I usually attribute my unwillingness to wait in line to being "too old for this shit" but the fact of the matter is that I refuse to wait in line for almost anything because I've found that with few exceptions, the best rock and roll experiences come queue-free. But to see The Decemberists play 6 songs in SoHo for free? Yeah, I'll stand in line for that.
Let's back it up a bit. The night before (Thursday night) I had tried foolishly to see a band that a friend recommended called La Rocca play at Pianos. I hadn't known ahead of time that Silversun Pickups were headlining the night, so needless to say I didn't show up nearly in time to get in. This is the worst thing about CMJ: it becomes impossible to see bands that you otherwise would be able to see with no problem. Since I wasn't able to get into the performance area for the show I stayed back in the bar area with my friends and got drunk and took a few pictures with my camera of stupid things. Then I fell asleep on the subway until it brought be back home in Brooklyn, and stumbled to my computer to drop those pics on there before bed. I left my camera connected to the computer and powered on all night, so the battery was dead when I woke up in the morning (design flaw much!?) and went to grab it for the Decemberists show. This long aside, you see, is basically meant to explain to you why I failed to get any pictures of this totally memorable and awesome event. It's because I'm an idiot. But I met a nice chap in line who also works in internet radio and he had a really expensive looking camera with him and I saw him snapping some shots so maybe some shots will appear online eventually and of course I'll link you to them then.
When a band strips down their sound for performances like these, it can be disastrous and it can be transcendent and it often oscillates between the two throughout the set. While I wouldn't say that any particular moment in this particular set was bad, there were certainly moments that were less good than others. But this is a softball blog and far be it from me to pick on a band for trying. The great moments were indeed, GREAT. The quite-reworked "Song for Myla Goldberg" was the unquestionable highlight; it came off like a song they've done acoustic many times before and had perfected in that setting. "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)" was also great. Another aside: they have "Yankee" spelled wrong on their own official site!
I'm not sure how these things work...whether the show was recorded for possible iTunes release in the future or what. If it ever is, I'd say the whole show is worth the buy for a big fan, and "Myla Goldberg" is worth the buy for anyone save for the most adamant Decemberist haterist.
The setlist (maybe in the wrong order, but almost surely the right songs):
1. July, July!
2. We Both Go Down Together
3. The Perfect Crime 2
4. Song For Myla Goldberg
5. Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)
6. O, Valencia!