last night i made my first trip of the summer to the hollywood bowl (first and hopefully not last, since the bowl will be hosting a variety of interesting artists this summer). and what a fantastic line-up. the evening started with band of horses, whose performance made me want to go home and listen more. i started listening to them a few months ago and liked their album, but i've been a little obsessed with wilco and arcade fire this spring, so everyone else has gotten short shrift. their live performance underscored their music's lyricism--a lyricism that is beautiful and soulful without being self-indulgent. and left me anticipating their new album (i think they said it's due out in october).
they were followed up by andrew bird with his fantastic whistling abilities. i suppose anyone who can whistle has fantastic abilities compared to me (can't whistle to save my life), but he can whistle a tune while accompanying himself on guitar or violin or glockenspiel. which seems pretty fantastic to me. but his fantastic ability isn't limited to whistling and playing. his lyrics are fanciful, full of understated magic. and his performance, with a crazy contraption that looked like two old-school phonograph trumpets attached to each other whirling around behind him, reinforced that magic. i'm not sure exactly what the contraption did to the sound, but i'm sure it was there for more than visual effect...
the headliners last night, and the reason we went (though band of horses and andrew bird added to the appeal), were the decemberists. they played with the l.a. phil. which was interesting. i'd not seen a rock band play with a philharmonic before. i liked it. there were moments when the sound was a bit out of balance. but the decemberists' music is so vibrantly orchestral that having all those horns and a harp and strings behind them didn't detract from the music at all. the orchestra, the beautiful summer night, the music, and the band all combined to make for a magical night.
no small part of that magic was due to their singer, colin meloy, who is a pure delight. his performance had me laughing--that laughter that must be let out because you've seen something so beautiful that you can't keep it inside. his exuberance was infectious. his antics during the encore--a jaunt around the semicircle wall in front of the stage complete with mimed guitar solo played in tandem with chris funk, asking the crowd to indulge him by waving their cell phones--had the crowd begging for more.
as we walked out last night, down the long hill to find our bus back to the car, i felt at complete peace with the world. there's something so beautifully human about music--about thousands of people gathering, singing, cheering for something as ephemeral as a song. a celebration of being. i don't ever want to go without it again.