Finally getting around to writing about the Decemberists show, before I lose the will to anymore. This'll probably be quite long, so skip this one if you're not bothered about the band.
The show was in a place called Gebäude (Building) 9, in Cologne on the east side of the Rhine near the convention center. It was a weird, long, rather dark walk there, but we were mostly following a group of people who also looked like they were going to the show, so we weren't all alone. The venue was set away from the road and you had to walk through this potholed parking lot to finally get to the place. We put in our coats, got our hands stamped (aw, Amsterdam clubs don't do that. I miss that), and then I went past the bouncer. I then was in a small room with the bar and no stage I could see, but also no discernable entrance to where the stage was. So I was wondering where the hell to go and then I turn around and O wasn't there, so I was even more confused. I went back to the door to find him trying to convince the bouncer to let him take his camera in. The bouncer wasn't having it, nor was the ticket guy, so they made O check his camera bag. Fuck. He's never had this problem in a normal, small venue, but they said his camera was too professional and he'd need permission from the record label
(not just the band) to use it. Whatever.
We went and found the stage (it was handily through a black door that sort of blended into the corner of the bar area) and O bitched about the evil bouncer and I said that if he'd taken his camera in his backpack, they'd likely not have known he had it, cuz it wasn't like they looked through bags. O then remembered that his earplugs were in his camera bag, so he left to go get them. As I stood on my own, I saw a woman in front of the stage who also had a Nikon D70. Well, way to be consistent guys. I knew O would not be happy when he saw that. He was gone a really long time, and when he came back, he had his camera with him. He had decided to talk to the guy selling the Decemberists CD and shirts, and see if this guy could help him out. And he did, going over to tell the venue guys that it was ok as long as O didn't take many photos and wasn't too intrusive about the whole thing. Cool. Thank you, Mr Merchandise Guy. There was another girl who was taking photos the whole time with an SLR, and god, talk about intrusive. She ran back and forth from one side of the stage to the other, used flash, and at one point, held the camera up in the air to get some shots. If O didn't have his camera during all of that, he would have been so pissed.
So before I get to the Decemberists, there is Two Gallants, the opener, a duo of two rough-looking guys on guitar and drums. I had read a bit about them, just trying to find out what they sort of sounded like, but I didn't expect to be blown away by them. They started sneakily enough, starting with a song that had a long intro that built up more and more. At first I was mostly watching the drummer, Tyson Vogel, who started off just tapping at the cymbals and snare, but when he started to add in the kick drum, he threw his whole body into it, which made him look a bit like he was imitating a chicken (which is kind of funny with his last name; "vogel" means "bird" in Dutch). But then the song built up more and he just started thrashing away, his long, stringy hair totally covering his face, except for the times when a drumstick would come so close to his face that it would flip up his hair for a sec.
In the meantime, the lead singer, Adam Stephens, was playing some bluesy guitar lines, and then he started singing. And wow. His voice was gravelly and almost screaming and full of pain. I was taken with them right then. He was also amazing to watch, he often spat out the words he sang with a shiver of his head, like he still couldn't quite get all the feeling out, even with all the emotion he sang with. I was seriously impressed, and usually I just can't get into bands that I don't know. The only other time I can remember being so amazed by an opener was when Josh Ritter opened for Damien Rice. The rest of the audience seemed to be pretty impressed as well, and it was only when they were playing their last song, which was rather quiet, that I realized how quiet and attentive the audience had been during their whole set. It was such a contrast compared to shows here, though to be honest it must have helped a lot having the bar out in another room.
After the show, I wanted to see how much they were selling their CD for, and as I came up to the merchandise table, I realized that Adam was sitting to one side of the table, hiding under a hoodie. I couldn't get up to the table because of some people adding their names to a mailing list, and I didn't see any price labels, so I asked Adam if he knew how much they were selling the CDs for. He said "15... euros? Is that what you have here?" I said "Yeah, 15 clams, thingamabobs, whatevers..." (It's like Monopoly money anyway.) He said the price was negotiable though, they only said 15 cuz that's what the Decemberists table was doing, heh. So I said "15 euros, that's like 20 bucks, that's so expensive." So he said I could have it for 10. The merch guy though pulled out a CD with a broken case so they brought it down further to 5 euros if I was willing to take damaged goods. Whoo! In the meantime, Adam asked if I was American and where I was from. They're actually from San Francisco, even though they sound like they should be from the South, and I told him that. O laughed though, which kind of pointed out that some people could take offense to such a comment, but Adam said no offense was taken. I told him how much I enjoyed their songs, and when he found out we were actually from Amsterdam, he told us they'd be playing some radio show thing there in a few days. I couldn't find any info online about it though. I assume it would be 3 Voor 12, but there was nothing on their site, nor on the band's site. So I dunno what happened with that. I still haven't listened to the CD, but I recommend it already. ;)
Right, so onto the Decemberists. For reference, the setlist:
(segueing into) July, July
Los Angeles, I'm Yours
Both Go Down Together
Leslie Ann Levine
Eli the Barrow Boy
Apology Song (Colin solo)
16 Military Wives
California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade
Of Angels and Angles
Before they even started, Colin said that things were going a bit weird for them and they don't normally start "this way," whatever that meant. To me, the boys especially looked a bit glum, I didn't see Nate (the bassist) or Chris (the guitarist and other random instruments-ist) smile much, which lead me to think something bad had happened, but things seemed to go ok. Also Colin was quite scruffy and later this was explained, that apparently the guys were having a tour beard contest, though the drummer already has a full beard, so he's either ahead or disqualified. Colin pointed out that Chris was sadly behind in 4th place, but hey, at least he was ahead of the two girls.
