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Archive for the ‘The Decemberists’ Category

[ATTENDED: July 27 & 28, 2019] Newport Folk Festival

Back in 1998, I won a radio contest (not through luck, I knew the name of a song and couldn’t believe no one else did!) and scored a ticket to the Newport Folk Festival.  It was in a lull back then and also, I believe there was only one stage (it’s hard to remember).  Now it is at full power, selling out before artists are even announced.

S. and I have talked about going and finally this year I saw when tickets were announced and I bought 4 tickets for us.  I knew that our son wouldn’t want to go, but I decided to make a long vacation out of it–a couple days in Rhode Island and then about a week in Maine.  He couldn’t say no to going to that.

I didn’t get Friday tickets because three days seemed excessive.  Plus, you never know who is going to appear until long after you buy the tickets. and that actually worked out pretty well.   Turned out, there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to see.

So we rolled in for Saturday.  I was told that if you wanted to get the poster you had to get their very early.  We arrived at 12:30 and they were long sold out.  Oh well. (more…)

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[CANCELLED: June 12, 2018] M. Ward/The Decemberists

S. and I love The Decemberists.  They are probably one of our favorite bands.  Despite this, we haven’t seen them live all that much.  In part because they went on a huge long hiatus after releasing one of my favorite albums (why didn’t I see them on that tour?).

We have seen them twice (only!) and each show was great in its own way.

But when they announced a new tour with a date in Philly AND New Jersey, I was sure to get tickets for both shows.

They were scheduled to play at the Mann Center on June 7.  The Mann is an amazing venue but it is a super duper pain in the butt to get to.  So, we decided that since we had tickets to the show in Red Bank, we would blow off the Mann show.  Astonishingly I couldn’t sell the tickets, so I just ate the price.  Dang.

Turns out Colin’s voice was giving him trouble and that show wasn’t his best.  Although they did wind up playing a great set list.

Nevertheless we were very excited for our show and hoped his voice would be perfect five days later.

Then today at 3:30 this afternoon we received this email.

The Decemberists event scheduled for Tuesday, June 12 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ has been cancelled due to Colin Meloy’s ongoing voice issues.

We effectively missed two shows of one of our favorite bands in a week. (more…)

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[NOT ATTENDED: June 7, 2018] The Decemberists at The Mann Center

Boy were we excited that The Decemberists were coming back around to tour their new album.  Even though we have seen them a few times now, we can always make room for them.

I love the acoustics of The Mann enter–it’s a beautiful location.  But it is such a pain in the butt for us to get to.  If it’s the only place a band is playing I’ll get tickets, but otherwise, I’d just as soon not travel that far.

Well, they were playing The Mann Center and I bought tickets.  And then a few days later they announced another show at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ.  Well, that is 100 times easier to get to, so I said we’d give up on The Mann show for the Count Basie.

Easy peasy.

Except that I could not sell these Decemberists tickets.  The Mann Center has a strict no resale policy, so you can’t do that Ticketmaster resell business.  Then I tried CashorTrade and even StubHub and there were no takers.  I even went lowball by the end.  The one bad thing about print tickets is you can’t wait til the last minute.

We could have still gone to the show but we had another commitment that night by then and it was still a hassle to get there.  Plus we had the Basie show, so we accepted the loss bitterly.

I noticed an IM on Facebook a couple of days after the show that someone was interested, but obviously that was too late.

[NOT ATTENDED: June 12, 2018] The Decemberists at The Count Basie Theatre

The night of the Count Basie show, we received a notice that Colin Meloy’s voice was shot and the show would be cancelled.  This show and one other (not The Mann Center) shows were cancelled.  And there was no immediate plans to reschedule.  So at least this money was fully refunded.

The band seemed to promise that they’d come back.  But now they have made touring plans further afield.  They are touring the West (and then teasing us here in NJ by coming back in a few weeks to play a show in Brooklyn.  And they are coming East again in October to play Massachusetts.

Then in November they’re off to Europe.

I see a few blank days on the itinerary between the last show in October and the first show in November.  I sure hope they reschedule somewhere near here for us!

 

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[ATTENDED: May 10, 2018] My Brightest Diamond

I only knew about My Brightest Diamond because Shara Worden sang on The Decemberists’ Hazard of Love album.  She sings some pretty intense stuff on it, so I looked her up.  Well, it turns out that Shara has changed her name to Shara Nova.  But nothing has changed about her voice.

She is dramatic and operatic with amazing power.

I didn’t really know much about the band’s music, so when the lights went down and Aaron Steel sat at the drumkit, I waited for the rest of the band to show up on stage.

Then some synths started and I heard Shara singing.  But she wasn’t on stage.  I was still trying to figure out how close I wanted to get to the stage (experimenting with how close you had to be before the voice started getting lost) when I turned around and there she was singing in the middle of the floor.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“The Hamilton Polka” (2016). 

Lin-Manuel Miranda has declared his love and respect for “Weird Al” on many occasions.  So it makes perfect sense that he would ask Al to contribute to the online Hamilton project known as HamilDrops.  The Decemberists’ “Ben Franklin’s Song” is amazing too.

But seriously, how could Al parody a more or less biographical story of a historical figure (that’s two hours long)?.  By not parodying it at all.

Rather, he makes one of his polka mashups which he’s been doing hilariously since his second album.  They are often a highlight of each new album.  This song compresses (almost) the entire musical into 5 minutes.

“The Hamilton Polka,” provides what’s essentially a CliffsNotes-style run-through of the musical’s hooks and highlights — just enough to get the entire musical stuck in your head all over again.

