A Perfect Monday Night at Surly Festival Field With The Decemberists


I’m still trying to recover from my Sunday night show and it’s been hard with my phone constantly going off with new notifications of people trying to convince me that I was wrong with what I wrote. The truth is, every show affects everyone differently and I am just one concert addict with a strong opinion and a computer. Long story short, I was so ready to get off of my phone and just get back to a show that could transport me away from my constantly buzzing phone and that’s exactly what I got on Monday evening.

It was another lovely night spent at the gorgeous Surly Festival Field. I really can not applaud Surly and all of the staff involved in these events enough. From how well kept the field is to the cleanliness of the portajohns to just the ease with which you can get a drink, some food, or just get away from people, I really can not stress enough how everyone should experience a show here regardless of if you know the acts playing or not. Thankfully, Monday was a lovely night weather-wise as well which just added to the liberating feeling I got as I made my way towards the stage. It wasn’t warm, wasn’t cool, it was just right and, with the sun slowly setting behind the audience, it truly just paved the way for an absolutely stunning night.

Opening act Jake Xerxes Fussell took the stage just a hair after 7 PM and although he didn’t quite command the audience like I had been hoping he would, he absolutely stole my heart. Originally from Georgia but living in North Carolina, Jake had a very informal yet approachable feeling. “Hey, I’m Jake” is all he said before he jumped into his quick thirty-minute set full of passion and heart. His songs were soft and sweet with a very southern twang to them. The folksy nature of each song made him a perfect opening act for the night and was also music to my ears after the assault said ears had taken on Sunday night. As mentioned, I felt like Jake really failed to command the audience and, at times, it was hard to hear him over the rumble of conversations throughout the audience but I was okay with it and felt like it just added to Jake’s charm. Whether you were completely attentive to his songs or not, you knew he was there and I guarantee you spent at least a few seconds enjoying the ambiance his soulful voice brought to the stage.

It takes a certain band to pull off an outdoor show. Festival or not, I feel like the bands that play bigger outdoor events just really need that special sauce, and, from what I knew about The Decemberists when walking into the show on Monday (which was admittingly not much) I was a bit nervous that they were the right fit. That worry was put to bed before the band even took the stage. The band came out to a familiar song that I sadly just could not put a name to but it was an orchestral arrangement with this almost broken-down carnival vibe to it. I wish I could tell you the specific song but I truly can’t and I think it was one of those moments that, even if I could explain it correctly, you wouldn’t have the same feeling that it made a sweep across the beautiful grounds and instantly take over everyone in attendance. An understated yet powerful intro, the crowd roared in applause as the band took the stage and started playing their distinct and amazing music.

I do know who The Decemberists are and have heard their music before but they just aren’t one of those bands that I did a deep dive on. Their music was fine but it just didn’t hook me. It was a bit too calm and understated for me at the time when I heard it for the first time and, in all honesty, I kind of wrote the band off. What a mistake. I was falling head over heels for this band within the first song and by the time they hit song number four, I found myself eyeing up the merch. From their more ballad-like tracks to the songs that were full of energy and fun, I found myself completely captivated by all of the members of this band. There was everything from stunning vocals to intricate drum fills, even an accordion at times. It was almost overwhelming trying to catch everything happening on the crowded stage but I tried my best and enjoyed every minute of it.

As mentioned, the first few times I heard The Decemberists’ music, I low-key wrote it off as just not for me but now, having seen them live, I realize that their music is exactly what I’ve been needing in my life lately. It’s chill and calming but isn’t sleepy and just seemed to bring me an undeniable sense of peace. I wasn’t alone. People in the audience seemed extremely relaxed and just content with where they were and who they were there with even if they were there alone. I may have been a bit worried that the band wasn’t going to fit the space well but I was so wrong with that. They filled the space perfectly and brought such a sense of joy to everyone who was in their presence.