Shearwater kicked off their tour in support of Fellow Travelers on the west coast last month and, as always, I followed them. Photos and some words are over at the Owl, where I'll be a contributing photographer from now on. Yay for taking some initiative! And double yay for having good times with SW again! Although boo for not getting to see them again until (probably) next year. Hurry up 2015!
After seeing The National in Seattle last year, all I wanted to do was see them again. This is how I work. See a band, love them, need to see them again. And again, ad infinitum. So looking at their tour schedule my best options were Aspen or Honolulu in January. The show in Aspen was appealing because of the tiny venue, but the expense and logistics were prohibitive. Also, snow. I like it in the abstract, but in this instance it was likely to be a hinderance.
So that left Hawaii. At first I was only daydreaming, but the more research I did, the more plausible it became. So I made it happen.
I only spent two and a half days in Oahu, so I had very little time to play tourist, but I managed to squeeze in a walk on Waikiki, a hike in the mountains and a tour of the northern part of the island. The show, as always, was the priority though. Of course.
I did the usual, showed up ridiculously early, first in line, eavesdropped on soundcheck (OMG Matt sang Apartment Story a cappella). The weather was grey and damp, so, fitting. I had drinks at the bar before doors, my favourite being one called "Bearded Dude", quite appropriate for the show. There was no opener, just TN. Really, what else do you need? Although if Shearwater could open for them… that would be prefect.
Anyway, nothing too unusual in the setlist, only two songs I hadn't heard live before, Hard to Find and Lean. But Lean was the one I was really hoping to hear and </3. Totally. And even though the rest of the set was familiar, it felt amazing to hear those songs live. Some things don't get old. I have to admit I sang along much more and a lot more loudly than was strictly decent. But I cried along with those songs last year, they were a solace then and hearing them now is a relief, a release and just a fierce unholy joy, like the sudden blaze of an exploding star.
Okay, a bit melodramatic, but whatever. There's not much like singing along with Terrible Love while trying to steady Matt Berninger as he climbs over the rail.
So, yeah, I finally remembered that I have a blog. Not that I forgot, exactly. But the past year has been difficult and I had trouble dragging myself out of the house, let alone writing about the shows I managed to attend. And I did get my shit together a few times for shows, although I skipped out on others that I really regret missing now. Such is the lot of a spastic fangirl with occasionally crippling depression. Fingers crossed that this year is slightly less of a downer. Anyway, for the sake of completeness, I'm going to catch up with my gig logging, picking up where I left off...
After seeing The Postal Service in April I caught Telekinesis at the Echo. I hadn't seen them since 2011, and although the show was brief due to Michael being ill, it was, as per usual, tons of fun. Seriously, if Telekinesis doesn't make you smile then there might be something wrong with you.
After TK I had a dearth of gigs due to being a sad bastard, but in July I pulled it together enough to see Shearwater in Seattle. Favorite band + favorite city = I'm going despite myself. And the fact that it was a doubleheader with them playing a headlining gig at the Columbia City Theater AND playing the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee made not going not an option. So I went.
Just seeing everyone and getting to hear great music made me feel like I might still be human and capable of being happy, however briefly. Lucas and Brass Bed opened, so that was an extra dose of feel-good and holy hell, Jonathan played a Blue Water White Death song! I tried not to shake when I got that video, which I'm glad I did because I screwed up and have no recording of the rest of their set. Not that I listen to my bootlegs often, but I like having the document of each show. So that was a bummer. But I had fun running from the balcony to the floor to take pictures. Which I wouldn't have done if the crowd had been less standoffish, but seeing as they were, I moved about freely throughout. I do hate it when crowds give the stage a wide fucking berth though. You're at an amazing show, don't be an apathetic asshole and hang back! It's okay to be into it! Fuck.
