Friday, December 26, 2008

that's all they really want

Across the lobby and through the courtyard to the Little Room we go (slipping in at the same time as David and Gillian)!

sophie's choiceDave Rawlings Machine, The Little Room at Largo, December 19, 2008: We had steeled ourselves to the possibility of ditching Jon Brion's set if it overlapped with the Dave Rawlings Machine show in the Little Room, but we were waffling during the second song in their collaboration. Their third song offered a short reprieve, the opportunity to commence the mental calculations--and the decision there was no way we were going to miss the other appointment.

Fortunately, it worked out nicely, though I had to wonder how long the crowd in the Little Room waited. David and Gillian took some time to set up, the Largo crew flitted in and out to tend to administrative matters, and yet more bodies flowed in through the doors. As the early arrivals from the main gig, we were able to secure seats at the back, but latecomers (including some of the guest musicians) squeezed in where they could.

As the show began, it felt like we picked up exactly where we left off the week before. Casual and playful, David and Gillian joked with the audience, tuned often, and even worked in some fashion references (David blaming his chambray shirt for certain setlist selections by Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen; Gillian acknowledging a fan's comment about her new outfit).

Though I caught only two shows in David and Gillian's December residency, my guess is that if you put together all three concerts, you'd get something close to their typical single gig. Sprinkled among their originals and collaborations were other favorite covers, such as the apt and long-overdue "Sin City" and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight." David handed over vocal duties to his "rhythm guitarist" for a couple of tunes, including "Throw Me a Rope" and a song I can't name.

And of course, there were the musical friends. Morgan Nagler returned for "Sweet Tooth," while Largo's house band in all but name (Jon Brion, Sebastian Steinberg, Benmont Tench, Sean Watkins, and Gabe Wicher) clustered around--and beyond--to finish up the show. The pinched platform couldn't hold Jon, Sean, and Sebastian, but they staked out their spots on the floor and away from the stage lights. And of course, they played as if their lives depended on it.

After three songs, two by Neil Young ("Time Fades Away" and "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World") and one that was sung by Gillian and whose provenance escaped me, the supporting players left the stage for David and Gillian's finale. They chose a song I'd had in mind since these shows were first announced and sorta assumed would come later, rather than sooner. If you've seen the Dave Rawlings Machine live before, you probably know what it is too: "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

Though I wasn't surprised by their song selection, I didn't expect what came next. Not 10 feet away from us in the back of the room, Sebastian introduced a bass beat, and standing beside him, Jon stepped up with acoustic guitar. A short while later, Gabe Wicher emerged from behind the bar to join the duo and to add some strings.

From our seats, Gabe's violin sounded especially sweet, with Jon's harmonies a close second. (For the record, our little pocket couldn't resist singing along; I don't think we were the only chanteuses in the room, but then again, I'm not sure I heard too many other voices.) Altogether, they indicated to me that we--both the artists and the audience--are just scratching the surface of possibilities at Largo at the Coronet.

See also:
» with soul power
» please take my advice

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

with soul power

I almost blogged about a musical event in San Francisco last week, but an overzealous shift to Overdrive in Rock Band a savage contest, mixing physical stamina with NBC trivia a really dumb spill on the sidewalk outside of my flat kept me at home with an ice pack on my cheek. Regardless, the quarter-shiner couldn't discourage me from trekking down south for *sniffle* the last gigs I'll see this calendar year.

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, December 19, 2008: I always feel like a jerk when discussing my travel plans around this time of the year. Whereas other people are forced to deal with weather issues, work obligations, and family demands, my main concerns are, How do I hit all of the year-end shows at Largo? And can I get away with flip-flops or do I need real shoes?

Christmas at LargoTo restate the obvious, I'm hopelessly hooked on--well, nearly everything associated with this particular L-word, but even by my questionable standards, Jon Brion's last show of the year at Largo is in a league of its own. Say what you will about commercialism, religion, and what have you, but you gotta admit Christmas and New Year aren't bad excuses for a party (though the sweaters remain unforgivable).

Not that I expected the blowouts of years past--after all, Largo's answering machine message explicitly stated that Jon would play only one set, and there was the not inconsequential Dave Rawlings Machine late show taking place in the Little Room. But if you can't hope and wish at Christmastime, when can you?

