review and photos by Chona Kasinger
This past weekend, Redmond’s Marymoor Park hosted a weekend of great shows, including Friday’s gathering of folking indie rock favorites The Decemberists, Andrew Bird and Portland’s Blind Pilot, who got the party started promptly at 6PM, as people steadily streamed into the park, newly relieved of the miserable traffic plaguing the 520.
With the gentle Redmond wind gently lifting his trademark tousled hair and face frozen in a seemingly permanent whistle purse, Andrew Bird is a character I would strongly liken to the kind of guy that could have been your favorite music teacher in high school. Bird is just about as talented a multi-instrumentalist as they come, and his live set totally touts this.
His live performance is confident, effortless and unforgettable. Bird’s music is you, the protagonist, in your heartland, playing tag in the fields and wading in warm rivers in the summertime. Its magical and nostalgic quality is difficult to describe without experiencing it firsthand.
“Moderation is a kind of extreme,” Bird coos before biting his lips and shutting his eyes, ostensibly in lost in inner peace as he sways his thin frame during the song “Lull.”
“That was fun!” Bird exclaimed midway through his set before pausing momentarily and quipping, “I like music.” It appeared to me that Marymoor also really liked music at that very moment. Bird performed several songs off his latest release “Fitz and the Dizzy Spells” and also reached into his back catalogue and performed a handful of old favorites, like “Scythian Empire” before wrapping up with “Fake Palindromes,” one of my all time Bird favorites with its tongue in cheek lyricism and grandiose violin trills.
“A Short Fazed Hovel” is the name The Decemberists chose to give their latest endeavor across the United States, and as we saw back in May at Sasquatch, included Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond, along with My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden among Decemberists personnel.
The Decemberists opened up with The Hazards of Love (this time, the landscape free of people in the heat of lovemaking) and continued on with many tracks of their latest release, The Hazards of Love. With Jenny Conlee complacently bobbing her head at sidestage over her various keyboards, Funk stoically chewing gum over the audience on the right hand side, and Stark and Worden occasionally taking turns on lead vocal efforts, Meloy indulged the audience in his iconic and highly stylized delivery. Anyone who is anyone can do some sort of ludicrous Colin Meloy impersonation, which just goes to show how idyllic he has become in the world of indie rock music.
Stark’s stage presence was unworldly, as she waltzed across the stage in some sort of wonderful trance. Meloy took things to a personal level as he chided the audience to give Gibbard the message “I want my shoes back.” Meloy also explained that Death Cab for Cutie’s show the next day at the very same location would inevitably involve a set list chockfull of the greatest songs Gibbard had ever written, but would not contain the worst. With about as much discretion as Britney Spears in an upskirt paparazzi shot, Meloy confided “I’m going to play you the worst song I’ve ever written. Okay guys, this song is pretty bad.” before jumping into “Dracula’s Daughter,” in which he sings the following over a self described “douchy chord progression (Cm to Gm, if you must know)
Dracula’s daughter’s got it bad
You think you got it bad?
Try having Dracula for your dad
The Decemberists encore included an assortment of older tracks, such as “The Bicycle Song” and “July July,” along with a jawdropping rendition of Heart’s “Crazy On You.” Stark shocked the masses by hitting the high notes on the chorus, I couldn’t help but burst into incredulous laughter at how surprisingly incredible the cover, as a whole, was. Though relatively unfamiliar with the music of My Brightest Diamond, I never would have guessed that such a voice could have come out of such a pixy-ish little figure. The temporary dimension these two ladies has added to The Decemberists live show has been mind boggling (in the best possible way).
Per usual, the band wrapped up with arguably one of the best tracks off The Crane Wife: “Sons and Daughters.” The timing of this song couldn’t have been any more perfect, as the fog and lights mingled to reveal the magical insects flying high over the stage in an ethereal fashion. The audience was clearly ready to join in with the band in their chants of “Here now the bombs fade away.” This epic call to a distant end never fails to inspire, the sheer beauty and simplicity of the song clearly superseded by an ulterior message of peaceful engagement and love.