Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘The Decemberists’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE DECEMBERISTS 20th Anniversary Celebration Streaming Shows (April 11, 2021).

Even though I love live shows, I don’t really like streaming shows.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with them, it’s just that I don’t tend to watch live music much at home.  And, most of the time i tend to forget the show until the stream is over.

But since Sarah and I were supposed to see The Decemberists and our shows were cancelled, I though I’d treat her to these shows for her birthday.

The first show was pretty great–a deep dive into lots of old songs.

As they start, Colin says this is the first time we’ve played….ever together as a live band.

They open this set with Don’t Carry It All from The King is Dead.  Colin plays harmonica and I was really surprised to realize that drummer John Moen is singing the higher backing vocals (I’d always assumed it was keyboardist Jenny Conlee).

They stick with King for “All Arise” where you can really see Jenny’s massive keyboard array!

There’s a little extended jam at the end, which Colin calls “a proper honky tonk.”

They move to What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World album for “Wrong Year” which Colin says is emblematic of the previous year.  Colin plays the acoustic 12 string and Chris Funk is on the electric 12 string.

Jenny claps: “since there’s no audience we have to support ourselves.  Should we clap for ourselves?”

Colin says the tour (that was recently cancelled) would have been their 20th anniversary tour.  These song would have made up the set list.

This next song is early mid period that John Moen: he was just laying around being a man about town a the time.  “On the Bus Mall” [from Picaresque] sounds great with Nate Query getting a great deep sound on the upright bass.

Colin has as sip of wine and mentions that someone has made a supercut of every time he drinks a sip of wine and goes mmm.  “It’s normal to go mmm after a drink of wine.  it heightens the experience.”  And yet when you put hem all together….

Up next is a song about dead children and this is the first of many.  “Leslie Anne Levine” (from Castaways and Cutouts) sounds great with the 12 string, the accordion and bowed upright bass.

Colin jokes that it wouldn’t be an authentic Decemberists experience without him forgetting lot of words–so far I’m doing alright.

Up next is a glorious “The Crane Wife Parts 1, 2 & 3,” always fun to heae these together.  Nate’s bowed bass sounds deep and resonant but the song gets even bigger when he switches to electric bass.  Jenny is playing organ and glockenspiel.  There’s a seamless transition to part 2 with Chris Funk on pedal steel.  As they switch to Part 3, Jenny keeps the song going on organ while Colin gets an 8 string acoustic guitar.

It’s followed immediately by “The Island” which sounds so good I really hope to see this song live one day.  I love the intensity of Jenny’s keys and the great riffing and they even switch it up in the middle as John takes over keys, Jenny plays accordion, Chris is on pedal steel and Nate’s on the bowed bass.  The end is magnificent.  As they wrap up Colin jokes, “those were some jazz chords you were playing, there, Johnny.”

Colin states that they went through strict COVID protocol so they could do the next song.  “Raincoat Song” is a deep cut==a pretty acoustic song with both of them singing into the same mic.  (“I haven’t been so close to another man in many months.”  “Only harmonize into one microphone with you pod.”)

As they get ready for the next song, Colin says this is an epic jam set, apologies of epic jams are not your thing.  Jenny says that if they were on stage during this delay they’d either jam out or tell dad jokes: Nate: “How do you make an octopus laugh?  Tentickles.”

As Chris starts warming u his new guitar Colin says “John Carpenter on guitar.”  That’s the biggest complement you can give him.

Then we are off to a mystical land with “Rusalka, Rusalka” a new song I don’t know very well.  I really enjoyed the sound of it and need to check out the later cuts on I’ll be Your Girl.  The song has Chris on mandolin and harp samples from Jenny.

Colin gets a guitar but changes his mind as asks for The Reverend instead.  Jenny plays circus/instrument changing music.

The new guitar sounds great, and indeed the whole of “Make You Better” sounds fantastic.

Before introducing the final song, Colin says “Stay safe out there.  We’re nearing the end of this thing.  If you can get your vaccine, get it; mask up, stay socially distanced.”  “Not a very sexy PSA for a rock n roll show.”

But anyhow, this is about people who drowned, so things could be ….worse.

