Friday, November 23, 2007

The Long and Short of It

On October 28th and 29th I got to experience an experiment the Decemberists were doing called The Longs and Short of It Tour. The plan was to spend two nights in each city they played, the first night’s set list full of their longer, epic songs and the second night their shorter, poppier songs. They played at the historic Vic Theater, and it was my first time there. I like this venue and the small intimate nature of it. It also had plenty of great spots to see the stage.

The opening act for both nights was Laura Veirs with her backing band Saltbrakers (Steve Moore and Karl Blau. Their drummer was out with a back injury so the Decemberists’ drummer John Moen filled in for a few songs).

I have only heard a few of Laura’s songs, and my favorite is “Galaxies.” However, both nights she didn’t play it. Instead she focused on her new album Saltbreakers. Her set list did not change much for both nights. I did like the song “Pink Light,” but nothing else really stood out to me. Not that she isn’t a good performer or her songs were awful, I just wasn’t drawn to them. She was funny and made conversation with the crowd. She also told stories of why she liked Chicago, and made sure we knew the names of her band mates. She is a good friend of the Decemberists and she was the opening act for Colin on his solo tour a few years ago.

In all honesty I was just super excited to see the Decemberists again, that really it didn’t matter who was opening. The Decemberists, as you know, are one of my all time favorite groups. I have sung their praises in a blog entry past (Nov. 16, 2006). This is also the only band I have seen in DC, NYC, and now here. Interpol came close as did Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. But the Decemberists get the honor.

One nice thing about this tour is that Chicago was the first date, so we got to see the workings of this idea first. Oct. 28th was the Long of it night. I pretty much knew what the set list was going to be. So when the crew tapped the set list around the stage I was not amazed it was only half a sheet. The band came out and started with “The Crane Wife 3” and then went into “The Crane Wife 1 & 2.” After that they continued with “The Island: Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel The Drowning.” After those three songs, 20 plus minutes later, did we get some banter. The Decemberists are known for their crowd engagement and storytelling, as well as comical reenactments and crowd participation. It was then Colin said something along the lines of, “The Long of It night will definitely provide little banter. And not a lot of drinking.” To which Chris Funk (guitarist) said, “But on the Short of It nights…” And it was true, with songs that are over 7 minutes, and a curfew (have to be out of the venue by 10pm) there was not going to be a ton of between song banter.

They then continued on with “California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade” followed by “The Bagman’s Gambit.” It was at this point Colin had mentioned he was a bit winded and that maybe they should have thought this thing through. We all laughed and then they continued with the show. The next song was the one that I’m sure everyone in the theater was there for, their 18 minute 35 second song, “The Tain” (which is the band’s take on the Irish myth Táin Bó Cúailnge). There are 5 parts to the song and I have not seen all 5 live in order before (maybe 1 or 2 of the parts, but the whole thing? Nope). It was such a treat, because it is awesome. They then ended the show with one of my faves “I Was Meant For The Stage.”

Even though I thought there was going to be no encore, there was. After a split second they all made their way to the stage and started playing “Echoes” by Pink Floyd…which they did beautifully. Finally they wrapped it up with “Mariner’s Revenge Song” where we all participated by screaming when the song got to the part where the whale ate us. Overall the Long of It night was great, and I was looking forward to the next night.

The Short of It night’s set list was really up in the air. I mean the rest of their catalogue was up for grabs. The only song I knew they would play would be “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)” since Laura Veirs sings on it. Yes, they did play it. But what else would they do? To my surprise they came out and played the first 5 songs off of their EP 5 Songs (the EP has 6 songs on it): “Oceanside,” “Shiny,” “My Mother Was A Chinese Trapeze Artist,” “Angel, Won’t You Call Me?” and “I Don’t Mind.” They did these songs with only a few instruments and they all were in the front of the stage. Sort of like they were sitting on a porch just entertaining us after dinner. Very cool. They then got to their places and continued with another fave of mine that I have never seen live, “Leslie Anne Levine.” The Short of It night did provide more banter and more drinking…as promised. The set list included “Billy Liar,” “The Soldering Life,” “The Chimbley Sweep,” “Eli, The Barrow Boy,” “The Engine Driver” (this song will never get old for me), “The Perfect Crime #2,” “O Valencia!” and the song that didn’t make The Crane Wife album, “Culling The Fold” (Oh how I wish it had!).

For the encore they played “A Cautionary Song” (still my least favorite) so that Chris and John could come into the crowd and reenact the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre with the audience. Always a crowd pleaser, and how great they tailored it to Chicago. When the gentlemen made it back to the stage they continued playing and ended the encore with “After The Bombs.”

Again, The Decemberists did not disappoint. I was really happy with both shows. However, I was more grateful that I was one of the few to see this 2 day idea because a week or so after, the tour was cancelled due to an illness: I am not sure if they will attempt it again, but if they do then go. And if they don’t that’s okay too. Just got see them when you get a chance. I know I keep saying that, but I think they are one of the best and most entertaining bands out there.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

“I want you lazy science…”

On Saturday, Oct. 20th I was lucky enough to go see another show (after Bright Eyes on Friday night): Nada Surf. I wasn’t originally going to go because the show was sold out and I had found out about it too late. However, about a month ago I signed up to be part of this indie rock-show-going-group on I know, I know…how lame is that? But I thought it might be good to meet some people who like the same music I do. I have yet to go to a show with these people, because they seem to go to shows I don’t want to go to. C’est la vie.

So on Friday I get an e-mail summarizing what activity has been going on with the group, and there was a message from a guy named Clint who said he had 2 extra tickets to Nada Surf on Saturday (they played on Friday night too). So I sent him an e-mail and asked if he still had one. He did. So I was going. Hooray!

The show was at Schubas Tavern (which is a venue that reminds me of Mercury Lounge in NYC) which I love! I met up with Clint, his girlfriend Katie, and their friend Jay an hour before the show at the bar. Another gal, Bree, was also coming for the other ticket. They seemed like cool people and after getting to know them, I discovered that they rocked. Yay, new friends!

After the doors had opened, we made our way towards the front. We got about 8 feet from the stage…awesome! The opening act was Sea Wolf. I only knew a few of their songs, and those were good so I was assuming the rest would be. I was right. They were awesome. They played my favorite songs “You’re a Wolf” and “Middle Distance Runner.” I really suggest checking them out.

I was excited to see Nada Surf. I had missed them in DC and NYC it seems every time they played. They started out with their 1996 hit “Popular.” From there it got better. They played “Bad Best Friend” from The Proximity Effect and from Let Go they played “Happy Kid,” “Blizzard of ’77,” “Hi-Speed Soul,” “Fruit Fly,” Killian’s Red,” “Inside of Love,” and “Blonde on Blonde” during the encore. From The Weight is a Gift they played “Do It Again,” “Imaginary Friends,” “Always Love,” and “Blankest Year.” A random song they played was “Meow Meow Lullaby” which appears on a children’s album. They also played two new songs from their new album coming out in February…which means they’ll be touring again soon…yippee! One highlight was during the last song of their set they played “Stalemate” and then morphed it into “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division.

It was such a fun show. The crowd was cool, my new friends were fun, and the energy was high. I don’t think I had this great of a time at a show in a while. This was the second night Nada Surf had played. They were so fun and really were appreciative of the enthusiasm the crowd. I think pretty much everyone sang along to every song, and just danced around like crazy. I loved it! This is one of the best shows I have been to. I highly recommend seeing them live. Can’t wait for February!


“You’re A Wolf”


“Inside of Love”

“Hi-Speed Soul”

“Always Love”

“Blankest Year”

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