As I sat in the sunny, ninety-plus degree weather, I thought I might actually die. I was going to die next to the dumpsters, face down in the gravel and broken glass, in front of hundreds of strangers. I had abandoned my bag and once ice-cold – now unpleasantly hot – bottle of water a few feet away, holding my place in line, in favor of a concrete stoop to sit on while fighting back nausea and an encroaching blackness in my field of vision. After over three hours of waiting in line to see The Decemberists’ MySpace Secret Show at Mohawk in Austin, TX, I sent my friend to go get his car to take me home. A minute or two after his departure, I had the pleasure of vomiting in public with the aforementioned audience of hundreds. Though mildly horrifying, it was just what I needed. I felt immensely better and called my friend to tell him to come back – I was going to take my chances and tough it out.
I am so glad I did.
Playing to an intimate crowd of 200, The Decemberists took the mirror-lined stage to a roar of approval. Meant to be a tribute to their most-devoted, the band decided to forgo a set-list and operate by filling requests shouted from the crowd.
The performance had a casual air about it – more like friends getting together to hang out and play some tunes than a gig. Singer Colin Meloy implored the crowd to sing along, filling in the gaps when he forgot the lyrics, and each of the other band members added a sense of spontaneity by taking some musical liberties and wandering into various classic rock songs. Accordionist Jenny Conlee took the lead on “I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day” by the Pogues with Meloy chiming in on backup vocals.
Throughout the set, the band looked incredibly happy to be there and the give and take between the crowd and performers was extraordinary. For the encore, Meloy proposed we take the show outside and in surprisingly orderly fashion the audience accompanied the band out to the patio where they played an acoustic version of “The Mariner’s Revenge Song”. In a tight circle, the band played while everyone crowded around them and sang along, drawing the attention of the unwitting patrons who had been stuck outside and hadn’t gotten into the show.
All in all, it was a perfect end to a far from perfect day.
Songs Played (probably incomplete): Shiny, Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect, A Cautionary Song, We Both Go Down Together, Eli the Barrow Boy, The Engine Driver, The Mariner’s Revenge Song, Sixteen Military Wives, O Valencia!, I’m A Man You Don’t Met Every Day, Yankee Bayonet, The Island: Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel the Drowning
Update: You can see pictures of the show here.