The slightly inglorious but rather familiar surroundings of the Bristol Academy was the place to finally catch up with two bands who have been on my list for a little while – Blind Pilot and The Decemberists
The Lad and I turned up so early it made us look a little suspect but at least we secured the preferred spot on the balcony. Blind Pilot appeared on my radar quite some time ago, back around 2008 I think, thanks to a KEXP podcast which was trailing their then new CD, 3Rounds and a Sound. I recalled Blind Pilot as being a twosome (presumably Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski) but on stage they are the filled out band referred to on the CD liner as ‘additional musicians’.
Well the US pacific north west, and especially the Portland/Seattle area is home to many a fine artiste and there is a running trait in many for me – that slightly rural, pastoral twang that brings with it a sense of the relaxed and the comfortable. Indeed from by brief experiences of Oregon and Washington that’s exactly what you take away from the two states. Well Blind Pilot fit that caricature just fine and the set, made up of material from 3 Rounds, was enjoyable and satisfying, to be honest I never thought I would get to see them so their support of The Decemberists was an unexpected delight. Live, their sound is better even than the CD, richer and fuller somehow with Go on, Say It and 3 Rounds and a Sound being particular favourites of the night. I can’t have been alone in warming to them as they left to a typically enthusiastic Bristolian reception. It would be good to see them back under their own steam someday… how about it?
Around 9pm The Decemberists came on for what was to be a two hour set. They were introduced by an announcement from a Sam Adams pretender (mayor of Portand for those of us from out of state) who encouraged us all to engage with our fellow gig-goers. This sort of jovial audience connection became a theme of the evening – how much more enjoyable is it when a band makes the effort, not just to ‘do their thing’ but also connect with the audience? It creates an intimacy and sense of community
They very helpfully posted a full set list on their FB pages and so here it is in all its glory:
Rox in the Box
Rise to Me
We Both Go Down Together
The Sporting Life
Grace Cathedral Hill
Won’t Want for Love (Margaret In The Taiga)
The Crane Wife 3
The Rake’s Song
Don’t Carry It All
Down by the Water
This Is Why We Fight
16 Military Wives
The Chimbley Sweep
Red Right Ankle
The Mariner’s Revenge Song
All were in fine fettle, the usual five becoming six with the addition of Sarah on violin, vocals, guitar and things. Too many highlights to mention really but it was good to hear a couple of songs from Hazards give that they didn’t seem to tour that in the UK. Good too to hear Crane Wife as that UK tour got cancelled if i remember rightly because of some family traumas. So its been a while since last they were here and the crowd lapped it up. Not for the first time the Bristol crowd was referred to as ‘attentive’ ( almost unnervingly so according to Colin Meloy) but it is often the case that a Bristol crowd really does give it full attention to the band they have come to see – not sure why this should be so remarkable but it is… a sign of our times.
The new songs like Rox in the Box, Down by the Water and This is Why We Fight (from the very fine The King is Dead album) blended seamlessly with older favourites such as July! July!, Calamity Song, We Both Go Down Together, reinforcing the excellent and extensive canon they have now established
The running humour throughout – throwing a bottle lid and getting to to stick on John Moen’s nipple, the crowd banter and the tomfoolery during The Chimbley Sweep and getting the crowd to imitate the sound of being eaten by a whale during Mariners Revenge, may all have been scripted to a degree but it still felt done with a genuine warmth and spontaneity.
June Hymn is a splendid song and a strangely appropriate way to wind down at the end of a generous set played with fine musicianship and humanity by a band at the peak of their profession. Lets hope its not so long before they come back next time