Jon appeared onstage at the appointed hour in a green striped suit, a red shirt, matching shoes, and a star-pattern tie--perhaps in tribute to the holiday. He introduced the first guest, who he said had been with Largo since the earliest days. I sort of gritted my teeth, in fear of who might turn up--but as it happened, he was referring to the comic Greg Behrendt. Largo's comics cover, to put it mildly, a wide range of styles, and Greg's pacing and storytelling were unlike anyone else I've seen at the club. I gotta give him props, though, for his observations on Criss Angel and Matthew McConaughey. Well spotted, old chap!

In addition to returning the introductory favor, Greg provided the perfect springboard from which to launch the music portion of the evening. Corroborating Greg's remarks about what your friends' musical tastes say about their reliability, Jon informed us that he's notoriously bad at returning phone calls and that he's an Of Montreal fan. This, in turn, inspired the first song of the night, followed by a snippet of Bryan Adams.

Jon bounded to the piano for the next couple of songs: a cacophonous "Someone Else's Problem Now," then "Strings That Tie to You," featuring the mellotron/chamberlin/whatever, which he deployed on the tune's gorgeous ascending bridge.

From there, Jon marched to the piano for a build of "Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad," introducing the first peals of electric guitar for the evening, but dialed it down a notch with "Happy with You" on a battered metal acoustic guitar. I wanna say it's a dobro, but these words aren't binding.

As the Magnolia theme wafted from the stage, I shivered in my seat and wondered if Jon would follow it up with "Amateur." Alas, no--instead, he opened up the room to requests and chose two of his own compositions. "I Believe She's Lying" deserves a mention; not only did the full-blown song build incorporate the analog synth, the mellotron, two distinct drum attacks, and a My Bloody Valentine-like squall of electric guitar, it was also the first time Jon ventured over to the vibes that evening.

The epic made way for the succinct, as Sebastian Steinberg joined Jon. Sebastian brought the bass and Jon stationed himself at the vibes for a jazzy take on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"--but if you want to know the truth, it might have been "Chestnuts Roasting over an Open Fire." I surrendered the pad and paper to the gossamer notes coming from the vibes.

Don Heffington (thanks again, Tom!) was enlisted next for a Cole Porter request, and he threw himself into the song with the same dedication as his cohorts. Between Jon's full-body throes, Sebastian's forceful plucking, and Don's staccato beat, they sounded anything but fragile or effete on this downright ferocious take on "Everytime We Say Goodbye."

This interpretive inclination continued with the next number, when they picked up on an audience request for "Caravan" as a "fucked-up Chess blues mambo," in Jon's words. If you're left dumbstruck by that string of modifiers, don't feel too bad--Sebastian and Don didn't jump on it until Jon sounded out a beat and a few notes. To oversimplify, I'd say they were stepping through Tom Waits' stomping grounds.

At least one person's wish was granted when a call from the peanut gallery for David Rawlings yielded immediate returns, and then some: David Rawlings, Gillian Welch, and Benmont Tench. David picked up at least three guitars before finally settling on one that was in tune and functioning. Apart from that hiccup, he launched right into "Nadine," with Gillian supplying backing vocals. And though it appeared that David and Gillian intended to stay for only two songs, Jon convinced them to squeeze in one more before dashing over to the Little Room for their own show.

For these last two numbers, they looked to Neil Young. Throughout these two titles, the collective stayed anything but static. My favorite visuals: David and Gillian sharing a mic, then David and Jon, and finally, Jon and Gillian. Elsewhere, Jon plunked himself down on the piano next to Benmont and traded guitar licks with David. Gillian ventured over to the vibes and even picked up a wand, but stopped short of making contact with the tines.

Atypically, we eased out of the room as David and Gillian left the stage--for real this time. My initial pangs of uncertainty dissipated when Jon indicated he would soon close shop himself, but it helped that the frenzy of "Entrance of the Gladiators" played out during our exit.

--Greg Behrendt opener

--Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider
--Cuts Like a Knife
--Someone Else's Problem Now
--Strings That Tie to You
--Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad
--Happy with You
--Magnolia theme
--Here We Go
--I Believe She's Lying
--Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas *
--Everytime We Say Good-Bye **
--Caravan **
--Nadine *** [David = vocals]
--Birds *** [David = vocals]
--Powderfinger **** [David = vocals]

* = with Sebastian Steinberg
** = with Sebastian Steinberg and Don Heffington
*** = with Sebastian Steinberg, Don Heffington, Benmont Tench, David Rawlings, and Gillian Welch
**** = with Sebastian Steinberg, Don Heffington, Benmont Tench, David Rawlings, Gillian Welch, and Sean Watkins

See also:
» I'm offering this simple phrase
» it's been said many times, many ways
» that's all they really want

Thursday, December 18, 2008

please take my advice

Following Largo's move to the Coronet, I don't hit the speed-dial as much, but certain habits die hard. For example, I still check the club calendar far too often (hope they're not tracing IP addresses). This month, that nervous tic paid off when the Dave Rawlings Machine dates showed up.

