Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


Last night we took my sister Rachel to see Colin Meloy, the lead singer for The Decemberists, perform a solo show at The Orange Peel. Rachel is a naturally reserved person, something being 16 only accentuates, but we think she had a good time, because we caught her smiling and singing along several times last night.
I can't blame her for singing. I, myself, can only manage a tuneless, frequently cracked sort of rhythmic talking that no one on earth would call singing, but I danced and clapped and sang all the same. The Decemberists - and Colin Meloy - tend to bring out a warts-and-all enthusiasm in their fans. We've gone to see the entire band play both times they came to Asheville in the past few years, and both times we've been right in the thick of the friendly, "too bad for you if you're too cool to stomp" vibe they generate.

Laura Gibson, a singer-songwriter from Portland, Ore., opened with several soft, sweet heartbreak songs. Her voice was flawless, but she couldn't help looking shyly at her shoes when she spoke between songs. I wanted to hop up on stage so I could give her a hug and tell her, "It's okay, we won't bite you." Rachel liked her a lot, and informed us after the opening set that Gibson was a brand of guitar.

I liked her, too, but I thought she could use some lessons in confidence and showmanship from Colin Meloy, who strode out on stage with his guitar and told us, "I'm Colin Meloy and I'm going to entertain you" in a way that gave me the utmost confidence he would do so or die trying. He joked with the crowd and came back with snappy retorts when the crowd fell prey to fanboy catcalling. For the most part, Meloy played Decemberists songs, with the crowd cheerfully offering backup, rhythm, and mock guitar riffs. We heard two new songs, one of which was upbeat and forgettable, and another, possibly titled "Hazards of Love," which was a kind of prog rock ballad/fairy tale that left me sockless (said socks having been rocked off). Meloy also covered Sam Cooke's "Cupid," with backup from Laura Gibson, and Morrissey's "Every Day is Like Sunday."

I became keenly aware that I was surrounded by people much younger than myself when I realized Jeremy and I were the only people in our immediate vicinity who knew the words to the covers.
The crowd was a little younger than usual last night , since the show allowed ages 16 and up, rather than the usual 18 and up. I understand how people born in the '90s could easily have missed out on late '80s hits, but is a six to eight year age gap enough to leave people unacquainted with Sam Cooke?

The crowd wasn't as thick last night as it has been for Decemberists shows, but it was hardly sparse. Of course, there were the full compliment of asshats who lurk around whenever a band plays: the girl who answered her cell phone in the middle of a song ("Oh, nothing much, I'm at the Orange Peel to see a band."), the drunk people who won't stop shouting out ridiculous requests (Play "Mariner's Revenge"!), and the couple who talk over the opening act about their plans for the weekend, then cut through the crowd to the front of the stage (Why?).

We had a great time, despite the usual jerks. The tone of the evening dimmed a little toward the end when a woman passed out from dehydration in the center of the floor and security took forever to make their way through the crowd to her. But she was back on her feet soon, and Meloy played a few more songs for us before calling it an evening. I can only hope Colin Meloy wasn't so put off by last night's crowd that he (and the band!) won't come back.

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