Last night we hiked up to Santa Monica in rush hour traffic to check out Death Cab for Cutie at probably the smallest venue we'll ever see them at--Apogee's Berkeley Street Studio, for a KCRW show that will broadcast on Morning Becomes Eclectic on November 1.
I haven't seen the Seattle band since 2004 at Coachella (no, wait, I caught them at the Greek in 2005 as well, I think), and a slew of things have happened to them since: Singer Ben Gibbard married actress Zooey Deschanel, they signed to a major label after going the indie route for years, and well, they've gotten pretty hot. And by hot I mean really good looking, and polished, with well-cut clothes and expensive looking shoes and nicely-styled hair.
Before trolls get on my case for being superficial and focusing Death Cab's appearance last night, let me just say that I am in no way ragging on them for looking great, I think that's wonderful and even more swoon-worthy. But I was a little sad that the Death Cab I knew and loved--unkempt, kinda pudgy, and earnestly nerdy--was gone.
The reason my friends and championed them so much during their The Photo Album/ Transatlaticism years was because they seemed just like us. They had no affectations, they looked like they'd be great to kick it with over beers and Scrabble, and Gibbard sang of heartbreak, disappointment and longing that regular people looked like. I mean, does the spouse of a movie star feel left behind and forgotten like I feel left behind and forgotten? I doubt it.
Watching this new, improved version of Death Cab in such an intimate setting--it seemed like there were only 150 people onstage, and we were in the front row--felt like watching a whole new band again, especially since we were only a foot or two away from them.
Then Death Cab for Cutie started to play. And there they were again--the band you wanted to hang out with in your living room, my iPod constants, my dear old friends Death Cab For Cutie. It was so overwhelming and surreal, in fact, that the only experience I could liken it to was swimming with whale sharks; being so close to a creature so huge that you can't focus and gain perspective on what's going on, and all you can do is stare and try to be in the moment.
It was a short, 10-song set, segmented by a Q&A with Anne Litt, but there was an easy seamlessness to the way the night was conducted that it seemed much shorter than it was. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit from the night was DCFC's professed love for the Foo Fighters: Chris Walla and Ben Gibbard talked about opening for Dave Grohl & co., in front of 65,000 people, and how much the Foo Fighters inspired them to just go out and own their shows. Indie bands sometimes don't go all out in their performances, Gibbard said, sometimes just shrugging them off. "Sometimes [indie bands] don't own it, they just rent it," Walla quipped. After the Foo Fighters, that was something DCFC didn't want to do anymore, they said.
(Speaking of which, the Foo Fighters played at the Forum last night. Here are our photos!)
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Chris Walla talked about Death Cab's secret for staying together. (They've now been together 14 years!) "A young band sort of makes it's own gravity. Like everybody quits their job together, and everybody jumps in the van together because that's a respite and a relief from your day job. It's something you get to look forward to and something that just completely changes your life...That itself is this glue that only lack of communication, frustration, anger and time can blow apart."
Death Cab for Cutie Live on KCRW Set List
Doors Unlocked and Open
You Are a Tourist
St Peter's Cathedral
Stay Young, Go Dancing
Home is a Fire
Sound of Settling