Monday, April 13, 2009

The Jailhouse Queen

As a combination late-birthday/graduation present, the w and I got backstage passes to last week's Death Cab For Cutie concert at Davidson College. Here follows my largely stream-of-consciousness review. Full disclosure at this point: I've been going to Death Cab shows since 1999, when they played places like the Go! Rehearsal Room in Carrboro and T.T. The Bear's in Cambridge. I've only met (drummer) Jason McGerr once, but I do know the other members of the band.

Parking was... a challenge. The parking lots looked a lot bigger on the map than they actually were. By the time we found a place across campus and made it back to the arena, it was 8:30, and we managed to hear a song and a half from Ra Ra Riot. I did like the tune I heard, and I definitely dig a band with a violinist and cellist on stage.

When their set ended, we figured out how to get backstage (people are very friendly when you're wearing a VIP sticker), and Ben Gibbard happened to be hanging out just outside the dressing room. We talked about the Carolinas, and whether or not Western Washington would be willing to give Ben an honorary doctorate someday. I got to introduce the w to Chris Walla, and I said hi to Nick Harmer, but I didn't get to talk to them. Back in the days when the band was still schlepping their own instruments, they used to come out into the crowd to watch the openers, and we'd have conversations, but that hasn't happened in about five years. I kind of miss that.

We went up to the floor to see Cold War Kids. They're the sort of band that I feel like I've heard before, but probably haven't - I had the same experience the first time I heard a Soul Coughing album. Not that CWK sound like Soul Coughing, they're more like White Stripes + honky-tonk piano + extra guitar. Anyway, they started out great, but they kind of bogged down after a while; the middle of their set had what I considered an unreasonable amount of falsetto, plus one thing with a constant vibrating bassline that just felt like something Beck decided not to put on "Midnite Vultures." Still, they finished strong.

It occurs to me that I'm not as enamored with being on the main floor as I used to be. When DCFC played Clemson (my first "date" with the w), we had floor passes, which was nice, but I just don't feel like standing up for that long anymore. Plus, people on the floor are irritating, like they feel like the communal atmosphere gives them license to push social boundaries. Our favorites tonight were the three girls who spent most of the set holding shouted conversations and texting their friends and started their own mini-mosh pit and generally ignored the band, then got annoyed with us when we decided to move in front of them because they couldn't see anymore.

After CWK, we decide to find seats in the upper area. We make the mistake of going to the student section, which are bleachers as opposed to actual seats, but at least we're sitting. They start with "The Employment Pages." A song from Facts (five albums and several eps ago)? Here's a question for your favorite bands: do they prefer tours when they're supporting an album, and thus playing mostly new stuff, or the tweener tours, when they have two or three new songs they're toying with, and can otherwise play anything they want? Personally, I prefer the non-album tours.

Davidson's arena, by the way, has a fantastic sound system. The w told me she had earplugs, but she meant *she* had earplugs, not several pairs of them. But the sound hear manages to be clear without being ear-splittingly loud. It isn't even distorted up in the bleachers.

The lighting for this tour has some good and bad things. I particularly liked the LED "tears" during at least one song. But the bits with a couple of spotlights expanding and contracting in patterns were, at best, distracting.

The set is mostly tight, except Ben gets lost in the middle of "Movie Script Ending." They have a chuckle on stage, and then just jump right back into the song.

More annoying people: some guy starts shouting "You're awesome! Woo!" during the quiet part of "I Will Follow You Into the Dark". Several times. You, sir, are a douchebag. Sit down.

They move on to "I Will Possess Your Heart." This is the new "Transatlantacism," with the long buildup and kickass bassline. I have to think they wrote this song thinking what a blast it would be to play live. Too bad this means they probably won't play "Transatlantacism." They do, however, play "Fake Frowns," which I haven't heard live in a long, long time. Awesome.

The set ends, they leave the stage, everybody keeps cheering, of course there's going to be an encore. Still, that doesn't stop the two coeds behind us from completely losing their nut when the band comes back out on stage. I can only assume that this is their first show, ever. They start the encore with "What Sarah Said," and there's even more screaming. Seriously? The most depressing song in, let's face it, a catalog of depressing songs, and folks are bouncing off the walls. Then there's a song off the ep - I really want the ep now - then "Soul Meets Body," and then "Transatlantacism!" This is my favorite Death Cab live song, mainly because I'm waiting for the time when Nick simply snaps the neck off his bass. The song ends, we wander back across campus to the car, and find our way to the nearest Waffle House.

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