The next day was Jubilee day. Shearwater played early and I arrived earlier, like before everything was quite ready to go. So I wandered a bit, spent a lot of money when all the booths had finished setting up. I made sure to claim my spot up front because the crowd wasn't going to be so aloof as the night before. I wish their set could've been longer, but that's how festivals go. I was feeling pretty good with the sunshine and Shearwater, but before I knew it they were playing Star of the Age and then it was all over. Everyone went in different directions and when I was on my own I was back to feeling like shit. So it goes.
The rest of July was pretty full compared to the last few months. I got to see a screening of Mistaken for Strangers at the Grammy Museum in L.A. and met the brothers Berninger. A few days later I had a major scheduling conflict: The Postal Service at the Santa Barbara Bowl vs. Rogue Wave at the El Rey vs. Brass Bed at Hotel Cafe. I decided to try and make two shows in one night and saw Rogue Wave soundcheck then caught Brass Bed. It wasn't a fun decision to make, and I felt bad leaving Rogue Wave (especially since Zach is such a nice guy and he remembered me!) but I couldn't skip out on Brass Bed.
Luckily, I didn't feel too bad about missing The Postal Service because I had pit tickets for their second night at the Greek. And I'm glad I did, because it made that moment possible.
August and September had multiple National gigs. Yes. I had been (and still am) listening to Trouble Will Find Me a fucking lot since it came out. It was exactly the right album at the right time for me. And I hadn't seen the band since 2011, so I was really looking forward to those five shows, three in L.A. and two in Seattle. They played the Greek first and I spent over $200 on pit tickets because I'm happiest up front. And it was worth it. They played Baby We'll be Fine and Slipped back to back and I tried not to cry. And the next night at Hollywood Forever I finally got to hear All the Wine and tried not to cry over This is the Last Time. And the night after that I sang along with every word at the Jimmy Kimmel taping. And it felt awesome.
Then in September there were two nights at the Paramount in Seattle. I was front and center both nights and once again had a hard time maintaining my composure. Especially the first night because Matt got into the crowd during Terrible Love and decided my spot was where he was climbing in. I have never been so terrified/thrilled in my life. For a second I thought we were both going to fall and I almost lost my glasses but it all worked out and I even got pictures.
I skipped out on a few more shows before I got to Okkervil River at the Wiltern in October. I had to talk myself into it at the last minute, but I knew I'd hate myself extra if I missed them. Got there a little late (for me), but there was no line yet, got to chat with Patrick and Cully beforehand. The only misstep was me forgetting my camera. What the fuck. That should indicate how off my game I was last year. I always do the idiot check before I leave the house, but not that day. So I had to settle for iPhone pics. But I didn't forget my recorder. And they covered Dance Hall Days. And I got my copy of The Silver Gymnasium signed after the show. So not a total tragedy.
Now in November I missed three shows and I'm pretty sure I'm going to regret them forever. I bought tickets to Barsuk's 15th anniversary celebration in Seattle. Nada Surf, The Long Winters, Minor Alps, David Bazan, Rocky Votolato and surprise guests Death Cab for fucking Cutie and Ben goddamn Gibbard at some of my favorite venues in my favorite city. But at least I skipped that weekend of unadulterated awesome for a better reason than mere depression. I did it because I had to save up for other trips that are fast approaching. And I did catch Minor Alps (with Dan Wilson!) at the Echoplex. And Matthew Caws played Inside of Love so I got to hear that live at long last. I hope Nada Surf tours soon. Thirteen year old me is appalled that thirty year old still hasn't seen them do a proper show yet.
Also making me feel very slightly better about missing Barsuk's party is the fact that I got off my ass and went to see a full-on The Long Winters gig at the Bootleg in December. With Sean Nelson opening no less. So much radness.
And that covers 2013. We're almost up to date!
A few days ago I caught Colin Meloy on his long-overdue solo tour. And, superextraveryspecial bonus, Mr. John Roderick opened. I wish I could be at the Portland and Seattle shows coming up, but I'm content with this one. John played a bunch of wonderful songs and closed with the ever-amazing The Commander Thinks Aloud. And I almost lost it. Then Colin played another bunch of wonderful songs, old stuff, new stuff, covers, stuff I'd heard before and stuff I hadn't. He ended the main set with the whole Crane Wife suite. And I really did lose it. I just stood there trying not to fall completely apart, which I managed, just barely. And I'd fully recovered by the time I met Colin after the show, so yea for that.
