whoah!

And then they did a cover of “Crazy On You,” and…hey, listen, Shara Worden?  Call me, okay?  Please?

For the encore they did Sons and Daughters, which is one of my favorite songs and, apparently, features a hurdy-gurdy.  I don’t know if you’re familiar with a hurdy-gurdy, but it’s a machine that hangs around your neck, and when you turn a crank it makes one, long, constant sound like an accordion note (WHEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW).

In short:  the Decemberists put on a good god-damn show.

Oh, uh.  Shambolic.  Hardscrabble.  Mise-en-scene.

  1. Jeff Holland says:

    So, when you show up to a Decemberists concert, do they supply you with a pair of pantaloons, or do you have to bring your own? Or is it just enough to wear a scarf?

    Also, are the audience members without post-bachelor degrees actually forced to wear dunce caps, or are they simply branded with a red ink slash on their hands?

    Okay, I’m done with my derisive comments. Sounds like it was a good show.

    Also, Tull will be playing at the XPN fest in July.

  2. threatqualitypress says:

    I’m not sure what the question is here. Are you suggesting that there are people who want to go to Decemberists concerts that don’t already own pantaloons?

  3. Kristen K. says:

    When I went to see the Decemberists at the Electric Factory during their Crane Wife tour, they also played Sons & Daughters. A woman standing next to me, as soon as the first strains begin, started “whooping” very, very loudly and jumping up and down, grabbing everyone within reach to tell them, “He’s playing a hurdy-gurdy! He’s playing a HURDY-GURDY!”

    She probably would’ve had better luck transferring her enthuasiasm had you been there. I just thought she was kind of wackadoo.

  4. threatqualitypress says:

    Heheh. Hurdy-gurdy.

    Also, on a serious note about audience members: my brother and I both privately arrived at the same conclusion regarding the Decemberists’ audience: they were about the most regular-looking audience I have ever seen. Just ordinary people, with basic, standard demographic breakdowns (like: there were some teenagers, and there were some old guys. There were a couple people wearing weird clothes. Meh.)

    Except, of course, for the fact that every single person there was white. I don’t know if that means anything.

  5. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Oh, they didn’t showcase a “Theremin”? Or anyone playing with bow and saw? Sniff.

    Sounds like it was absolute euphoria. I’m glad you were able to “rock out” so thoroughly.

  6. threatqualitypress says:

    I don’t really know if the Decemberists have a lot of theremin stuff in their music. It feels like the wrong kind of sound for them.

    But I don’t know. I don’t know anything.

  7. Amanda says:

    Look, excuse me if I spent my Saturday getting a physical! Blood work included! That’s right, I went into the TMI zone. What are you going to do about it?

    And pbbt. I told you I would have lovedddd to go. Blah.

  8. threatqualitypress says:

    There is no excuse for you, Amanda.

  9. Moff says:

    Yes! I lacked faith in the authenticity of this review until the last paragraph.

    Shara Worden is either pretty or scary.

  10. threatqualitypress says:

    Either? Both.

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