Friday, October 17th, 2003

The Photo Album

I feel dirty. I ended up with an extra ticket to last night’s Death Cab show, and there was no one looking to buy at the door. The only offer I got was from a scalper who offered me $10 (face was $15) to get me out of there, lest I undercut him on a single sale. I was all ‘no way am I letting a scalper get this ticket, I’d sooner give it away’, but 5 minutes before showtime and no one to even give it to, I buckled and let him have the damn thing. I hope he got screwed. Or eaten by hyenas. Or screwed by hyenas. And then eaten.

Got inside and checked out the merch table, nothing eye-catching and with our mighty dollar it’s probably cheaper to order straight from Barsuk. The Long Winters started things off right on time and were goofily charming, mixing a number of Cancon-approved covers into their set to try and win us over. I think most of the crowd was sold when the keyboardist took off his trucker cap and revealed a fine head of Art Garfunkel-approved hair. Dude. The Winters were pretty good but I didn’t feel compelled to buy a CD, partly cause I’ve been buying so damn many lately. Sorry boys, but something’s gotta give.

Nada Surf were a complete cipher to me. I got Let Go because I heard a lot of good reviews – and it is good – but besides that, to me they were nothing but the guys who did “Popular”. I didn’t know who they were, what they looked like… nothing. So it turns out they’re a pretty mismatched looking 3-piece with a ultra-dreadlocked bassist doing his best to look rock’n’roll cool, a die-cut skinny, shaggy-haired indie-boy singer/guitarist and a pretty normal looking goofy drummer. Why goofy? Well at point, he had this whistle, and… never mind. Their set was alright, though something seemed off the whole way through. Matthew Caws’ delivery may have been meant to sound yearning or earnest, but it came off as more tired or lazy. There was distinct lack of energy from the band – maybe they weren’t happy about going from headliners on their own tour to playing second fiddle to their higher-profile labelmates? I do not know.

Curious between-set observation – the bands play roadie for themselves, setting up all their own gear, and the crowd ignores them. They come on to do their set and they get grand ovations. What’s the message here? We like you when you’re rock stars but not monkeys hauling amps? It’s not like they put on shiny shirts or something. Another observation – why do the people who force their way to the front right before the headliner, shoving the people who were there from the beginning out of the way, always have this stupid shit-eating grin on their faces, like this is funny? Like ‘hey, isn’t this fun? You’re part of our inside joke!’ Yeah, and the punchline is my foot in your ass. Well that’s what I’d like to say/do, but instead I take it and bitch about it the next day.

Anyway. The Death Cab. This was my third time seeing them but probably the first since they became bona-fide upper echelon indie rock stars, and they wear the badge well. Ben Gibbard has a stronger stage presence than before and they put on a more dynamic show. They’ve got a new drummer whose name eludes me, but I think I preferred the departed Michael Schorr – he seemed to have more grace, at least live. This guy was a little more about manhandling the kit. Nick Harmer was pretty animated on bass, but had some kind of effect on his bass that created really annoying bass feedback through the PA. I don’t know how it sounds onstage, but it sounds like ass out in the audience, drowning out the songs. Ass, I say. Chris Walla was… curious… rattling off strange comments and asides through the evening. Peculiar, is all. The set was a very solid mix of material from Something About Airplanes through the just-released Transatlanticism. They played a good hour and a half, closing with an epic reading of the title track of the new record, ruined only by the excessively drunken couple beside me staggering about and shouting bullshit loudly over the quiet passages. I was distracted from the song as I imagined beating them down with a ceramic bust of Elvis, but was pulled back in as it built to the climax. Very impressive. The encore closed with a medley of “Blacking Out The Friction”, their cover of Bjork’s “All Is Full Of Love” from the Stability EP and finally Billy Bragg’s “St Swithin’s Day”. That is one of my favorite songs in the world and it was a real treat to hear covered. Any night that ends with “St Swithins Day” is a good night in my books.

I did bring my camera to the Opera House for the first time, but I don’t know if there’s something with the lighting there or what, but it was tough to get decent resolution on my photos. Everything turned out much grainier than usual. Maybe I need a new camera. Yeah, like that’s going to happen anytime soon. Anyway, check them out if you like. And Ben Gibbard is a sweaty man.

np – Death Cab For Cutie / Transatanticism

By : Frank Yang at 11:32 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Sean says:

    Frank, you -need- to get that Long Winters album. It is absolutely astouding – best pop-rock record in a gazillion years. (Though their first one was crap.) I reviewed it here:


  2. rannie says:

    It was an awesome show wasn’t it?

    My first time seeing them, although they have been to Toronto several times over the last couple of years, I never had the chance before now.

    I wasn’t disappointed

  3. ryan says:

    when i saw the long winters, i too felt that they were just kinda decent, and couldn’t compel myself to buy the CD. I have since, and I have to say I find it really….just kinda decent. There’s a couple of really good songs, but ultimately it just kind of comes off, to me, as "really OK".

    that nada surf album, OTOH, is *easily* one of my top 5 records of the year. ignore the cheesiness of their image (bass player especially), and try to subdue that easily-pulled-out scorn for "Popular", and you’re left with a damn rock-solid pop-rock album.

  4. BradSearles says:

    Gotta agree with you on that Nada Surf album… I feel exactly the same. Squarely in the top five of the year.

  5. Kate says:

    sorry I couldn’t make it.

  6. Frank says:

    if I find the Long Winters used or cheap, I may take a flyer. But I wasn’t impressed enough to seek it out immediately, killing anyone who gets in my way.

    Nada Surf’s unremarkable set doesn’t in any way diminish my opinion of Let Go – it’s a great record. As for the year-end list, I’m going to check if it’s eligible given my totally arbitrary criteria. yeah, I’m anal like that.

    And I’m also sorry you couldn’t make it, Kate. Hope you’re feeling better.

  7. rannie says:


    my DCFC photo are now up at http://…/

    Check em out. I also left a long winded reply to your comment in my blog.

  8. jay says:

    Can anyone tell me what the song that Nada Surf opened up with is called? It was outstanding…..

  9. Frank says:

    I’m pretty sure that was "Killian’s Red" off of Let Go.

  10. We interrupt our SxSW reportage to bring you Death Cab For Cutie tour dates | WAKAZ says:

    […] order. Man, I think the last time Death Cab played a club show on this scale was the Opera House in 2003, and I remember I had an extra ticket that I couldn’t give away. Eventually sold it to a […]