Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Decemberists Concert Reivew Milwaukee Riverside Theater

We attended The Decem-berists concert in Milwaukee last night, and it was a really mixed bag.  I'm too tired to post the full set list - you can find it elsewhere, but here are some points of review:
  •  The venue, the Riverside Theater, was sold as general admission, despite being a old time theater like the State in Minneapolis.  I thought, since everything was GA, that we'd be attending something like 1st. Ave.  Could not have been more wrong.  Hence, by the time we finished our meal and headed to the concert for the curtain at 8:00, the place was packed.  Our seats ended up being 6th row from the back in the balcony.  Why you'd choose to hold a GA show in such a venue is beyond me.  I bought these tickets months ago, and would have gladly paid a premium for good seats.  Fail.  
  • Opening act was Mountain Man.  Their high harmonies and sparse accompaniment were beautiful and quirky.  Not my kettle of fish, but enjoyable.  
  • The Decemberists were very strong.  There was great interaction between frontman Colin Meloy and the crowd, the band executed very well, and the setlist was fairly strong.  Overall a good effort.  
  • Sound in the balcony was beyond horrible.  The hall's acoustics were very bad, and the band's sound crew didn't help by forcing their small stacks into the main level.  I've attended over 100 concerts, and these acoustics were the worst I have experienced.  Had I not known the song, I never would have been able to tell what they were singing.  
  • Highlight of the night was an impromptu presentation of In the Air Tonight, complete with the whole urban myth presentation about the song.  Total hoot.  
  • Best song had to be The Rake's Song.  All of the bad was on drums save for Meloy and Nate Query on bass.  All were totally into it, and it is the one song that was acoustically the least muddy.  
  • Two different couples, both within five rows of us, got into very public arguments with their dates.  This all went down during This is Why We Fight, and unfortunately they were too angry with each other to recognize the irony.  
The bottom line was that the band was good, the sound horrific, and I couldn't help but feel like a chump for driving four hours round trip to sit in the nosebleed seats with the total drunks and the people that couldn't have cared less about what was going on up on stage.  Not a good experience, and not recommended.


  1. the riverside doesn't have bad acoustics. you are nuts. see more than one show there and you can tell. to say that if you had not known the song you wouldn't have known what they were singing is such hyperbole. the band's sound guy clearly wasn't the best, as you could tell by the sound of the drums. you don't know much about acoustic i assume. also, if you show up to any GA concert at the time it is posted to start you aren't going to get good seats. duh. it doesn't matter what kind of venue it is. don't be stupid.

  2. Anonymous,

    Wow, what a fine addiition to the commentary. Let's take your comments one by one, shall we?

    "the riverside doesn't have bad acoustics. you are nuts." I've been in at least 30 different venues across over 100 different major shows. The acoustics sucked last night, pal. They sucked on ice. At least they did from where I sat.

    "to say that if you had not known the song you wouldn't have known what they were singing is such hyperbole." Not hyperbole, but honesty, Jack. Kudos to you, though, for the 4 syllable word.

    "also, if you show up to any GA concert at the time it is posted to start you aren't going to get good seats. duh." In the past year I attended The Donnas, Alice in Chains, The XX, Mary Gauthier & Mindy Smith, and Spoon (read all the reviews on the site). All GA shows, arrived at posted time, moved up after the first act, and have the pictures to prove it.
    Check them out. Who's stupid now, jackass?

    My complaint is not the GA itself, but the fact that they held a GA show in a venue with seats. If you have a venue with seats, sell the seats. If you want to do GA, go to a venue where people can stand.

    Thanks again for stopping by.

