Up-and-coming Portland band Blind Pilot is currently on tour with The Decemberists. Blind Pilot is not a band I was familiar with, but after I heard their first album, 3 Rounds and a Sound, their acoustic sound had me hooked. Likened to Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins, and the vocal sounds of Damien Rice, Blind Pilot’s tunes range from ballads to upbeat, hitting everything in between. While there isn’t a song on the album that is likely to be heard as a Top 40 hit, or, at the other end of the spectrum, a song that gets a good mosh-pit started, Blind Pilot has a sound that is sure to please the masses. Headliners The Decemberists is also a group I was not very familiar with going in to this show, and after I saw the first half of their set, I was still not impressed. Turns out I’m not a fan of "Progressive Rock".
The evening began with a lot of waiting. Waiting in line for our guest passes to the show, then being redirected to yet another line where we waited some more, had our IDs checked and appropriate wrist bands applied, and then we finally entered The Tabernacle, a popular Atlanta concert venue. Once inside, we waited some more for Blind Pilot to start their set. It was at this point we realized that the air conditioner was not working, as we were packing in amongst hundreds of people, sweating as much as we are, all fanning themselves with whatever they can get their hands on. I was very thankful for the oversized ticket that I was given that was made of very heavy card stock!
Blind Pilot, seen here in original duo form with just the barest
hint of percussionist added behind the bassist...
Blind Pilot began their amazing set and I was immediately enthralled, and a bit confused. It seems as though Blind Pilot frontmen, Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski, now have four new band mates and new instruments in tow. The new musical sounds include trumpet, banjo, stand up bass, and xylophone.
New banjoist/backing vocalist in Blind Pilot.
The new instruments add a lot more dimension and a more complete sound to what was already in place with their recorded guitar and drums sound. After listening to the album again, I noticed that there was trumpet and some tambourine that I was oblivious to before (still can’t figure out how that slipped past me!).
Did this guy play the horn on the record as well?
Blind Pilot played for about 45 amazing minutes, and sounded even better than they do on album, putting my worries of yet another 'studio band' out of my head. In between songs, the band would chat with the audience and tell us a little about themselves while throwing in a lot of gratitude toward The Decemberists for inviting them to tag along for a few dates of their summer tour.
Blind Pilot's frontman.
I noticed an overwhelming amount of humbleness from the Blind Pilot crew as they continued their set. I can only hope that the humbleness and awe of being on the road playing venues larger than dive bars and grocery stores does not disappear as they climb the ranks in musical fame.
The bassist, one half of the original duo.
After standing in a crowded venue, sweating and irritated by the heat and people that did not understand the concept of standing still or saying ‘excuse me’ as they walked in front of me, tread on my toes, or bumped into me, The Decemberists finally graced the audience with their presence… But I wish they hadn’t.
Sadly, The Decemberists did play after Blind Pilot.
The first song or two were decent, and then the performance just got weird—lots of flashing lights, impressionistic dancing, and an odd mix of instruments (including an accordion).
The Decemberists featured multiple vocalists.
Including sparkly clothed overly dramatic woman.
(On the right, above).
And flowy-haired high-pitched hippie woman (below, drumming).
I honestly do not know which was worst.
ouldn’t get out of the place fast enough. About an hour into the set the band took a break, and I headed for the exit…and some cool air!
The lead Decemberist.
My overall impression of the evening ranks 4.5 out of 7 sponges. If the air conditioner had been working and The Decemberists had been the opening band rather than the headliners, the rating could easily have been 6 sponges. Although I stated earlier the discovery of my aversion to "Prog Rock", I have a very high tolerance for a broad range of music so I would have been content listening to a complete Decemberists set if they were the openers. Then, at least my reward for good behavior would have been a fine, relaxing acoustic set from the talented Blind Pilot.