Tag Archives: Death Cab for Cutie


Julien Baker Silences a Sold-Out Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 26th, 2016

Julien Baker – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 24, 2016


There was an excited squeal from the crowd when the lights finally went down and Julien Baker took her place, alone at the front of the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night. It was a collective, naked, anticipatory “Oh, my God!” that potentially foreshadowed a night filled with passionate song requests or those “I love you!” proclamations that an overjoyed sold-out audience might not be able to restrain. Instead the next hour was filled with silence—an amazing and deserved silence, a combination of awe, reverence, respect, barely a sigh or a throat-clear. It’s kind of hard to stand so still in a crowded room and not make a noise for an hour and yet it felt absolutely required: Baker and her music, songs of palpable, soulful depth, demanded nothing less.

Operating with just a guitar and a microphone, she worked her way through most of her breakthrough album, last year’s Sprained Ankle. You really wanted to hear every word Baker sang, each song had a lyric or an image that seemed to punch through and linger in the air. When she sang, “Feed me to the wolves tonight,” in “Blacktop,” the show opener, the tone of fear and uncertainty was in sharp contrast to the warm love she was getting from the audience. Maybe more revealing was when Baker wondered, “I hear there’s a fix for everything/ Well why then not me?” in the newer “Sad Song #12.”

Baker’s use of dynamics while singing felt like a unique channel of her inner state: She sang quietly most of the time, close in to the microphone, while occasionally raising her voice in anger or catharsis—like in “I know myself better than anybody else”—but tilted her head away from the microphone, so that the volume remained steady even while the emotional wallop hit the air. A cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s “Photobooth” felt like a perfect fit in the set. Baker’s guitar playing revealed subtle secrets as well, reverb, echo and the occasional loop found comfort in the quiet stillness of the room. Between songs the silence broke for a moment, the crowd releasing in enthusiastic, heartfelt applause and maybe a bit of that pent-up feeling the music inspired. —A. Stein | @Neddyo


Rocky Votolato Celebrates Anniversary at Mercury Lounge on Friday

September 19th, 2016

Rocky Votolato – Mercury Lounge – September 16, 2016

Perhaps unknown to some, Rocky Votolato has been making music for more than 15 years. He honed his craft in the Pacific Northwest during an era when punk and indie-folk artists collided in a musical hotbed. He found a delicate balance between both, collaborating with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie and Pedro the Lion. His seminal album, Makers, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and fittingly the singer embarked on a tour to perform it in its entirety. Friday night at Mercury Lounge, Votolato’s faithful fans were quickly treated to longtime favorite “Portland Is Leaving” as the flood of nostalgia encased the room.

It’s a different show when everyone comes for an artist who’s left an indelible mark on their memories. A perfect example of this lasting impression was the dedication of “White Daisy Passing” to Tony, a fan who had shared the story of how the song accompanied him while he had been traveling years ago after a loved one had passed. Votolato joked that he wasn’t in the music business for fame or riches. He has neither, but in seriousness, the value was the family and community he has built with his songs.

Formerly a “one-man wolf pack,” Votolato is joined by guitarist and lap-steel player Matt Batey, a drummer and a bassist for this celebratory tour. The normally intimate tracks sounded bigger thanks to the musical additions—and even a sampled drum effect was afforded for “Where We Left Off.” Oh, how times have changed! Votolato remarked on how 10 years ago he had flown to New York City upon Makers’ release to open for Nada Surf at Mercury Lounge. He also added that the title track was written here and was inspired by an Allen Ginsberg poem. After covering the full album, the Left Coaster added older material from Suicide Medicine, plus “Boxcutter,” off his latest, Hospital Handshakes. The cozy venue offered little escape for Votolato, who encored with a pair of songs, including “Montana,” leaving no fan unsatisfied. —Sharlene Chiu


Death Cab for Cutie Rise from Mercury Lounge to the Garden

September 14th, 2015

Death Cab for Cutie – Madison Square Garden – September 12, 2015

Death Cab for Cutie – Madison Square Garden – September 12, 2015
Hundreds of bands pass through Mercury Lounge each year. It is the lonely and unsexy work of being a small touring act, playing small rooms to a bouquet of strangers. Only a select few can say, as Ben Gibbard and his band—Death Cab for Cutie—did Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, that they have traveled the 34 blocks and five avenues from one of Manhattan’s smaller venues to its largest. Gibbard, in a blue dress shirt and a pair of black jeans, didn’t miss the power of the moment, marveling to the crowd about his group’s first show at the Merc 15 years ago, pausing a bit to gaze out at the thousands of strangers assembled in a basketball arena, remarking, finally, “This is really a mind fuck.”