They end with a rocking “Hazard of Love (Part 4)” with Chris Funk on pedal steel.

It was weird hearing these live, quite rocking songs and there being no audience to cheer. Even if I hate noisy crowds, the silence is worse.

[READ: November 20, 2020] “How to Practice”

This was Ann Patchett’s second long form non-fiction essay in six months in the New Yorker.

This one is all about getting rid of your stuff.

In my family, we treasure heirlooms and even things that have only minor sentimental value.  We’re not hoarders but we have a lot of stuff.

Patchett opens this essay by talking about a friend’s father who died.  He had amassed all kinds of things.  Each new stage of his life brought on a new interest or hobby–and the accoutrement that went with it.  Getting rid of things proved to be a burden to his children.

Because Patchett grew up with them and her friend’s father considered her like a daughter, he wanted her to get something meaningful.   For instance, a particular painting.  She liked it but “either you have a place for that sort of thing or you don’t.”

But after allocating the important stuff there was so much more

How had one man acquired so many extension cords, so many batteries and rosary beads? (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACKSHIRLEY COLLINS: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #109 (November 10, 2020).

There is no denying the first line of this blurb: “Shirley Collins is a legend.”  But like many legends, I find that I know of her more than I know about her.  It’s possible that I’d never heard her before this set.  And that may not be an unreasonable thing

 Her life story took the sort of twists you hear in the songs she sings, in her case, a broken heart, a painful divorce, and the loss of her voice. For 30 years, she couldn’t sing.

I don’t exactly understand what happened to her voice (that link doesn’t explain it), but her first album in over 30 years came out in 2016.

Now, here she is playing songs from Heart’s Ease, only the second album she’s made in the past 40 years. You hear her sing of a young sailor boy who saves his ship from robbers and is promised by his captain both gold and his daughter’s hand in marriage. The lad sinks the robber’s boat, only to be left to drown by that very same captain.

These unimaginable tales and that unadorned voice have influenced both British and American folk music since the 1960s, from Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny to The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy. These tales of woe and whimsy are as timeless as Shirley Collins

So here is Shirley Collins, at 85, seated in the living room of her cottage in Lewes, East Sussex, accompanied by guitarist Ian Kearey, singing along to a few stringed instruments

She sings five songs.  At 85, her voice doesn’t sound amazing, but it does sound good.  And it’s more about the emotion she puts into these songs than the power of her voice.

She explains that in the 1950s, she took a field recording trip across the United States with Alan Lomax.  She heard “The Merry Golden Tree” in Arkansas.  It was still sung in England but had traveled across the Atlantic and then across the continent.

Kearey plays guitar for the first song, but switches to banjo for “Sweet Greens and Blues” a song her first husband Austin John marshall wrote 50 years ago.   She says the first line seems apt in 2020: “If we don’t make it this year let’s see what next year will bring.”

She heard “Wondrous Love” from a rural Alabama congregation.  The church was full of people from all over.  They sang this hymn in their old voices–“shrill and beautiful at the same time: the most incredible lovely noise you could hope to hear.”  Kearey gets a very cool metallic slide guitar sound for this song.

Before singing “Tell Me True” she tells the story of an American friend in Montana who sent her a vast British ensign flag from the Royal Navy.  He found it in a barn when he was 16 on holiday in rural Vermont.  He took it!  Now he sent it to her.  She thinks its from 1812, the Battle of Lake Champlain in vermont.  Woah

“Old Johnny Buckle” is a nonsense song, an upside down song that’s good fun to sing.  I imagine it could have been sung by Boy and Girl Scouts.  With silly lyrics like this

Old Mrs. Buckle went a’fishing one day
She caught her left leg in the clay
The toads and frogs all wobbled about
She ran to get a shovel to dig herself out

[READ: December 8, 2020] “Reflections”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 8.  Sofia Samatar, author of A Stranger in Olondria, is glad she remembered to pack those seasickness tabs..  [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

This story was a challenge for me.  First because I didn’t realize that the two letters (the story is two letters on facing pages) were meant to be read separately.  At first I thought it was a series of disjointed, unfinished letters–a sort of failed attempt at communication.  Obviously that is very far from what the story is mean to be about. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[POSTPONED: August 18, 2020] The Decemberists: 20 Years Before the Mast [moved to August 17, 2021]

indexI’ve been a fan of The Decemberists for years and I am surprised by how few times I’ve seen them.  We were supposed to see them two years ago and then Colin Meloy’s voice went out just in time for our show, so that was cancelled.

