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Friday, August 11, 2006

'Death Cab For Cutie' Rocks Veneta Vineyard

"Here we are everybody, performing live on the Hee Haw set!"

After a warm opening featuring a mixture of new and old songs, Death Cab For Cutie lead singer Ben Gibbard joked with the crowd at the Secret House Vineyard in Veneta, Oregon, just west of Eugene. For those too young to remember, Hee Haw was the 70s comedy sketch show with a small-town country music theme. It was the first time I've had the chance to see these indie-rock faves perform live, and Gibbard felt at home in Veneta where his band played in front of bales of hay stacked sky high!

The vineyard gave the concert a "music in the park" feel, with spectators milling about and sprawled out on blankets laid down on the dusty lawn. The Death Cab boys were tongue and cheek about the situation. Having performed around the globe on their current summer tour and hitting the big cities in the United States, Gibbard proclaimed near the beginning of the show: "We're going to have ourselves an old fashioned country hoedown, starting with this song right here."

At that point they launched into the song "Title and Registration" from 2003's popular Transatlanticism, the album that put them in the spotlight. "Lightness" and "Death of an Interior Decorator" followed shortly thereafter, if memory serves me right. This led up to the popular track "The New Year", the opening track from the 2003 album. Many songs followed from both Transatlanticism and the recently released follow up, 2005's Plans.

The audience was mostly young. I'd say the average age was roughly 20, with a mixture of high school teenagers and college students, many of whom probably fell in love with band as high schoolers back in 2003.

The last 40 minutes of the show had everyone on their feet with upbeat songs such as "The Sound of Settling" from Transatlanticism and the extremely popular "Soul Meets Body" from Plans. The vineyard rocked out to the finale, a rousing rendition of "We Looked Like Giants" in which the band rocked out to a cool stage-lit solo refrain that went for about eight minutes. Gibbard even played the drums in the middle of the solo section before jumping back on guitar to finish the song, nearly 10 minutes after it started, complete with a foggy, red-tinted stage as night fell on the Secret House Vineyard. The concert closed, fittingly, with the title track from the 2003 album, "Transatlanticism".

Because of the long walk back to the parking lot, I left before that final track was finished to beat the crowd. I was only disappointed that I didn't get to hear "Tiny Vessels", another slower track about relationships and how meaningless they can be. It is one of my favorite Death Cab tracks. They announced at the beginning of "Transatlanticism" that it was their last song for the night and thanked everyone for coming out. I listened to it play out and heard the echoes of screams from the large outdoor crowd as I walked back to the parking lot. I didn't hear any more music after that, so I don't think they came back out for an encore.

The band is from Bellingham, Washington, and they seemed to feel at home chuckling about the northwest and the intimacy of playing at a vineyard. Gibbard even proclaimed, "It's funny, we're playing on the bed of a truck in front of a wall of stacked hay bales."

I didn't get to meet the band at the concert but they seemed pretty down to earth. The band formed in 1997 as an extension of a Gibbard solo project. Death Cab's most recent CD, Plans, is their major label debut with Atlantic. Released in August 2005, it sold 90,000 copies in its first week of release, entering the U.S. album chart at number four.

--Jason Hink


  • At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That sounds like you had a blast! I wish more concerts were low-key like that...


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