The guy from The Long Winters, and the guy from The Decemberists... when you put it like that, it’s not exactly the most attractive double-bill during an already-cold, dark season in the Pacific Northwest. Were Coldplay, Snow Patrol, or Iceage not available? They should have billed it “The Seasonal Affective Disorder Tour 2014.” Their mascot could be that round lil’ Zoloft guy. But I digress. I chewed some extra Vitamin D gummies, and headed to an already-packed venue to see hometown heroes Colin Meloy and John Roderick at the Neptune Theatre.
I think we all learned a lot from Roderick that night. For example, he explained to the audience that if you wear a wool sweater vest on stage, you will end up smelling like a sheep. He also proved the power of Twitter when he left a guitar strap at home, but corralled his social media followers to have someone bring him one, which they dutifully tossed on stage. Once he got comfortable, he launched into an acoustic set of Long Winters favorites that left the audience smiling.
Opening with Barsuk hits “Pushover” and “Cinnamon,” Roderick mentioned that he’s graced the stage at The Neptune quite frequently over the past year, and jokingly asked if he had earned a satin tour jacket yet. Someone off-stage responded by throwing a leftover satin robe from Damien Jurado’s show at him, which he promptly put on.
After a couple of songs, including a new track he wrote for the Silver Lake Chorus, a Los Angeles group who perform choral arrangements of indie rock songs, Roderick shared some more wisdom: “Don’t put on a satin robe over a wool sweater vest when you’re already sweating.”
I was admittedly bewildered when I heard Meloy was on tour, seeing as how The Decemberists have been on hiatus for a while, and he doesn’t have anything to shill, necessarily. But the man just likes to play, and who can’t appreciate that?
He told the audience that a lot of his songs begin as ways to get his kid to eat, demonstrating by performing the little ditty, “Hank, eat your oatmeal / Hank, eat your naan bread,” before segueing flawlessly into “Had a dream / You and me and the war at the end times.” Secret unveiled!
Meloy employed some more sassy seques: after teasing Seattle about our upcoming Super Bowl match, he introduced his next song as his “own experience in competitive sports playing 1984 YMCA soccer in Illinois,” before launching into “The Sporting Life,” which devolved into his rendition of The Smiths’ “This Charming Man.” (He later closed out his encore with Morrissey’s “Everyday is Like Sunday,” introducing it as a song Puget Sound fishermen would sing in 1832.)
Colin Meloy has never shied away from the cover, and his solo tour-only EPs have become coveted collectibles: this time around, he chose the artist by literally grabbing a handful of records off his shelf, and picking from the stack. Celtic band Clannad and Nico’s Desertshore were immediately dismissed, so it looked like Colin Meloy Sings The Kinks was the one. “Ray Davies uses a lot of chords,” Meloy winced, before launching into a cover of “Do You Remember Walter?”
With his lumberjack plaid shirt and ubiquitous glasses, I found myself realizing: Colin Meloy is to Oregon as John Denver was to Colorado. Both troubadours celebrate their chosen cities in song -- Colin’s lyrics talk about “a record year for rainfall,” long dark days, and standing by lakes. Somehow, it gave the show a comforting feel -- sure, winters are tough around here, but Colin Meloy gets it.
He continued by encouraging the audience to sing-along, emphasizing that he wanted a “campfire feel.” As the room full of sunshine-deprived Seattleites sang along with “Engine Driver” and “Down by the Water,” it was almost therapeutic. Despite naming his band after a dreary month, The Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy actually brought a little musical dopamine to Seattle that night.