We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


If you can get past that nasal drone—think Rufus Wainwright without the showbiz—you’ll find that Colin Meloy knows his way around a pop tune. The lead singer and songsmith for the Decemberists is a creative writer (at least that’s what his college degree says), and he can write a seafaring couplet with the best of them. Check this one from “The Gymnast, High Above the Ground” from the band’s second disc, Her Majesty: “The bosun calls upon the quay/Compass gone, he long has lost his way.” A petty naval officer, a boat landing place, and, well, a compass, all referenced in one cool rhyme! Other salty-water tracks include “Shanty for the Arethusa” (“We set sail on a packet full of spice, rum, and tea leaves”) and “The Bachelor and the Bride,” wherein Meloy tells the tale of a couple who bury their first daughter in the water. The mixture of acoustic guitar, violin and cello, pedal steel, and piano only serves to heighten the gypsy-troubadour poetry that defines Meloy’s melodically rich tunes, which bring to mind a non-Irish-sounding Pogues, Neutral Milk Hotel with studio production, and an American Belle and Sebastian. Opening for the Decemberists are fellow Portlanders the Joggers. The chops-rich quartet’s sturdy debut, Solid Guild, touches on all the hot sounds—the Strokes’ mix of energy and detachment, Television’s twin guitar leads, Hot Hot Heat’s jagged rhythms—without being nearly as memorable as any of those bands. The show starts at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, on the Black Cat’s Backstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $7. (202) 667-7960. (Christopher Porter)