Longtime indie-rock idols heated up Meijer Gardens Thursday with bouncy mix of old and new in a show that included an opening set by Grand Rapids’ own MERTLE. (Review, photo gallery)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Troy Reimink and Tricia Woolfenden previously worked together as music writers at The Grand Rapids Press. They co-host “New Standards” 6-8 pm Sundays on WYCE (88.1 FM).
The following exchange of text messages between Local Spins contributors and OG Shins fans Tricia Woolfenden and Troy Reimink was intercepted Thursday night following the band’s sold-out performance at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
Troy Reimink: We’re going to have to talk about the chicken sandwich, aren’t we?
Tricia Woolfenden: Speaking of nausea, check out his quote from the Fader review of the 2003 Chicago House of Blues show, when we last watched this band together: “It was a much older audience than anticipated, with an average age of about 25-27.” FML
TR: That makes me want to die. I would say the average age of the audience at this FMG show is late 30s to early 40s, which is young for this venue, so.
Anyhow, some context. The year was 2003. you could rent an apartment in downtown Grand Rapids for less than $2500 a month. Stella Artois was a classy beer, and we both were somehow convinced that we had a future in print journalism. Also, you introduced me to the Shins. We took a road trip with some of your friends to see them at the House of Blues, and I ordered a sandwich there that later caused…some difficulty.
TW: Yes, that was …unfortunate. But the show! What a show. They were touring in support of their second record, Chutes Too Narrow, released earlier that year to Pitchfork-frenzied acclaim. How do you think we’ll vibe to them now, 14 years later. (Jesus Christ. Fourteen years. Where’s that brandy you said you’d sneak in?)
TR: I projectile vomited the chicken sandwich, is what I’m saying. On Wrigley Field. Not like, near Wrigley Field or in front of Wrigley Field, but I’m pretty sure directly onto an outer wall of the stadium. Ah, memories.
But yes, quite a show. We’ll see if the Shins – which I’m pretty sure are just James Mercer and whomever he hires to tour with him – have aged as well as we have.
TW: “Heartworms,” their newest, sounds exactly like 2003-era Sins, plus a decade-and-a-half of experience. A bit more polished and high production, a little bit more grim in subject matter, but that bounciness that appealed to young(ish) indie fans who never met a concert T-shirt they wouldn’t buy.
After two warm-up acts – MERTLE and Tennis (who were great, btw) – I’m ready for “Caring is Creepy,” ’cause as you said earlier: how will they NOT open with that?
TR: It would be the most appropriate opener (he said, as if he hadn’t checked setlist.fm for precisely that kernel of information).
TW: As advertised! And keeping in line, on to “Australia.” And I see they got your notes on the fog machine.
TR: Oh dear, most of the crowd is on its feet. Look out, Meijer Gardens, the inmates have the keys to the asylum! The impending upper-middle-class white riot is going to be really intense.
TW: James just told us he’s got a lot of songs to get through, so no time for banter. Efficiency in a rock concert. It’s absolutely what I look for these days. More (non-threatening but fun) rock, less talk.
TR: After finishing “Mine’s Not a High Horse,” Mercer mentioned that the Shins had gifted their longtime tour van to local band MERTLE. (Read more about that below.) I wonder if they’ll look that gift “Horse” in the mouth, am I right? I hate myself.
ANYWAY, sticking pretty close to the prescribed set list. Interesting, slowed-down take on “Girl Inform Me.” Do you think Mercer will tell us that this song will change our lives before they play “New Slang”? Or did “Garden State” ruin that for everyone?
TR: I was hoping we could get through this without acknowledging “Garden State.”
TW: “Kissing the Lipless.” How many mix CDs did we pass this back and forth on in the mid aughts?
TR: In anticipation of the CD revival, I never stopped making mix CDs.
I would like it noted for the record that you said the following A-plus puns that have not been shared yet:
1) After Tennis finished their opening set: “Game, set, match!”
2) Regarding the night’s theme: “We should call it Local Shins!”
Show yourself out, please.
TW: Hey, don’t thank me. Thank this $9 cup of Chardonnay.
TR: So there is old stuff and there is new stuff. Sometimes the new stuff works just fine with the old stuff. Sometimes the old stuff and the new stuff do not go together well at all. I’m searching for an angsty 30-something metaphor here. We should stop drinking.
TW: Yeah. So anyway, how did I not notice your Huey Lewis shirt until now? (Editor’s note: Reimink was in fact wearing a Huey Lewis and the Goddamn News shirt.) Was 75 percent of THAT FMG crowd also on its feet for the entirety of the show?
Related: what a perfectly organic text conversation for us to be having.
TR: Yes, there is nothing contrived about this whatsoever. Sarcasm aside, I rarely stoop to participating in choreographed arm waving at concerts, but I am totally feeling this communal side-to-side movement during “Phantom Limb.”
TW: How about this enforced clapping during “Simple Song”? ‘Cause I’m OK with it.
TR: Cosign! How do we feel, generally, about the music of our 20s being presented in the early evening on a stage that was last night occupied by the Beach Boys?
TW: That is too complicated to unpack right now. Because it is past my bedtime.
Mercer’s delight at our fireflies (which don’t exist where he’s from) was pretty whimsical and sweet. Let’s focus on that versus our mortality.
TR: Or the Zach Braff/Natalie Portman-sized elephant in the room (borrowing your metaphor). So the encore contains “New Slang.” Lives unchanged, but undeniably more pleasant.
TW: Yes. ‘Cause all snark and joking aside, this has been a very solid evening of music. The band is tight and I appreciate how much music they’ve packed into a small timeframe.
Aren’t you glad you didn’t skip out before the closer of “Sleeping Lessons,” Grandpa Troy? One must never miss an opportunity to twirl and punch the air, and that song is the perfect chance.
Now, can you please tell me where we are parked.
TR: I’ll see you at our knitting service tomorrow.
Opening Thursday’s concert: Colorado indie-pop band Tennis and Grand Rapids’ rock/pop band MERTLE, which earlier this year won the opening slot for this show plus The Shins’ touring van in a contest that had bands cover a track from The Shins’ new album. (See the West Michigan band’s video cover of The Shins below.)
“It was surreal. Growing up in the 2000s, The Shins were a staple in our listening experience, but as music people, their songwriting is a huge inspiration to us,” said MERTLE keyboard player and singer Max McKinnon.
“To get any affirmation from people that have shaped you means the world. It was a memorable night for us, especially being able to play for our home crowd in Grand Rapids.”
PHOTO GALLERY: The Shins, Tennis and MERTLE at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Anthony Norkus
VIDEO: MERTLE, “Painting a Hole” (Shins cover submitted for van contest)
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