Everyone has their soundtrack to their middle school, high school, and college years: songs that connect memories with feelings, making you recall specific moments of your past that you were sure you had forgotten. On and off throughout those years, Ben Gibbard‘s youthful voice used to blast through my car stereo’s speakers, helping me figure out love and loss, keeping me a little more sane during my rockier, unhinged moments. I have grown to know all his albums by heart, perhaps embarrassingly so, as his then-creations turned out to be the music of the ultimate “alternative indie snob” in social circles during my youth (hah). People who listened to “mainstream” music would make fun of my emo, Death Cab taste. “Death Cab” practically became its own genre during that time…people would compare similar bands and say that they had a “Death Cab” sound: dark but light, fuzzy, poppy, acoustic… Eventually it became almost too easy to like the band, as more complicated independent music grew in popularity and the Rilo Kiley/Death Cab/Conor Oberst fans grew older.
Ben Gibbard is now 36 years old. He’s been releasing music under various projects since 2007 and on October 16, 2012, he released his latest solo work, Former Lives (Barsuk). The album explores a more mature, folkier side of Gibbard that transcends eras and audiences. On the night of his album release, Gibbard played a private, intimate concert at the New York City bar HiFi (formerly Brownies). The venue was the same place Gibbard had played his first New York City Death Cab for Cutie show, so the spot had a particular, personal meaning to him. “I started out playing at Brownies and on Barsuk Records, now here I am again at Brownies and on Barsuk Records,” he told the crowd.
Gibbard shared a handful of stories with the audience throughout the night, one of which was about bar owner, Mike Stuto, and how when Gibbard was sick before his “Brownies” show several years ago, Stuto made it his personal obligation to take Gibbard to the hospital and make sure he was in good care. Stuto still owns HiFi, and even though the spot is no longer a venue, he and Gibbard have remained good friends.
So there he was, Ben Gibbard, singing songs from all of his discographies from years past at the back of the HiFi bar. It seems easy to assume that playing old songs from younger years about former habits and hardships isn’t the easiest or most preferable thing to do, but Gibbard broke out old melodies like a champ. He played songs like “Steadier Footing,” “Grapevine Fires,” “Title and Registration,” and “Lightness,” “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” and attacked an encore with “Lack of Color” and “Marching Bands Of Manhattan”–a song that Gibbard had never played acoustically before.
For Gibbard fans who are planning on attending his upcoming shows, you can look forward to one unique/exclusive cover song per show that Gibbard is learning in order to “give each crowd something different.” His tour starts off in Minneapolis, MN on November 1 and has 13 shows before the musician heads over to Europe for six concerts in Germany, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.
Here are photos from Gibbard’s show at HiFi/Brownies.