Dave Rawlings Machine, The Little Room at Largo, December 12, 2008: Bragging about a two-show night is up there with flaunting your vintage Luke Skywalker action figures in Tatooine and Hoth garb.

vintage Luke Skywalker action figures

Let me just say, though, that the Largo crew made it extremely easy to carry off this feat. Kudos to them for setting it up so that, at the conclusion of Jon Brion's show in the big room, we merely traipsed across the courtyard to take in the Dave Rawlings Machine (a.k.a. David Rawlings and Gillian Welch) in the Little Room. Oh, that's a borderline boast, isn't it? You got me.

Though I tried to take notes, I quickly abandoned the plan when I realized (1) I was way out of my depth and (2) it's really hard to write anything in the Little Room. I figured out they opened with Dylan's "Copper Kettle," in homage to current astronomical events, and Willie Nelson's "Good Old Mountain Dew." I also recognized mainstays of their set, such as "China Doll," "Knuckleball Catcher," and "Tired Eyes," but someone with a deeper knowledge of David and Gillian's oeuvre will have to weigh in on how many surprises they sprung. I can honestly say the tunes were new to me.

I suspect their shows under Gillian's name aren't exactly chest-pounding, flag-waving affairs, but the duo's low-key humor suits this truly intimate space nicely. Gillian somewhat apologized for wearing the same outfit two weeks in a row, explaining that their supposed one-week stay in L.A. was now pushing on three months. David, meanwhile, owned up to their downbeat song selections and admitted that they tend to sell the most records in areas not associated with sunshine--so thanks San Francisco (represent!) and Scandinavia! And somehow, though they each use the exact same black capos, they can tell which one belongs to whom, as David demonstrated.

If you thought the stage at the old Largo was small, you haven't seen the doorjamb of a dais that holds the artists in the Little Room. Despite their minimal setup (one acoustic guitar each), David and Gillian negotiated for real estate and angled for elbowroom.

But if the room's coziness bothered them, they didn't show it; in fact, they invited more friends to crowd in. The first was Morgan Nagler from local band Whispertown2000, who sang with them on a tune I can't name (sorry). Then, to conclude the set, they recruited Jon Brion and Sebastian Steinberg, which I'd been hoping for all along.

The quartet started off with Dylan's "Dear Landlord," followed by the Grateful Dead's "Candyman." Jon and Sebastian took a little while to settle in (at the piano and bass, respectively), but they were in the thick of it by the time David dusted off "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)." Coincidentally, the song also belied David's earlier comments about all their sad hits.

When David and Gillian began discussing reverb, I knew exactly what we were in for--and I wanted to hear it. They closed out the show with "White Rabbit," and even without the effects, they had David's sly guitarwork to back them up. I could've listened to them all night, but there's always next week.

See also:
» i was looking for a job
» Gillian, David, Sean, Sara, Jon, Greg

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

i was looking for a job

Then I found a job
But heaven knows I'm miserable now

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, December 12, 2008: No, that's not true--the current 9-to-5 affords me some flexibility, in addition to a regular paycheck. After all, it can't be so bad if I manage to make it Los Angeles once (or more) each month, right? Then again, for some time now, "if" hasn't been the question.

Synecdoche, New YorkIn his intro, Flanny gifted an audience member with the Synecdoche, New York soundtrack, pressed us to attend the upcoming "super secret" Funny or Die show, then made way for Jon. Though feeling under the weather, Jon bade us "good morning" and apprised us of the night's experiment: what happens after downing two Red Bulls. Actually, he later admitted that he couldn't bring himself to finish the second dose; call it the 1.5 Red Bull Night.

From there, the show took its customary turn into piano improv, followed by one of Jon's originals. But after a pretty instrumental passage, he cut himself off and 'fessed to favoring "pseudo-classical music" whenever he's sick. To compensate, he kicked off a round of "anti-scale music" in which he stabbed at every keys-based instrument within arm's reach. From the dissonance, a regular rhythm emerged and formed the foundation for a pulsing "Stop Your Sobbing."

