Belle and Sebastian, 7/8/06, Merriweather Post Pavilion

July 11, 2006

(in which I use the word “lovely” more than enough times)

There are a few things in my life about which I am obsessive. It is probably pretty obvious to even the casual observer that music is one of those things – indeed this latest iteration of my blog seems to have become All Music All the Time (won’t always be that way, I promise, it’s just been a heady week of music around these parts). And there are a few bands about which I hold a particular obsession, Belle and Sebastian being a prime example. I read with great interest a couple of months ago that they were playing a show sort of nearby, with Broken Social Scene (!) and Ted Leo as openers. Thankfully, the children are older now and small roadtrips away from them are possible, I have a little bit of extra money around, but most important I also have a friend crazy enough to drive across multiple states with me to see one of our favorite bands.

So Jason and I drove up to Maryland to the Merriweather Post Pavilion outside of Baltimore this past weekend. We got a slight reprieve from the punishing summer heat, which was unexpected and delightful. The weather was perfect for an outdoor show – temperature in the low 80s, barely humid, sunny skies. The crowd was a great mix of ages, many people younger than me of course, but I also saw a not-too-small amount of people older than me. It’s one of the nice things about Belle and Sebastian, the large age range of their fans. The venue has apparently been around for a number of decades, and has played host to the usual bands, festivals, etc. It was nicely non-corporate, compared to the other outdoor venues I’ve attended shows at (ahem, Shoreline Ampitheatre comes to mind). It was downright homey, actually. The pavilion was a swooping roof of sorts that covered a small standing-only general admission area right in front plus a large-ish section of seating. Beyond that, up at the top of the hill, was an uncovered grassy area with more general seating. A typical set-up for this type of venue. Beer was plentiful (and expensive) and I had a pulled pork sandwich for dinner (not even remotely close in quality to my beloved North Carolina pork, of course). We had general admission tickets to the floor in front, and we got cool bright pink wristbands to wear that let us saunter past the people checking tickets like the rock stars we are (ha ha).

Ted Leo went on first, and it was fun, although I am only familiar with a few of his songs and am not a big fan by any means. It was a short set, only 1/2 an hour.

Very quickly thereafter (surprisingly quickly in fact, thinking about the amount of people in the band and how many instruments they had to set up) Broken Social Scene came on and played a really enjoyable selection of songs. They had five guitarists, two drummers, a violinist (I think), a female vocalist (Amy Millan of the band Stars at this show), and other random people popping in and out. They played some great songs with skill and exuberance, but I was pretty disappointed with the way they played “Superconnected.” That song is an incredible, fuzzy, rapid, frantic, yelping sort of song on the album, and I adore it, but the version they played onstage was quiet, slow and kept building up to nothing. At the time I thought it was like being in love with someone all night and going home without kissing them. Frustrating, you know? I took a bathroom break during one song and saw Sarah Martin walk by and then Chris Geddes leaning up against a railing watching the show, the latter who I couldn’t resist telling how much I was looking forward to the show – he got flustered and said something along the lines of, “Oh, gah, gee, well, thanks.” But he’s got a lovely smile.

And then Belle and Sebastian came onstage. Apparently Stuart didn’t enjoy the show very much, but from where I was it was impossible to tell. It’s so hard to believe that this band that is clearly comfortable on stage and pleased with performing used to play such notoriously bad shows in the early days. Everyone was just spot on. Their shows are so enjoyable. This was the third time I’d seen them, and they played a remarkable number of songs that I hadn’t seen them play before. They didn’t play some of the songs that make me go weak in the knees (“Slow Graffiti” for example) but that’s alright, I’d already seen them play those songs before and been blown away by them, I don’t need to keep repeating the experience. There was lively stage banter, a young couple was brought onstage to dance to one of the songs, Stevie was wearing the requisite suit, the crowd was appreciative and happy, and it was just a lovely, lovely time. They ended with a brilliant two-song encore, first “Judy and the Dream Of Horses” and then a hand-clapping “The Boy With the Arab Strap.” I could barely have asked for a better selection for the encore.

And then the crowd slowly shuffled out (ugh, I hate crowds when we are forced through bottlenecks), and Jason and I wandered around the parking lot in the dark, clear night, trying to find my car (which is why one should remember to check the location before leaving the car in the first place.) It didn’t matter anyway, it took forever for all the cars to get out of the lot anyway, and it was a very pretty night, and I was still high from such a lovely show.

But really, maybe next time they come around to tour the States, Belle and Sebastian could consider playing in Durham again? That was an expensive – though supremely delightful – adventure.

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5 Responses to “Belle and Sebastian, 7/8/06, Merriweather Post Pavilion”

  1. pinky Says:

    lovely post.

    and amy millan’s solo stuff is really lovely – surprisingly country, some of the songs.


  2. Ha, I like that you used “lovely,” since I can’t seem to stop using that word to describe everything.

    We missed you at the Legends/AHK show!

  3. pinky Says:

    i am still all arrrrrrghhhhhhh about that!

    (and I realized I had “lovelied” twice right after I hit send, ha)

  4. rachel Says:

    i’m so glad you wrote about this – i’m going to be in the d.c. area next week, and sad that the timing made me miss that show. now, i sort of feel like i’ve been there.


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