I’m not shy about my love of the Decemberists. At one point I owned five of their t-shirts and an assortment of CDs and vinyls (some of which were all but stolen by my ex-girlfriend), and I can play almost all of their discography on guitar, and know most of the lyrics by heart. So when the time came for them to play the Crystal Ballroom, I was excited. Like, little girl excited. Little girl watching the end of American Idol excited.This was going to be a special concert because it marked the first time I was going to a show with fellow members of /orate. /orate is the Decemberists online message board, and I’ve been a member there since 2005. It’s really the only forum I frequent anymore (besides a couple of other forums that I check and post on occasionally), and I’ve made a lot of great friends through it. It only seemed natural that we all go to the show together! The only problem was, the show sold out. Quickly. And I’m constantly poor, so I waited and it was too late and I couldn’t afford scalper prices. But I managed to get an extra ticket from the adorably awesome Ashley, who gave it to me in exchange for a song, which I wrote just for her, and remains hers. If you want to hear it, you’ll have to ask her first.
Anyway, long story short, I got into the show. And I have shitty cameraphone pictures to prove it.
We were also the first in line, thanks to various /orators getting to the Crystal super early. The rest of us arrived and just hung out. I know people in line were pissed but meh, what can you do? We got to the front of the stage and stayed there for the rest of the show. Hence the following close pictures.
First up was Loch Lomond, a self-proclaimed “chamber folk” band from Portland, who have been touring with the D’s since the tour started. They were, in a word, wonderful. They had lots of band members who would switch instruments, which I always love. The songs were definitely folky, the dynamic slow-LOUD-slow types which cescendoed in mere seconds. They had a great audience who was very appreciative of every song they played. And the omnipresent Dave Depper was there too, a Hush Records dynamo who I last saw play with Norfolk & Western at Musicfest. Dave apparently had a kickass mustache but shaved it prior to the Portland show. He also told a very clever whale joke, which I will not repeat on this review simply because it must be told out loud. Once Loch Lomond cleared out we waited for the Decemberists to arrive. And then they did. And it was Good.
While the setlist was, ultimately, uninspired (playing three of your new songs in a row, only two songs for encores, and one of those songs being only two minutes long, for example), the Decemberists always put on a good show. Or Colin does, at least. But one cannot fight the “ghosts” (as Colin called them) of the Crystal. They were having technical issues and ultimately a fucked up cord and weird monitor issues cost the audience “On the Bus Mall,” as Colin traded his 12-string, thinking it the problem. I only wish that he wasn’t so staunch on playing the 12-string for certain songs. There might be some merit to playing “Bus Mall” on a six-string!
They sounded great, however. Chris Funk’s guitar was a little loud at times but it was usually during songs that were meant to be loud anyway. They played “The Island” which is always great, and “Culling of the Fold,” which is probably the most energetic songs they do. Again, for Colin at least. He goes nuts during that song. That photo at the beginning of this review is from Culling. He kicked a couple of people (including my friend and fellow /orator Lindsay) and I heard he cut a girl accidentally with his guitar, which was perched on this girl’s shoulder as he put her head in his hand and sang to her. He gets a little creepy sometimes, let’s face it.
And then Colin went crowdsurfing. Sort of. He fell into the crowd and they held him up, at least. Then they put him down and he was right in the middle of the crowd. You can see that he crowdsurfed as far away from the /orate crowd as possible. He probably thought we were going to steal his microphone or his pants or something.
Yeah, the encore was a let down. They played “Raincoat Song” which is a cute number but it’s only two minutes long, and then they played “Sons and Daughters” and let no one up on stage except for a little girl. At other venues (like the next night in Seattle) they let a bunch of people on stage to sing the final refrain. What’s the dealio, Decemberists? I know you hate the Crystal but we fans love you and want to sing “Hear all the bombs fade away” on stage with you! Is that too much to ask?
After the show I got a picture with Uncle Paul, who is the man referenced in Colin’s 33 1/3rd book about “Let it Be”, the man who influenced Colin’s musical directions. So that was cool. I also got a picture with Mark, the head moderator/admin guy for /orate. They were both super drunk, which was great.
I have officially seen the Decemberists four times now. The peak show was January 22nd. This one was probably third (the Boise show being fourth). I still love them, however, and can’t wait to see them on tour for Hazards of Love. They’re planning on playing the album front to back at each show, which should be a treat. Unless the album sucks. Then it could be the worst tour ever.