And yea for being caught up!
10 years ago I was not the Ben Gibbard fanatic that I am now so I never got to see The Postal Service before Monday night. Since I have no concrete plans to catch them anywhere else I treated this as my one and only shot. I showed up around noon to secure my usual spot up front. I suspect I'm getting too old to spend seven hours queued up outside a venue in inclement weather, but if that's what it takes to get on the rail, I will continue to act like a teenager. Yes. Because it's The fucking Postal Service. If that's not worth waiting for hours and hours in freaking Pomona in the rain and wind and cold, I don't know what the hell is.
My feet were cramping and I had a migraine long before the band came onstage at nine o'clock. But for those 75 or so minutes that Ben, Jimmy and Jenny played I didn't even notice. I could not stop smiling. I could not stop myself from mouthing the words to every fucking song. And seriously, who knew Ben could be so engaging and charismatic without a guitar? I didn't think I could possibly adore him any more, but the Gibbard always finds a way.
Now I have to wait and see what other dates come up because one show is never enough.
I almost skipped out on seeing Matt Pond at the Echoplex. I was in a really foul mood and just wanted to hole up in my room and deny the existence of the universe. Because that's a really excellent and productive way to spend a day. Anyway, I ended up dragging myself out to L.A. after all, although I was much later than I usually aim for (ie, I got there half an hour before doors instead of three or five hours early) which meant I was far from first in line and wasn't able to get front and center. I settled for front and extreme stage left, slightly obstructed view.
The last (and only other) time I'd seen Matt Pond was in 2011. He had a broken leg at the time, but he still played an amazing show and I've waited impatiently for another chance to see him since. But seriously, opening for some band that I'd never heard of? I mean, I'll go see my favorite artists whenever I can in whatever context, but abbreviated sets and apathetic audiences suck. Still, I did get to hear Starting live. Even though I'd rather all the shows be headliners, in nice venues to sold-out crowds but that's just not how it works out most of the time. In the meantime, bliss in small doses is still fucking bliss and I'll take it. And then I'll look forward to those headlining shows, which are hopefully happening later this year. Yes.
Photos and setlist:
- Go Where the Leaves Go
- From Debris Let Me Live
- So Much Trouble
- New Hampshire
- Love to Get Used
My 30th time seeing Shearwater, my last show before my 30th birthday and the last Animal Joy gig. It was a lot to take in at once. And somewhere between soundcheck and showtime, I felt some PRE-post-show depression, you know where the show you've been looking forward to for forever is suddenly about to happen and all you can think is that it's almost over before it even begins and then you just mope around listlessly. But that's all forgotten when the show starts. Christiaan's band Brass Bed opened and knocked me right out of sad-bastard mode. Fuck yes!
After that, Marmalakes and a couple of drinks I felt buoyant again, totally ready to stand up front (without earplugs, whoops) and let the soundwaves crash against me.
Mark Twain sums up the feeling pretty succinctly:
An ecstasy is a thing that will not go into words; it feels like music, and one cannot tell music so that another person can get the feeling of it.
I went to Portland to see John Wesley Harding's Cabinet of Wonders last week. I didn't really know what to expect, all I knew was Ben Gibbard and Colin Meloy would be performing. And really, that's all I needed to hear. Also there were Peter Buck, Eugene Mirman, Storm Large, Laura Veirs, Sallie Ford, Scott McCaughey, k.d. lang, Monica Drake and Lidia Yuknavitch with Black Prairie acting as the house band. It turned out to be a variety show (with a love theme in honor of Valentine's Day) with comedy, prose, poetry and music benefitting My Music Rx. And it was pretty fucking awesome. Hearing Colin Meloy sing "You are the Everything" (with Ben Gibbard on backing vocals and Peter Buck on mandolin no less) was without a doubt the highlight for me though. I mean, there were a ton wonders in that cabinet, but that was a moment that I will never forget. </3
Also memorable: getting a Valentine from Eugene Mirman that said "You're Jewish", hearing Ben Gibbard cover Tom Waits' "Martha", everyone singing "All You Need is Love", and Colin and (a very pregnant) Laura Veirs singing "Islands in the Stream". In costume.
