Decemberists at Brighton Freebutt

I can’t remember how I heard about The
Decemberists
. But they are one of the truly original bands recording in the
world right now. I’ve made it something of a mission to get other people
listening to them. Especially as they seem to be quite SO unfamous – the
closest thing they have to a world tour is a handful of dates in the UK.

The Freebutt in Brighton where I saw them is not a large or famous venue. The
level of advertising given over to them was verging on the nonexistent –
standing outside the venue I couldn’t tell that they were on that night. I
missed them at the Water Rats in King’s Cross on Friday (that will teach me to
have so many different email addresses) so I couldn’t miss out on their next
nearest gig. I just couldn’t miss renditions of lyrics like:

“We will remember this when we are old and ancient.
Though the specifics might be vague
and I’ll say your camisole was a sprightly light magenta
when in fact it was a nappy blueish grey.”

The lead singer (Colin Meloy) wouldn’t look out of place in Weezer but
the rest of the band would have. The tiny drummer (Ezra Holbrook) who (I think)
supplies the voice of the widow in ‘The Chimbley Sweep’, the burly beer-sipping
guitarist (Chris Funk) and a double bassist (Nate Query) so gentle he had
trouble getting back to the stage through the crowd
for the encore. And seated
somewhere I couldn’t see but only hear due to the crowd was Jenny Conlee on
accordion.

They played note-perfect renditions of a selection of their songs changing
things only to add a wry twist. Even the atmospheric screams and falsetto
voices were inch-perfect. The one significant change from the recordings was
during the climactic rendition of The Chimbley Sweep when a series of traded
riffs between Meloy and Funk turned into a tongue-in-cheek Hendrix-like playing
of the guitar behind the head
and string snapping crescendo.

Meloy supplied a little banter between songs. After playing the new song he
said with a tiny hint of self-congratulation, “That was about a Spanish princess
on her way to her coronation, this is about architects” and introduced The
Chimbley Sweep as being, “about my childhood.”

After much clapping from the crowd Meloy returned for an encore, being joined by
the rest of the band in fits and starts through the three songs. He sang
Morrissey’s Everyday is Like Sunday (sounding strange with his so very American
accent wrapped around it) and two Decemberists tracks with perhaps even more
vigour than in the main show.

If you’re reading this for a recommendation then go see them and get their
albums too
. Great band.

Set list (from memory, missing some and bound to be wrong):

  • This Soldiering Life
  • Infanza
  • Here I Dreamt I was an Architect
  • Grace Cathedral Hill
  • July, July
  • Billy Liar
  • Los Angeles, I’m Yours
  • Legionnaire’s Lament

Encore:

  • Every Day is Like Sunday
  • Red Right Ankle
  • I Was Meant For the Stage

One Reply to “Decemberists at Brighton Freebutt”

  1. Oh this band is so wonderful … I am in London doing the same evangelical word-spreading as you, my good man. New disciples every week ….

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