With the piano suitably tested, Jon moved to the other instruments. He first built up "Further On," coming alive on the guitar solo, then landed on the solo bass for a couple more tunes. I liked hearing "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" without the vocoder, so thanks for that!

And then things got weird, and not the usual Largo weird. I think Jon started it with the Little Rascals, and taking our cue, the audience bombarded him with requests for more of the same until he practically became the Theme Machine. Before the end of the night, Jon would dabble in songs made famous in movies and TV shows, both on his own and with the help of Sebastian Steinberg on bass. In between, they also dipped into the cheesier end of the pop spectrum, teasing out hints of Madonna and Meat Loaf.

Though I was right in the thick of it, I'm furrowing my brow in disbelief as I type this, so I'll also point out that Jon snuck in more substantial picks too, such as a rousing "Waterloo Sunset," a layered "Positively 4th Street," and, errrr, a fairly exhaustive "Axel F." At first, it seemed like Sebastian's participation would temper the goofier impulses, but he proved himself just as susceptible when he went to town on the Barney Miller theme. Our shameful "Boys Are Back in Town" sing-along didn't help either. Man, I miss the Hideout.

As requested, Jon welcomed Dusty from the audience for a couple of numbers: first, auditioning him with a jam, then diving into "Not Ready Yet," burnished with a psychedelic spin. Dusty held his own, especially during the jam, and walked away with a huge grin on his face. Another satisfied customer!

It's a cliche, but they saved the best for last tonight. (Full disclosure: We had been tipped off to this earlier, but trust me, that didn't take away from the experience.) David Rawlings ambled out to join them and, after a meandering conference, tried out a song with Jon and Sebastian: "Roll Over Beethoven." A few moments in, Gillian Welch sauntered over to the drums and kicked up the beat behind David's wailing vocals.

David and Gillian stuck around for the final song, which required another huddle. Finally, Jon reached for the lyric book that accompanied him onstage at the top of the show, and with a little help, they serenaded us with a quarter-time version (does that even exist?) of the Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen in Love." My favorite touch: the smidgen of celeste, courtesy of David.

Still to come: The show moves to the Little Room.

--piano/Same Mistakes
--"pseudo-classical music"
--"anti-scale music"/Stop Your Sobbing
--Further On
--Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now
--It Looks Like You
--Little Rascals Theme
--Davey and Goliath Theme
--Waterloo Sunset
--Planet of the Apes
--What'll I Do
--Lucky Star
--Axel F
--Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
--Positively 4th Street
--Walking After Midnight

with Sebastian Steinberg
--Black Dog
--Please Stay Away from Me
--The Boys Are Back in Town
--Anarchy in the UK
--Sesame Street theme
--Barney Miller theme
--Wild Wild West theme

with Dusty from the audience and Sebastian Steinberg
--Rush song?
--Not Ready Yet

with David Rawlings, Gillian Welch, and Sebastian Steinberg
--Roll Over Beethoven [David = vocals]
--Ever Fallen in Love

See also:
» like a dream in the night
» please take my advice

Monday, December 15, 2008

all this time

In my previous post, I neglected to mention one other favorite aspect of the season: Largo's year-end shows. Not that I ever need much coercion to go to Largo, but mention Christmas and any of my favored performers, and I'm there, with (sleigh) bells on.

Watkins Family Hour, Largo at the Coronet, December 11, 2008: And to emphasize the spirit of the season, the Largo crew decorated the stage with rows of lights and even a little tree. They sure looked pretty against the red velvet curtains.

icicle lights

I use the word "family" a lot when describing the Largo experience, but Sean and Sara Watkins are the real thing, putting the "kin" in "kindred." But the family doesn't stop with the two of them; instead, it also encompassed their friends, many of whom contributed to this relatively lengthy show.

We had the magician Derek Hughes, who turned in a much more palatable opening act than he did the only other time I've seen him. For laughs, we welcomed the comedian Dave "Gruber" Allen, even though his act ran hot and cold. During his main segment, he alluded to ruining the show; though I wouldn't go that far, I have to admit I found him hard to follow at times.

We had stars of stage and screen: Minnie Driver joined in for a traditional Christmas song, and John C. Reilly took the reigns for a good four or five titles, ranging from the Louvin Brothers to the Everly Brothers, as well as a version of the letter to Santa he read as part of Aimee Mann's inaugural Christmas show two years ago.