I was surprised that this tour didn’t include a stop in Red Bank, but a show at the Met in Philly is almost as good.

I was really really hoping that this show wouldn’t be postponed–it seemed like a milestone date somehow.  Plus, I had AMAZING seats.  Fortunately, the show was postponed to exactly a year minus a day away (as many shows tend to be) and my amazing seats are still good.

Here’s their official word on the postponement from May 27:

Adored Mailing List Recipients,

As you might remember from previous emails, there was some discussion over whether or not 2020 was *in fact* the 20th Anniversary of The Decemberists. Did the band start out in 2000? Or was 2001 our proper debut? There are recollections of Decemberists shows happening in 2000 in some form, and yet our first website and logo proclaimed us “Est. 2001” — for reasons lost to time. Well, we’re happy to report that that controversy is settled once and for all, and it only took a global pandemic to do so.

And so: Twenty Years Before the Mast, The Decemberists’ 20th Anniversary Tour will be coming to your town in the summer of 2021, not this summer.

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: July 27 & 28, 2019] Newport Folk Festival

Back in 1998, I won a radio contest (not through luck, I knew the name of a song and couldn’t believe no one else did!) and scored a ticket to the Newport Folk Festival.  It was in a lull back then and also, I believe there was only one stage (it’s hard to remember).  Now it is at full power, selling out before artists are even announced.

S. and I have talked about going and finally this year I saw when tickets were announced and I bought 4 tickets for us.  I knew that our son wouldn’t want to go, but I decided to make a long vacation out of it–a couple days in Rhode Island and then about a week in Maine.  He couldn’t say no to going to that.

I didn’t get Friday tickets because three days seemed excessive.  Plus, you never know who is going to appear until long after you buy the tickets. and that actually worked out pretty well.   Turned out, there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to see.

So we rolled in for Saturday.  I was told that if you wanted to get the poster you had to get their very early.  We arrived at 12:30 and they were long sold out.  Oh well. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[CANCELLED: June 12, 2018] M. Ward/The Decemberists

S. and I love The Decemberists.  They are probably one of our favorite bands.  Despite this, we haven’t seen them live all that much.  In part because they went on a huge long hiatus after releasing one of my favorite albums (why didn’t I see them on that tour?).

We have seen them twice (only!) and each show was great in its own way.

But when they announced a new tour with a date in Philly AND New Jersey, I was sure to get tickets for both shows.

They were scheduled to play at the Mann Center on June 7.  The Mann is an amazing venue but it is a super duper pain in the butt to get to.  So, we decided that since we had tickets to the show in Red Bank, we would blow off the Mann show.  Astonishingly I couldn’t sell the tickets, so I just ate the price.  Dang.

Turns out Colin’s voice was giving him trouble and that show wasn’t his best.  Although they did wind up playing a great set list.

Nevertheless we were very excited for our show and hoped his voice would be perfect five days later.

Then today at 3:30 this afternoon we received this email.

The Decemberists event scheduled for Tuesday, June 12 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ has been cancelled due to Colin Meloy’s ongoing voice issues.

We effectively missed two shows of one of our favorite bands in a week. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[NOT ATTENDED: June 7, 2018] The Decemberists at The Mann Center

Boy were we excited that The Decemberists were coming back around to tour their new album.  Even though we have seen them a few times now, we can always make room for them.

I love the acoustics of The Mann enter–it’s a beautiful location.  But it is such a pain in the butt for us to get to.  If it’s the only place a band is playing I’ll get tickets, but otherwise, I’d just as soon not travel that far.

Well, they were playing The Mann Center and I bought tickets.  And then a few days later they announced another show at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ.  Well, that is 100 times easier to get to, so I said we’d give up on The Mann show for the Count Basie.

