This week at The White Eagle, the honesty and poetry of Portland songwriter William Stafford moved one of our writers very deeply.
“We know, we know, we belong to ya / We know you built your life around us…”
The Decemberists’ seventh studio album, What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World, opens with this pledge, and after the events of this week, Colin Meloy might as well have been pledging his allegiance to the entirety of Portland, Oregon.
Monday (1/19) saw the band treat it’s hometown fans to both a free mini set on 101.9 KINK FM and a special meet and greet at local institution Music Millennium. Beyond the basic meet and greet, fans could purchase the record a day early, as well as have it and other memorabilia (such as copies of our latest issue with the band on the cover) signed. The next afternoon saw not just the fans, but the city of Portland as a whole return the favor with the naming of January 20th as “Decemberists Day”. Tuesday’s event saw the band performing in city hall after the dedication of both the day itself and a collaborative art project featuring over 50 artists and local businesses.
The Decemberists were scheduled to begin their meet and greet at the Pacific Northwest’s oldest record store (45 years and counting) at about 4pm, and by 3:30 there were easily 150 fans packed into the store for the very eagerly anticipated event. With both the meet and greet and show on KINK earlier in the day, it was clear that the band and their management were really going out of their way to reciprocate the love Stumptown was showing them. Well, no good deed goes unpunished, as apparently Colin Meloy and his family were betrayed by some bad sushi the night before, and were all very much under the weather.
However, this being Colin Meloy, the kind of man who begins his band’s first record in four years by thanking his audience in the very first line of the album, the show went on. After a brief interlude upstairs on owner Terry Currier’s office couch, Meloy put a smile on, made his way downstairs, and gave a lifetime memory to about 300 fans. If you knew, you could tell the man was hurting something terrible, but he still sat there and seemed truly thankful for the carefully constructed paper roses and various other gifts passed to him with quivering, excited hands by exuberant fans. As someone who knows the business well, believe me when I tell you there are enough assholes in the music industry to populate a thousand Grammy ceremonies. Mr. Meloy is most assuredly not one of these assholes.
The next day saw the band receive both the honor of having January 20th be known as Decemberists Day for evermore and the unveiling of a massive quilt featuring the collaborative art work of 50 business and artists around Portland. The band treated the completely packed makeshift venue to What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World lead single “Make You Better”, “Eli, the Barrow Boy” and “Sons & Daughters”, the last of which featured the packed house joining on backing vocals.
Mayor Charlie Hales opined “How emblematic the Decemberists are for us as a city, we’re brainy… we’re quirky… and we’re serious about good music” while honoring the band. Among other connections between the group and its hometown, the proclamation the band received celebrated the fact that The Decemberists “embody the Portland values of passion, engagement and communitarianism with the Portland aesthetic of homegrown, forthright, slightly hippie and often bespectacled glory”.
It’s hard to think of a better place to birth such an band, and equally difficult to think of a band better suited for its hometown. The two days felt like a wonderful victory lap for both Portland and the band and kudos to both this wonderful city and The Decemberists for reminding us all why we’re here.
Check out the proclamation and a full gallery of photos below.
Words: Donovan Farley
Music Millennium photos: Caitlin Webb Photography
City Hall photos: KOIN/Tyler Dunn