photos by Jessica Amaya, words by Andrew Sacher
I arrived a little late to Prospect Park last night (6/14) for the first Celebrate Brookln benefit show of the 2011 season and only caught the second half of Best Coast's 30 minute set. They handled the large venue well though, and I regret not being able to get there sooner. Not long after I entered the venue, it started raining and by the end of Best Coast's set, the audience was almost entirely covered by umbrellas.
It was still raining when The Decemberists took the stage for the sold out show. Jenny Conlee was unfortunately absent, but Colin Meloy dedicated a song to her and mentioned that Team Jenny merchandise was available, and that she is going to recover. The band was joined on stage by Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) on fiddle and vocals, like they were at Bonnaroo. Their fairly consistent set was pretty heavy on The King Is Dead material and a few older, yet equally accessible ones which made for a seemingly quick show. However, the band were able to sneak in a couple of the more explorative songs, including the borderline-sludge "Won't Want For Love" and the progressive-leaning "The Bagman's Gambit, without dragging the set.
About halfway through the show, the rain completely stopped and Prospect Park's roof of umbrellas came down, revealing how packed the venue really was. Despite playing to such a huge crowd, Colin Meloy was as quirky as someone playing a backyard show (he did note that Eugene Mirman told him Prospect Park was literally his backyard). Colin prefaced "We Both Go Down Together" by telling us that they'd like to go into their joint-suicide material, made tons of whimsical jokes about the rain, and even choreographed an audience-wide school-choir styled hand dance. And even while performing much of the lighter Neil Young-meets-R.E.M. alt-country of the new album, he made it clear that he's still a rocker at heart (not unlike Neil Young, I mean, they don't call many folk singers the "godfather of grunge"). After getting our permission to go to a 'darker place,' Meloy asked that the stage be 'bathed in red,' and the band went into the dark intensity of "The Rake's Song." Chris Funk and Sara Watkins abandoned their usual instruments to drum along, forcing the song to hit even harder than it does on record.
The Decemberists ended their 15-song set with a King is Dead standout, "This is Why We Fight," and left momentarily before Colin and John Moen returned to the stage for the first encore to perform "Raincoat Song" together, but not before telling a story about John not being able to identify a Pink Floyd song playing in a Park Slope coffee shop earlier that day. It's unclear what coffee shop it was, but the story hilariously included a snotty barista and a reminder that John previously played Prospect Park with Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (who announced a tour earlier that day).
John, who sang harmonies on the song ("Raincoat Song"), messed up a few lines but quickly covered it up by adding in lighthearted dialogue with Colin. After the song ended, John returned to his drums and the two were joined by the rest of the band for a cover of Fruit Bats' "When U Love Somebody." The encore ended with an elongated version of "The Chimbley Sweep," complete with the usual playfully dissonant "guitar duel" (as Colin referred to it) between him and Chris Funk, a Sara Watkins fiddle solo, and some slightly awkward crowd surfing on Colin's part (video below). The band contrasted the oddly epic end of their first encore by returning to the stage for the soft alluring "June Hymn". The almost-full moon in the sky, as Colin pointed out, added to the beauty of the surroundings.
Side note: Celebrate Brooklyn is now providing concessions with the help of The Farm on Adderley, rather than Two Boots, who have done it in the past. The new menu has four categories of food including food on a stick, on a bun, in a cup, and vegetable fry. Check out the full menu. (editor's note: I miss the corn and watermelon! And the food lines seem much longer now. Two Boots seemed to know how to move people along better. Maybe it will get better.)
More pictures from the show, the setlist and a video of Colin Meloy in the crowd below...
Colin Meloy in the crowd at Prospect Park
Down By The Water
Rise To Me
The Bagman's Gambit
We Both Go Down Together
Won't Want For Love (Margaret In The Taiga)
The Crane Wife 3
Don't Carry It All
Rox In The Box
The Rake's Song
The Perfect Crime 2
This Is Why We Fight
When U Love Somebody (Fruit Bats Cover)
The Chimbley Sweep