Chris and I had perhaps one of the strangest concert-going experiences ever this past Saturday. We went to see My Brightest Diamond in Grand Rapids and were expecting to see a really great concert that would follow the basic concert-rules, namely, that we would arrive early to get a spot in the front of the line and perhaps meet some of the musicians, then stand in a General Admission floorspace in front of the stage and rock out with a bunch of other twenty-somethings. How wrong we were. First, we arrived in Grand Rapids (a place which we'd both only been once before to visit one of Chris' colleagues and eat meat). We went to see said colleague and his brand new baby. The baby was about 7 weeks old, which is the youngest baby I've ever seen/met, and I have to say, I prefer my babies a little older (so that there's at least a little bit of interaction between you and the infant). We arrived at the "theater" around 4pm for an 8pm show and were the first attendees there. The "theater" was the Ladies' Literary Club, which is a historic landmark that used to be a meeting place for literary ladies and is now a small auditorium. From the outside, though, it still looks like a house rather than a host for music acts. So we waited on the front steps. After waiting there a little while, a van pulls up and a man with pink pants comes bounding up the steps asking us if this is the place. Chris and I tell him it is and then wonder to ourselves if this guy is Tim Fite (the opening act that neither of us knew anything about). It turns out yes, it is. A couple of hours later, three other people show up to wait, though they are there to see Tim Fite (they were under the assumption that he was the headliner and had never heard of My Brightest Diamond, and they are most likely high). By this time, it's getting pretty close to the time when doors will be opening and there are five people in line for this show. Will this be the whole audience? It's beginning to seem mighty strange. A little while later, a group of college girls (the show is being sponsored by Calvin College) and ask us if they can go in. We tell them that the doors will open at 7:30pm. They tell us that they're ushers. I restrain from asking them why they asked us if they could go in if they're working there while at the same time thinking that if the crowd (which may or may not be comin) gets out of hand, what are these tiny little girls going to do? Then, a little later, a van shows up and out come a handful of Calvin College students. So now, there's a total of about ten people here to see the show. Finally, the doors open and we enter the Ladies' Literary Club. Chris and I go straight to the front row and find the middle two seats. The people behind us? They get as close as the third row. This trend continues as others file in the small auditorium. There are even several people who get as close as the second row, then decide that it's too close and move back! Why is the front row too close? We had no idea and will remain confused about this for a very long time.
Anyway, now the show starts with Tim Fite. It's a really interesting act, and while Chris and I were nervous about this guy, all our fears were put to rest. He is a great performer who incorporates video into his show and interacts with the audience very well. At one point, he came into the audience to grab one guy's hat, my scarf, and another guy's glasses to wear up onstage while he finished his song. He also played mine and Chris' heads like a turntable. He also has an interesting mixture of genres, including Southern Gothic bluegrass/folk, pop, and political hip hop. I recommend checking him out. Around 9pm, My Brightest Diamond took the stage and this is where the concert-going experience hits the apex of strangeness. Chris and I stood at the edge of the stage, as we would for any other show, only we were the only ones. There was My Brightest Diamond, then us standing there, then a good three to four feet of floor, then the front row of seats, then everyone else, who remained seated and silent. Chris and I sang along, but I had to mouth along to some songs since it was so quiet in the auditorium. And of course we rocked out, but we were dancing in front of a whole auditorium. It felt very weird and I much prefer being crammed into a tiny space in front of the stage, surrounded by pushy and sweaty teenagers to this experience of being the only ones up by the stage. The last song was "Freak Out" and here people came up to jump around, but it was only at this point that we were joined by any audience members at all. So, a really great show (including covers of Roy Orbison, Edith Piaf, and Nina Simone), but a really odd occurrence.
After the show, we went up to the merchandise table to buy one of Tim Fite's albums, and he gave us a poster he designed for the tour, as well as two postcards he also designed along with the CD. He was terribly shy and a bit awkward, which was interesting since his stage persona was quite the opposite. He signed our poster and then Shara Worden came out to sign it as well. We had met Shara outside of the theater in Champaign when she was opening for the Decemberists last April and she remembered us. We ended up talking to her for a good twenty minutes or so about an assortment of things, including the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who she is distantly related to (!). We then made the hour-long drive back, still confused about what just happened.


Rock A Little

Lars and the Real Girl, which we saw at a mainstream movie theater in Lansing (which is both great and very unfortunate, is in contention to be one of the best movies of 2007. While it was nice to not have to drive an hour away to see the film (which we had to do to see The Darjeeling Limited and then were kind of screwed out of seeing the short film Hotel Chevalier), seeing it with members of the Lansing community proved difficult. There were a couple of groups of people there (one consisting of pre-teen girls, who I'm guessing still have their copy of The Notebook in their DVD players) who did not understand what this movie was. Like the films of Wes Anderson, Lars and the Real Girl is hard to classify genre-wise and ends up being called a comedy. Some of our fellow audience members clung to that tag and laughed throughout the film, even after it became obvious that this movie isn't a gimmick and doesn't have a schtick. While thoughtful movie-goers were pulled into the story and humanity of this carefully-put together, delicate, deeply compassionate, and magnanimous movie, others were still caught on the one-line premise: a man dates a doll. Everything about this movie was wonderful--directing, writing, and acting (from the whole cast). What's even more wonderful is that it is a jumping-off point for a great post-movie conversation. One is left ruminating over many questions, which is not to say that the film doesn't leave one satisfied--it very much does. I would suggest running out to see this one, but maybe it's best left viewed without the kids who got lost on their way to go see The Game Plan.


The Chimbley Sweep

The Decemberists Long/Short of it Tour 2007
Originally uploaded by Nicolemc99

This is proof that it actually happened, though I'm still reeling. If anyone finds reviews of the two shows, pictures, video, etc., please let me know. I've been scouring the web but haven't found too much coverage so far.

In sadder news, it turns out we were really lucky, as all the dates of the tour after Chicago have been cancelled. Get well ill Decemberist!