I love the way in the original, the third sister, poor Peggy, is sort of musically dissed whereas Al is just explicit about it.  And of course, how could he refuse to include some actual gun shots for “Not Throwing Away My Shot?”

So they cram in 

Alexander Hamilton
Wait For It
The Schuyler Sisters
Yorktown
You’ll Be Back
The Room Where It Happens
Guns and Ships
Washington On Your Side
Non-Stop
History Has Its Eyes On You
My Shot

And Al can really sing and rap some of those lyrics quickly.  It’s a really fun mashup.

[READ: January 11, 2018] Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father

Before the musical, most people’s familiarity with Alexander Hamilton probably came from this (awesome) commercial (even if none of us could remember what it was ultimately for).

Actually, my father worked for (and owned for a time) Alexander Hamilton Printing in Paterson, NJ, so Alexander Hamilton has always been a part of my life.  Although I had no idea why.  Not really.

There’s a new reason why people know about Alexander Hamilton (can you even say his name without singing it?).

And I’m sure that reason has something to do with the creation and publication of this book.  But Hennessey is not just jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon.  Well, maybe he is, but he has two other historical graphic novels out already: The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation (2008) and The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation (2012).  He also has books called The Comic Book Story of Beer, and The Comic Book Story of Video Games so he’s not all stuffy.

The musical is far more catchy than this book–far more steamy.  But this book is really chock full of details that the musical skips (for various reasons, obviously).  The book is a lot less interested in the romantic dalliances of the founding father, although it certainly does acknowledge them.

Indeed, the book is 176 fully illustrated pages jam-packed with information.  It reads a little, if not dull, then certainly more academic.  That’s because there’s a lot of text and a lot of history. (more…)

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 [ATTENDED: April 17, 2018] Julien Baker

We saw Julien Baker open for The Decemberists almost exactly one year ago.  I knew her music (and that she was a quiet singer) but Sarah and I were really blown away by her live performance.

So when I saw that she was playing again, this time in a venue we’d never been to before, I thought it would be a fun birthday present for Sarah.  An opportunity to see this artist as a headliner when the crowd was there for her (we felt the Philly crowd was a bit rude for this quiet singer).

White Eagle Hall proved to be a gorgeous venue, both in appearance and sound quality.  Baker was an excellent first show to test out the acoustics because it was incredibly quiet and her voice and guitar rang out beautifully.  Although it must be said having the bars right on the floor did make for some unexpectedly loud bursts of noise. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: I’M WITH HER-Tiny Desk Concert #722 (March 28, 2018).

I’m with Her is a kind of a folk supergroup comprised of Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins.  As the blurb notes:

The three singers who perform together as I’m With Her sound like sisters. It’s as if they’ve known each other all their lives and share common roots and musical memories… All three are brilliant players with an ever-shifting array of stringed instruments, guitars, ukulele, fiddle, mandolin and banjo. As I’m With Her, they know how to gather round a microphone and sing directly from their heart to yours. Purity is the brilliance behind I’m With Her.

They also share coming to the Tiny Desk:

Sara Watkins was here with Nickel Creek (2014), Watkins Family Hour (2015) and The Decemberists (2011). Sarah Jarosz was here in 2013 and Aoife O’Donovan came along with Yo Yo Ma and Chris Thile as part of the Goat Rodeo project back in 2011.

They play three songs from their debut album.

The first is “See You Around.” Sarah sings this first song.  Sarah and Aoife play guitar and Sara is playing an oversized ukulele.  At the end of each section their harmonies are wonderful.  It’s a really pretty song, with a great melody.  Then at around 2 minutes the song switches gears to the “shiny piece of my heart” section which changes the timbre and tone of the song.  Aoife takes over a bit and the song grows a bit darker and their voices sound more powerful.

For “Game to Lose” Sara switches to fiddle, Aoife plays Sarah’s guitar and Sarah is on mandolin.  I absolutely love the violin part and the way it plays off of the mandolin.  After a few measures, when they sing in three-part harmony from the get go….  Wow.  I love Aoife’s voice as she sings the end of the chorus, the mandolin is just fantastic and the fiddle trills are exquisite.

As they tune before the final song, Bob asks how many instruments they brought….  The answer is, a lot.  And they couldn’t leave without some banjo.  Then Aoife asks about the pink lemonade gummy bunny.  Bob says people leave random things.  You’re welcome to leave something too.  Aoife says, “I thought you were going to say I was welcome to eat it.”

Sarah says I feel like we’re just settling in, I wish we could play all day (and so do I!).

For the final song, “Overland” Sarah switches to banjo. Aoife has the same guitar and Sara is on guitar too.   Sara sniffs a few times and then deadpans, “Sorry I’ve got a coke problem, it keeps sneaking up on me.”  Everyone laughs and Sarah cracks up.  Bob says we’ll just have to loop that and Sara says, “we need some scandal.”

The song begins with Sara on lead vocals and Sarah’s banjo.  It is the most country sounding of the three (which surprises a bit since I don’t think of Sara’s voice as sounding like that).  But again, it’s the harmonies that are huge.

[READ: January 15, 2018] “Chicken Winchell”

This story was published in Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty, although as with most of William’s pieces I don’t remember it at all.

This story, which is half a page long, mentions three women characters and then uses “she” for the rest.  So I’m not sure which “she” is being spoken about.  There’s a waitress, a daughter and a mother.  The waitress wonders why the daughter never returned.  But apparently she did.

The mother confides in the waitress. (more…)

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