And finally, we had the musicians--oh so many musicians. Benmont Tench, Sebastian Steinberg, and Don Heffington [Editor's note: Thanks for the correction, Tom!] filled out the house band, then several other guests stepped in and out of the lineup. All together, they handled original material, including songs from Sara's upcoming solo album; contemporary covers, such as Elliott Smith's "A Question Mark"; and older favorites, such as John Hartford's "Long Hot Summer Days."

Luke Bolla featured prominently on a handful of tracks, including a fiddle duo with Sara, while Glen Phillips played two of my favorite numbers of the night. The first was a gorgeous, sweeping song from WPA, the name of an upcoming project comprising much of the talent onstage that night; I didn't catch the title, but it had a confidence and a scope that begged to be played on the radio. Then in an homage to the holidays, Glen presented a season favorite: "A Lonely Jew on Christmas," courtesy of South Park.

Jackson Browne was billed as the top guest of the night, but the real treat may have been David Rawlings, who showed up at the same time. Alongside John C. Reilly, they started off with "Let It Be Me," then went into a few more selections, including what Jackson Browne called Dylan's only Christmas song ("Desolation Row").

Performers at Largo often joke about professionalism and pacing, or their lack thereof; this is not the place to go if you want to see a finely tuned, strictly scripted show. Then again, that's the way we like it. That said, however, some of the guests looked more at home than others. I don't think much of the audience was begging Minnie Driver to return, for example, though her voice was quite lovely, and John C. Reilly had a way of making every song introduction sound like it was a setup to a joke, even when it wasn't.

I'm no Scrooge, though. The show was a delight to the end, when we all teamed up to sing "Joy to the World." I had to bail after the first verse, but the voices around me stayed strong for three verses more. Can you say the same of your family?

See also:
» if there's a star above
» owner of this corner and not much more
» it's not going to stop

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

if there's a star above

My plans to put up a Christmas tree for the first time in I don't know how many years fell by the wayside--again. At least I have Aimee Mann's holiday show to remind me of the season.

Aimee Mann's Third Annual Christmas Show, Bimbo's 365 Club, December 7, 2008: Here's what the holidays mean to me: Rankin/Bass reruns, tons of baking, lots of shopping, and time to see my friends and family. Fortunately, I can also look forward to at least a couple of regular musical events in this otherwise touring-adverse time of the year.

Rudolph and Hermie

Aimee's show, in its third iteration, carried over familiar factors from years past, while at the same time bringing in new(ish) faces and sounds to keep us coming back for more. The overall show included fewer titles from One More Drifter in the Snow than before, though they reprised Aimee's own Christmas song, the Penn/Brion tune "Christmastime," and "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," to name a few. Newer selections, however, included "Sleigh Ride" (which moved Aimee to giggle on every third line) and the Heat Miser song (featuring Patton Oswalt on guest vocals).

Speaking of guests, as much as I miss Paul F. Tompkins, I loved having Patton Oswalt on the bill. I haven't seen him team up with Aimee since the Acoustic Vaudeville tour in 2000, and though he served a slightly different role this time, he was nothing short of hilarious. Of course, Patton commented on the recent election and shared some Christmas memories. I wouldn't have minded hearing his Cirque du Soleil recollections again, but I'm not complaining about the new (to me) material.

Nellie McKay was the other newish addition. I wasn't particularly impressed with her at Outside Lands, but I got a better sense of her charm in this show. Her vocals and her quips meshed nicely with the rest of the players', and she even got Aimee's supporting players Jebin Bruni and Jamie Edwards to dance around during her solo portion. Still, she just doesn't do it for me overall.

Thankfully, the returning members of the cast get better and better. Not that I needed yet another reason to love Grant-Lee Phillips, but his turning up as Willie Nelson to cover "Voices Carry" assured him a throne in my Hall of Fame. (And I'm sure that Patton knew exactly how close to home he hit in his introduction for "Willie" when he characterized a large portion of Aimee's audience as "over-40 shut-ins.") And that's not even taking into account Grant's other costume changes, with no help from his bandmates. In addition, the Hanukkah Fairy, a.k.a. Morgan Murphy, turned out a new rap this year covering the challah in her oven, made possible via immaculate conception.

Following last year's blueprint, Aimee presented a movie, "A Christmas Carol Aimee," directed by Tim and Eric and featuring Aimee as the Scrooge figure. You probably won't be surprised to hear that the film parodied the Dickens classic; that Paul F. Tompkins, John Krasinski, and John C. Reilly showed up in cameos; and even that it was incredibly hilarious. But we also saw a new face: Michael Cera, playing much closer to Evan from Superbad than George Michael from Arrested Development.

