Friday - Michael Franti & Spearhead, Built To Spill
The drizzle had nearly subsided when Built To Spill took the stage, signaling the official beginning of the Memorial Day weekend bonanza at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. As BTS ripped their indie jam rock through the low-hanging clouds, a late arriving crowd, Sound Check included, wondered how it can remain dry for more than a month and then rain on the Friday before Memorial Day.
The sun never came out, but Franti and company did their best to make it feel warm by bursting out of the gates with the band's patented hip-hop/reggae/rock crossover feel that had a beanie-and-rain-jacket crowd pogo sticking up and down upon the towering Franti's instructions ("I wanna see you jump" - he must have said it 10 times). There was some talk of reform and making a difference in this world, as one would expect from Franti, but for the most part, it was pure funky dance party and Sound Check hasn't seen Bendites get down like that in a very long while, if ever.
Far and away, the highlight of the night was when Franti bounded across the stage as the crowd joined him in a silly but fun version of King Harvest's "Dancing in the Moonlight." And no, the moon never did come out - all weekend. - Mike Bookey
Saturday - Death Cab For Cutie, The Decemberists, Mates of State
Coming into the amphitheater, the rain was either coming or going and that constant rain limbo seemed to set the tone for Death Cab For Cutie's set. Having never seen the Decemberists before, Sound Check was blown away by front man Colin Meloy's stage presence, and soon believed that the Portland band's albums do not do them proper justice.
In Death Cab's case we were hardly as impressed. Having previously been die-hard fans who'd seen the band at Whitman College in '05 and again headlining an arena show with Jenny Lewis in Seattle during December of '06, we know first hand they can rock it and are capable of more than we saw at the LSA.
Their set felt hurried and monotonous at times sucking all the life out of Gibbard's poetry genius. The crowd mirrored a REI fashion show to which the band could almost only perform songs from Plans and Narrow Stairs, creepily, and without flaw. When did the phrase "arena rock" become synonymous with Death Cab For Cutie? When interviewing Chris Walla the previous Friday he said, "I just desperately hope that we break up before we start to suck." Is that time coming sooner than we thought? All in all, Sound Check walked away a bigger Decemberists fan and a disenchanted Death Cab fan. - Tauna Leonardo