There are a few reasons I rarely go to shows, and to be honest it’s a shame. First and foremost is the time of day. I’m usually in bed by 10:30PM, which isn’t conducive to witnessing live music. Second is the awkward moments prior to showtime — inevitably, I am that guy standing in the corner against the wall pretending to be absorbed in texting or Facebooking or Tweeting because, despite arriving 45 minutes after doors, the first band is still nowhere near starting. And I tend not to know anyone either. But really, this is all the precursor to the amazing. Yes, Hey Marseilles blew my socks off.
Hey Marseilles is one of those great orchestral pop bands. You know the kind — they really get into the music, the orchestral part namely, but don’t go overboard with the theatrics. As the band launched into my personal favorite, “Gasworks”, I was reminded of The Decemberists, but without the penchant for fictitious historical stories, fake vocal accent/drawl and the stage-meets-theater performance style. Don’t get me wrong; those elements make The Decemberists a wonderful band to see live. But the lack of them here made Hey Marseilles a shining star.
There wasn’t much side-banter, a few words by the frontman here and there between songs and that’s it. But where they lacked in spoken word, they made up for in performance.
For once, I spent the majority of a show away from stage front, only stepping up briefly a few times to snap a photo or two with my iPhone. The experience was slightly different, the crowd no less exuberant than they were in Seattle or Portlant, only slightly less pushy and passive. People were friendly, understanding; they were there to see a great band put on a great show and they were happy that others came along for the ride as well.
Hey Marseilles picked up on the vibe, and with a big Saturday crowd they couldn’t be more pleased. As they bowed out with their big song, “Rio” everyone went nuts. Wild cheers turned to a chant: Encore they repeated, over and over. The band returned to treat us to the only song they hadn’t performed from their album To Travels & Trunks, “Cigarettes”. Then they played a new one.
I haven’t stayed up past 1am in a long time, and just saying that makes me feel really old. Watching Hey Marseilles perform that evening in Bellingham made me realize something: I need to go to more shows. It was fun, hanging out with a few new friends and seeing a band for the first time in what seemed like forever. And Bellingham is bristling with great young artists worth seeing, as well as having a few solid venues and a stream of bands stopping by on their way between Seattle and Vancouver BC. Thanks for teaching that to me, Hey Marseilles.