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[scroll to the end for some beautiful pictures of The Decemberists’ performance]

If you dislike raving reviews you might want to avert your eyes dear reader, for I feel a few coming on. The second night of Crossing Border was sublime in my modest opinion. Where to start…

I started the evening with Londonders Mumford and Sons, up in the unbearably hot room suggestively named Paradise. Although I like their debut album Sigh No More, I didn’t know what to expect live. As it turns out these four fetching young folkers managed to get everyone dancing in no time, what an infectious bunch! Yes they use the simple but effective method of building up layers of instruments and gradually picking up speed in most songs and yes the lyrics can be a bit twee, but who cares when it sounds like this? Plus, they can say appelbollen.

There was no avoiding my dear beloved Patrick Watson, I gave in to my slight obsession yet again. What a venue for Watson and his Wooden Arms, perfect for their favourite party trick: the acoustic song (this time Man Like Me) on the edge of the stage. It wasn’t their best show I’ve seen, a bit too short too, but they still make my Crossing Border top three.

I love the way the band plays the songs differently each time I’ve seen them. The only one that has lost its sparkle in a new rendition is The Storm, too rushed an none of the wonderful backing woooo’s. Luscious Life and Beijing still the golden nuggets for me.

No time to waste, off to the venue next door to get in for The Decemberists nice and early. The great thing about Crossing Border is that there is always something going on, and so we managed to catch three poets/ authors in between bands (Flemmish rock ‘n roll poets Andy Fierens and Stijn Vranken and Dutch columnist and language buff Paulien Cornelisse). I would recommend reading all three of them; funny and ripe with sharp observations.

The atmosphere in front of the stage before The Decemberists was one of giddy anticipation. Right in front of me stood a gorgeous little 4 year old girl dressed up like a fairy and her mom, who turned out to be Becky Stark‘s sister. They had flown out especially to see the band perform The Hazards of Love in its entirity for the very last time.

The band came on without being announced, I guess to keep the atmosphere of a performance piece rather than a Decemberists gig, and did as promised: they played the Hazards of Love from start to finish. There was the blossoming love between faun and white fairy (Colin Meloy and Becky Stark), there was the jealous mother come forest queen (the absolutely amazing Shara Worden) and the tragic trade off so the lovers can once more be together. Drama! Passion! Tragedy! Guitars! Drums! (one drum even broke from sheer force of pounding) What’s not to like?

The band were obviously really enjoying this last performance together, smiles all round. The girls were an absolutely amazing addition and were clearly sad to be ending their collaboration with the band, Colin Meloy gave them a warm thank you at the end. We were lucky enough to get a six song encore after The Hazards of Love, what a great perfomance. 

After all that excitement there was one more must see on the list: Monsters of Folk. When we walked in the room there was a really cool juxtaposition of the poshness of the room with the excitedly hollering and dancing crowd to be seen. We caught the last 40 minutes of their near 2,5 hour set (!), and I’m glad we did.

As a band I think their material is a bit all over the place and not all of it is particularly good, but what a joy to see Conor Oberst and Jim James on stage together! They were clearly having a great time playing, Conor in particular bouncing all over stage and jumping up onto the drum kit, their energy spreading to the crowd. I was glad to hear a few Bright Eyes songs in the set and sad not to have seen the whole show. 

In fact, how dare those Bordercrossing organisers, having Decemberists and Monsters of Folk play the samen timeslot! Though to be honest, that would be my only complaint about this great little festival. Next year a little less folk perhaps?

Thanks to Guus Krol here are some beautiful pictures of The Decemberists with Becky Stark and Shara Worden:


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