Death Cab For Cutie W/ The Los Angeles Philharmonic

(Special Guests: The New Pornographers, Tegan and Sara)

Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles, CA 07/05/09

Words/Photos by Reverend Justito

For as much as I love the historic Hollywood Bowl, I often wonder if we would be better off having the venue burn down in a forest fire. Don’t get me wrong, I love a summer evening under the stars in the venue that 9 out of 10 times will allow you to bring your own food and alcoholic drinks in with you. However, there is an ugly downside to the Hollywood Bowl, and that downside is the legions of bad mannered douche bags who ruin the times of others by talking over the artists on stage the entire night. Tonight, I was lucky enough to witness something that many would give up a kidney or a pinky finger for – Death Cab For Cutie backed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I was also very unlucky in the fact that four fat and disgusting low lives with no manners and full blown diabetes talked over the ENTIRE THING.

My friends and I made it to our seats just in time to catch the end of the evenings first act – The New Pornographers. Having never heard a song by the group (but having heard the name), I had high hopes. As a huge fan of pornography in general, I view the new porn as these raunchy do anything gals like Sasha Grey, Harmony Rose and Tory Lane. Sadly, unlike lets say Mastodon, this band does not sound anything like their name. Now, granted I only saw two songs (and one is apparently The University of Phoenix jingle) but this band was rather boring in my opinion. Nothing stood out, just your typical mass-produced indie rock fluff. Whatever, lets move on.

The New Pornographers 07/06/09: Hollywood Bowl - LA, CA

After a very quick change over, America’s favorite Canadian Lesbian Twin Folk/Indie duo Tegan and Sara took to the stage. I saw the duo back in 2000, and hated every second of the rain soaked set. Just shy of nine years later, things are much different as Tegan and Sara have grown on me like a fine feathered mullet. The duo was very nervous, as one of them (perhaps the cooler on Sara, but it could have been Tegan) joked that the crowd was making her sick because of the tremendous burden of being upon the landmark stage. However, the crowd was not to worry, as the sister assured the masses they were indeed loved. Despite some rust from being off the road for so long, Tegan and Sara sounded great performing both hardcore fan favorites I couldn’t name, and minor radio hits such as “Walking With A Ghost” and “Back In Your Head”. For me, the highlight was a song I fell in love with on a now defunct local indie radio station. The song is called “Living Room” and it’s percussive acoustic guitar and haunting vocals managed to give me goose bumps on a warm summer night. Sadly, even after being told, I don’t know which one is which. I do know that I can not think of a more perfect opening act for four grown men from Bellingham, WA.

Tegan & Sara 07/05/09: Hollywood Bowl - Los Angeles, CA

In 2003, I kept hearing the name Death Cab For Cutie. It was such a dumb, yet cool name, I had to figure out what was up, so I did what any broke music fan during that time period would do – I stole their music. It was one of the best choices I have made, as I have gone on to purchase 9 CD’s of the group, and see them live 5 times. As someone who (for the next month or so at least) lives within walking distance from the Hollywood Bowl, you can imagine my reaction when I found out they would not only be headlining the venue, but would be backed by the LA Philharmonic.


The band did not disappoint, and opened with the song “Marching Bands of Manhattan”. A rather simple but beautiful number, it was the perfect way for both them and the crowd to warm up. Over the next hour, the four piece weaved their way between hits and fan favorite album tracks. “The New Year” sounded even more cavernous than usual under the big bowl, while the slow thumping builds of their recent radio hit “I Will Posses Your Heart” got both the band and crowd moving. While the tiny guitar riffs are crucial to the song, it is all about the groove bassist Nick Harrmer and drummer Jason McGeer lock into. Having recently purchased the bands new EP (which they shamelessly plugged) The Open Door, I was both shocked and excited to hear “Little Bribes”. The song is everything I love about DCFC. From the out of the box thinking that makes up front man Ben Gibbards lyrics to the unique and almost geometry-esque angular riffs from multi instrumentalist/producer Chris Walla the two together create a unique sound/style that can simply not be duplicated.

Death Cab For Cutie 07/06/09: Hollywood Bowl - Los Angeles, CA

After a brief 5-10 intermission, Gibbard (joined by 50 of the bands new best friends – The LA Philharmonic) launched into arguably the bands biggest hit – “I Will Follow You into the Dark”. An already powerful number, the addition of the world class musicians made the song sound so much fuller. While some songs such as “A Movie Script Ending” and “Soul Meets Body” made sense to me with the new backing band, Death Cab managed to surprise me with some of the songs they picked. “Title and Registration” with it’s simple riff and beautiful over thinking of poorly named vehicular items went to a whole new level. On a day where LA had a brush fire near the home of the Dodgers baseball club, “Grapevine Fires” (my personal favorite song from their recent full length record Narrow Stairs) is always an appropriate choice in the city that spawned it. The rich layers of strings and horns created a whole new build to a song I play each and every time this douche bag infested city burns to the ground.

Lucky for me, I hailed a ride in the Death Cab about six weeks before Seth Cohen from The OC did. Over the past five years, I have watched the band grow leaps and bounds. I knew how lucky I was to see the band up front in a mid-size theater. Just hearing the songs, I knew right away this band was destined for big things. Five years later, and the band is on stage sold out at the Hollywood Bowl backed by an orchestra. If this was the perfect match, then what better way to close out the show with the title track of my favorite DCFC record Transatlanticism. For 7 minutes, the song about two lovers separated by an ocean does nothing but build and build. I knew the second I acquired tickets that it would be the perfect song for the two to join forces on. With the douche bags behind e only getting louder, I thought my wish of the bowl burning down had come true as fire shot from the roof. However, something better happened – a fireworks display much like Death Cab For Cutie. Simple, yet impossibly complex. The band wrapped the song, and took their bows and I have to say, I was ready for a third set. After all, it’s not every day you get to see one of your favorite bands backed by an orchestra. While I may not have really been able to hear it, I am grateful I at least got to see it.

A direct descendant of the outlaw Jesse James and star of a 1983 Kilpatricks Bread radio commercial, Reverend Justito has taken his gift of ADHD and put it to good use by creating one of a kind concert reviews. A bootlegger at heart, the man lives off Whiskey, Taco Bell and the love of San Francisco sports teams.
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Monday, July 6th, 2009 at 3:16 am.
Categories: Reviews.

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