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Reflections on the Decemberists 

As promised, and more or less on time, we've pooled our resources and come up with a handful of reflections on one of the biggest indie concerts to hit Spokane since, ever. I'd heard rumors and portents of the frenetic live show, mostly from our own Joel Smith, who recently saw the band in Austin at the Austin City Limits Festival. This was in contrast to the last time I'd seen them, right after the release of The Tain. That show they were a little mousey and withdrawn, not at all the whirlwind of theatrics I'd been hearing about.

As for the crowd: further down you're going to hear some grumblings about too cool kids who wouldn't sit when Meloy wanted them too, or who held lighters aloft like this was a Rush show, or kids who kept calling out for songs like "California One". People are chalking that up to some unique Spokanite birth defect that restricts the body's ability to be unselfconscious. I've been reading, though, that those sorts of things happen everywhere. Even in really, really hip towns. In all, I think Spokane handled itself very well. I talked to the Decemberist's drummer John Moen after the show and he said he loved the energy in the crowd, despite the too-cool kids, who were few, but loud. He also loved the pre-Nick Drake British folk he found at one of the antique stores on Monroe, just north of the river. He was disappointed, though, when I told him he could have gone a little further and hit 4000 Holes (which Meloy talked about onstage) and Unified Groove Merchants.

Most of the energy Moen felt, I think, came from the younger kids. That surprised and delighted me. Gave me goose bumps, to be frank. Seeing kids -- 12, 15, 17 years old -- singing along to even the band's older stuff, "July, July" in particular, made me suddenly feel great about this town.

For future reference: if I hand you my business card outside a concert, I expect you to email me and give me your impressions of the show. That was your only warning.

Tom Giardino is the only fan who sent an email: "I'd be willing to bet that every single attendee left fully satisfied. And in reference to the plethora of instruments and theatrics, I think I speak for the entire audience when I say, "cool!"

I've viewed my fair share of concerts, but I'd never seen a marching bass drum, a stand-up bass, an electric mandolin, or a frontman playing guitar over his bassists' shoulders.

The whale prop speaks for itself.

I must admit, the show was exactly what I expected after reading your article and the accompanying interview with Mr. Meloy. Dramatically epic, painfully talented, and downright interesting to watch, the Decemberists really know how to play a neat rock show.

It was also rad hearing Meloy discuss bloomsday, and dining at Cyrus O'Leary's, and his knowledge of 4,000 holes and Merlyn's definitely bought him some street cred with Spokane's indie elite. I'm not one of the aforementioned elite, in fact I think they're pretty funny to look at, but I guess all that matters not when you consider the fact that for their encore, the Decemberists played a song about binding a man to a pole and breaking his fingers to splinters, just before burying him alive.

The Inlander's in-house professor, Carey Murphy, waxes literary: & r & The evening was an arabesque, a well-wrought urn, an adventurer's tale. Colin Meloy and his troupe of sideshow performance artists mesmerize if for no other reason than the sheer improbability of their pop success. With songs steeped in Shakespeare and Melville, the Decemberists are modern-day Pied Pipers, a fairy tale come to life. On Wednesday, they came and stole Spokane's children, both young and old.

The band performed "The Mariner's Revenge Song" as the encore and it best summarizes the entire experience. Guitarist Chris Funk descended into the crowd with the whale's jaws and the mock-terrorized audience members gleefully squealing and shrieking. That is, until my friend Sayer managed, unintentionally I hope, to tackle the poor soul and requisition the whale jaws for himself. Holding his prize aloft, Sayer momentarily became part of the performance, as if he knew ahead of time what role he had to play. Fate decreed long ago the manner in which the evening transpired. But just how the Decemberists knew this outcome before the rest of us is another matter. It was pop perfection. Then, Jenny Conlee showed up at the Baby Bar (insert: meaningful sigh).

Mike Corrigan eats his words: I have a love/ hate thing with the Decemberists. I genuinely love many of their songs, have respect for the band's song craft and a genuine fondness for the members (for the most part, they seem like the kind of folks you'd like to bump into at the pub). But the smarty pants bandleader bugs me. He's a bit precious for my blood and his fake British accent positively drives me nuts. I'd also seen them perform before -- and they hadn't engaged me then.

So as I awaited the band's arrival to Spokane's Big Easy stage Wednesday evening last, I comforted myself with sarcasm by making sport of the silly bird posters hanging behind and draped over the band's equipment. Then they appeared. I was in the midst of sneering at Colin Meloy's blonde linen jacket when the sextet veered into its first song.

That's when I shut my pie hole, falling into mute amazement that quickly turned to silent awe. This band not only had the songs and the chops to impress me, but the personality, too. Craploads of it -- which had the large crowd eating out of its hand almost from the beginning like appreciative little birds. And I must confess that I was among them.

Darcy Caputo now presents the more negative minority report: Why does Spokane have to be a black mark on every band's tour itinerary? Last night's Decemberists show proved once again that Spokane isn't ready for bands that don't play flying V guitars (i.e. Slayer) and/or spit fake blood onto their audiences (i.e. Gwar). Cause hey, obviously those bands aren't pretentious, they bang the hell out of their guitars, and would kick the shit out of someone in a fight. Unlike the Decemberists who interject (god forbid) theatre into their set (thespians should all be shot, right Spokane? Stupid queers!). We've all been young once, and we all felt like we had something to say.

Unfortunately, we were just stupid kids who hadn't earned the right yet to say something. The Decemberists have earned that right, and you paid 13 dollars or whatever to see them say it? So why heckle them? What Spokane kids refuse to realize, that beyond the bubble that you live in here in this dusty valley in the middle of BFE we call Spokane, is the rest of the world. And how you act and what you say reflects who we are to outsiders and shapes the way they perceive it. Obviously this is most likely the case of a few bad apples that spoil the whole bunch.

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