The Decemberists are one of my favorite bands. Top 5, honestly.
My sophomore English teacher let me borrow the Her Majesty, The Decemberists album when I was in high school, and I listened to those creepy sea shantys in my '81 Subaru wagon until the batteries ran out of my Discman.
It is not fair to say that people have a love-it/hate-it attitude towards The Decemberists but rather an, "I love it" or "I don't get it" response.
Being a word-nerd, and a native Portlander, with a soft spot for all tales epic and old, I am really drawn to their music, and more uniquely in this age of singles and iPod shuffling, their albums. I believe most of their fans feel this way, as we have been rewarded with The Hazards of Love: a prog-rock and British 60s folk inspired concept album.
Yeah. It's as out there as it sounds.
The plot is, basically: Margaret, a maiden from town, falls in love with William, a shape-shifting fawn-man of the forest. They have a lovely relationship, which mostly consists of lying around on beds of boughs in firefly light, and all this lying about inevitably gets Margaret pregnant. She goes into the taiga to meet her lover and tell him of the news (you can tell what kind of album it is when the word "taiga" is involved. Look it up).
William's adoptive mother, the forest Queen, is enraged by this turn of events and appears in a jealous rage during this intimate moment. William makes a deal to pacify her (the details of which are lost on me, but they must come to some agreement as The Queen rumbles, "Consider this your debt repaid" at the end of track 8).
The Queen hires a rascally rake, whose autobiographical track 10, The Rakes' Song is "that rarest of things, a comical rock track about infanticide" as one review put it. He kidnaps Margaret, the Rake's murdered children come back for revenge, the escape is hazy for me, and I won't ruin the ending.
Basically, it's freaking cool. The obvious highlight is guest vocalist Shara Worden voicing the raw and resonating Queen, and that the whole thing is kind of inspired in part by Ladyhawke (one of the better movies of the 1980s).
The point of my gushing is that The Decemberists made a two-hour appearance at Portland's coolest record shop, Music Millenium (31st and E Burnside) and I went and bought the album, got a really lovely limited edition print poster, and had both signed by the band.
The hazards of being a fan that I encountered are two-fold:
1. The other fans are f-ing weird. I stood in front of the most foully intimate, tofu-eating, internet-radio-show-hosting, baby-talking, cat-adoring Portland couple in the city. It made me want to spew every few minutes. That, and a bunch of outcast high schoolers.
2. When in the presence of Colin Meloy, one of our time's most brilliant songwriters and intelligent musicians, it is impossible to sound eloquent. Apparently, I took this to mean I had a green light to sound like an idiot as the following conversation actually occurred:
Me: "Hi! Thanks so much for coming out to do this and taking the time out of your day."
Colin: "Hey, no problem at all! Thanks for coming."
John: "Yeah, thanks, our pleasure." [starts to sign my stuff]
Me: "You know, you look a lot more comfortable than the last time I saw you guys, since you were on stage and sweating your-"
It is at this point I realize I wanted to say "sweating bullets" but in the presence of the Word Nerd himself, I faltered, and said "sweating your". I said the "your", and needed to commit, so I went with what was on the tip of my tongue, as it also started with a "b".
Me: "...balls off."
Really? I say to the band, "Last time I saw you, you were sweating your balls off?" WHAT!?
They laugh, but with crinkled brow and a "did she really say that?" expression as I quickly go on to explain myself:
Me: "..you know, because it was in Eugene, at the beginning of that tour! And you were all wearing those new uniforms... which you had specially made for the tour...they were the first time you wore them and they were hot...you said it.."
Luckily, Colin saved me, laughed, acknowledged the event and then, surprisingly bitterly said, "Oh. Yes..the night ALL OF OUR STUFF got stolen."
Instead of thinking on my feet and suggesting that perhaps all his tales of gypsies, drunkards, rapscallians and pirates had come to life, I just said,
"Yeah, but, you got to play anyway, right?"
"Yeah, we did."
Turns out the biggest hazard of loving a band is conversational impotence.