Well, the Ben Gibbard tour has come to an end and once more I find myself with an inevitable case of PTD (post-tour depression). But hey, I had an epic weekend in the great, grey Pacific Northwest seeing one of my favorite musicians. Totally worth it.
I got into Seattle on Friday and spent the morning wandering around my favorite city, killing time until about four when I decided it was acceptable to start a queue at the Showbox. I was the only one around when Ben walked up and I was so caught off-guard that I didn't even manage to say hi before he went inside. You would think that after so many shows and meeting so many musicians (including Ben!) I'd be better at playing cool, but I guess deep down I really am just a spastic fangirl.
After a lengthy wait, I finally got inside and claimed a spot in the front, as per usual. I thought it was ideal at first, and certainly I had a great view of Damien Jurado (who deserved better than to have half the crowd talk through his set), but after he left Ben's music stand was placed directly in my line of sight. Talk about no unobstructed view (pun, sorry!). I was a little bummed, but I was able to work with and around it pretty well. And I was also primely placed to ask for the setlist at the end of the show, so yea to that. And fucking yea to just getting to be there to hear Ben sing. Even though I'd heard him play most of the songs before, they still kill me. Every time.
The next day found me a little extra freaked out: I got a tattoo in the early afternoon and I had a meet and greet before the show at Washington Hall. The tattoo was less painful than I'd anticipated, but I could not *not* get flustered upon meeting Ben. It actually went kind of okay, I told him that I'd enjoyed the previous shows and he was super nice. But when I asked to take a polaroid with him and found out that I'd run out of film the last time I'd used camera and I'd neglected to bring a spare pack to boot, I got all crestfallen. I did get a regular photo at least (and hopefully I can get that polaroid at a future date). The show was a couple of hours later and once again it was amazing. The venue is need of a good refurb, but it was still a cool place. Ben changed the set up a bit and I was gratified to hear him play Talking Bird on the piano. If I'd had the nerve to request a song, that probably would've been the one. I actually found myself getting misty-eyed before it was over, a rare occurrence for me. Although I'm pretty sure that's just confirmation that I am a crazy bird lady. SFG (spastic fangirl) moment: before playing Where Our Destinations Lie, Ben mentioned seeing familiar faces from other shows in the crowd, then turned to me and asked if it was cool if he gave a similar intro for the song. I told him it was cool. I think my inner 15 year old passed out.
Oh yeah, he covered the Beatles too. No bigs. And along with Talking Bird he played Farmer Chords, Recycled Air and Passenger Seat. Just some of my favorite songs EVER. *blissful swoon*
The next morning, after picking up film and getting one last piroshky, I took the train to Portland, a city in which I have not spent nearly enough time. I was thrilled to pass Powell's on the way to my hotel and promised myself I'd check it out the next day before I went home. Anyway, cut to several hours later and I find myself inside the springy-floored ballroom, at the front one last time. Damien Jurado opened this last show and once again he was awesome. I will be making damn sure that I see him again the next time he tours.
The last show of a tour is always bittersweet for me, and this was no exception. I took more photos and video than I had in the previous nights combined, I think in an attempt to hang on to every moment. No matter how much I wished time would slow down, the show crept closer to the end, suddenly it was time for the piano songs and then the encore came out of nowhere and I clapped until my hands hurt and then somehow the last song rang out and it was all over and I wasn't ready at all! But I was really unprepared for Ben to take his setlist off the music stand, walk over to where I was standing and, amid all the people reaching towards him, hand it directly to ...me.
