Monday, June 9th, 2008
We Looked Like Giants
Photo by Frank Yang
Indisputable conclusion to be drawn from Saturday’s Olympic Island mini-festival out on the Toronto Islands – the kids still love the Death Cab For Cutie. Oh, how they love them. The Seattle foursome’s tour in support of their recent #1 record Narrow Stairs brought them to town with a perfectly-conceived lineup also featuring Stars, Rogue Wave and Young Galaxy, and by assembling a set of bands so RIYL-friendly, you were pretty much guaranteed a happy audience from the start of the afternoon through the evening’s close.
For me, it was interesting because while I’d followed almost all the bands from their early days, I’d sort of lost touch with them in recent years. For Death Cab, Stars and Rogue Wave, it’d been four and a half, two and two and a half years respectively since I’d seen them live so while I thought I’d know what to expect, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case. It would be like seeing them with fresh eyes, and that was also precisely what I needed for the first band of the day, Young Galaxy.
I’d seen them once before in January 2007 and was so underwhelmed that I basically filed them under “ignore” ever since. But everyone deserves a second chance and since I was already there and they were right in front of me, I gave them one and happily, it wasn’t wasted. I wasn’t blown away or rush out to the merch tent to grab a copy of their self-title, but considering their recipe of dreamy co-ed space-pop should be right up my alley, I was much more sold this time around. Maybe it was the bright daylight, but they played with exponentially more energy and interest than I remembered from that Horseshoe show with even a few songs – “Come And See” in particular – that jumped out as exceptional. Congratulations Young Galaxy, you’ve made it out of my kill file.
At no time did I make an overt decision to ignore Rogue Wave, but following their second release Descended Like Vultures and subsequent departure from SubPop, they simply fell off my radar. I didn’t even know that they’d released a new record last year with Asleep At Heaven’s Gate until some time after the fact, so the fact that they seemed to lean more heavily on this record than the ones I was familiar with made it difficult for me to be overly engaged by them. They put on a good, energetic show – as I recall, the previous times I saw them, they rated as high as “alright” but not really threatening with “great” and while they were definitely better now, certainly not out of place on the big stage, my impressions were about the same on a relative scale.
For some time, Stars have been of a stature that they could reasonably have headlined a show of this size on their own so the audience response to their penultimate set was certainly a loud one. And certainly, with their flower-festooned stage setup, the band were able to endear themselves even further to their fans by tossing roses and tulips into the crowd throughout the set. They delivered a set of all the hits from their repertoire, making a case for themselves as one of the best singles bands in the country over the past few years and also making me wonder why I didn’t spend more time with last year’s In Our Bedroom After The War. Torq Campbell remains the sort of frontman who will full up whatever size stage you put him on and his antics, including scissor-kicking a feedbacking mic stand that was interrupting his trumpet solo, added a welcome bit of showmanship to the day.
As previously mentioned, the kids love the Death Cab. It’s been a while since I’ve heard such shrieks of joy as erupted when the band strode out onto a remarkably empty stage (every other band had a sea of equipment with them) at dusk. I wondered before the show how their set would be allotted – whether it would lean heavily on the newer, major-label material with which much of their fanbase was probably won over, or would it pay proper respect to their older albums? Luckily for me, it would be the latter as material from as far back as We Have The Facts And Are Voting Yes would get their proper due, but I would hope that their more recent fans have taken the trouble of exploring their back catalog – it’s not as though they’ve radically changed their sound over the years so fans of Plans should find much to love in The Photo Album.
It’s so easy to forget that for all the “sensitive band” credit that Death Cab gets, they can also bring the rock quite handily and while I don’t really remember how intense their early shows that I saw were, they definitely delivered in terms of energy. Ben Gibbard, trading in his “I’m listening” glasses for some righteous porkchop sideburns, never stopped moving (a joy for the photographer, lemme tell ya) with his facial expressions reading more like crazy person than someone you’d bring home to meet mom. It was good to see. But for all the rock, the biggest response came for solo acoustic sensitive number, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”. The swooning was audible and a sea of digicams and cellphones were raised high above heads while the bodies they were attached to swayed and probably made out. LCDs are the new lighters.