Aimee Mann, Bimbo's 365 Club, December 7, 2008

Lest you fear we succumbed to sugar (Plum Fairy) shock, no worries--Aimee dropped in several of her own tart, studied songs, about one from each album. Among Aimee's originals, I kinda bounced around inside when they rocked "Long Shot"; not only is it from my favorite of her albums, but I kinda love that she did a song that repeats the lyric "you fucked it up" at a Christmas show.

Same time next year?

See also:
» unless you hate baby jesus
» it's not going to stop

Monday, December 01, 2008

among all the urchins and old Chinese merchants

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I'm thankful to be all caught up on my blog again. And remember: There are only 30 more concert days in the year!

The Decemberists, the Warfield, November 25, 2008: About a year ago, the Decemberists were set to tour the country with their Long and Short of It tour: two nights each in a selection of cities, the respective evenings devoted to songs of specific lengths. Sadly, they had to call the whole thing off early on, reportedly due to an illness in the band. It's hard to be bitter about such a turn of events, especially since it seems like the band inevitably returns to the Bay Area in one form or another before long. This past spring, Colin Meloy visited and played some lovely shows, but it was great to see the rest of the gang join him for this round.

The Decemberists, the Warfield, November 25, 2008

On the whole, this outing shared some characteristics with the band's last swing through San Francisco. For example, Colin ventured into the crowd, we were commanded to wiggle our fingers during "The Perfect Crime" (I readily complied this time, wary of being reprimanded again), and "The Mariner's Revenge" got the full treatment, including Chris Funk's whale impersonation, the crowd's screams, and Colin, John, and Nate's fancy footwork. And taking a cue from his solo tour earlier this year, Colin dropped a touch of the Smiths in between songs, this time quoting from "Meat Is Murder." Once more, I ate it up.

The Decemberists, the Warfield, November 25, 2008

But the differences weren't too shabby. For one thing, I loved the setlist, which encompassed sing-along after sing-along from all the albums. The longtime favorites ("July, July"), actual singles ("Billy Liar," "16 Military Wives," "Valencia"), and geographically appropriate picks ("California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade") were no surprise, but I definitely didn't expect to hear, for example, "On the Bus Mall," which I've always loved. They even aired "Dracula's Daughter," which had been granted with some coyness back in the spring. Colin asked us to lift our voices for several songs, and I detected no signs of stage fright in our section of the room. Also, I'm not sure what inspired the nod to Fleetwood Mac (one of my recent obsessions) and "Dreams," but as I too have learned, one can't live on '80s references alone.

Speaking of participation, Colin more than once requested that we put our arms around the person besides us. He's demonstrated time after time that he can command a room filled with adoring fans, but even he was surprised by the rate at which we pounced on one another. Make of that what you will. Fortunately, I was flanked by two cousins (mine and the McCormicks', respectively), so I proceeded without hesitation.

The Decemberists, the Warfield, November 25, 2008

Every show I've seen in the past month has referenced the recent election, and this gig was no different. In one of the more partisan displays I've been a part of, Colin led us in a round of call-and-response. Following his declaration of "Yes we can," we answered, "Yes we did"—and it still felt wonderful.

I often hear people complaining about bands touring behind oldish albums. I have no problem with this premise; in fact, when it comes to my preferred acts, I kinda love it. Ultimately, it's your decision; you don't have to go to the show if new material is a requirement. The Decemberists ostensibly had some new songs to try out as part of their singles series, which kicked off with "Valerie Plame." Thus, they debuted some tracks, and Colin informed us that more would be coming in the spring with the release of their next album. From what I could tell, the newbies were fun and jaunty, especially in comparison to the prog leanings on the last album. However, I offer my usual caveat on unreleased tracks: Don't mind me. Besides, we'll get to hear them for ourselves in the next few months anyway.

Loch Lomond, the Warfield, November 25, 2008

Loch Lomond opened the show, as well as a debate on how to pronounce their name. At their best, the group's combined harmonies were magnificent, worthy of a prodigious choir and not the eight people comprising the band. At their worst, they make Belle and Sebastian sound like Scandinavian death metal in comparison. Their violinist joined the Decemberists for one song, and the rest of the group returned to the stage to contribute their divine tones to "Sons and Daughters."

See also:
» i've written pages upon pages
» hear all the bombs, they fade away