Thursday, February 10, 2011

Decemberists at Boulder Theater

Mountain Man opened for the Decemberists last night at the Boulder
Theater. This trio of young ladies did a mostly a cappella set that
showed off their haunting voices. On some songs, they sounded like
Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss, blending a raw sound with a sweet
sound, while on others they whimsically twisted melodies like Joanna
Newsom. They even did a creditable job on medieval rounds. They
weren't musicians, but their voices made admirable instruments in
themselves. Amazingly, the audience was completely quiet during the
whole performance.

The Boulder Theater has an unfortunate tendency not to introduce
opening acts. Sometimes it isn't necessary, but I hadn't heard of this
band before. My only complaint is that when I first heard their name,
I thought it was "Mountain Maam." Sounded right to me...

The Portland-based Decemberists band came with a large contingent,
including organ, accordian, pedal steel guitar, plus the dulcet singing and
fiddle playing of former Nickel Creek member Sara Watkins.

Lead singer/songwriter Colin Meloy led with "Down by the Water" from
their new album, "The King Is Dead." While Boulder philosophically is
a sister city to Portland, large bodies of water don't occupy a large
part of our pysches. For example, a recent song by Colorado singer
Danielle Ate the Sandwich mentions crawling under a barbed wire fence
to visit a lake.

Meloy got the audience to participate in a rousing sea shanty by
assigning them the part of a person being swallowed by a whale. Much
shrieking and moaning was required. Another audience favorite was "16
Military Wives."

Meloy is a master of romantic songwriting as well, on tunes such as
"O, Valencia!" The new song, "We Both Go Down Together," about
star-crossed love would bring tears to the eyes of any couple.

A warm ending to a snowy night was "June Hymn," a lush recounting of
the return of spring. In land-locked Boulder, we realized yet again
that the spring the Decemberists know is hothouse exotic to us--ivy in
trees? Yellow bonnets? Training jasmine?

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