[apologies in advance for the deep brain fog under which this will be written. i slept for approximately 3 hours last night, on and off, and under great self-induced illness and duress. i woke up this morning and all my teeth were reduced to a fine, white powder from unconscious grinding and gripping. jealous much? i am, lately.]
It was nice to see and hear The Decemberists play a musical concert last night. I truly enjoy bands that play well together and, even though with each successive viewing of the band live it's grown ever so slightly more and more into the Colin Meloy & Superpals show, The Decemberists still are, inarguably, a cooperative band. It makes a difference.
[I had intended to comment on the opening act, and a once-personal favorite of mine, Lou Barlow, but to do so would just make me feel very sad. Suffice it to say success does not necessarily breed confidence. Also, his closer was a song about his cats and was perhaps the only instance of genuine happiness I saw in his entire set. Fuck. OK, I guess I just *did* comment on the opening act.]
It's strange to see The Decemberists play in a rock venue. They seem more suited to perform in an Amish barn or a straw-littered square or inside the dusty parchment pages of a book, where each song is a woodcut plate. They're a special kind of precious. What other band could introduce songs like this:
- "This is a song about a French Legionnaire"
- "This is a song about a Turkish prostitute"
- "This is a song about a YMCA youth soccer league in Montana"
- "This is a song about a chimney sweep"
and still receive the same raucous, anticipatory ovation another band might get for saying, "This is a song about an all-night titty party?"
It was actually refreshing to hear one (possibly drunk) guy in the audience admonishing the band's leader throughout the concert. When Colin began mumbling through his B-game of between-song banter, the guy yelled out, "Less talk, more rock!" When Colin knowingly stated he was about to play an acoustic cover of a Big Star song, the guy yelled out, "FUCK YOU!" The heckler seemed almost self-aware, like he was taking it upon himself to punch a little hole in the bubble of preciousness in which we all volunteered to enter when we purchased our tickets. It didn't ruin the experience at all – the heckler's words were carefully chosen – but it did make us see that once-pristine bubble with a dull little patch on it to repair the puncture, reminding us it's OK to blink and exhale every now and again.
The first time I saw The Decemberists live, I had a reaction to them that was very much outside of myself. I thought, "You know, I'll bet Dave Eggers would like this band." I had the same reaction the first time I heard Joanna Newsom, and it wasn't far off. (Eggers later professsed his affection for her in his Spin column, and Newsom has been the interview subject of Eggers' magazine, The Believer.) I can't quite explain that instinct, except to say that Dave Eggers (whose writing I enjoy, incidentally, and whose efforts at making people think reading is fun and preferable to, say, burning down schools I truly commend) seems to cultivate preciousness. Lyrical references to Charles Dickens, dromedaries, gingham, trapeze artists, parapets and coronets? Check. Out of place and time musical sound produced through the employment of old fashioned-y instruments, like harps, stand-up bass violins, and accordians? Check. Fresh-faced and well-scrubbed, with the exception of a little hair muss and a skinned knee? Absolutely. These seem to raise flags in the asthetic conscience of Dave Eggers.
I have this fantasy where I imagine Dave Eggers "discovering" a new talent to include in his anti-ironic Justice League. For instance, with Joanna Newsom, I pictured Dave finding her playing her harp barefoot, or in jewel-encrusted, silk slippers of an Asian style. Behind her, a man is making barrels by hand. A peanut brittle vendor drifts through the small crowd of mill workers, seated uncomfortably on long benches of graying, warped pine. Suddenly, the stable door (yes, they're in a dusty stable, with shafts of sunlight casting the characters in a kind of warm half-light) slides open and Eggers steps inside. He looks like he's stepped out of a time machine, where the present is a distant dream, because he's wearing Patagonia pants and a no-logo t-shirt.
Dave extends his hand and Joanna knowingly advances. As she passes through the stable door, Dave makes eye contact with the cooper, who is also encouraged to join him. All three of them step aboard Dave's skiff, and sail off to the McSweeney's offices, where Joanna, the cooper, and all of Dave's other discoveries will live forever, sleeping in giant nests made of birch wood, strips of linen, colored raw silk, and the torn pages of manual written on the subject of tying seaworthy knots, published in 1832. (Neal Pollack is the only exception; he sleeps in a doghouse, outside the McSweeney's complex.)
I think this account is probably only about 68% accurate.