Despite the wheeling career vertigo, Death Cab, in this post–Chris Walla iteration, sounded polished and tight, opening with “No Room in Frame,” from their most recent long-player, Kintsugi. Gibbard drew the album’s title from the Japanese art of piecing pottery back together with gold. The allegory is a one-to-one: His marriage to Zooey Deschanel imploded, his cofounding bandmate left the band. This record, like his life, would be mended with gold, and few people do the beauty of devastation better than Ben Gibbard. Enjoying the broken decadence of the new album on Saturday night, Death Cab played about half of its contents—songs like “Black Sun,” “Little Wanderer” and “No Room in Frame” acting as both elegy and rebuke to the pain of the past few years.

Gibbard worked Death Cab’s classics into a capacious 22-song set. The crowd joined in on the predictable power of the band’s most well-known ballad, “I Will Follow You into the Dark,” and alighted to the power of long jam “I Will Possess Your Heart” and deeper cuts like “The New Year” and “Company Calls.” The night’s penultimate song, “Marching Bands of Manhattan,” was one of those moments when even a rock star like Gibbard revealed New York City’s outsized place in his—and our—cultural imagination. “If I could open my arms and span the length of the isle of Manhattan” framed a grammatical conditional now seemingly outdated. And for a night, Gibbard held more of New York than he ever could have imagined. —Geoff Nelson | @32feet

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com


Death Cab for Cutie – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 28, 2015

January 29th, 2015

Death Cab for Cutie - Music Hall of Williamsburg - January 28, 2015

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com


John Vanderslice Proves Why He’s So Likable

November 6th, 2013

John Vanderslice – Mercury Lounge – November 5, 2013

John Vanderslice has been making music for more than a decade, however I’m most familiar with his production prowess. Vanderslice has recorded such acts as Death Cab
for Cutie
, Spoon and the Mountain Goats in his two-room recording studio, Tiny Telephone, in San Francisco. He is the type of guy who buys a round of beers for his fans, and it’s no surprise that he is well loved by those who have collaborated with him. During the late show last night at the Mercury Lounge, Vanderslice thanked the audience for coming to watch him play at 11 p.m. Spanning his vast discography to delight new and old fans, he began with “The Parade,” from 2007’s Emerald City, and followed with “Exodus Damage,” off Pixel Revolt.

Turning to newer material, “How the West Was Won,” the first single from his latest, Dagger Beach, provided the joie de vivre of the evening. Fittingly the video for the track melds his music with all the behind-the-scenes “heavy lifting” that goes on behind producing a record. Vanderslice’s last album was successfully funded by a Kickstarter campaign that generated close to $80,000. Rewards ranged from a digital download of the album to Vanderslice marrying a backer (to someone else.) No one actually took him up on that, but a few got him to perform at house shows and one even got to record at Tiny Telephone. His Kickstarter also funded John Vanderslice Plays Diamond Dogs, which were given away as limited-edition digital copies. He played “Sweet Thing” and “Big Brother” from that cover album.

To cap off the night Vanderslice, drummer Jason Slota and sax and flutist Mitch Marcus came down from the stage to encore among audience members. Fans joined in on “White Dove,” singing along to the chorus: “White dove, white dove. What are you thinking of?” As Tuesday evening became early Wednesday morning, there was no doubting Vanderslice’s likability. No pretense, just genuine care. —Sharlene Chiu


The Postal Service: Worth the Wait

June 17th, 2013

The Postal Service – Barclays Center – June 14, 2013

Ten years is a long time to wait, and regret burns deep. For this writer, not seeing the Postal Service back in 2003 at a small San Francisco venue still hurts—a lot. So I was psyched when rumblings of a tour were announced to celebrate the 10-year-anniversary reissue of Give Up. You might have heard the tale of Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) meeting Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) on a fateful night in Los Angeles. What coyly began as a request for Gibbard’s vocals on Dntel’s “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” blossomed into an exchange of musical ideas through the United States Postal Service. The two lead members never would have thought their fledgling project would amount to one of the most successful albums for the Sub Pop label, but that’s exactly what happened.

