Unconventional '08 :: Whoever this Obama kid is, he sure incites some excellent music
Last night in Denver, the Unconventional '08 shindig took over a madhouse-packed Manifest Hope Gallery amidst the brick warehouses on Larimer Street.
Earlier in the evening a free concert featured Silversun Pickups, Nada Surf, DJ Z-Trip, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Cold War Kids. Starting around 10pm, a late-night supergroup performance brought together Ben Gibbard, Jenny Lewis, Johnathan Rice, Zooey Deschanel, and Matthew Caws to perform for a slew of eclectic luminaries that included various congresspeople, Moby, the mayors of San Francisco and Seattle, Fergie's boyfriend Josh Duhamel, Jin from LOST -- oh, and me. How did this happen?
As I approached from blocks away, the crowd was spilling in the street as they waited to get in through the half-lowered garage door entrance. A converted police car flashed multimedia exhibits onto the faded warehouse wall, with music pulsing loud enough to be heard at the Convention Center. Pandemonium!
Inside the thousand-degree gallery, I did some general browsing of the political artwork covering the walls, and then the requisite gawking and people-watching (most eclectic crowd ever -- mixing political pinstripes with the indie kids and watching them try to dance side-by-side). This non-Dem was admittedly a little creeped out by a few of the near-deistic portrayals of Obama in various painted settings; a friend and I were talking about how we felt like we'd entered his shrine. But overall it was a cool expression of passion and commitment by the artists who contributed, with a few ace lighthearted inclusions (Stephen Colbert! Slaying evil!).
Comedienne Sarah Silverman started things off with her hilariously deadpan ruminations on the convention and the election, and she was dipped into an enthusiastic two-armed welcome (totally almost like this) by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom (SCU Broncos represent!). Newsom then introduced Seattle's mayor Greg Nickels, and after many words and rousing rhetoric, the five musicians finally climbed onto the small stage. Throughout the 70-minute show each artist took turns on lead, with various duets, group singalongs and covers. It was lighthearted and felt like a rare living-room collaboration.
See all the glory in pictures from last night.
UNCONVENTIONAL '08 KINDA SOUNDED LIKE...
This Is Not A Test (live 8/2/08, Newport Folk) - Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward
Zooey was completely charming, and performed this song with her guitar. Halfway through she stopped abruptly and laughed at a small mistake she made, saying it was the first time she'd ever played guitar in public since she usually rocks the piano.
Love Hurts - Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
Johnathan Rice and Jenny Lewis sang this '70s staple, and in a move of complete awesomeness, they dedicated it to Obama and Hillary.
Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds cover) - Jenny Lewis & Johnathan Rice
They didn't sing this song. But they did lots of duets together, all lovey and gazing into each other's indie-alt-country-couple eyes, and sounding good.
See These Bones (live on MOKB Sirius) - Nada Surf
I loved every note and word that spilled from Matthew Caws last night (recall my fondness). I was unabashed dork fangirl, coincidentally ending up right at Matthew's feet for the set, and I didn't even bother to check my singalong enthusiasm. He kept eying me in bemusement as I sang "the lights of this city are more or less blinking..." with possibly more enthusiasm than he did.
Weightless (live on Leno) - Nada Surf
You know those gorgeous Beach Boys harmonies at the end of this song? Picture the full gallery crowd and those other four voices on stage all swelling together behind Caws' lead vocals. Jenny Lewis admirably played band leader, cupping her hand around her ear and waving her arms in encouragement. Nada Surf drummer Ira Elliott stood off to the right (in front of that massive Obama/Lincoln meld) and kept time with fancy claps for the whole song. You can take the drummer off the stage ...
Silver Lining (Rilo Kiley cover, live at Hiro Ballroom 6/30/08) - Ben Gibbard
Ben didn't play this one either. But he could have. I think Jenny would have been down with that.
Cath (live at BBC6) - Ben Gibbard
This song appeared on last night's setlist but was substituted with "Sound of Settling," which was great by me because we all got to "Ba baaa! Ba baaa!" heartily instead.
Military Madness (live 10-22-06, Bridge School) - Death Cab for Cutie, Gillian Welch, Neil Young
The five musicians closed with this Graham Nash cover about military madness and solitary sadness. Ben Gibbard led on the piano, and despite one false ending (another chorus? should we stop? let's do both) it was a stirring closer. This live mp3 is one I saw at the Bridge School Benefit in CA a few years ago with a slightly different lineup.
ZIP: UNCONVENTIONAL '08
Oh, and ...
Dude, I'm practically one of the Oceanic 6.