To begin the second Twilight Concert Series concert of 2011, Typhoon, the indie rock orchestra from Portland, Oreg., took the stage with a request: “Does anyone have a cello we can borrow?” Theirs broke literally a minute before taking the stage. Luckily, with 12 other musicians, their sound was anything but lacking because of it.
After the opening song, they rolled into one of the finer numbers from their smallish catalog, “CPR-Claws, Pt. 2,” off of the 2010 full-length release Hunger & Thirst. They extended it live into a 10-plus minute opus. As the opening songs lingered on, the stagefront lawn begin to fill in, with folks paying respect and attention to the at-times delicate songs. In what every music journalist loves, I discovered Typhoon at Musicfest Northwest last fall, where they were playing for 30 locals at a party. To see them break big and play to so many respectful fans was gratifying.
The frontman, Kyle Morton, then sang an unrecorded song that diverged from their typically restrained, subtle—which is an adjective I don’t often use for a 13-piece band—sound with high-energy, bombastic orchestration. Other highlights of the short set included “Belly of the Cave” and “The Honest Truth,” off of their latest, excellent release A New Kind of House. To read more about Typhoon, check out our interview here.
All photos of crowd, Typhoon and The Decemberists by Laurel C. Scott
The torchbearers of the Portland music scene, The Decemberists took the stage to an exuberant audience. A surprise for deeply rooted fans, the band began with “An Apology Song” off of their 2011 debut EP, 5 Songs. Afterward, as is his fashion, frontman Colin Meloy began bantering in his sort-of-professorial way, this time chatting about how a Steve Miller set list was surprisedly substituted for the actual onstage set list at shows on this tour. Meloy had it tonight and joked, “What if we actually tried to play only Steve Miller songs? Because it’s a free show, you people couldn’t, in good conscience, say that you didn’t get your money’s worth.”
He left it at that, and the band launched into an excursion into tracks from their numerous albums, including a stretch of songs off their latest country diversion, The King is Dead. During “Rise to Me,” Meloy teased Miller’s “Jet Airliner.”
Dressed in suit vests and ties, The Decemberists seemed out of place amidst the madhouse of crowdsurfing before them (or maybe it was the other way around). Especially strange was how rambunctious the crowd got during “The Crane Wife 1 and 2,” which was paired with “The Crane Wife 3,” for a long, sweeping ballad. Meloy couldn’t help but crack a smile at the irony. He responded after the song that it seemed like a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, circa 1993. The Decemberists don’t see many crowdsurfers to their literary songs. But, that said, the audience wasn’t out of control, maybe just “entertainment deprived,” in general, as Meloy put it.
Delving into older material throughout the set of about 14 songs, they played “We Both Go Down Together,” “The Bagman’s Gambit” and “16 Military Wives.” It seemed like a missed opportunity, though, for the band to not invite Typhoon on stage. The Decemberists are no strangers to playing with orchestras, small or big, like during the 2007 A Bit of Grass-Stain Does Not a Ruined Pair of Jeans Make tour.
For the encore, the band started with another rare treat, “The Raincoat Song,” which preceded an epic venture that can be classified as both a joyous and horrendous experience. “The Chimbley Sweep” started off normally: a fast-paced rock ballad that got the crowd moving, more. Meloy and guitarist Chris Funk then began a guitar dual, where they both played their guitars upside-down behind their heads (Funk teased “Smoke on the Water”). Meloy swaggered to the middle of the stage (he looked tipsy) and handed his guitar down to a fan. It was actually the person next to me and I have to wonder, if it would have been me nearly playing Meloy’s guitar in front of 35,000 people, would it have been a missed opportunity of a lifetime or a huge stroke of luck? Regardless, to the misfortune of the audience’s ears, I’m the one who showed the woman that she needed to fret below the capo, where she let her fingers go wild, but not really making music. So, it could have been me that Meloy was talking to when he said, “You’re not really a good guitar player, are you?”
Meloy then staggered to the drums and let John Moen out to the front to do some impromptu blues vocals. At one point, he said that if 5,000 people were left at the end of the song, they’d be lucky. Meloy retorted shortly after that that was the worst instance where they had tried such a thing. Oh, and they teased “Jet Airliner” again. He then told everyone to sit down, which they actually did, more or less, before they started up “The Chimbley Sweep” again. See what I mean? Ridiculous.
If they needed to redeem themselves for the debacle of a jam, they succeeded on the second encore. Ending a perfect summer evening, The Decemberists played the sweet “June Song” before 35,000 (or 5,000) people trickled out of Pioneer Park.