This Afternoon: Out to Lunch with Hey Marseilles at Harbor Steps

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Carmen Irish

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Carmen Irish

The songs of rising local folk act Hey Marseilles are very much an ode to place. Nearly every accordion-laden, tambourine-shakin' track on their album (not to mention the name) makes a vague reference to a journey or a destination--Tallahassee, Costa Rica, Calabasas, Manhattan--almost as if on the basis of how poetic the names sound.

Today Hey Marseilles played at Harbor Steps for the Downtown Seattle Association's Out to Lunch outdoor concert series. What song would be sung about Harbor Steps?

"This is the first time we've ever played on concrete. Many of our songs are about concrete," quipped frontman Matt Bishop in between songs. "First time we've ever had the rumble of traffic in the background. None of our songs are about that."

The sprawling folk yarns and occasional DeVotchKa-esque instrumental rumble actually matched the unique energy of an outdoor show under overcast skies, just off the path of the city buzz. And in spite of the weather (and rumble of traffic), a wide-ranging crowd filled the amphitheater-style steps, including curious businessfolk, several small children, and the average, everyday free show-foraging hipsters. Customers of Guaymas Cantina actually heard "From A Terrace" from a terrace.

There was also the bearded scarf dancer, who reached out to the audience for waltzes throughout the show and shimmied up from the concrete as if a snake from a basket during a soft, symphonic cover of Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You In The End."

A few songs seemed less elaborate than usual, perhaps to accommodate the guest in the lineup (Lamar Lofton filled in for cellist Sam Anderson, who is currently on tour backing Damien Jurado and Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground) or the ever-changing outdoor crowd. The audience started to thin out more around the end of the 1 p.m. lunch hour, as did the band's catalog with half an hour of set time to go.

Predictably, they ended on the jaunty clap-along "Rio," which came out in a music video earlier this week. But it was the jazzy number they played earlier that seemed to strike as most relevant to the downtown crowd, with its single verse: "Cities alive with loneliness / and asleep in the skyscraper night / fill up your cup with lovelessness / or be doomed to a life satisfied."

For more photos, check out our slideshow from the show.

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