Monday, Mar 29:

I think I mentioned yesterday that i’ve really been into The Decemberists lately. Sunday was basically taken up by me falling in love with that thing they do. Songs that tell stories, often intriguing, varied and historical stories (one of the things I like about Nick Cave) which is something I love to see. A real great sense of melody and instrumentation… stand up bass (often bowed, which sounds awesome), accordian, drums, acoustic guitar, pedal steel. I think of them as a cross between Neutral Milk Hotel and Calexico, but with their own unique spirit. So yes, I was sold. Then last night around 2am, I happened across their tourdates, which included “March 29 – Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto, Ontario.” My mood at that point could be summarized basically as a whole bunch of exclamation marks, and the various things that certain item of punctuation implies.

I became instantly rather set on the idea of going to said performance, and spent much of the day trying to convince various people to come. Of course it’s a heavy time for schoolwork, and nobody seems to have money, or want to spend it on a band they haven’t heard of, so once again I ended up making the GO trip to Toronto by myself. I chanced to meet Dallas and Tara and their friend whose name I don’t know because it’s kind of a running gag not to tell me, which was very fortuitous, and they offered me a ride back to Mac after the concert, so that was a happy little thing. The opener was Tom Heikl, who performed several “stereoke” numbers, which basically consisted of him semi-awkwardly singing rather funny songs along to backing tapes that he put in his stereo which he had on stage along with his chair and lamp from home in Eugene, Oregon, and an empty gasoline can that he used as instrument at one point. It was hilarious at first, and still at least partially amusing to the very end.

The Decemberists eventually took the stage after an elongated opera introduction, and they were good to the last drop! Colin Meloy’s clear, earnest voice rang out brilliantly above the beautiful chorus of harmonious instrumentation. Some of the funnest parts of the show were the goof induced banter. Like when Chris Funk’s guitar playing faltered due to an alleged case of carpal tunnel syndrome resulted in an interlude of strumming and encouragement from the audience and Colin calling out that “Jimmy Page never had carpal tunnel syndrome!” as well as other very famous people, and then performing a little impromptu reinterpretation of The Modern Lovers “He could walk down you street/And girls could not resist his stare/Pablo picasso never got carpal tunnel syndrome!” Other fun things happened as well, but I will keep them all to myself. The band decided to “festoon themselves” with Canada stickers all over their equipment, and Chris wore a canada hat… good to see they know what’s what! Despite that they didn’t play my two favourite Decemberists songs (California One, Shanty for the Arethusa) there were no misses, and so many songs were imbued with a great spirit live. Their newest release, the epic “Tain” was performed at least mostly in it’s entirety… 18 minutes of Celtic metal in the loose retelling of “Tain Bo Cuailinge” from the Ulster cycle. It was very well done, and fun to see the band rocking out like that, though it was so long I felt I might have enjoyed hearing 3 or 4 of their other amazing songs. They really have too many good ones to play ‘em all. The last song, “I was meant for the stage”, was a definite highlight, beginning with Colin alone and then eventually joined by the rest of the band coming back onstage, and then Tom Heikl with a trombone.. in the end it (de)generated into a chaotic frenzy of dissonance and clatter, but in an appropriate last song sort of way.

I don’t have pictures to prove it this time…as I tried to capture one of the opening act, it soon became evident I hadn’t put the damn memory card back in my camera, despite having a memory kicking around of doing exactly that. Nor do I have, unfortunately, any way of permanently capturing the absolute perfection of the weather this night. Fresh night air in Hamilton is, happily, possible after all. This bodes well for the future!

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