By Brittany Satterfield
I had wanted to see the Shins for years. Especially in the time period after Zach Braff packed the Garden State soundtrack with their tracks and put this Albuquerque indie-rock band solidly in our hearts. “Oh, Inverted World,” their debut album, and unquestionably the band’s most popular to date is widely considered one of the best indie rock albums of the 2000s. Stage AE was packed with indie-rock fans that have loved the Shins from the beginning, excited to hear those nostalgia-inducing tracks. The crowd was a sea of page boy caps, black-rimmed glasses and handlebar mustaches. And the band delivered beautifully.
Lead vocalist James Mercer, the only original band member left, started the show with one of their biggest hits, “Caring is Creepy,” sending the crowd into a roar of pure joy. People hugged those beside them, flooded with memories made to those very songs. The show continued for another almost 20 tracks of both old favorites and new melodies that were a wonderfully delicate and delightful combination. Intermixing the new and the old had everyone waiting anxiously to hear their personal favorite tracks, but also enjoying and appreciating their new stuff, which is less melancholy and more fun. I had only heard a couple of songs off their newest album, “Heartworms,” which was released earlier this year. I was impressed with the simple fresh sound that was unique to them, yet had the same classic Shins characteristics that fans love. Hints of melancholia and those emotionally-charged notes combined with Mercer’s distinct voice, invoked those same feelings that keep fans coming back album after album. The band, too, was enjoying themselves. Mercer, who intermittently reached for his beer throughout the show, proclaimed towards the end of the show that he, was indeed “drunk and comfortable,” throwing his guitar pic excitedly into the crowd. Coincidentally, my friend who had joined me for the show spotted the pic at the feet of the couple in front of us. Just as I reached for it, it was discovered by the girl standing over it, shattering my momentary excitement.
After the show initially ended, the band left the stage and the crowd starting singing that familiar melody at the beginning of “New Slang.” Seeing and hearing so many fans humming that hauntingly beautiful piece of music together in the dark was extraordinary. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get chills experiencing it. The band reemerged, this time with three violinists on stage that were featured in “Fear,” a track from their latest album. “New Slang” came after that which propelled the crowd into this state of adoration I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed quite like that at a show. In front of me, a group of four friends were singing every note together in a circle and hugging, telling each other how happy they were that each other were there. Everywhere around me people were doing the same. The crowd already on a high, the band ended the show with an incredibly fun combination of “Sleeping Lessons,” a favorite from their 2007 album “Wincing the Night Away,” with a cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” Being the Tom Petty Super Fan that I am, I completely lost my shit. Everyone seemed to. It was a seamless combination to end the show with.
When I got home to write up some notes, I just had to go back and
watch those scenes from Garden State. I pulled up YouTube and watched that iconic scene where Natalie Portman hands Zach Braff her huge headphones playing
“New Slang,” and forced him to listen. “This song will change your life,” she says. It made me think about how many songs actually have changed my life over the years, for so many different reasons. Tonight, the Shins made us all appreciate those a little bit more.