Bumbershoot Death Cab For Cutie
posted by September 2 at 12:28 PMon
Maybe someone else here on Line Out will be able to better do justice than I to Death Cab For Cutie’s Bumbershoot-closing headlining set last night, but for me nothing was going to top Superchunk. Still, I figured I’d give the band a chance. There was a time when I was a huge DCFC fan, roughly through the first couple few records. (Also: Postal Service, yes!) But for the last couple records, the band has grown increasingly vanilla, bigger but not necessarily better. They’re still totally proficient, and Ben Gibbard remains a fine singer and a sturdy songwriter; they just haven’t landed a song that’s wowed me for a while (“The New Year” was the last one to come close).
In any case, a half dozen songs in, and the band still wasn’t wowing, although “The New Year” sounded fine in the big, starry stadium, flickering with those little neon flashing trinkets people were throwing around. I was hoping to hear a couple older numbers right up front to get me hooked, but it all seemed like newer stuff. And after those first six songs, when a friend offered a ride home, exhausted from three days of Bumbershoot, I decided to bail. On the walk out, “Company Calls” was echoing out of the stadium, and though I love that song (and most all of We Have the Facts), I wasn’t bummed to be leaving. I’ve seen a lot of great Death Cab shows, last night’s just didn’t seem like it was going to be one of them. I do hope it was for everyone else, though.
Update: Turns out the mere six songs I caught was still more of Death Cab’s set than any of my colleagues here on Line Out managed to take in of last night. So, in the interest of fairness and because no more detailed post is forthcoming, an attempt to further explain the vanilla turn-off that was the first half-dozen songs of Death Cab For Cute:
First, a point of clarification: I suppose “Why’d You Want to Live Here,” the third song they played, is more or less an older song, and one that should resonate mightily with anyone who’s spent, say, 12 hours or more in LA. And it’s a pretty fine Death Cab number—cutting sentiment, steadily driving verses, though with more of an extended sigh than a proper chorus. The sound was okay overall throughout their set, although Death Cab’s lighter moments can just float right away in that giant open-air stadium, especially if you’ve left the front following Superchunk.
“Bixby Canyon Bridge” is a bit of a snooze—if you want Gibbard meditating on Keruoac, a better bet is Styrofoam’s “Couches in Alleys,” which features the DFCF singer. “Crooked Teeth” and “Long Division” provided some small shots of energy, Gibbard swinging his guitar in time while singing his verses, and while the former has a nice enough chorus, the latter’s one-word refrain, while melodically agile, wasn’t much to sing along to. “Grapevine Fires,” which Gibbard introduced by observing, “Sometimes beautiful things do happen,” has some nice turns of phrase—the alarm clock of impending doom, for instance, or the paper cups borrowed from Something About Airplanes—but it was, again, kind of a sleeper. I know Death Cab’s always been more of a mellow band—I wasn’t expecting them to come out and be Cheap Trick or whatever—but for whatever reason (their’s was a fresher sound at the time? less pop-cultural saturation? I’m a bitter old gas-bag?), I just dig Death Cab’s older songs more, and on this final night of the weekend my spent ass either needed more energy or more old gems right out the gate to keep me on my feet.