It hadn’t even been a full day since the autumnal equinox, and it felt like a switch had been flipped immediately to late-fall weather. Just last week it was sunny and shorts weather, but tonight, we all stood huddled together in layered clothing and rain jackets at Surly Brewing’s large open lot. Where once it was dangerously hot, tonight rain came down on all of us, and we all started to see our breath. “I heard it was 90 degrees here last week,” said opener Thao Nguyen, making her third appearance in the Twin Cities within a year. “My goal tonight is to take this scarf off” she joked between songs, taking a sip out of her thermos. A warm beverage that wasn’t a beer or ice cold water wouldve been ideal right now.
Thao was a last minute replacement for the opening slot on this portion of Death Cab for Cutie’s tour. They had originally booked LOW to open for them, who had canceled their touring dates a few weeks leading up to the show to focus on drummer Mimi Parker’s cancer treatment. It was clear by the tepid crowd at the beginning of the night that concert goers had missed LOW, however the crowd that was there early was really into Thao. Like her last show here, Thao isnt touring behind a new album or in a new band, Instead focusing on honing in on her performance with her current band members, Lilah Larson to her right on guitar and vocals, Micayla Grace to her left on bass and vocals, and drummer Jon Sortland behind them all with steady beats.
Halfway through her set, Thao had the crowd singing and dancing along to Fool Forever from 2016’s A Man Alive. After splitting up the crowd to sing different parts of the lyrics she said “Very good! You’re the kind of crowd that likes a singalong” she smiled “But sing it more anguished, please.” Her set was shorter than her last stop here, but still had all the power and hallmarks of her signature style of music. Here’s hoping we see more from her soon.
Thao’s set ended just before the rain started, and soon it became clear that the $4 ponchos for sale at the merch tent would be the hottest item of the night. With the rain now a constant, Death Cab for Cutie took the stage, opening with I Dont Know How To Survive, from their latest release, Asphalt Meadows. Frontman Ben Gibbard stood backlit for the majority of the song, and the backlighting helped to highlight the leak in the stage roof that was pouring water all over his microphone and pedalboard. By A Movie Script Ending, Ben needed this fixed. “I want to see the Mariners get to the world series,” he joked. “So I dont want to die tonight.” His crew promptly moved his equipment not long after that.
The band is touring behind Asphalt Meadows, which is their tenth studio album, and just a few days old at this point. Its their first album post(ish) COVID, since 2019’s The Blue EP. Fans are excited about the energy behind Asphalt Meadows, saying it is fresh while still eliciting the sound of the band’s earlier material.
As per usual with new records, Asphalt Meadows took up the majority of the 23 song setlist, however the band made sure to add in some old favorites as well. The New Year came very early in the setlist, the third song of the set, off of the bands 2003 favorite Transatlanticism. 405 made the encore, from the bands second album, 2000’s We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes. Songs from 2005’s Plans also made it into the setlist as well, including I Will Follow You Into The Dark and Your Heart Is an Empty Room.
Standing in the audience, you almost forgot that it was raining. Fans cheered and made comments like they would have in better conditions. One fan looked at me and said “They sound fucking good.” They were right. Death Cab has been around for a bit. They’re old enough now to elicit the nostalgia of early 00 indie rock, but are holding together in better condition than some other bands on the road today that should have that same caliber. Death Cab is not a hit-or-miss band like many of the bands of their era seem to be these days. And to have that accolade on just the second night of the tour (They kicked off the tour last night in Madison) means that this is a can’t-miss group to see right now. If you go, just please don’t buy your vinyl copy of Transatlanticism at the show if it’s going to rain.