okkervil_23.jpg
Laura Musselman

Okkervil River

Neptune Theatre

Saturday, June 18

The U District's Neptune Theatre closed its doors as a single-screen movie theater January 30 to

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Okkervil River Proves Pairing the Neptune With Live Music Was a Good Move, Saturday Night

okkervil_23.jpg
Laura Musselman

Okkervil River

Neptune Theatre

Saturday, June 18

The U District's Neptune Theatre closed its doors as a single-screen movie theater January 30 to begin transitioning into a live-music venue, a transformation that raised a lot of questions. What did the shift mean for independent movie theaters in Seattle? How would the new owners, Seattle Theatre Group (STG), manage the venue? And most important, how would the locals respond to a major music venue springing up right in the heart of the live music-starved U District?

Some of these questions, most notably the future of independent movie houses, remain difficult to answer. But after an inspired set from Okkervil River in front of a packed house Saturday night, the decision to hold concerts at the Neptune seems like the right one.

Opening the show were two acts that couldn't be more different--experimental songstress Julianna Barwick and New Jersey-based punk rockers Titus Andronicus. The fact that both sounded great is a testament to the Neptune's versatility. Barwick's performance, consisting entirely of her looping and sampling her voice, wasn't a hit with the sparse crowd, but the spacious venue allowed plenty of room for her amorphous songs to reverberate. Titus Andronicus took the stage moments later to tear through a good portion of 2010 album The Monitor, and by the end of their all-too-brief, high-energy set, the venue was nearly full.

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Laura Musselman
Titus Andronicus.

It took Okkervil River a few songs to get going (they opened with "White Shadow Waltz," a lackluster track from their latest record, I Am Very Far), but by the time they played the gorgeous, slow-building "A Girl in Port" four songs into their set, the momentum was firmly on the side of the Austin, Texas, sextet. Led by singer/guitarist Will Sheff (who looked like he'd just come from teaching English comp a few blocks away at UW), the band was loose but on-point, only losing the audience's interest during drawn-out renditions of "A Stone" and "So Come Back, I Am Waiting," both from 2004's Black Sheep Boy.

Sheff and friends bounced back in a big way, however, with a surprisingly danceable version of I Am Very Far standout "Your Past Life as a Blast." They closed with the unimpeachable one-two punch of "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe" and "Lost Coastlines" before launching into a three-song, career-spanning encore that culminated with "Unless It's Kicks," an excellent slice of power-pop from 2007's The Stage Names.

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Laura Musselman
Okkervil River.

"This is such a beautiful room," Sheff remarked mid-set. He was right: With its stained glass, intricate molding, and nautical carpeting, the theater maintains its original aura even after STG's numerous interior renovations. It may seem strange to claim that a venue has a distinct personality after only its second show, but the Neptune certainly does, even with the silver screen replaced by lights and music.

Random Notebook Dump: It was definitely strange to see people munching on popcorn during a Titus Andronicus show. I guess some movie theater habits die hard.

Overheard: "This is what the Decemberists would sound like if they didn't suck," said one popcorn eater to another during Okkervil River's set.

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