Ah, the Decemberists. The band that would have been Edward Gorey’s favorite, were he still alive and traipsing about in his fur coat. From McCarthy era agents to piracy to Jewish authors, the Decemberists have quite possibly written all the songs you are not literary enough to think of.
The Portland-based sextet played Sunday night at the 9:30 Club, and despite the presence of very tall males blocking the views of certain shorter patrons who beamed waves of hatred at said giants, the band offered a wonderfully diverse set. The show was sold out.
Opening the show was the Glasgow-based outfit Sons and Daughters. They played a brief, loud set and then began the wait for The Decemberists’ first appearance on-stage, accompanied by a recording of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” When finally music’s masters of literary device took the stage, they opened with nothing but their best: the whole of 2004’s five-part “Tain” EP. Frontman Colin Meloy, made a small lyrical mistake within the first few lines, but grinned and let it slide, He looked absolutely ravishing and made the ladies faint in his pressed white pinstriped suit. Between songs, mainly from this spring’s “Picaresque,” the band, led by vocalist and violinist Rachel Blumberg, cranked out quick, jaunty versions of “Peter and The Wolf” and “Linus and Lucy.” The band played a few songs from their older albums as well, including crowd pleaser “Leslie Ann Levine.”
Meloy even made a shout out to our darling District of Columbia, although in all fairness “The Bagman’s Gambit” is really about Cold War agents having an affair in a bathroom on the National Mall, not about tall hip dudes at the 9:30 Club. The band even constructed a giant cardboard whale (acted out by guitarist Chris Funk) for their closing song, “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.”
Whether they care about the political dramas affecting D.C.‘s hip young twenty-somethings, the Decemberists certainly cared enough to put on a Grade-A show.
- Annie Rebekah Gardner
Ever find yourself next to someone’s drunken yuppie girlfriend when the opening act comes on? The one who’s way too into the opening act for everyone’s own good, until the right hand of Athena sweeps her away? Reel her in, guys. Reel her in.
The Decemberists sent their Sunday night audience on adventures that most of them resigned to never take when the financial weight of school and rent started smacking them around. If Queen Victoria listened to emo back in her day, she’d probably be as lovesick over Colin Meloy as any member of the audience. Seeing him pick up an electric guitar at the beginning of the set and playing the entire 18-minute “Tain” EP in five movements almost made half the crowd swoon, and even some of the tough guys. In a rugged manly sort of way, of course.
They mixed up their set pretty well and had some really great spur of the moment transitions. Some lucky girl got the entire band to play “Happy Birthday” for her. And seeing Petra Hayden and the others break into “Linus and Lucy” while Colin tuned his guitar for “The Bagman’s Gambit” was enough to spark an impromptu Snoopy dance.
The Decembrists are geeks through and through. They wear outfits that look neat to them instead of fishing through the discount rack at Urban Outfitters. Seeing them from the back, they look like a music box, swaying for “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” and running through “The Sporting Life.” The band looked like they were having so much fun that not being able to play all night seemed a bit of a letdown. Here’s hoping they find a stage where they can.
- Neal Fersko