I Was Meant for the Stage
The Decemberists @ Warsaw 5/26/05
Well actually I'm pretty stage-shy, but The Decemberists' Colin Meloy certainly isn't. At Warsaw last night, he and the rest of The Decemberists put on a spectacular show focusing mostly on material from this year's excellent Picaresque as well as some of the best numbers from their 1st 2 albums, including "July July", "Leslie Ann Levine", "Billy Liar" and a really long and drawn-out version of "The Chimbley Sweep" which featured a mock guitar duel between Colin and guitarist Chris Funk and a segment whereas violinist and vocalist (at least for this tour, which ended yesterday) Petra Haden went into "Hava Nagila" and Colin simultaneously led the crowd in a clap-along. You could just tell that they were all having such a great time up there and that the newly re-tooled band, now featuring Haden and new drummer John, were in top form. Every single song in the main set was absolutely incredible, culminating with the epic "The Mariner's Revenge Song", during which the crowd was instructed to scream at one point of the song as if they were eaten alive by a whale. Pretty scary stuff for a band often pigeonholed as Smiths-styled bookworms (not that there's anything wrong with that, BTW) because of their 19th century dress and lyrics having to do with chimbley sweeps, pirates, town raids in the 8th century and what not. Hell, they have more songs about people dying than most gangsta rappers do, and "The Mariner's Revenge Song" is exhibit A in this regard.
For the encore, Colin played a song solo that I didn't recognize and then the entire band came out and they did the entirety of "The Tain", the 15 minute, 4 part, almost Who-esque ep that they put out last year which is all about the raid on a town in the 8th century in what is now Ireland. Honestly, by this point, I was kind of tired and although it was thrilling to hear them attempt to pull this off live, I much preferred the incredible main set.
Regardless, it was still a great show and I highly recommend seeing them. I'm seeing them again here in August when they open for Death Cab for Cutie at Central Park Summerstage. Hopefully then they'll play "Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect" and "Eli, the Barrow Boy", which they didn't do last night, but I can't complain too much since all of my other favorites of theirs ("The Engine Driver", "We Both Go Down Together", "Billy Liar", "Leslie Ann Levine") were played last night.
As a side note, it was my first time at Warsaw in about a year and a half. I've been there a bunch of times now over the years and every time I've been there, I've had a great time. They don't book shows too often (most of the time, it's known as the Polish National Home and functions as a social center for the neighborhood's vibrant and numerous Polish community), but when they do, they're usually quality ones and best of all, they have INCREDIBLE Polish food (great potato pierogies and kielbasa and the best cheese blintzes I've ever had complete with cherries on the side) for very fair prices (all entries are $5) and Polish beer on tap (Zwiec is one and I forgot what the other one is), which was quite nice as well. All of this, combined with the punk/hardcore feel of the venue (a friend of mine once said that, when I took him there, that it reminded him of a place where The Sex Pistols would've played and I agree; it also reminds me of many a VFW Hall or other such center rented out to do hardcore shows that I attended in the early to mid '90s) make it one of my favorite places to see a show in the entire area. If you get a chance, go!