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Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The Decemberists at Edgefield - 7/22
A colleague and I went out to Edgefield on Sunday to see the Decemberists play a sold-out set. The band recently returned to Portland after a short tour through the Midwest and was feeling feisty.
I can't think of a more appropriate local venue to see a band that sings songs about vengeful orphans and chimney sweeps perform live than at Troutdale's century-old former poor farm. This summer, Edgefield is hosting a series of concerts on the lawn in front of the main lodge near the Little Red Shed, the property's tiny cigar bar. After a week of rainy days, the sun was out on Sunday evening. Maybe it was the weather or because this was their last show before a break but the Decemberists decided to keep the everything lively and upbeat, a sharp contrast to a cheerless gig they played at the Crystal Ballroom back in October.
After an opening set by Menomena, the Decemberists launched into the obvious- "July, July!" There was a good amount of banter between songs, ranging from the closure of Music Millennium NW to a plot to sneak into Tom Peterson's pool to an anecdote about the happy hour sets that lead singer Colin Meloy once played at a local goth bar. The band tossed out a good mix of tracks from their past three albums, including a 10+ minute rendition of "Sixteen Military Wives" that led to guitarist Chris Funk and Meloy surrendering their guitars to the audience, setting off a noisy breakdown jam.
Other highlights: plenty of oddball audience interactions, including Meloy convincing the audience to wiggle their fingers as if they were shredding money (see above) before launching into what he described as a "bitching guitar solo." It was actually pretty bitching, or at least as bitching as guy who looks like Harry Potter imitating every cheeseball rock guitarist of the last 30 years could be.
For "Culling of the Fold," a song about a young couple engaged in a War of the Roses-style battle to murder each other, Meloy darted back and forth across the stage, singing directly to a teenage boy up front and a girl on the other side. After a cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" with the lead singer of Menomena, the show culminated with "The Mariner's Revenge Song." A whale (operated like a Chinese dragon) came out on the stage to "eat" the band, whom all fell onto their backs while managing to continue playing their instruments, drummer included. The song climaxed with Meloy feeding the costume to the audience. From what I could tell from my spot on the other side of the lawn, the whale didn't make it far before being torn to shreds. From what I've been told, this isn't the first time the band has done this. They ended a show at the Roseland with a whale a few years ago. That whale also didn't last long once he was cast into the crowd.
All in all, it was a great, appropriately weird show at a great, appropriately weird venue. Here's hoping the Decemberists head back out to Troutdale ("It's the new St. Johns! Quick, buy property why it's still cheap," as Meloy put it) for another show this time next year.
Click here for photos from the show that are far better than the ones my cell phone camera was able to capture.