Easy peasy.

Except that I could not sell these Decemberists tickets.  The Mann Center has a strict no resale policy, so you can’t do that Ticketmaster resell business.  Then I tried CashorTrade and even StubHub and there were no takers.  I even went lowball by the end.  The one bad thing about print tickets is you can’t wait til the last minute.

We could have still gone to the show but we had another commitment that night by then and it was still a hassle to get there.  Plus we had the Basie show, so we accepted the loss bitterly.

I noticed an IM on Facebook a couple of days after the show that someone was interested, but obviously that was too late.

[NOT ATTENDED: June 12, 2018] The Decemberists at The Count Basie Theatre

The night of the Count Basie show, we received a notice that Colin Meloy’s voice was shot and the show would be cancelled.  This show and one other (not The Mann Center) shows were cancelled.  And there was no immediate plans to reschedule.  So at least this money was fully refunded.

The band seemed to promise that they’d come back.  But now they have made touring plans further afield.  They are touring the West (and then teasing us here in NJ by coming back in a few weeks to play a show in Brooklyn.  And they are coming East again in October to play Massachusetts.

Then in November they’re off to Europe.

I see a few blank days on the itinerary between the last show in October and the first show in November.  I sure hope they reschedule somewhere near here for us!

 

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: May 10, 2018] My Brightest Diamond

I only knew about My Brightest Diamond because Shara Worden sang on The Decemberists’ Hazard of Love album.  She sings some pretty intense stuff on it, so I looked her up.  Well, it turns out that Shara has changed her name to Shara Nova.  But nothing has changed about her voice.

She is dramatic and operatic with amazing power.

I didn’t really know much about the band’s music, so when the lights went down and Aaron Steel sat at the drumkit, I waited for the rest of the band to show up on stage.

Then some synths started and I heard Shara singing.  But she wasn’t on stage.  I was still trying to figure out how close I wanted to get to the stage (experimenting with how close you had to be before the voice started getting lost) when I turned around and there she was singing in the middle of the floor.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“The Hamilton Polka” (2016). 

Lin-Manuel Miranda has declared his love and respect for “Weird Al” on many occasions.  So it makes perfect sense that he would ask Al to contribute to the online Hamilton project known as HamilDrops.  The Decemberists’ “Ben Franklin’s Song” is amazing too.

But seriously, how could Al parody a more or less biographical story of a historical figure (that’s two hours long)?.  By not parodying it at all.

Rather, he makes one of his polka mashups which he’s been doing hilariously since his second album.  They are often a highlight of each new album.  This song compresses (almost) the entire musical into 5 minutes.

“The Hamilton Polka,” provides what’s essentially a CliffsNotes-style run-through of the musical’s hooks and highlights — just enough to get the entire musical stuck in your head all over again.

I love the way in the original, the third sister, poor Peggy, is sort of musically dissed whereas Al is just explicit about it.  And of course, how could he refuse to include some actual gun shots for “Not Throwing Away My Shot?”

So they cram in 

Alexander Hamilton
Wait For It
The Schuyler Sisters
Yorktown
You’ll Be Back
The Room Where It Happens
Guns and Ships
Washington On Your Side
Non-Stop
History Has Its Eyes On You
My Shot

And Al can really sing and rap some of those lyrics quickly.  It’s a really fun mashup.

[READ: January 11, 2018] Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father

Before the musical, most people’s familiarity with Alexander Hamilton probably came from this (awesome) commercial (even if none of us could remember what it was ultimately for).

Actually, my father worked for (and owned for a time) Alexander Hamilton Printing in Paterson, NJ, so Alexander Hamilton has always been a part of my life.  Although I had no idea why.  Not really.

There’s a new reason why people know about Alexander Hamilton (can you even say his name without singing it?).

And I’m sure that reason has something to do with the creation and publication of this book.  But Hennessey is not just jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon.  Well, maybe he is, but he has two other historical graphic novels out already: The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation (2008) and The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation (2012).  He also has books called The Comic Book Story of Beer, and The Comic Book Story of Video Games so he’s not all stuffy.

