Okkervil River: Terminal 5 7 June 2011

So I swore that I would never set foot in Terminal 5 again. With the exception of there being someone I really wanted to see. And Okkervil River is one of those bands.

The show was not sold out and based on the very small group on the roof deck waiting for the club doors to open I was afraid that Okkervil River would be playing to a small house. (By the way, if you do go to this club, check out the roof deck and have a delicious taco.) The advantage of the small crowd was that rtb and I were able to snag the good spot on the second level just above the stage. The floor was half empty for the first opening act and filled up for the second opening act when violaleeblue showed up. None of the bands were terribly loud and I was comfortable even with the array right above me. The vocals were the most clear I’d ever heard them in this club, although they got muddier the more instruments you added.

Future Islands had set up their own speakers on stage, which was a bit strange. There’s a lead singer, bassist, keyboard/effects player and they are (in no particular order since I can’t find identification) William Cashion, Samuel T. Herring, and J. Gerrit Welmers. The singer was a bit of a trip. He’d hit himself in the head and dance around and emote and was all over the place. His vocals for some of the songs would start out with the heavy metal Cookie Monster growl and then he’d go into a Flock of Seagulls voice. The music was definitely New Wave (they call it Post Wave) and would not be out of place in most of the dance clubs I hung out in in my 20s. Their fans were singing along with the arm movements and shouting and emoting and they are welcome to the band because I don’t want them.

I saw Titus Andronicus open for Lucero in April 2009 and I wasn’t impressed then and I can’t say they changed my mind much this time around. Since then they’ve added Amy Klein on electric guitar and electric violin but the sound is still old-school punk (now with some Irish punk leanings) and nothing that I haven’t heard better before. The rest of the band is Ian Graetzer on bass, Eric Harm on drums, David Robbins on keyboards and guitar and Patrick Stickles yelling on vocals and guitar. They’re from New Jersey plus they are supposed to be the next big thing so there were plenty of fans in the house singing along and moshing violently downstairs.

Okkervil River is Will Sheff (lead vocals, guitar), Lauren Gurgiolo (guitar, lap steel guitar, very short skirts), Michael St. Clair (keyboards, horns), Cully Symington (drums), Patrick Pestorious (bass), and Justin Sherburn (keyboards, guitar). This is the third time I’ve seen them headline – they also opened for Levon Helm in the same space a year and a half ago and was the band for Roky Erickson last year. The first time I saw them was a month after ACL 2008 where rtb saw them and I saw her right after and she was still flush with excitement. As usual, Sheff and Pestorious looked like they were having the time of lives and the rest of the band worked incredibly hard. All of them are great musicians but Symington stands out for me as a particularly wonderful drummer. It was a little slow when they played some of the new songs but the crowd was still singing along for most and they even moshed at the end of the night when Sheff had us jumping and dancing and clapping.

For “So Come Back, I Am Waiting” Sheff had the stage darkened and the poster on the back of the stage was back-lit and a village showed up between the two wolves. If you’re buying the new cd, you should buy the cd itself and not download it. The artwork is really nicely done as is the booklet.

There were a few technical glitches at the start but never a complaint. Sheff was using a second mic for vocal effects and it added an interesting layer to a lot of the songs – also he could scream once and then have it repeat without further burning out his throat (he’s had problems because he screams and doesn’t do it correctly – I’ll teach you how to scream and not ruin your voice, Will!) One thing that made me laugh was Pestorious’ set list – he had written it out on a piece of paper that had been pointing to a trash can.

The club has a 11:00pm curfew and at 10:45pm, their monitor guy informed them so Sheff said there would be no encore and they would just continue playing. The band brought it and more and at the end Sheff threw his mic stand off the stage and was down on his knees playing to the rock and roll gods.

Set List

  • White Shadow Waltz
  • A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene
  • Black
  • Rider
  • A Girl in Port
  • Piratess
  • Wake and Be Fine
  • The Valley
  • John Allyn Smith Sails
  • A Stone (Will Sheff solo acoustic)
  • So Come Back, I Am Waiting
  • Your Past Life as a Blast
  • For Real
  • Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe
  • Lost Coastlines
  • Unless It’s Kicks
  • By Carene Lydia Lopez