Oh. Em. Fucking Gee.
The rest of 2012 may be Shearwater-less for me, but on the upshot I am seeing Ben Gibbard four times(!) this week. AND Damien Jurado is opening three of those shows, so that's an extra dose of awesome there. Last night was the first of my four Gibbard gigs and it knocked me right out of my post-Shearwater depression. Great performances from both Damien and Ben; I can't wait to see them in Seattle and Portland this weekend! I better start packing soon...
I just slept for 12 hours straight and the ringing in my ear has finally subsided so I guess that means I've recovered from my last Shearwater gig of the year. Although the guys still have more than a score of shows to play, I am done, but only because my wallet will spontaneously combust if I attempt to spend much more on travel. So unless I win the lotto in the next few weeks, this is it. I'm still trying to comprehend that. I'm also trying to fathom how I managed to see them 15 times this year yet I wouldn't hesitate to do it all again.
Despite the expense, all the sleep deprivation, the myriad discomforts of travel by plane, train and bus, all my anxieties, and every other thing that I had to deal with over these days and miles, it was all worth it. Because when I would finally catch up with the guys I got hear them play. Even soundchecks had moments that destroyed me, like hearing Jonathan belt out Nibelungen in an empty room. And when the audience filled the place and Shearwater took the stage and played, everything else became irrelevant and ceased to exist while the music shook the very fabric of that space in the universe. But eventually the show had to end and I had to come back down from the lofty heights of transcendence because you can't live there indefinitely, anymore than a climber can stay atop the mountain he labored to scale.
I hung out with everyone until we finally had to part ways, and since it was inevitable that my 2012 Shearwater run had to end at some point, at least it ended on a really fucking good note.
Gigs make everything better; Shearwater gigs make everything awesome. If I could figure out a way to make a living as a professional fan and just go to all the shows, I'd be set.
I know I've heard all the songs they played many times before, but I still haven't reached my saturation point.
(photos and a couple of videos):
In 2010 I saw Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard play at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. It was an awesome show but I forgot my camera (AND my recorder) so remembering it always brings up a whole slew of mixed emotions. Well, on Wednesday night I got to see B-Gibb in the same amazing place and I can finally let go of some of that regret. It was a beautiful day, Earlimart opened and I was up front for Ben. In Big Sur.
And, most importantly, I DIDN'T FORGET MY CAMERA. In fact, I brought two. Just in case. (Photos)
Earlimart won me over before they finished their first song. Not sure how I've managed to go so long without ever hearing them, but I'm trying to make up for it. I picked up their newest record after the show, got it signed and played it a ton when I got home. Will definitely be looking into their other stuff soon.
Ben played a swoon-worthy set, touching on songs from different projects across the years, with Death Cab and the Postal Service well-represented. He also played a few from his upcoming solo record which made me even more impatient for October 16th. A list of highlights would probably turn out to be the entire setlist, but hearing everyone not sing, but softly murmur the words to Such Great Heights along with Ben under the redwoods was kind of fucking magical.
Even though I was carsick for the better part of three days, this show was worth the trip.
Also, I can't wait to see Ben four more times in November!
I saw Sea Wolf at the Federal Bar this late morning/early afternoon. I almost didn't go because I was still bumming over the Desa debacle a couple weeks ago, but I forced myself to get up early and make my arduous way to North Hollywood.
I am so glad I did. It was a short set and the brunch crowd was very chatty, but Sea Wolf was absolutely lovely. Totally reminded me why I love music and going to shows: because they make the world seem like a slightly better place. Even if only fleetingly.
Also, yea for finally meeting Alex Church! My inner fangirl is appeased.
So I saw Desaparecidos at the Troubadour and all I got was hit in the face. Also, pushed, shoved, elbowed, jumped on, spit on and had my hair pulled. I managed not to cry or punch anyone, and somehow took some photos in a state of near complete shutdown. I can't even tell you how Desa sounded because I was so overwhelmed with everything else.