Death Cab For Cutie at Schubas Tavern

Last week, Death Cab was featured in the WXRT Studio X show, sponsored by Goose Island. The band has just released their 9th studio album, “Thank You For Today” and will be playing the Auditorium Theater in Chicago on October 7th.

The Studio X performance was at Schubas Tuesday afternoon, and was an amazing experience for me, as I’ve been a long-time fan of songwriter Ben Gibbard for years, especially his work with side-project Postal Service. Death Cab appeared this time as a stripped-down trio with two acoustic guitars and a keyboardist who was firing off drum loops through a tiny mic’d amplifier to accentuate a stylized “lo-fi” sound.

The band played 4 songs, starting with the new single ‘Gold Rush’, with lyrics that solemnly tug at the gentrification of the singer’s own treasured neighborhood and memories. Second was ‘Your Hurricane’ which focused on a dramatically destructive lover and included the gem “You used to be such a delicate kid / A lonely fish in a sea full of squid” and rounded out with the hook “I won’t be the debris in your hurricane”. Then came the song ‘Cath’ off their sixth album “Narrow Stairs”. They wrapped with the 2005 hit ‘Soul Meets Body’.

As usual, host Marty Lennartz chatted with the band in between songs. Topics I found interesting were that Death Cab planned the length of their new album to perfectly fit onto a 12″ vinyl record, and I think that’s a great example of creative limitation. Ben Gibbard commented that some of their albums take up one and a half records, so they’re forced to leave a side blank, etc, but that “Thank You For Today” comes in nicely at just under forty minutes- the perfect length of a 12″.

Another subject came up that’s close to me, and that’s the idea of adapting recorded songs to a live setting. Ben spoke of the desire to keep “adding another set of hands” to the band so yet another melodic theme could be reproduced live. It sounds like there are always more hands to be added, but you just have to make a creative decision at some point that the song is well represented- sometimes without a full orchestra, which Ben joked they tried for awhile, but can’t afford these days because their kids are now in college.

The brevity of the Death Cab show at Schubas made it all the more sweet. It was amazing to be in such a small room (capacity 165) and to hear Ben Gibbard’s great voice and lyrics right up close. There are still tickets available for their October show, and you can pick up or stream their new album wherever you get your music.

Hear the Death Cab setlist (along with setlists from other bands’s secret shows) on my WXRT / Goose Island StudioX Spotify Playlist.

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