A compilation of random and interesting things, musings, musics, videos, and more. Brought to you by a UChicago student with a penchant for procrastination.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Decemberists & Grant Park Orchestra

One of a set of great free summer concerts happening across the nation, the Decemberists playing at the Jay Pritzker band shell in Millennium Park with the Grant Park Orchestra provided an opportunity that couldn’t be missed. With a slew of web-publicity (thanks Facebook) and the support of Metro – celebrating 25 years of amazing music – the turn out promised to be grand!

Just look at that set list!

When I arrived at the park at around 4 in the afternoon, the place was already filling up fast. Without blanket or picnic basket and wary of the rain forecast for that evening I decided to take my chances in the line curving around the green which promised entry into a 2,000 person public seating.

From what I heard the seating can actually hold 4,000 but half of those spots were already reserved for performance season ticket holders. Fortunately though, the line didn’t seem too bad and once things got moving getting in was pretty well organized - though it didn't quite look it!

As our line moved closer towards the seating the opportunity was ripe for people watching. Everyone and anyone seemed to be excited about this event. Apart from web saavy teens, bored college students, and your garden variety Indie kids there were a lot of “young professionals” enjoying the day, as well as parents indoctrinating their young kids to the joys of the Decemberists. Then, of course there were the people who had season passes for the Orchestra. Although you wouldn’t expect it, smartly dressed retirees apparently make for pretty avid Decemberists fans.

Two really funny things soon stood out as a mainstay of pretty much half of the people in the crowd. First of all, the number of people wearing Threadless shirts was insane, it seemed that every other person you passed sported another shirt from their endless online shirt catalogue. (I was glad I had worn mine the previous night instead of that day) What’s more, with the Harry Potter book release coming up fast, you could be sure that at least half a dozen people around you were toting a 600+ page book! They seemed just about as commonplace as any iPod – though hardly as portable … at least my copy of The Order of the Phoenix was already battered enough to withstand a day out on the town.

Well, getting back to the show, the seating that we managed to get was actually really decent. For what they had opened to the public we were just a couple of rows in and had a great view of the stage. Better than the people who were out in the grasslands, anyhow ...

The wait for the show wasn’t too bad either, by the time we had gotten our seats there was about an hour left to wait and that time soared by pretty fast. Again people watching moved things along rather briskly, and listening to the P.A. system kick in to say things like: if the music moves you to dance.

The show kicked off promptly at 6:30 PM – and after the orchestra had taken their seats and the Metro introduced the concert, the Decemberists came out to a roaring crowd.

Unfortunately that was about the same time that the rain started to come down. First it was a light drizzle, then the sky began to spark, and finally a little ways into the concert the sky just opened up!

Then the umbrellas came out … which provided the catalyst for one of the most annoying moments in crowd history that I can think of!

As the crowd started getting into the music it was rather unsettling to see everyone just sitting in their places. The ticket-holders seemed to set the standard, acting politely throughout the entire show. Yet pretty soon a couple of errant fans in the public seating would get up and start dancing – no one really seemed to mind. But then – as the umbrellas went up – more scattered groups began to stand in order to get a better view of the stage. Obviously, as this proved problematic for the people trying to see the stage behind them, loud jeers and cries of “sit down” became commonplace. As the rain kept coming down and the set progressed further and further in, the annoyance of these people could not help but interrupt the show.

I'm assuming that woman is thinking "what in the world"

Thankfully, after a bit the Decemberists themselves prompted everyone to stand as a particularly rousing song came up. With everyone in the crowd standing and clapping all animosity seemed to melt away. And then, as Colin Meloy himself ran through the aisles hi-fiving people, awesomeness was restored!

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Blurry awesomeness!

Afterwards people generally mellowed out and began to enjoy the show once more, though the rain would come in periodically and the grumbling of thunder would add its sound to those of the orchestra. Once both the band and the orchestra got into the effect of the combined sounds were really something magnificent. The last part of The Tain was especially amazing - I managed to snag a clip of Tain V below - and as The Decemberists came to the conclusion of I Was Meant For The Stage the lighters even came out!

The Tain, Part V

Then the Decemberists died --

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-- but were instantly reanimated with the call to abandon all seating arrangements
and rush towards the stage for the last two songs!

The result of this post Orchestral addendum was amazing. There are plenty of videos to document this change, but the crowd - which was previously seated and somewhat muted - erupted in the glee of a true Indie concert event. The last two songs: 16 Military Wives and the Mariner's Revenge song were completely animated and the Decemberists fed off of this energy, even getting the crowd to participate in a hearty back and forth of LaDeeDaa's and getting everyone to scream as if eaten by a giant whale - indicated by Chris Funk's running up and down the stage opening and closing his arms.

16 Military Wives

Oh, Colin Meloy ...

... the crowd loves you!

Introduction to The Mariner's Revenge Song (With Arm-chomping action below)

I don't know what's going on here ...

... no one did ...

... then it all made sense?

... and then The Decemberists died again.

At this point everyone in the crowd seemed amazingly satiated. Colin Meloy hopped a piggy-back ride off of the stage as the crowd cheered on. Then as the crowd gradually parted ways and in the momentary hubb-bubb everyone forgot that it was crazy and raining and dark outside. But even once the rain really started to pour the feeling of "it was totally worth it" remained - yay, fun story.

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