Death Cab for Cutie, photo by Josh Darr

A little over 10 years ago, I made my “maiden voyage” down to Austin, Texas for my first experience of SXSW. That week included a stay at a roadside motel, a pile of day party invites and a bunch of circled bands to check out while there. Some of those bands I might had only heard one song but was enough to had intrigued me to track them down. One of those bands was Warpaint and all it took was one day party set to have me trail them for the rest of the week.

I made a point for the following few years to catch/capture them live as the rest of the world caught up to what we had already discovered. In the decade since, the quartet have released four albums amongst other projects and life experiences. I don’t normally give openers this much attention but on this evening I would’ve been just as happy with Warpaint playing a headliners set. Their five songs were just enough though to remind me of that mind blowing experience I had in Austin all those years ago and now hope they’ll be returning soon.

Now all that said, I can also go on and on about both Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service. For me personally, 2003 was one of those years of major adulting and both bands soundtracked my time picking myself up from heartbreak and whatever curveballs life was throwing me at the time. I’ve joked with other parents what torch The National is carrying for me now in my 40s was passed along from Ben Gibbard and his music from my late 20s. There were many, many mixtapes made during those years that included a large catalog of songs throughout the band’s existence but even more from both Transatlanticism and the Postal Service album Give Up. I’m sure at the time, plenty of my friends were annoyed with my obsession with them and declaration that their music defined me. 

I’ve had the opportunity to both see and shoot coverage of Death Cab live during my career and as much of a bucket list experience they were they did not match to the nostalgic emotions that rushed back on Saturday evening at Salt Shed. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it had only been a week since seeing both Gibbard led bands headlining the second night of Riot Fest but definitely had more impact with the proper lighting/sound in a venue. 

Much like the metaphor of a devil sitting on one shoulder and an Angel on the other, I felt a similar parallel between the Death Cab and Postal Service sets. The band arrived dressed in all black seemingly as though the evenings performance of Trasatlanticism was an anniversary of a past funeral remembering the end of something dear. As we all know as Death Cab fans, the concept of the album and what it represents and our own relationships we wanted to control and keep from ending. The “Angel” in the evening’s realization was the reunion of Gibbard and project partner, Jimmy Tamborello and guest vocalist Jenny Lewis. Appearing in white from head to toe in stark contrast to Gibbard’s earlier attire celebrated the group’s only album Give Up.

Twenty years later, what I once interpreted as a final plea for a lost love to reunite I see now as the album’s title states as an accepted conclusion to what we know we won’t ever have again. That’s like so many things in life but in this particular instance it will never be 2003 again and as Gibbard shared with us, he never expected to have such a creatively fruitful year as he had but I’m grateful to have gotten to experience it at the time and to walk down memory lane with him for one more time for now. 


Warpaint Setlist:
New Song
Disco // Very

Death Cab for Cutie Setlist:
The New Year
Title and Registration
Expo 86
The Sound of Settling
Tiny Vessels
Passenger Seat
Death of an Interior Decorator
We Looked Like Giants
A Lack of Color

Postal Service Setlist:
The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
Such Great Heights
Sleeping In
Nothing Better
Recycled Air
Clark Gable
We Were Like Silhouettes
This Place is a Prison
Brand New Colony
National Anthem

Such Great Heights (acoustic)
Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode Cover)