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I was meant for the stage

  • 14th Oct, 2005 at 7:45 PM

Cass McCombs
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

Months ago, I bought a ticket to The Decemberists show. Well, on Wednesday, the day had arrived and I was ready. I packed my camera, pocketed my notebook, and set off to Club Soda.

I had not expected the interior decor of the place, which seemed a lot more timid when I had bought tickets. I checked my coat and then proceeded to the stage. I was fifteen minutes early, but that obviously was not enough time to be standing front and centre. Already, people were lined up two deep. Except for this small little nook near stage-right that was empty.

Realising my genuine luck, I sidled up there and started fiddling with the camera. That's when Cass McCombs came on stage and started playing. They had a very pleasing, folksey quality to his indie-rock. I can see why they were opening for The Decemberists, and it's quite a good match. I had looked around the merchandise table before settling in, but they didn't have anything for sale.

After they got off the stage, some roadies came up and started plugging in equipment. There was one guy who went around playing instruments over and over again. I don't think he was tuning them, I think they were doing a sound check. For about twelve minutes, this guy plucked the same note on a bass guitar. Sometimes he played it a little faster, sometimes a little slower. They tried to play some house music to cover it up, but they gave up with that after a while. I started talking to the people beside me, and met Greg who is going to a cégep, and Ala who is studying at Concordia.

Greg spent a little time teaching me how to swear in French before the lights started dimming. Everybody hushed in anticipation and when people started running out on stage, the crowd just went wild.

Jenny Conlee
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

Petra Haden and Nate Query
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

Colin Meloy and Chris Funk
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

They launched right into song, and the most amazing thing happened. Everybody that I could see basically started singing along. I don't think anybody did any dancing, as the music's not really suited for that, but there was so much singing. It's was this really big sing-a-long. I guess it's because the audience all knew the lyrics.

Speaking of the audience, it really seemed like I was the oldest one there. I looked around and there were all these college kids. Not only that, but they seemed to be mostly the wrong demographic for someone dorky like Colin Meloy. I mean, that guy's a literary geek! When he spoke, he tossed big words out like they were nothing. But everyone I talked to seemed to be doing some fine arts or music degree. Plus, they were all fashionable with their black-plastic-frame glasses and thrift-store clothing.

Colin did a little solo, which didn't go too well to start. People asked him to sing an old Tarkio song, but he only got through the first verse. Then someone suggested he sing some Morrissey, and so he started strumming out "Sister, I'm a Poet". He forgot a word, but some girl named Jackie shouted it out for him. At least, I think it was Jackie, since I met her after the show. Oh, I've just found her LiveJournal (funiculus), which confirms it.

Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

More songs, more singing along, people drumming and stomping and clapping with the music. You could really feel this crowd really liked the show. I had a pretty good time too, since it appears that they are all very nerdy. Apparently, they had finished watching Gilliam's Time Bandits over and over again, and most people in the crowd had no idea what that was. Oh, and Petra Haden had this obsession with quoting from the movie, in a very bad British accent, that eventually ended up in her being forced to give high-fives to the entire front row.

Too soon, it was time to demand an encore, which actually was very drawn out. But these fans had dedication, and so the band came out and played two more songs. The last one, "The Mariner's Revenge Song", involved audience participation, Colin falling on his back, and a crude paper whale. Good times.

After the show, Jenny Conlee ran around giving out set-lists to people. When she realised that she was just handing them out to only one side of the stage, she ran into the back, got another one, and gave it to me. Well, Ala had this hugely disappointed look on her face, so I took a picture of it and then offered it to her. At around this point, Jenny was signing things, so Ala excitedly offered up her new set-list. And I got my notebook signed, because I had left my ticket in my coat pocket. Somebody had a Decemberists T-shirt held together with safety pins: "oh, you've got another one of those homemade ones," remarked Jenny.

She eventually waved goodbye, and I chatted with other people and got their e-mail addresses. Then I went home, exhausted but exuberant.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
15th Oct, 2005 00:32 (UTC)
Definitely sounds like a good time was had by all. I envy the amount of music you've gotten to experience in the last few weeks, but I think not enough to move back to humidity and snow. I'll live vicariously through your wonderful posts instead. O:-)
15th Oct, 2005 00:38 (UTC)
I have to say that San Francisco gets its fair share of shows. So I think you can have the best of both worlds.

P.S. The weather here is great for hockey. And we have a sane government.
15th Oct, 2005 01:36 (UTC)
1. How odd is it that you met Jackie!
2. How fantastic are The Decemberists? (ANSWER: very!)
15th Oct, 2005 02:02 (UTC)
1. How odd is it that you met Jackie!

It's too bad that I didn't get to stay for a while. I suppose I missed out on an exciting adventure.

2. How fantastic are The Decemberists? (ANSWER: very!)

An understatement, my dear.
15th Oct, 2005 12:10 (UTC)
1. Pretty much!!
2. Ugh, I know right? What was the highlight for you? Honestly, the fact that they can get several hundred scenesters to sit down on a dirty club floor amazes me.

I couldn't staaaaaaand the opening band. I think their music would do fine in, say, a coffee shop, but in a proper venue they just made me want to fal asleep.
16th Oct, 2005 04:05 (UTC)
My favourite thing was the fact that everyone was singing along so enthusiastically. Oh, and the fact that Colin, Petra, and Jenny share my taste in movies.

I mean, how many Montréalers would know what a "tamarack" is, if it weren't for Colin Meloy?
16th Oct, 2005 04:21 (UTC)
fyi: for our gig they had a great little musical bit worked out for when Petra had to high five everyone in the front row.

Just so you know that they are keeping the tradition alive! :)

Oh and one of Colin's solo songs was a Tarkio song!
16th Oct, 2005 04:35 (UTC)
It sounds like they took their experiences from their Montréal show, and made their Toronto show more awesome.

I wish I did what Jackie did, and saw them one after the other. But that would have been most inconvenient, and rather expensive.
16th Oct, 2005 04:39 (UTC)
Well, Jackie is fantastic in her... Extreme devotion to gigging. Like, flying across the country, driving for 15 hours straight (or longer), that sort of thing. It's true that you do leave their gig wanting to see them again right away!
16th Oct, 2005 04:59 (UTC)
How does she afford that?
16th Oct, 2005 15:04 (UTC)
Magic, I think. That and a combination of pretty much living in a bubble until she goes gigging.
15th Oct, 2005 03:00 (UTC)
Petra Haden's in the Decemberists? Wow. I know her album with Bill Frisell, and her appearance on the latest Beck album (she does the vocal break in "Rental Car"). She's done an all a capella cover album of The Who Sell Out! which seems like it might be worth a listen, if only for novelty reasons.

She's got good pedigree - her dad is legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden. My composition teacher has a rather ridiculous Charlie Haden story, but that's for another time.
16th Oct, 2005 02:59 (UTC)
She is! And she's totally cool.

I will look into her solo work as well as her dad's. Sounds like a great path to listen down.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )