Artist Spotlight: Death Cab for Cutie plays “Transatlanticism”

by Christian Hamilton | August 29, 2013 3:52 pm

In the age of the dying, if not already dead, album, a band’s decision to play one of theirs all the way through can come as a bit of a surprise. Yet we see it more and more, and fans go crazy for it. Death Cab for Cutie’s decision to play their 2003 album Transatlanticism in its entirety at Bumbershoot celebrates its 10th anniversary as well as Barsuk Records’ 15th anniversary. Weezer has been playing either The Blue Album or Pinkerton in their entirety at various shows since 2010. The Breeders have been making the Festival circuit and doing Last Splash all the way through (also happening at Bumbershoot). And Green Day recently played the almost-20-year-old Dookie during their headlining sets at Reading and Leeds.

So why do fans cling to this concept, and why is it so special when a band decides to perform a classic album in full? Why, at each Bumbershoot event I worked this summer, did a patron come up to our table and gush about how they were most looking forward to the Death Cab show “because I just love that album?” And why am I right there with them?

The beauty of a complete album, one that flows from song to song with carefully crafted transitions, that has a clear beginning, peak, and end, is that it creates an experience. Rather than just that one hit single that you associate with the summer of 2010, or whenever, that full album is a collection of tracks (in the case of Transatlanticism, 11) that have the ability to sway your allegiances and take on new significance each time you listen to them.

I first listened to Transatlanticism with my friend, Gina, in what must have been around the summer of 2008. Gina showed me a band that existed far beyond Plans, their only album of which I was familiar at the time. She burned me a copy of the album with the track names scrawled in tiny print on the front of the CD, and it became the soundtrack to our summer drives through suburbia.

Albums can be re-appropriated, however, and Transatlanticsm followed me as I left home for college and experienced the whirlwind that is freshman year. Different songs took on different meanings, and those few tracks towards the end of the album that I slightly ignored before all of a sudden became the most important. I listened to that album all the way through time and time again, and it became the foundation of several new friendships (“That’s totally my favorite Death Cab album too!”). When I saw Death Cab live for the first time in May 2011 at a somewhat-secret show at the Showbox SODO, the bookends of their set were songs off Transatlanticism, and I was totally that over-emotional fan that shed a few tears as they played.

I’m most excited to see Death Cab for Cutie perform Transatlanticism at Bumbershoot this year because of the significance it holds in my life. For me, the album address some major components of where I’m at: the terrifying thrill of being young, the utterly confusing and difficult-to-navigate concept of love, and the beauty of being able to call the Pacific Northwest home. While some may argue the band’s decision to play this specific album isolates those fans that only know their biggest, most recent singles, it’s a fantastic tribute to those fans that formed solid memories around Transatlanticism–fans who will fill the Key on Sunday night and sing along to every note, admittedly with some tears in their eyes.

Julia Paleski




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