The last time Death Cab For Cutie played a show in Washington
they were kings of the rock ‘n’ roll world, triumphantly
celebrating the success of their latest album “Narrow Stairs” with
a headlining set at Bumbershoot last year.
The show capped a great year for Death Cab that saw the band
rack up its first No. 1 record on the Billboard charts (“Narrow
Stairs”) and more or less completed the group’s transformation from
a group of indie kids only trendy scenesters knew about to a
full-blown, stadium-packing rock band.
Just how much of a full-blown, stadium-packing rock band has
Death Cab become? The set ended with a pyrotechnic punctuation mark
of golden showers of sparks raining down on the stage during the
close of “Transatlanticism.”
“I had my back turned to it so I didn’t have the opportunity to
turn around and take it in. I saw a few YouTube clips of it but I
don’t think that does it justice,” Jason McGerr, Death Cab’s
drummer, said during a tour stop in Chicago last week.
He said the group didn’t take the decision to try something
different, and unexpected, lightly.
“You’ve got to walk a fine line between cred and over the top.
You want to give a show and you want to send people home with some
sort of memory of a great performance rather than do the same thing
every time. We have played so many shows in Seattle, between
playing Sasquatch at the end of the Plans tour and paying KeyArena
and doing a couple of Paramount shows, when the idea of doing a
little bit of pyro and sparks came up we were like ‘Sure, why not
give it a shot?’ ”
The end result created one of those powerful concert experiences
where the audience knew they were witnessing something special
while it was happening.
“What I do remember that I will never forget is the look on
people’s faces in the front row when that thing went off. They went
from elated to uber-elated. You could tell a lot of kids had never
probably been exposed to anything like that because they had only
been going to concerts for three years or four years. If you’d seen
a KISS show and were at the Death Cab concert you were probably
pretty unimpressed. But for people that don’t usually get to see
things like that I think it was pretty epic,” McGerr said.
The band is currently on the tail end of the touring cycle
behind “Narrow Stairs,” and has closed the “Stairs” chapter with
the release of an EP titled “The Open Door.”
“We knew we were going to tour regardless. The timing of the EP
was such that it would be nice if it came together around the tour
and we made it happen that way,” McGerr said. “The songs were
mostly done … It all started the same time as ‘Narrow Stairs.’ They
weren’t b-list songs or afterthoughts. We sought to record 20 songs
for the album and we knew a few would get widdled away.”
Although the four new songs on “The Open Door” got cut from
“Stair’s” final track list, the band kept them in mind for possible
release down the road.
“We knew these songs would have a home at some point and we kept
them close to our heart and the idea of an EP came together around
last fall. We thought it would be great to let the world know there
is another component to the ‘Narrow Stairs’ era before this album
cycle is done.”
Does that mean there is more unreleased Death Cab material from
sessions for past records that could be released in the future?
“I think if a person looks hard enough between everything that
has been released in the U.S. and maybe Japanese B-sides and comps
you could probably put together a fairly extensive list of Death
Cab material. If I said there was some long, lost collection of
songs out there I’d be lying,” said McGerr.
The band’s tour includes four shows in Washington including a
sold-out show that is happening in Bellingham at the Mt. Baker
Theater as I write this. McGeer grew up in Bellingham and said the
show will mean a lot to him.
“Playing Mt Baker Theatre, which is somewhere I went a lot to
see shows, although they were mainly theater productions, is really
exciting for me. Especially playing there in the middle of the tour
when we’ve hit our stride,” he said.
The other three home state shows include a trip across the state
where they will perform at Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center
Friday night with Ra Ra Riot and Cold War Kids (7 p.m.; $35) and
two back-to-back shows at Redmond’s Marymoor Park July 18 and 19
with the New Pornographers and Ra Ra Riot (7 p.m.; $35) that end
Since the last time Death Cab played in Seattle they surprised
fans with fireworks, does the band have any tricks up its sleeve
for the Marymoor concerts?
“We’re trying to think big for the next time around in Seattle
at the end of July. But I don’t know we’ll see what happens,”