Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Oregon Trail, Day 1: May 27, 2011

New to this?  Start with the prologue!

6:01 am, Berkeley CA: My alarm goes off.  This is literally the earliest I have woken up all year.

7:15 am, Hercules CA: The Burger King Croissanwich might be the best $4 I've spent in recent memory.

10:24 am, I-5 north of Sacramento CA: "London Bridge" be Fergie comes on Josh's iPod.  He claims it's not his fault it was on there.

11:36 am, Weed CA: The men's restroom at Weed's Chevron station smells like gasoline; all things considered, there are worse things for a men's restroom to smell like.

12:05 pm, US 97 north of Weed CA:
Mount Shasta

2:17 pm, US 97 north of Klamath Falls, OR: T-Mobile does not have my back.  I'm on something called "UNICEL," which is presumably part of a United Nations plan to bring cell phone service to central Oregon because the coverage here is so poor.

5:20 pm, Bend OR: After a delicious linner of Red Robin, we've made our way inside the venue.  "Daniel" by Bat for Lashes is playing, and I have total indie cred for knowing the song.

5:53 pm: Jenny and Johnny start their set not on time, but early!

6:12 pm: Jenny and Johnny needs more Jenny, but other than that, it's pretty good music.

6:45 pm: Bright Eyes starts their set, and it starts to rain.  I'm not making this up as some sort of emo joke.  As soon as Conor Oberst gets halfway through his first song, the rain starts falling.

7:22 pm: Bright Eyes finishes their set, and it stops raining.  I'm not making this up either--right before the last song, the weather clears, and it's sunny for the rest of the evening.

8:15 pm: Death Cab finally takes the stage!  They open with "I Will Possess Your Heart," and not the watered-down radio version either.

 The set continues with "The New Year," which is off Transatlanticism and therefore good, and "We Laugh Indoors" and "A Movie Script Ending" from The Photo Album, which is an album I don't know nearly as well as I should.  "Some Boys" is the first track they play from Codes and Keys, and it's probably my least favorite track on the album, though it sounds blessedly less over-produced live.

Death Cab winds their way through an impressive array of music, hitting twenty-one (!) songs in in the main set and ranging from their earliest material (1998) to their most recent.  Three or four songs come from the "old" albums, Something About Airplanes and We Have The Facts And We're Voting Yes, which are fine music live but way too lo-fi for me when they were recorded in Ben Gibbard's kitchen the studio.  Most of Death Cab's albums have three or four songs each make an appearance: the Plans contingent is "Soul Meets Body," "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," "Crooked Teeth," and "What Sarah Said".

Both "Grapevine Fires" and "Cath..." show up, and we discuss a bit which is the better song.  I like "Cath..." for the musical structure, and Josh prefers "Grapevine Fires" for the imagery, but both tell awesome stories, and both together are far and away the two best tracks on Narrow Stairs.  The great part about a concert is you get to hear them both!

With the album releasing literally two days later, it's hardly a surprise that Codes and Keys is so well represented. "You Are a Tourist," the title track, "Underneath the Sycamore," and a couple of songs I don't recognize by name yet all show up after "Some Boys".  I liken the new Death Cab album to a Decemberists album (review coming soon!) in that half of it is awesome, a quarter of it is forgettable, and a quarter of it is just sort of bad.  The song where Ben Gibbard sounds like he's singing underwater about "California" and "isolation" is in the "bad" pile, but luckily it's balanced with "You Are a Tourist" and "Underneath the Sycamore," which are both fine songs.

9:25 pm: The set is winding down, and our old friend Transatlanticism has been sorely under-represented since "The New Year".  After my bold prediction of "Soul Meets Body" for the encore was shot down about half an hour ago, I switch to "Title and Registration" and wonder if we could be so lucky as to get "Transatlanticism" on top of it.  "The Sound of Settling" is played, which makes me really happy.  I don't know of a more upbeat song about failed relationships!

9:50 pm: After finishing "Title and Registration," Death Cab finishes their set with "Transatlanticism," and I am thrilled.

10:50 pm, Redmond OR: We arrive at the Super 8, our home-away-from-home for the next few days.  Reflecting on the concert, we're all really happy with the variety and length of the set.  Our consensus Song We Wish Were Played is "Marching Bands of Manhattan" from Plans; "Styrofoam Plates" and "I Was a Kaleidoscope" from The Photo Album and "The 405" from We Have The Facts are honorable mentions.

Midnight: I fall asleep, visions of Portland dancing in my head.

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