The Decemberists at the Sydney Festival

Another Sydney Festival event last night, this time time at the Beck’s Festival Bar, a big tented area at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum. It was a nice open feel (and it helped that it was a fine night), though as a venue it was a bit on the long and narrow side. And you can’t get good rock sound in a semi-open tent, but the Sydney summer vibe counts for a lot.

I only caught the last two songs of local openers Bridezilla. I can’t say that I was fond of their jazz-fusiony ruckus, but I didn’t get to give it a proper chance.

The main act was Oregon folk-rawkers (though I think they often play something more like folk-prog) The Decemberists. The indie college-kid faves have never been to Australia before this tour, so plaid shirts and thick-framed glasses were notable by their crowd presence. The band wisely didn’t try to break through the crowd’s cooler-than-thou shell right from the start: they slid into a suite of storybook tunes, one after another, for the first few songs, as if warning us that this was going to be difficult.

I like this stuff, by the way, and would love to hear The Hazards of Loveplayed complete and in order.

The Decemberists

Photo from Anirudh Koul via Creative Commons license

Later, though, frontman Colin Meloy started engaging the crowd more. Everyone – even many cynical twentysomethings – loves a singalong, and arms went up and voices were raised. There were fewer key changes, more hand-clapping fun, and the capacity crowd had a good time. It was a good journey, in fact: some obscure tracks, some crowd-pleasers, and everyone goes home happy. As long as The Decemberists continue to make music that’s both catchy and clever, there’s no reason why crowds shouldn’t continue to walk out with a smile.

In the interest of openness: I was a guest of Decemberists bassist Nate Query for this show. That hasn’t coloured my view of the show. I haven’t even mentioned Nate’s phenomenal playing, nor that woman he saved from choking.

Now, how does The Crane Wife start agai…waitaminnit, THAT WOMAN CAN’T BREATHE! OUTTA MY WAY!

Photo from joshc via Creative Commons license