The musical is far more catchy than this book–far more steamy.  But this book is really chock full of details that the musical skips (for various reasons, obviously).  The book is a lot less interested in the romantic dalliances of the founding father, although it certainly does acknowledge them.

Indeed, the book is 176 fully illustrated pages jam-packed with information.  It reads a little, if not dull, then certainly more academic.  That’s because there’s a lot of text and a lot of history. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 [ATTENDED: April 17, 2018] Julien Baker

We saw Julien Baker open for The Decemberists almost exactly one year ago.  I knew her music (and that she was a quiet singer) but Sarah and I were really blown away by her live performance.

So when I saw that she was playing again, this time in a venue we’d never been to before, I thought it would be a fun birthday present for Sarah.  An opportunity to see this artist as a headliner when the crowd was there for her (we felt the Philly crowd was a bit rude for this quiet singer).

White Eagle Hall proved to be a gorgeous venue, both in appearance and sound quality.  Baker was an excellent first show to test out the acoustics because it was incredibly quiet and her voice and guitar rang out beautifully.  Although it must be said having the bars right on the floor did make for some unexpectedly loud bursts of noise. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: I’M WITH HER-Tiny Desk Concert #722 (March 28, 2018).

I’m with Her is a kind of a folk supergroup comprised of Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins.  As the blurb notes:

The three singers who perform together as I’m With Her sound like sisters. It’s as if they’ve known each other all their lives and share common roots and musical memories… All three are brilliant players with an ever-shifting array of stringed instruments, guitars, ukulele, fiddle, mandolin and banjo. As I’m With Her, they know how to gather round a microphone and sing directly from their heart to yours. Purity is the brilliance behind I’m With Her.

They also share coming to the Tiny Desk:

Sara Watkins was here with Nickel Creek (2014), Watkins Family Hour (2015) and The Decemberists (2011). Sarah Jarosz was here in 2013 and Aoife O’Donovan came along with Yo Yo Ma and Chris Thile as part of the Goat Rodeo project back in 2011.

They play three songs from their debut album.

The first is “See You Around.” Sarah sings this first song.  Sarah and Aoife play guitar and Sara is playing an oversized ukulele.  At the end of each section their harmonies are wonderful.  It’s a really pretty song, with a great melody.  Then at around 2 minutes the song switches gears to the “shiny piece of my heart” section which changes the timbre and tone of the song.  Aoife takes over a bit and the song grows a bit darker and their voices sound more powerful.

For “Game to Lose” Sara switches to fiddle, Aoife plays Sarah’s guitar and Sarah is on mandolin.  I absolutely love the violin part and the way it plays off of the mandolin.  After a few measures, when they sing in three-part harmony from the get go….  Wow.  I love Aoife’s voice as she sings the end of the chorus, the mandolin is just fantastic and the fiddle trills are exquisite.

As they tune before the final song, Bob asks how many instruments they brought….  The answer is, a lot.  And they couldn’t leave without some banjo.  Then Aoife asks about the pink lemonade gummy bunny.  Bob says people leave random things.  You’re welcome to leave something too.  Aoife says, “I thought you were going to say I was welcome to eat it.”

Sarah says I feel like we’re just settling in, I wish we could play all day (and so do I!).

For the final song, “Overland” Sarah switches to banjo. Aoife has the same guitar and Sara is on guitar too.   Sara sniffs a few times and then deadpans, “Sorry I’ve got a coke problem, it keeps sneaking up on me.”  Everyone laughs and Sarah cracks up.  Bob says we’ll just have to loop that and Sara says, “we need some scandal.”

The song begins with Sara on lead vocals and Sarah’s banjo.  It is the most country sounding of the three (which surprises a bit since I don’t think of Sara’s voice as sounding like that).  But again, it’s the harmonies that are huge.

[READ: January 15, 2018] “Chicken Winchell”

This story was published in Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty, although as with most of William’s pieces I don’t remember it at all.

This story, which is half a page long, mentions three women characters and then uses “she” for the rest.  So I’m not sure which “she” is being spoken about.  There’s a waitress, a daughter and a mother.  The waitress wonders why the daughter never returned.  But apparently she did.

The mother confides in the waitress. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »