August 28, 2008

Unconventional ’08 :: Whoever this Obama kid is, he sure incites some excellent music

Last night in Denver, the Unconventional ’08 shindig took over a madhouse-packed Manifest Hope Gallery amidst the brick warehouses on Larimer Street.

Earlier in the evening a free concert featured Silversun Pickups, Nada Surf, DJ Z-Trip, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Cold War Kids. Starting around 10pm, a late-night supergroup performance brought together Ben Gibbard, Jenny Lewis, Johnathan Rice, Zooey Deschanel, and Matthew Caws to perform for a slew of eclectic luminaries that included various congresspeople, Moby, the mayors of San Francisco and Seattle, Fergie’s boyfriend Josh Duhamel, Jin from LOST — oh, and me. How did this happen?

As I approached from blocks away, the crowd was spilling in the street as they waited to get in through the half-lowered garage door entrance. A converted police car flashed multimedia exhibits onto the faded warehouse wall, with music pulsing loud enough to be heard at the Convention Center. Pandemonium!

Inside the thousand-degree gallery, I did some general browsing of the political artwork covering the walls, and then the requisite gawking and people-watching (most eclectic crowd ever – mixing political pinstripes with the indie kids and watching them try to dance side-by-side). This non-Dem was admittedly a little creeped out by a few of the near-deistic portrayals of Obama in various painted settings; a friend and I were talking about how we felt like we’d entered his shrine. But overall it was a cool expression of passion and commitment by the artists who contributed, with a few ace lighthearted inclusions (Stephen Colbert! Slaying evil!).

Comedienne Sarah Silverman started things off with her hilariously deadpan ruminations on the convention and the election, and she was dipped into an enthusiastic two-armed welcome (totally almost like this) by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom (SCU Broncos represent!). Newsom then introduced Seattle’s mayor Greg Nickels, and after many words and rousing rhetoric, the five musicians finally climbed onto the small stage. Throughout the 70-minute show each artist took turns on lead, with various duets, group singalongs and covers. It was lighthearted and felt like a rare living-room collaboration.

See all the glory in pictures from last night.


This Is Not A Test (live 8/2/08, Newport Folk) – Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward
Zooey was completely charming, and performed this song with her guitar. Halfway through she stopped abruptly and laughed at a small mistake she made, saying it was the first time she’d ever played guitar in public since she usually rocks the piano.

Love Hurts – Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
Johnathan Rice and Jenny Lewis sang this ’70s staple, and in a move of complete awesomeness, they dedicated it to Obama and Hillary.

Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds cover) – Jenny Lewis & Johnathan Rice
They didn’t sing this song. But they did lots of duets together, all lovey and gazing into each other’s indie-alt-country-couple eyes, and sounding good.

See These Bones (live on MOKB Sirius) – Nada Surf
I loved every note and word that spilled from Matthew Caws last night (recall my fondness). I was unabashed dork fangirl, coincidentally ending up right at Matthew’s feet for the set, and I didn’t even bother to check my singalong enthusiasm. He kept eying me in bemusement as I sang “the lights of this city are more or less blinking…” with possibly more enthusiasm than he did.

Weightless (live on Leno) – Nada Surf
You know those gorgeous Beach Boys harmonies at the end of this song? Picture the full gallery crowd and those other four voices on stage all swelling together behind Caws’ lead vocals. Jenny Lewis admirably played band leader, cupping her hand around her ear and waving her arms in encouragement. Nada Surf drummer Ira Elliott stood off to the right (in front of that massive Obama/Lincoln meld) and kept time with fancy claps for the whole song. You can take the drummer off the stage …

Silver Lining (Rilo Kiley cover, live at Hiro Ballroom 6/30/08) – Ben Gibbard
Ben didn’t play this one either. But he could have. I think Jenny would have been down with that.

Cath (live at BBC6) – Ben Gibbard
This song appeared on last night’s setlist but was substituted with “Sound of Settling,” which was great by me because we all got to “Ba baaa! Ba baaa!” heartily instead.

Military Madness (live 10-22-06, Bridge School) – Death Cab for Cutie, Gillian Welch, Neil Young
The five musicians closed with this Graham Nash cover about military madness and solitary sadness. Ben Gibbard led on the piano, and despite one false ending (another chorus? should we stop? let’s do both) it was a stirring closer. This live mp3 is one I saw at the Bridge School Benefit in CA a few years ago with a slightly different lineup.


Oh, and …

Dude, I’m practically one of the Oceanic 6.


  • Just out of curiosity, did the event have any impact on your political opinions?

