Recently I spent a few bucks to watch a livestream of Death Cab for Cutie playing a show at Red Rocks. The band was on its first (small) tour in nearly two years, playing a vaccinated crowd; the idea of being in a crowd, regardless of vaccination status, still sets off little alarms in my skull, so a livestream felt like a gift.
I've listened to Death Cab for about 17 years now, since I first stumbled upon their album Transatlanticism. I've followed everything they've released since then. But during the pandemic, the band came to mean a bit more to me. Ben Gibbard, the lead singer and primary songwriter, hosted daily, then weekly livestreams from his home; he'd perform a few songs, take questions, play a bit more, and collect donations for some worthy cause or another. Jason McGerr, the band's drummer, took to YouTube with a series called Refuge in Practice, where he hosted virtual chats with other musicians.
My daughter, who hasn't been to a proper concert yet, asked if she could stay up and watch the livestream with me. She's a casual Death Cab listener; she enjoyed a few of Gibbard's livestreams, and has even taught herself to play parts of "Title & Registration" on the piano. The Red Rocks show was baffling to her: "Why wouldn't you just listen to their record instead? What's with all these lights? They're hurting my eyes, don't they know that?" But she found plenty to be interested in, too. She thought Dave Depper's bright red guitar was magical; she leaned close to study Zac Rae's piano fingers any time he happened to get a closeup.
My favorite Death Cab song isn't one of their live show standbys. It's "Brothers on a Hotel Bed," from the album Plans. For years, it's been a go-to writing song for me. I'll loop it endlessly while working on a book. I listened to it while writing Eleanor, and Awake in the World, and I'm listening to it now while I work on The Dark Age.