Finally, something interesting happens with my life, which means I can update my blog. I feel bad, because my last blog was harping on Portlanders, calling them “two-dimensional.” I should say some Portlanders are two-dimensional. It was all tongue-in-cheek to begin with, I swear!
Anyway, this past weekend was, since Musicfest all the way back in September, my favorite weekend that I’ve had since moving to Portland. Why was it my favorite weekend since moving here, you ask? Because I got to see the Decemberists play twice, AND I GOT A BACKSTAGE PASS.
Read on, reader.As some of you may know, I am a big fan of the Decemberists. So much so, in fact, that I have been a regular poster on their online message board, /orate, since 2005. While not the most frequent poster there, I do post with enough volume and wit[1. I like to call it wit.] that I am pretty well known. When I lived in Boise, I was the lone Idaho poster (there was another guy for a while, but he has long since disappeared from the board). It was nice because I had a unique location, but it sucked because I was nowhere near any other posters.
But now I live in Portland, and one of the great things I’ve been able to do is meet some fellow /orators. It all began with Missy and Paul, with whom I went to Musicfest NW. A great time was had, but I was broke back then and had no job, and constantly felt like a mooch. So it felt good to have a bunch of money now and the freedom to use it as I wished!
But that’s not the point. The Decemberists played the Edgefield, an outdoor venue in Troutdale, on July 18th and 19th. I bought tickets for both nights[2. Including exorbitant “convenience fees”, thanks Ticketmaster.]. As I waited for these two fateful days, I learned that two fellow /orators, Nate and Nate (heh, okay, Nate and Natty), were coming from Kansas City and Atlanta, respectively, essentially “trying on” Portland for size, and also to hang out with us awesome /orators. Additionally, Guin and Emyli, boardies from here in Ptown, had tickets[3. Well, Emyli had a ticket for just Saturday. We were quite sad about that, because she missed backstage day.]. We decided, with this many people, to enact the 2nd Annual /Orate Field Day, wherein we would go to a park and hang out and play some kind of Outside Game (not to be confused with Video Games, a popular indoor venture). I missed the first field day, for reasons I do not remember.
Okay, that’s all backstory. The two Nates went to Seattle to see the whole D’s show (Blind Pilot, Andrew Bird, the D’s) with Missy and Emyli on Friday, so Saturday meant they were driving into town. Eventually we all met up and headed straight to the venue. This was about 2pm. Please note that there were other folks with us (Missy’s husband, Nick; their roommate Gabby on Saturday; and Guin’s husband Jeff on Sunday), and they are all very great people, but this is a /orate blog post, so it might center mostly on /orators. I’m just saying.
The heat was something else. It wasn’t terrifyingly hot, but it was hot enough to be Extra Sweaty. I had arrived in my Old Skool /orate shirt. The board has two /orate shirts, one made a couple of years ago by a very very awesome man named Chris (though the design was by someone else … Casey, I think), and one recently made by Julie and pressed? silk-screened? whatever by Missy. They both turned out great, and I still wear the old shirt even though it’s an XL and it’s a bit big for me. It’s also one of those thicker cotton shirts, which meant I was in Sweat Mode very early in the line waiting. Fortunately, Missy had brought me one of the new /orate shirts, which was a light American Apparel affair that helped cut me down to Light Sweat Mode[3. At that time. Sweat Mode and Heavy Sweat Mode reappeared later on.].
So we waited for the gates to open, and drank McMenamins beer and hung out, etc. The only thing of interest at this point was when Nick busted out his guitar. I learned that Nick was left-handed, and played guitar left-handed. This intrigued me, and I asked to borrow his guitar. I spent the next ten minutes or so trying to figure out how to play chords upside down, because playing a guitar left-handedly if you are right-handed[4. For purposes of playing guitar, I mean. I am left-handed when it comes to writing and, uh, bowling. And that’s about it.] is damn near impossible. But playing it upside down actually isn’t so bad. It’s just a matter of relearning chords, which is easy if you are good at non-traditional chords. Also if you find how to play an E chord and just barre it up and down the neck, that works too.
Anyway, to bust through this: the gates opened up, we got front row center, we waited in the nearly-blistering heat for an hour, then the bands played.
Blind Pilot was first, and they were really good. I was a little disappointed (a little, honestly, just a tiny bit) because all of the wonderful musicians I saw live aren’t on the album. I hope they get used on subsequent albums.
Then came Andrew Bird, who sort of blew me away. The looping (ironically?[5. Shut up, Missy.]) gets repetitive after a while, but the songs were really strong and “Imitosis” is just an awesome song. The second night he played “Dark Matter,” but he introduced it with a bunch of names, one of which being “Sweetbreads,” which made me think he was going to play the totally awesome acoustic version of the song from Fingerlings; alas, this was not to be.
Then the Decemberists came up and were fucking awesome. As usual. Hazards of Love is like watching a theatrical piece: it has ebbs and flows and it builds and falls and it’s just great.
One of the funny things about Saturday night was that Colin threw a pick right in my direction — and it bounced right off the top of my head, flying behind me, into the crowd. I was bummed that I didn’t get a pick, but hey, who else can say that Colin Meloy threw a pick at their head? (Strangely enough, this was attempt #1 of 3 to get a pick in my hand. More on this later.)
After Hazards, the D’s go off and then come back on to play a second shorter set (shorter because of the Edgefield’s noise curfew, not because they wanted to). Saturday’s second set was relatively par (though Oceanside was unexpected). As they’ve been doing for the whole tour, they did play a kickass cover of “Crazy On You” by Heart, which was rad.
