What’s in a name?
Graves, Death and dancing teens at Chico State
”Ash-ley, you didn’t say your mom was going to be here!”
OK, so no one actually said that about me, but at Monday night’s Death Cab for Cutie/Pretty Girls Make Graves show at Chico State, I was definitely of an older generation. Which made for some pretty good people-watching and reminiscing about my, uh, former youth.
Openers Pretty Girls began their set with a hardcore hypnotic number, “Two Lips,” grabbing the audience in a slow-building early peak. Then on to a faster “Chemical, Chemical,” in which Andrea Zollo’s paint-pealing vocals reached a pleasing compromise between Bjork and Sleater-Kinney.
With expertly played bass (Derek Fudesco) grabbing the audience by the navel and reeling it in, and brilliant underlying keyboard (recent addition Leona), Pretty Girls showed their sonic depth, performing tracks from all three of their albums.
One favorite, “Something Bigger, Something Brighter,” combined great keyboard, bass and guitar into a rhythmic soundscape not unlike a kid’s toy box being dumped over. The soaring, melodic hit from 2003’s The New Romance, “The Grandmother Wolf,” came on strong, with heavy bass driving the song, building a solid platform for the keyboard, bright cymbals and lead guitar.
Combining Rush-like complexities and their overall spirit of rocking-out made Pretty Girls a great opener—and a hard act to follow.
When Death Cab came onstage, the crowd pressed forward, making room for a select few near the back to dance while enjoying the mellifluous vocals of Benjamin Gibbard. A young girl complained to me about one dancer: “I’ve been liking [Death Cab] since I was in the second grade, and then this dancing douche bag shows up, I mean, what’s up with that shit?” Ah, the complexities of live performance.
First off was “We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes,” from the same-titled album, before moving on to the more recent stuff from 2003’s Transatlanticism. The great opener from that latest release, “The New Year,” surged through the BMU Auditorium louder than life yet amazingly easy on the ears, followed by “Titles and Registration,” “Lightness,” “Expo ‘86,” and “The Sound of Settling.”
“We Laugh Indoors” (The Photo Album) fired up more than a few dancers.
Before starting “Blacking out the Friction,” guitarist Christopher Walla commented on being hit by something thrown onstage earlier in the show. Gibbard asked, “Did you get hit by something?”
Walla: “A button.”
Walla: “About six songs ago.”
Then they played out the song and turned it into a U2 tribute, singing, “One” over the top.
Death Cab’s band camaraderie furthered an amazing buildup of sound, elevating each song to a higher level, to the crowd’s awe-struck pleasure.
A trio from Transatlanticism finished off the encore with the surprisingly optimistic "A Lack of Color," "Tiny Vessels," and "Transatlanticism."