After July, July, Colin said "We are the Decemberists, and we hail from Portland, Oregon," to which I let out a massive yell (and um, stuck two devil-horn gestures in the air. Subtle, I know. I couldn't help it), and the girl in front of me turned around, but the band seemed to take no notice, probably because the crowd was still applauding. Damn. Later a girl "whoo"ed at the mention of Missoula, Montana, to which Colin said "yeah? um, okaay..." At least he noticed...
He described "We Both Go Down Together" as a "romantic little story about a double suicide" and I felt very dumb for not realizing there was suicide in the song. I think the bit about suicide I had thought was about the couple making love, even though the second verse is also about that. Hmmm... I need to pay better attention.
Before Eli, Colin was tuning the 12-string guitar again
and was saying that he always has such problems with keeping the guitar in tune when they're in Germany and blamed it on the German climate. Actually he later said "I blame Germany" which I'm not sure won him friends... Then he noted how, for some weird reason, he seems to stand on tiptoe when he tunes. Petra (the violinist) started laughing and managed to spit out that it was funny cuz she stands on her tiptoes too when she tunes. This made her break into uncontrollable giggles and then it must have just been a threatening look from Colin that made her start begging "please, no! Please!" But Colin had nothing of it and started playing some simple blues chords and explained that when Petra giggles and can't stop, her punishment is to stop what she's doing and give everyone in the front row a high five. So she put down her violin and started high-fiving. O by this time was at the front, he'd left me to get better photos, and he was the first to get a high five. Later, before they started the Mariner's Revenge Song, something set Petra off into giggles again and the bluesy song started. O stuck his paw up already, like "c'mon, you gotta do it now" and another round of high fives followed. It was so cute.
Also cute was one point when Nate started poking at a cymbal with his bow, so John (the drummer) defended his drumkit by fighting back with a drumstick and there was a little duel back there for a bit...
Before Apology Song, Colin told a more detailed version of the story already in the song, plus added "an epilogue" to it, telling us that in a random coincidence, his friend's lost bike was seen again about a year later, being ridden by another friend, and so Colin took it back and gave it back to the original owner. But then the owner was moving and the bike was loaded on the back of Colin's car and Colin backed the car into something, crushing the bike. You would think the bike owner would have learned his lesson and not put the bike in Colin's possession again... It was a nice little story time.
I think we unfortunately missed out on the great Chimbley Sweep experience that I've read about (as well as Billy Liar), due to Colin breaking a string during 16 Military Wives. The broken string was on the 6-string guitar, and he still had the 12-string, which to me is fine, but I don't really know the subtle nuances of these things. So instead they played California One.
There was a big set up for Mariner's Revenge. Besides Petra's second high-five punishment, John (who I hadn't really noticed til now, but who was drunkenly funny during Mariner's) brought his floor tom out to the front and grabbed himself a tambourine as well, the others did a lot of setting up it seemed, and then Colin and Chris had to teach us how to scream like we were being eaten by a whale when Chris made jaw opening motions with his arms. We weren't very good at the screaming at first, we kind of peetered out after a bit, but it was better during the song. And the song was so fun, all the acting out and being silly and swaying to and fro. Dangerous too; someone in the front row nearly got beaned by a tambourine when Colin tried to toss it over to Petra.
The big story was over and they left but we kept cheering and cheering, so they came back and did Angels and Angles. Petra didn't come out at first because she didn't need to play violin for it, but Colin asked where she was, and this little voice floated out from behind the curtain towards backstage saying "I'm here in spirit." hehe. But she came out and sang back up. And then it was all sadly over. It goes so quick.
After talking to the Two Gallants guy, and me going to the bathroom in the guys' toilet because I didn't realize there was a girls' another flight of stairs up and there was a girl in there already and another coming in when I left, we hauled ass back to the tram, running for the one that came which then was the wrong one because it went away from the center of town, but we couldn't figure out what went wrong, we just got off and caught another back to the hotel. It was all so worth it to make the trip, and I hope to see both bands again soon.
And, oh yes, photos here