This show felt like the unofficial start of Summer, not just for the sweltering heat wave which hit a couple days previous (thankfully mitigated by the lake so as to be just on the warm side of sublime) but for the lazy and laid back vibe of the day. Though set up like a proper fest, the compact lineup and not overwhelming crowds (except at the food concessions) kept everyone in a good, mellow mood. I’m a little alarmed at how much my feet were hurting after such a relatively easy day of show coverage, but I’ll chalk that up to getting the rust off and not that I’m too old for this stuff anymore. I’m hoping by V Fest I’m once again a lean, mean festival-going machine. Or I’ve got a sherpa to carry my gear, whichever.
The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, Canada.com, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, Gothamist, Perth Now and She Knows have interviews with Death Cabbers while Falls Church News Press talks to Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon. The Toronto Sun, Chart and eye also have reviews of Saturday.
And I think my list of media links is longer than my review. Oh well.
Photos: Olympic Island 2008 – June 7, 2008
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “Soul Meets Body”
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “Title & Registration”
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “A Movie Script Ending”
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “The New Year”
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “Song For Kelly Huckaby”
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “Company Calls Epilogue (Alternate Version)”
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “405 (acoustic)”
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “For What Reason”
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “The Employment Pages”
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “Champagne From A Paper Cup”
MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “Bend To Squares”
MP3: Stars – “The Night Starts Here”
MP3: Stars – “Ageless Beauty”
MP3: Rogue Wave – “Lake Michigan”
MP3: Rogue Wave – “Endless Shovel”
MP3: Rogue Wave – “Every Moment”
MP3: Rogue Wave – “10:01”
MP3: Rogue Wave – “Publish My Love”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Outside The City”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Come And See”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Swing Your Heartache”
Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “I Will Possess Your Heart”
Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”
Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “Crooked Teeth”
Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “Soul Meets Body”
Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “Title & Registration”
Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “The New Year”
Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “A Movie Script Ending”
Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “The Sound Of Settling”
Video: Stars – “The Night Starts Here”
Video: Stars – “Take Me To The Riot”
Video: Stars – “Reunion”
Video: Stars – “Ageless Beauty”
Video: Stars – “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”
Video: Stars – “Elevator Love Letter”
Video: Rogue Wave – “Lake Michigan”
Video: Rogue Wave – “Eyes”
Video: Rogue Wave – “Publish My Love”
Video: Young Galaxy – “Outside The City”
Video: Young Galaxy – “Come And See”
MySpace: Death Cab For Cutie
MySpace: Rogue Wave
MySpace: Young Galaxy
Though it’s supposed to be Brendan Canning’s turn in the “Broken Social Scene Presents” marquee – his solo record Something For All Of Us… is out July 22 but available for sale digitally right now (Chart explains why), Kevin Drew isn’t quite ready to step aside, having just released another video from Spirit If….
Video: Kevin Drew – “Safety Bricks”
The Times wonders why Canada is so good at turning out female singer-songwriters. Why, a eugenics program based around the genome of Joni Mitchell, of course.
Bob Dylan and Billy Bragg – two fellows who’ve been known to have an opinion or two about politics – endorse Barack Obama to The Times and Reveille, respectively. Bragg, who plays Harbourfront Centre on June 17, also chats with The Georgia Straight and Canada.com.
Usually if a band is coming through town twice in a short amount of time, they hold off announcing the second show till the first one’s done for fear of siphoning off ticket sales. In the case of Mogwai, however, it might actually help. Matador has announced the band’s Fall North American tour in support of The Hawk Is Howling, out September 23, and its companion EP Batcat, out September 9, and it brings the Scottish outfit to the Kool Haus on September 24. Note that this is a venue twice the size as the Phoenix, where they’ll be on June 30. Obviously expectations are that the new record will double their fanbase. So if you’ve been dithering about deciding whether to go to the Phoenix show, there’s some incentive. And if support is a determiner, Toronto’s I Can Put My Arm Back On You Can’t open the Phoenix show, Fuck Buttons the Kool Haus.