Friday, October 15, 2004

The Decemberists, The Hidden Cameras / Bowery Ballroom / Oct. 13, 2004

Ahh, CMJ. The madness. The networking. The schwag. The free drinks. The giddy college kids. The creepy A & R men. Did I forget something? Oh yeah… the music.

After last year’s stress-fest, I’ve decided to take it easy this time, going to one showcase a night—two if I’m feeling particularly energetic—and not running all over town like a madwoman. So I planted my ass at the Bowery Ballroom nice and early and didn’t leave until the show was over. Miho Hatori was doing some boring thing when we arrived, and I was never much of a Cibo Matto fan, so we waited in the basement until The Hidden Cameras played. I was super-excited, since I hadn’t seen them play since before their first Rough Trade record came out, when they performed at my friend Nick’s Maison du Chic party at Fez and blew me away with their sweet twee-pop songs about anal fucking, not to mention their scantily-clad dancers. The Smell of Our Own was one of my favorite records of last year, so I couldn’t wait to hear those songs fleshed out.

Alas, The Hidden Cameras played only one track from Smell, and although it was the glorious single “Ban Marriage,” a hurried tempo and smirking delivery made it sound awkward. They stuck mostly to tracks from their new album Mississauga, Goddam, (which is wonderful in exactly the same ways Smell was, but without the shock of the new) and also played a few new songs that sounded, unsurprisingly, just like the old ones. The band was also much smaller than at the Fez show (no more dancers), but still contained a cellist, two percussionists, two keyboardists and a couple of multi-instrumentalists. Everybody jumped up and down a lot and seemed happy to be there, which was a nice change from certain other bands I’ve seen lately. Several members wore Yankees and Mets paraphernalia, and the cellist’s t-shirt read “Think Gay!” Man, I love Canadians.

The French Icks were up next, so we escaped to the basement again. Can somebody explain to me why everybody loves that band so much? (And while you’re at it, explain the attraction to The Walkmen, too.)

Comedian Tom Heinl introduced The Decemberists by reading from what he claimed to be Colin Meloy’s fifth-grade diary, which went something like “I sat in the foyer (“foy-ay”) in my pantaloons and read a book about fifteenth-century sailors.” The Bowery Ballroom must have been counting on way more CMJ traffic than actually materialized, because there’s no way that place was sold out when The Decemberists took the stage. Thus, all the more room to revel in their supreme nerdiness, rivaled perhaps only by They Might Be Giants. The Decemberists are pretty much McSweeney’s as a rock band, and though I despise McSweeney’s and everything it stands for, The Decemberists are so darn charming, it’s impossible to resist them. Especially when you learn that Colin Meloy looks like Ben Gibbard’s twin brother. They sure do breed adorable teddy bear indie boys up there in the Pacific Northwest. Mmmm, yummy… They also breed striking brunette drummers, as their percussionist looked just like Janet Weiss.

The Decemberists were way more playful than I expected, cracking jokes and playing pranks involving a fake beard. The concert ended with an epic accordion / guitar duel during “The Chimbley Sweep”. It reminded me of that Saturday Night Live when Jack Black hosted, and in one sketch, him and Will Ferrell had a “bass-off”.

I thought my evening would be over then, but I ended up at Luna Lounge watching the last few songs of Poingly’s set. Does anybody remember that movie Joe’s Apartment? You know that scene where Joe plays drums for that performance artist who uses Joe’s incompetence to make a point about the uselessness of art? Yeah, it was kind of like that.