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18 Oct 05

death cab for boring

let me preface this post by noting that i really don’t want to be part of the interweb backlash machine. i WANT the bands i like to get successful make money to buy food and survive so they can make more music, etc. but sometimes, things just don’t work out.

we saw death cab for cutie for the first time on saturday night at the dreaded koolhaus (a venue that is as repulsive as its name) and we were predictably surrounded by people for whom going to see a band is an event (and who likely refer to such events as “concerts” as opposed to “shows”). more on this later.

the openers were called youth group, essentially an australian version of death cab. they specialized in mid-tempo emoish music that was pretty appropriate for the crowd. not bad, just not memorable. i don’t think i need to say anything more about them.

death cab took the stage at 10:30 sharp (the koolhaus doesn’t screw around with scheduling) and played for about an hour and a half. the true nature of the sell-out crowd became painfully clear when the band pulled out their first OC song and the crowd went nuts. never before have i seen so many simultaneous digital cameras raised in the air, and i haven’t heard singing along like that since i saw coldplay a couple years ago. predictably, i was excited every time they played something from we have the facts and we’re voting yes or something about airplanes, but these were few and far between. obviously, plans was the album du jour, although tracks from transatlanticism were featured prominently as well.

having said all that, i was pretty bored by the show. i could write a whole blog post (and likely will someday) about the challenge bands face in engaging the crowd as they play larger venues and get more and more detached from the crowd itself. some bands can pull it off (stars, for example, are amazing to watch whether they are on the grad club’s makeshift stage or an enormous festival stage, and this is largely attributable to torq’s ability to engage the crowd), but some, like death cab, need work. the stage banter was essentially limited to ben gibbard saying “thanks a lot you guys!” after every single song, and the mid-tempo nature of 90% of the songs they played really worked against them in holding my interest. i guess what i think doesn’t really matter though, since it looked like they were well on their way to selling hundreds of t-shirts at the merch stand.

there were two things that really grabbed my attention though:
1. the insanely bright lights that were aimed directly in my eyes from the stage during a few songs. i haven’t had to look away from the band during a show for fear of going blind since i saw sam roberts at grant hall a few years ago. good planning.
2. ben gibbard’s bizarre obession with his guitar cable. once i noticed his constant tossing of the cable, i couldn’t stop watching. at first i thought it was in his way and he was trying not to trip, but it became clear that it was just a thing he does.

okay, and while i’m being nitpicky, that last song they played before the encore was nothing but an exercise in self-indulgiance. was bringing a second drum kit out onto the stage so ben could show off the fact that he knows how to play the drums really necessary? yeah, no. on the bright side, at least they played transatlanticism during the encore.

i can’t wait to see bell orchestre at the music gallery in a couple weeks…

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Pronunciation: 'ch&mp
Function: noun
Etymology: perhaps blend of chunk and lump
Date: 1883

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