Let me preface this by saying that Colin Meloy really, really likes to play the drums.
I saw Okkervil River and the Decemberists on Thursday. Amazing things, in chronological order:
1) Running into every UCLA hipster I know.
2) Meeting one of the said hipsters for the first time through my hipster friend, only to find out that said hipster and I had been Facebook friends for a year thanks to similar “favorite music” lists in our profiles.
3) Said hipster’s friend’s little brother is the one, the only, “Okkervil River Kid.”
I’m going to digress from the concert review (which I haven’t really started yet) to tell the story of the Okkervil River Kid and simultaneously restore your faith in humanity. Our story begins many moons ago, in a mysterious land where I – somehow, someway – kept coming up with funky-ass shit like every single day. In other words, I attended the 2004 edition of All Tomorrow’s Parties at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, and Marty from the Shins made an extended Snoop reference. While Day 1 of the show was phenomenal in brief bursts (Sufjan Stevens, Lou Reed, getting Wayne Coyne’s autograph), Day 2 was damn near the bee’s knees in terms of sheer indie rock madness. The Constantines, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, The Shins, and the Flaming Lips all played flawless sets, and then Wayne got in the space bubble and walked through the crowd in the rain.
All that aside, the best part of the day was to be had at the beginning. As the Constantines took the stage (and were observed by a wise-looking Wayne in a photo I accidentally deleted), my editor and I looked around at the tiny group of people who had joined us at 1 p.m. for the first act of the festival. To our left was a grey-haired man in a sportcoat and Converse shoes and his son, a tousle-haired boy who couldn’t possibly be over 12 (turns out he was 14, but hey). This kid, who was one of less than twenty or so people out to see the Constantines at a festival that grew to the thousands by the Lips’ set, happened to be wearing an Okkervil River shirt.
Now, I love Okkervil River. I heard “Down The River Of Golden Dreams” last year thanks to the Amoeba Music “favorites” catalog, and here in front of me was some kid wearing their tee shirt! Any attempt at being cool or hip or whatever went out the window. Some fucking 12-year old was already more in the know than I would ever be. Good for him though, I thought at the time, and spent the rest of the day with my mind blown. The Shins helped. Exchange between myself and Marty after they finished their set: “Marty!” He looks at me. “The Daily Bruin loves you!” Marty looks at me and gestures, mouthing, “Are you the guy…” “Yeah!” I yell. He smiles and waves. Major life highlight. (I interviewed Marty two weeks prior.)
Is that the end, you wonder? Of course not. The Okkervil River Kid made an appearance at Okkervil River’s free show at the UCLA Cooperage, and then again at the Decemberists show! This time my editor was there with me, and we both made a big fuss to our friends of telling the story. “Oh yeah,” said Random Girl Whose Name I Have Forgotten, “that’s my brother. He and Dad were there.” “What??!?!?!” Again, mind blown. Beyond recognition. It helped that the Decemberists played the greatest set of all time, too.
Walking out on stage clad in khaki safari gear, they opened with “The Infanta” and played (so far as I can remember) “July July,” “The Sporting Life,” “We Both Go Down Together,” “16 Military Wives,” “Grace Cathedral Hill,” “Los Angeles I’m Yours,” “Billy Liar,” “Lost At Sea,” “The Bagman’s Gambit,” “The Engine Driver” and “Wuthering Heights,” a Kate Bush cover that guest vocalist/violinist (and ridiculously cute) Petra Haden sang. The band closed with an audience participation version of “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” which was completely awesome. They came out for the encore, with a solo Colin performance of “Red Right Ankle,” and then just dove right into the entire 18-minute “The Tain” to the wonder of everyone in the audience. Seeing “The Tain” live was very, very impressive – especially when Colin got behind the kit in the middle section. Petra Haden’s ridiculous cuteness and harmony vocals on everything – if Colin doesn’t have a thing for her, I’ll be shocked – was impressive as well, though apparently she looks better on stage than on her album cover.
All in all, the best and most completely satisfying show I’ve seen all year. And I met the Okkervil River Kid! C’mon!