Sunday, November 9, 2008

Crowd Surfing with Obama

The optimism in the air in Boston this past week has been nearly palpable. What with Obama's victory Tuesday and the unseasonably warm November weather, there's a smile on nearly everyone's faces these days. It's a welcome reprieve from the doom and gloom of the economic crisis and the impending winter chill. Though there was much gleeful shouting, car horn beeping, and giddy bouncing on Tuesday night around 11pm, the most exuberance I've seen was at the Orpheum Theater Thursday night, when I went to see the Decemberists.

It was my second time seeing the Portland band, known for their eccentric stage antics and literary lyrics, live. The first time their set was punctuated with a giant whale puppet and members of the band diving into the audience at the Avalon to crowd surf. Many of their songs are more mythic tales than pop song, with tracks ranging from "O Valencia!" which tells the story of a star-struck romance in the vein of Romeo and Juliet, to "The Mariner's Revenge Song" in which a man finds justice in the belly of a whale. The group has an ode to the writer Myla Goldberg and in fact, lead singer Colin Meloy's sister is an acclaimed author herself.

This time, a life-sized cardboard cutout of Barack Obama stood in for the giant whale. The band sent the 2-D President Elect into the crowd, where he happily crowd surfed for a good part of the set. When the audience returned him to the stage, Meloy sent him back, saying "No, he belongs with the people." If that wasn't clue enough of the band's political stance, Meloy went on to expound how delighted and inspired he was by the election, and lead a call and response "Yes we can! Yes we DID!" chant. The real climax of the evening came during the last song of the night, "Sons and Daughters," the last song on the band's most recent studio album The Crane Wife. As they launched into the chorus "Here all the bombs fade away," they pulled up about 30 members of the audience and, as everyone sang along, I couldn't help but tear up a little bit. It was a fitting reminder of the relevance and resonance music can have in culture, and in our own personal lives.

It's been a great week, and I can only hope that this sense of possibility doesn't fade away.

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