After the show we waited for Nick to return (Nick didn’t have tickets to the two nights, and went off to perform guitar magic) so we could leave. But it took him too long so we went to get food instead. He ended up arriving right when we made this decision, but we still got food. I don’t know why I’m typing all of this, it’s very trivial. My point is that the McMenamins 1/4lb happy hour burger is Pretty Good.
Then I went home and went to sleep!
SUNDAY started with the 2nd Annual Portland /orate Field Day. This is a fancy way of saying we ate cupcakes and played kickball. It was boys vs. girls and yes, the girls won, mostly because we men were too distracted by their complaining and general girlishness to see that we were losing.
After the game, as we were eating cupcakes with enough icing to caulk a bathtub on them, Missy received a very important call. It was from an important man telling her important news: that anyone who was wearing the green /orate t-shirt would be getting backstage passes after the show.
Needless to say, we were all kind of stunned. I can’t (and don’t want to) go into details as to how these backstage passes were obtained, but let it be known that I am deeply grateful and indebted to those who procured them, and also must thank Colin and Jason, the D’s band manager, for being so totally and completely awesome and kind towards us nerdy message boardies.
At some point after getting this information is when we decided to improv a song. Gabby has video of this song, and I will share it with you when she decides to upload it to YouTube. Regardless, it’s silly, and I’m ridiculous.
Anyway, prior to going to the show we stopped at Guin’s house to gather ourselves. Emyli wasn’t able to get a ticket for Sunday’s show and was left to babysit Guin’s kids (hehe, I make that sound so awful … sorry). In the end we lost Gabby and Nick as well, as they had to drive back to Tacoma to work on Monday. But we did pick up Jeff (Guin’s husband) and Shelby (their friend, very stinky), so it kind of evened out.
This post is getting long.
The point is that Guin and Jeff had a bunch of pirate masks. Jeff’s a pirate in his spare time.
… I can’t believe I just typed that.
But he is, and so they had a hundred or so paper pirate masks just, you know, lying about. So everyone[6. NOT ME.] at first thought, Hey, let’s wear pirate masks during the second set! Which turned into, Hey, let’s bring ALL the pirate masks and hand them out for the second set!
My favorite part was when we decided that we[7. NOT ME.] would hand out the pirate masks to everyone else, but not wear them ourselves, making it extra “WTF”. Finally, cleverness invaded our[8. NOT MINE.] stupid idea.
The second day of music was just as good as the first. Blind Pilot, great. Andrew Bird, awesome. The D’s, awesomely great. Like I mentioned earlier, Colin threw a pick at my head. Well on Sunday night he threw ANOTHER pick at me, which I missed. And then, later on, he threw a pick which landed almost directly into the palm of my hand, which, mind you, was not outstretched to receive said pick. It was destiny!
Before the D’s played, Jason, the band manager, came up and presented us with six! backstage passes. As the people around us began to wonder just how the hell we got these passes, we just smiled and remained calm, because we were, at that moment, Total Badasses.
Then we realized there were seven of us.
Shelby somehow got short straw’d as the one who would stay behind while we went backstage. It was a sad, sad moment, and generally kind of awkward. But fear not, dear reader! Because we got her in. Read on.
As the Hazards set closed, those damnable pirate masks got passed around. When the second set began, no one from the band really noticed that a group of people were wearing pirate masks on their head. Now, the second D’s set from Sunday was much more awesome than Saturday. Why? Because they played Bachelor and the Bride, but also they played SLEEPLESS. If you’re a D’s fan, you may not have seen that coming. Neither did Jenny Conlee, the keyboard player; she was asking Nate, the bassist, for the chords before the song started.
Two other things: one, while doing his ridiculous spiel for “Dracula’s Daughter,” Colin FINALLY noticed the scent of weed pervading the venue. He said something really funny regarding it and the song, but I can’t remember it well enough to reprint it in the same hilarious fashion. So, like many stories, I’ll just say, you had to be there.
Also at some point, I think during O Valencia, is when he noticed the pirate masks. He said, tongue-in-cheek, “We didn’t sanction those,” and asked everyone to take them off, so “we can see your beautiful faces.” Or something like that.
Now! The most important part. Backstage!
Honestly, most of it is a blur because of the free PBR, but it was still awesome. We met all of the bands, Peter Buck! from REM! was there, Shara had hurt her knee at some point and was icing it outside, so we all crowded around her like the nerds we were. The other members of Andrew Bird’s band were there as well, Mikey and Jeremy, and they were great. Jeremy was even kind enough to use his all access pass to get Shelby, who had been waiting patiently, backstage with us. So thank you for that, Jeremy.
Everyone was very gracious to us, especially Nate (the D’s bassist), who looked exhausted. We ate tacos and Missy finally got her “glare” from Colin on camera, and we didn’t make total asses out of ourselves. All in all, a great success. And a lot of fun.
And that’s that weekend. Thanks to Missy for setting up the backstage passes in the first place, and to all the /orators and friends and family of /orators who came out and had a blast. I can say without hesitation that it was one of the best weekends — hell, best TIMES, period — that I’ve had here in Portland since moving.
My only regret is that I wish I had written a better blog post encapsulating it. Oh well! 😀
I will end by saying that the Wednesday after this whole weekend shebang, I got on the bus to head home from work and, long story short, Andrew Bird was on my bus.
I know, it’s impossible to tell that it’s him, but trust me, after seeing him backstage and saying, “Your set was great” to his face (to which he mumbled, “Thanks”), I can say with assurance that it was him. That’s his violin case, too.