Heart beating with excitement, butterflies fluttering haphazardly in my belly, a smattering of dulcet melodies in my ears. . .oh, yes, it could only mean one thing.
I was on my way to a Decemberist concert.
It was a crisp November 11 night. The wind whispered of the musical strangers gracing the Montclair soil. Bright lights blazed from a large brick theatre. Faithful myrmidons of indie gathered outside, some waiting for friends, others having a drag.
My sister, dad and I shuffled to the Wellmont Theatre, where a friend of mine waited for me. She was new to the Decemberists'-fan-scene (as she bought a Loch Lomond CD thinking it was a Decemberists record), and a little green when it came to their songs. Nonetheless, she was as excited as I was. Bravo.
Our little rag-tag group made it's way into the theatre. It was the first time in maybe three years or so since we'd been in there. The Wellmont was previously movie theatre before being abandoned then converted into a saintly concert hall. The inside of the theatre had a golden sheen, while Victorianesque designs twisted on the walls and ceilings. The stage was darkly lit with blue and violet lights, illuminating the smoke winding up into the air. We quickly went to the stage, carving out a respectable spot for us to stand. Once, we left (with great celerity, mind you) to bring my sister to the bathroom, during which I saw Chris Funk (in all his indie guitar-god glory) walk outside of the theatre. I tried to call his name, but no words escaped my lips. Business taken care of, we returned to our seats. With our places taken, we patiently awaited for the show to begin.
Then, aha! A somewhat shabby group of seven people sauntered onto the stage. I recognized them as Loch Lomond, the opening band. The lead singer looked a bit like a mixture between Thurston Moore and Mr. Rogers, which I (and two people next to me) found extremely funny. The bassist had a fantastic mustache (my sister and I had seen him walking around the theatre before the show). They played their set, which was not bad, and tried to crack jokes (there was a joke about a drunk whale which I loved). I seemed to be the only person in the audience who knew them, for as I was discussing them with my friend, a boy turned to me and asked, "You know them?" Ne'ertheless, the band was great (if not a tad bit sleepy), and ended their set with my favorite, "Tic." It was a powerful performance of "Tic." Bravo, Loch Lomond, bravo.
As the openers left the stage, every single sinew in the building seemed to tense. In a matter of minutes, the most holy of all nautical indie bands would appear and grace us with rhapsodies fine. A few men in the back of us began a slow clap, to which two young men replied, "The slow clap died in the eighties!" When my sister began clapping with the drunken men, the condemning voices shouted to her, "Don't encourage them!" She awkwardly stopped, and I couldn't help but start laughing.
All of the sudden, ominous music boomed throughout the theatre. People clapped and whooped----the time was almost here. I braced myself. Sure enough, the Decemberists sashayed onto the stage, greeted by the traditional New Jersey salutation of screams of happiness, excitement, and a bit too much five-dollar beer.
The Decemberists played one of their most memorable shows I have ever seen. It was fantastic. They opened with "Shanty for the Arethusa," followed by "July, July!" (which they dedicated to New Jersey, as it is about a warehouse). We were so close to the stage----about fourth row in the huddled crowd----and thouroghly enjoyed ourselves. They played many of their unpopular songs, which I thought was brilliant. They always do something different whenever I go to see them. For example, they played "Culling of the Fold," the darkly cynical tale of murdering sweethearts. This was probably my favorite moment of the show. As there is no guitar in this track, Colin was free to leap about the stage like a hyperactice indie rabbit. He reached out into the crowd, and my sister was lucky enough to come in contact with his knuckle. I was only centimeters away, but there was someone in front of me and I am such a good person that I didn't knock them over. Damn my moral values. (He did this again towards the end of the show, but instead extended his guitar to the crowd. Again, I was so close. Damn the people in front of me. Damn my moral values.) Colin continued to go about the stage, even descending from it to mix with the crowd below. My eighth grade history teacher happened to be there, and he told me Colin patted him on the back. The song concluded with Colin "hanging" himself by the wire of the microphone.
The onstage banter is always one of the highlights of the show. The Decemberists were very funny this time around. Colin acknowledged how beautiful and clean the people of Montclair are. He and Jenny talked of the smoke troll, a conversation that came into being when Colin suggested they blow more smoke onto the stage to fix a problem (I confess, I do not recall the problem they experienced). They told us the smoke troll blows heavy amounts of the smoke onto the stage, and that they could be bought in any Apple store as the iSmoke Troll. Of course, there had to be some discussion of Barack Obama's magnificent victory in the presidential election. During "16 Military Wives," Colin coaxed the audience into shouting, "Yes, we did!" when he yelled, "Yes, we can!" The men next to me (who had originally condemned the drunkards who began the slow clap) began waving to Colin during this one song, in which he played a guitar solo. I waved with them, of course. It was a response to a certain movement he did in which he shook his hand after playing a riff. Colin laughed and explained he wasn't waving, but shaking his hand because he had noticed before that it made guitar riffs sound better.
When the heavenly band left the stage, a group of teens in front of us began chanting, "Yes, we did!" Naturally, we joined in, as did the entire theatre. The Decemberists returned, much to the delight of everyone. Colin and John sang a Simon and Garfunkel song. The band played a few more songs, ending with "Sons & Daughters."
Lord, I will never forget such a night. The Decemberists truly are masters of the stage, of diction, of indie music in general. They never cease to amaze me. Their shows and songs are inspirational. One always leaves the concert feeling inspired, euphoric, and a little bit smarter as well.
Proudly, I give a standing ovation to the Decemberists, Gods of Indie.The Decemberists The Decemberists at the Wellmont Theatre