  3. 100 shows. wow. that's a lot. you've impressed me.

    by my rough estimate i've been to over one hundred too. yay!

    also, i don't think 'sucked on ice' is a saying...

    actually the pabst, riverside and turner hall venues are rather renowned for their good acoustics. i've been to more than one show at each and there is only ever a problem if the sound guy that the band brings doesn't know what they are doing. as a musician who has played in some of these venues and understand some of the workings of a PA i can speak directly to it.

    were these other GA shows also sell outs? something tells me not. why the hell would you go to a donnas show? you could show up at any point and get a good seat. same with alice in chains. no one cares. it's not 1993. why don't you go to better shows?

    also, moving up is a total dick move. let's go ahead of everyone else that was standing there the whole time because you don't want to put in the time. if you are going to a concert and it's GA, get their early like nice, respectable people do. don't wait till the last minute and then cut ahead of other people.

    please keep the adult language to yourself, some kiddos might be reading this.

  4. Anonymous,

    You're a musician? Pardon me, you highness, for expressing my opinion. Alas, I "never played the game," so what the hell would I know?

    And liking Alice? You're right - holy crap I'm a tool! I had no right to see a band as hip and trendy as the Decemberists last night. I shouldn't even know who they are! I should have stayed home and listened to some Rick Springfield.

    You're also right, moving at a concert is a total dick move. When you go for a beer (or to "get rid" of the beer), rest assured that your spot will be waiting right there for you because of all of the nice respectable people you meet at concerts. What was I thinking?

    Thanks again for the insight.

  5. you like rick springfield?

    those people are also dicks.

  6. Too bad the show was bad for you because of your seating. But, really, I probably would have gotten there two hours before you did. I'm a big fan, though. I agree that you shouldn't have expected to get great seats. Anyway, thanks for the review.

  7. Anonymous 2,

    Thanks for stopping by. The seat location was definitely my fault - I assumed what the venue would be like based on how the tickets were sold. Bad assumption on my part, and in future GA shows in the same venue I'll work it differently.

    Thanks again for posting up.

  8. "I assumed what the venue would be like based on how the tickets were sold."

    So, when the website (and the actual tickets) said general admission rather than listing seating assignments, you still assumed it was not a GA show? I guess I'm a little confused by your logic. Here's the link to the ticket buying page, and directly underneath the price over on the right it says general admission. It also states that the doors opened at 7pm, so you had to know people would be arriving earlier than 8pm.

  9. Anonymous (1 or 3 - probably 1),

    I knew it was a GA show - where did I say differently?

    95% of the GA shows I've attended have been stage and open floor (or open ground). No seats. Having not been familiar with the venue, that was my assumption on its configuration. Turns out it was a bad one.

    The very next night the band played in Minneapolis at the State Theater. Very similar venue - almost identical. This time the band sold the seats (row X, seat Y). Why the difference?

    Not sure if making a concert like that in a venue like that GA is a Brewtown thing or not. Guess I learned the hard way.

    As for doors, I knew they opened at 7. I also knew that Mountain Man would open, and that the main act would likely hit the stage by 9 (they actually came on slightly after nine). Most concerts I've been to don't fill to 90%+ capacity for the first act. This one did. Either folks were really into Mountain Man, or they just do things differently here. I'll find out at the next show.

  10. what, i just started capitalizing words? c'mon!

    clearly a different guy.

  11. First of all: Mountain Man started the NEXT night. You experienced (yuck) Wye Oak. Though hard to know, since they never introduced themselves. We are middle aged & I just had surgery ten days before this show, but I dutifully lined up 3 1/2 hrs before the doors opened. It's not rocket science. This was our 4th D's concert, with 2 more in the next 2 months. We are taking a train all the way to Seattle since it's a reserved seating venue. D's rock, and generally their fans & critics do too.

  12. Anonymous 4,

    While they did not introduce themselves, I'm pretty sure that it was indeed Mountain Man for the show in Milwaukee. Three chicks, high harmonies. Check out and see what you think.

    3 1/2 before the doors? You are indeed hard core. I hope you got the seats you deserved for that kind of wait. Post up and let us know where you landed.

    Seattle show should be awesome - their last show before the hometown show in Portland. Hard to envision them more loose than they were in Milwaukee, but that might be the case. Hope you have a great show.

    If you think about it, post back. Would love to hear all about it.

    Should be a beautiful train ride to boot. Enjoy.


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