Favorite

Live 

The Decembrists

SXSW Music Conference, Friday, March 19

They twanged. They polka-ed. They lounged. They crunched and jangled. They swapped around instruments like master jugglers. They were earnest. They were silly. They played their guitars in back of their heads. They played upright bass, keyboards, pedal steel, accordion, harmonium, mandolin--everything but a kazoo.

Oh, wait. Maybe there was a kazoo.

Is there a musical notion too far-fetched for Portland's Decemberists? This unwieldy pop orchestra mesmerized several hundred hipsters who, up until that point, had been mostly interested in free beer and, well, their outfits. It was, after all, a private showcase sponsored by a clothing manufacturer, and the crowd was a sea of fashion statements. (This scrivener wore vintage Stockman--read: old cowboy shirt.) The Decemberists held us all with their music alone; Colin Meloy's intricate lyric themes were impossible to follow live and loud.

Lines like " ... let your legs loll on the lino / 'til your sinews spoil," from the jaunty "Billy Liar" are not easily conveyed in a party setting, and the words dissipated into the SXSW afternoon.

On record, Meloy's perfect diction and a voice-conscious mix reveal his lyrics as literature, with stories and characters so well-crafted you can close your eyes and watch the movie. Many of the songs are tongue-in-cheek, as in the SXSW-crowd favorite "Los Angeles, I'm Yours," an encyclopedia of everything that's wrong with the place, with faux-lounge soul splashed ostentatiously throughout the arrangement. Others are high-concept vignettes of historical fiction with post-grad vocabularies, like "The Legionnaire's Lament," about a French soldier who fears wasting in the African Desert. Amusingly (there is always something amusing in a Decembrists song), the accompanying music is almost country folk, possibly intending to invoke a desert feel.

"Longing for the old fecundity of my homeland," the soldier says, "Curses to this mirage!"

SXSW, perhaps?

More by Linda Ray

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Noise Annoys

    Baby Gas Mask, absurdist soul and prog, plus Chaka!
    • Oct 13, 2016
  • Know Your Product

    Stars Pick Their Top Five Six! This Week: Sweethearts of the Rodeo
    • Feb 8, 2018

The Range

The Weekly List: 23 Things To Do In Tucson This Week

Two Dozen Ways To Have Fun This Weekend!

The Weekly List: 25 Things To Do In Tucson This Week

More »

Latest in Live

  • Know Your Product

    Stars Pick Their Top Five! This Week: Slaid Cleaves
    • Feb 15, 2018
  • Know Your Product

    Stars Pick Their Top Five Six! This Week: Sweethearts of the Rodeo
    • Feb 8, 2018
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Know Your Product

    Stars Pick Their Top Five Six! This Week: Sweethearts of the Rodeo
    • Feb 8, 2018
  • Man Behind the Designs

    As the go-to artist for Tucson’s hip hop scene, Marcoso has it covered
    • Feb 22, 2018
  • More »

People who saved…

Facebook Activity

© 2018 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation