octopo ho!

Colin MeloyResiding on an isthmus, the people of Madison, WI can’t help but love a good sea chantey. Lucky for them, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists brought his hyper-literate musical tales to the Barrymore Theatre on April 23, 2008.

The stage was of a simple set-up: a few guitars, a couple of microphones, and a table complete with a bottle of red wine and a framed picture of a sock puppet. Meloy took the stage and filled the remaining space with his signature vocals and oodles of charm.

Some may have had doubts about Meloy’s ability to carry The Decemberists’ dense material as a solo act, but the bespectacled troubadour stripped them down and made them his own without losing the integrity of the original arrangements. This occasionally required the employment of the audience as backup singers and instrument impersonators, but the crowd was more than happy to oblige.

In addition to several crowd favorites, the set also included a few surprises. One was a surprisingly moving rendition of soul legend Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” with opener Laura Gibson (a recording of the song is available on the tour-only EP Colin Meloy Sings Sam Cooke). The other was a three-part supersong from The Decemberists’ forthcoming album, set for recording later this year. The song has been referred to as “Hazards of Love” and can be heard here.

On the whole, the night was a cozy sing-along, replete with intimate interaction between Meloy and his followers. Laughs were had, requests were taken, and the crowd was treated to the ever-so-rare feeling in live music that they were sharing a night with a roomful of friends rather than an anonymous gathering of individuals dominated by the untouchables on stage.

PARTIAL SET LIST: Hazards of Love, Cupid, The Sporting Life, Red Right Ankle, The Engine Driver, The Perfect Crime #2

listen up: love is a tired symphony you hum when you’re awake

Just in time for fall: a new mixtape. Kind of a downer and strings-heavy, it’s just right for the fading of summer.

Love Is A Tired Symphony You Hum When You’re Awake Tracklist
01| Summer Overture by Clint Mansell
02| Your Ex-Lover is Dead by Stars
03| Skelton Key by Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s
04| Heartbeats by Jose Gonzalez
05| Lion’s Mane by Iron & Wine
06| One More Day With You by Chauntelle DuPree, Zac Hanson, and Jon Crosby
07| The Waltze of the Tennis Players by Meg Baird
08| Swans by Unkle Bob
09| New Fall by Matt Pond PA
10| The Engine Driver by The Decemberists
11| A Lack of Color by Death Cab for Cutie
12| Breathe Me by Sia
13| Breaker by Low
14| Calculation Theme by Metric
15| Street Spirit (Fade Out) by Radiohead

it was a perfect crime

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.