Fast-forward a decade as a choral prelude welcomed Gibbard, Tamborello, Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) and Laura Burhenn (the Mynabirds) to the stage of a sold-out Barclays Center on a Friday night. Gibbard offered a hearty “Hiya, Brooklyn!” before diving into “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.” Lewis, accessorized with a puffy white cap and saddle shoes, promptly threw the hat into the crowd on “We Will Become Silhouettes.” And in a rare turn from his mixers, Tamborello closed out “Sleeping In” echoing the chorus: “Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in.” Gibbard took a moment to thank the audience, jokingly, “for coming to this tiny venue to listen to us play music from 10 years ago.”

Having a great time together onstage, old friends Gibbard and Lewis shimmied close for the duet “Nothing Better,” which he introduced as “three sides to every story.” And fans cheered the whirlpool of sound twinkling with drumbeats during “Recycled Air.” But the show didn’t just consist of material from their lone LP. The Postal Service also did songs like “Be Still My Heart,” from the We Will Become Silhouettes EP, and a cover of Beat Happening’s “Our Secret” before the crowd erupted for the beloved “Such Great Heights.” All kidding aside, Gibbard plainly laid out Give Up’s success: “This record still means something to you.” And as I received texts like “this album takes me back” and “I had chills,” from friends scattered around the arena, his point was proved again and again. And then with a mellifluous crescendo, the Postal Service ended their main set with “Natural Anthem,” burying my decade-old regret. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com


A Second Chance to See the Postal Service Live

June 14th, 2013

Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and electronica musician Jimmy Tamborello (also known as Dntel) decided to make music together more than a decade ago. But since Gibbard was in Seattle and Tamborello lived in Los Angeles, they shared ideas, lyrics and instrumental tracks through the mail, which, ultimately, gave them the name of their band: the Postal Service. They put out one electronica- and indie-pop-filled full-length album, Give Up (stream it below), in 2003, which included backing vocals from Jenny Lewis
and Jen Wood, and received plenty of love from critics and fans alike. But despite a successful tour in support of the album, that was pretty much it. Or was it? Thankfully, SubPop recently reissued the album with a host of bonus tracks to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. And following a much-ballyhooed appearance at this year’s Coachella, the Postal Service (above, performing “Such Great Heights” at Coachella) have hit the road. Tonight’s show with Mates of State is sold out, but you can see them—with Ra Ra Riot opening—tomorrow night at Barclays Center.


Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Death Cab for Cutie on 7/19

July 17th, 2012


Death Cab for Cutie comes to Montclair, N.J., to play The Wellmont Theatre on Thursday. As you probably know, the band is wildly popular, so the show sold out quickly. On the plus side, The House List is giving away two tickets. So if you don’t have any but would still like to go, try to Grow a Pair. It’s easy. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to buy tickets to (Death Cab for Cutie, 7/19) and a brief message explaining which of the four-piece’s albums is your favorite. Eddie Bruiser, who will be in attendance, will notify the winner by Thursday.

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Death Cab for Cutie Brings New Music to The Bowery Ballroom

June 2nd, 2011

Death Cab for Cutie – The Bowery Ballroom – June 1, 2011

Death Cab for Cutie isn’t new at this, and it showed in the most wonderful way last night at The Bowery Ballroom. Playing to a far smaller crowd than usual to debut songs from the band’s latest release, Codes and Keys, the quartet filled their set with songs old and new to keep everyone happy. For those with memories attached to Death Cab songs and for whom Ben Gibbard’s voice takes them back to a specific time and place, they played tunes like “The New Year,” “Soul Meets Body” and a beautiful solo rendition of “I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Gibbard.

Death Cab for Cutie’s live set still has the most youthful of energies to it and after joking about this being a record-label showcase and gosh they hope they get signed, they brought the audience forward a little with songs from previous release Narrow Stairs—including the seven-minute bass-heavy single “I Will Possess Your Heart”—interspersed among tracks from their new record, like “Some Boys,” “Codes and Keys” and “Doors Unlocked and Open.” Playing a two-hour set without ever losing that look of excitement on their faces, the band ended with “Sound of Settling” and officially made The Bowery Ballroom a college party. Turns out you are never too old to love Death Cab for Cutie. —Lauren Glucksman

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg