Okkervil River was one of my last musical discoveries in Chicago — Lani and Linney and I saw them open for the Decemberists at the Metro, on the Picaresque tour, before Black Sheep Boy had even come out. I saw them four times in four months in 2005, four startlingly different venues — a sold-out Metro, a half-empty Schubas, a street festival, a packed and raucous SubT — and then not again for more than two years. I went even longer this time, because the last time I saw them before last night was in the fall of 2008, when they were touring behind The Stand-Ins, and shep. and I drove to Wilmington to see them at the Soapbox, so sold-out that I was a little afraid the floor was going to collapse and dump us all into the laundromat below.
It had been too, too long. The Soapbox show was one of the best that I saw in 2008, which was the year I got serious about live music and photography, and last night’s show at an equally sold-out (but slightly more stable, owing to being on the ground and all) Cradle was just as good. I haven’t engaged with the new album very much — yesterday was only the second time I’d listened to it — and what their 2007 Cradle show did for The Stage Names, namely made me fall in love, didn’t exactly happen last night. But it was a truimphant show, despite that, because Okkervil, all of them, always look like they’re having the time of their lives on stage, and that’s enough for me.
They played heavily from the new album, of course, but they also dragged out some old ones that I was thrilled to hear: a scorching version of “Westfall”, my all-time number one Okkervil song “So Come Back, I Am Waiting”, and, oh, oh, in the encore, a gorgeous and sad version of “Red”, the first Okkervil song I ever fell for, six years ago, i’m full of fictions and fucking addictions. I hadn’t heard it live since 2005; it was still stunning and staggering. They closed off a fantastic nearly two hour set with an audience sing-and-clap-along to “Unless It’s Kicks”, and it was perfect.
Titus Andronicus and Future Islands opened; Titus, of course, is the indie darling behind last year’s rave-reviewed The Monitor, and they were completely wonderful. Patrick Sickles is a super compelling frontman, but Amy Klein is the star of their show, in my opinion. She can play, she can sing, and she has a hell of a good time doing all of those. We were lucky to be perched against the stage right in front of her, and I didn’t have more fun watching anybody than I did watching her.
This is not the best picture I took of Titus, but it’s the one I love best, because it’s a visual representative of what it was like to watch Amy — pure color and light and motion. Amy Klein: more awesome than you.
Future Islands, Baltimore residents and North Carolina ex-pats who came out of the same Greenville scene as still-locals Annuals and Lonnie Walker, opened things up, and they were both highly entertaining and vaguely creepy. I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of their super electronic indie rock — they’re so well suited to the Baltimore scene, I can’t blame them for fleeing the NC — but I really dug it. Incredibly hypnotic stuff.
Full photo set here.