    Barkalounger — August 28, 2008 @ 11:30 am

  • The one week when *everything* is happening in Denver, and I’m stuck in L.A. (sigh.)

    flatresponse — August 28, 2008 @ 11:38 am

  • hi heather,
    so if you’re one of the O6 then was this denver gig in the past or in the future?


    Anonymous — August 28, 2008 @ 11:54 am

  • Respect for Gibbard and Lewis… lost.

    Anonymous — August 28, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

  • all bow down to the new god obama

    Anonymous — August 28, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

  • I was jealous before, but once I saw your picture w/Jin my jaw dropped! Sounds like an amazing evening.

    Honest Abe — August 28, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

  • You lucky sod.

    Djimi Paij.

    Anonymous — August 28, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  • “See These Bones” might just be the best song of the last 12 months. Nice version you posted, thanks.

    In that photo, Newsom looks more like a Mormon preacher than a Mayor. I heard Obama was looking for a new preacher.

    Tawriffic — August 28, 2008 @ 6:15 pm

  • Nice! My friend Lucas is actually at the convention this weekend. I’m jealous now…

    Natalie — August 28, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

  • Dude, did you go to SCU?

    I ran into Steve Nash at Whole Foods in New York the other day!


    Anonymous — August 29, 2008 @ 8:17 am

  • I’m super jealous you got to go. But, I would have to agree with Barkalounger: Did the evening have any impact on your political opinions?

    Oh, and you are super-lucky to have met Jin! You should’ve gotten some Lost scoop.

    Bona Fide Darling — August 29, 2008 @ 8:40 am

  • wow. (and awesome pic of you and Jin ;)

    theEvilAngel — August 29, 2008 @ 9:01 am

  • it was sooooo good! Like you said crazy mix of peeps. Too bad Silverman didn’t stay up there a bit longer.

    Jevan — August 29, 2008 @ 9:46 am

  • Barkalounger and Bona Fide…
    Interesting question but seriously…. if my political opinions were shaped by indie musicians pontificating and singing impassioned songs, then I would have become a democrat a long time ago. but since they are shaped by issues outside of that realm, no, the event had no effect in that way…. other than being a cool concert :)

    heather — August 29, 2008 @ 10:08 am

  • Thought Gavin Newsom was Will Arnett.

    Anonymous — August 29, 2008 @ 10:29 am

  • Maybe it’s his expression in the picture or the lack of hair product, but I’m saying that’s not Josh Duhamel. And I have a serious crush on Zooey Deschanel.

    DY — August 29, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

  • hey there — we had a crew onsite at the manifest hope gallery, taking pictures and video of the exhibit and unconventional ’08 concert — check out


    Anonymous — August 29, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

  • Haha…I think Matthew always eyes the unabashed dorky fangirls, I can totally recall him doing that to me when I saw him in Miami earlier this summer…

    Sylvy — August 31, 2008 @ 11:00 am

  • A non-dem? If we are assuming a two-party system, then I can’t begin to tell you how much that surprises me.

    Bob — August 31, 2008 @ 11:01 am

  • There aren’t just two party options!

    Anonymous — August 31, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

  • “There aren’t just two party options!”

    I know, but most people don’t affiliate themselves with the Libertarians, Greens, etc. I was trying to narrow things down :-)

    Bob — August 31, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

  • money pics – that was def one of the hardest events to get into at the DNC, but really worth it

    Also, I have a few pics up too:

    bdevine — September 2, 2008 @ 9:33 am

  • nothing constructive or useful, just that the pic of you ought to make it’s way to your profile pic. that’s complimentary.

    Neil — September 4, 2008 @ 10:07 pm

  • Gah, I really need to read your blog more often. I had no idea that you were up at the Manifest Hope gallery.

    My buddy Burns hung all the work and even had a painting of his own there. He was jazzed just to be hanging the work of artists that he admires, and then they asked him to paint one of his own!

    I found out about the Cold War Kids show the day of and he and another friend ended up seeing all of the those early sets.

    I wish I’d known about what you got see, me being an Obama fanboy, a Jenny Lewis fanboy, and a Nada Surf fanboy. That would’ve been awesome.

    Instead I was down here throwing a fundraiser for the local Democratic Party. The biggest celeb that we had was the Dem that’s running for Congress in our neck of the woods.

    You’re my hero!

    JJ — September 12, 2008 @ 11:12 pm

  • wicked post, well done. And loving the Oceanic reference, that photo made me smile.

    Cool tracks too :D

    cougarmicrobes — October 16, 2008 @ 5:07 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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