Okkervil River And Wye Oak At The Pageant, 9/20/11: Review, Photos, Setlist

Okkervil River 20.jpg
Photo by Jon Gitchoff
Okkervil River | Wye Oak
The Pageant
September 20, 2011

Will Sheff is making a mess. He's lost his glasses and his brown sports jacket and knocked over both of his mic stands and even very possibly yanked his guitar straight out of its amplifier -- it's a little hard to tell because he's got strictly unison parts with guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo. It's very late in the show, right before the encore. A chance for a finale from a band that knows how to hit them. Sheff started out the song -- "Unless It's Kicks" -- by lunatic screaming "LIGHTS UP! HANDS UP!" The crowd, healthy but by no means packed in, lifted its hands and started clapping. Sheff, meanwhile, is manhandling the thing, though that's very much the point, all pretense of notes and rhythms gone, and he is hollering the middle phrase of a middle line over and over: Climb out! Climb out! Climb out!...

The song ends and Sheff delivers a raving thank you. One of the few intelligible lines from it is, "It's pathetic how much I love you."

Okkervil River is often described as a literary rock band. That's not an unwarranted label, not when a random selection of lyrics gets you things like, "Lovers in their sheets, dreaming lovers sweetly turn in their sleep all under sunbeams." But this band does not put on poetry readings. It puts on rock shows, and even if you know the words going in, that's not what matters. A perennial Okkervil River live highlight is the end of "Lost Coastlines," which is just "laa, la la la la laaaa, la la la la laaaaaaaa, la la la la laaaaaa, laaaaaa..." If you are going to fall under the spell, it's not going to be the knowledge that this is a song about a metaphorical sailing journey to uncharted lands. It's going to be the way this band plays out on the edge of its means, the way all six members deliver rough-hewn conviction, the way Sheff loses his shit.

This isn't always a pretty thing. When the band has to stop midway through the set to deal with some problem with the keyboard, Sheff cheerfully asks his band mates if they've played a single show where something hasn't broken. He stops after a few notes of the very last song of the night, "Westfall," because something doesn't sound right on his guitar. "This is why the tickets were only $16," he says. "You want those bands that are in tune, you gotta pay a little extra."

Generally, these mishaps don't hamper the experience. But last night had its share of valleys to go with those peaks. The night got off to a halting start -- maybe the way the crowd was scattered through the venue was disheartening, and either way there seemed to be some issues with the on stage mix (as usual, the house PA sounded great). An acoustic break in the middle of the set served to get things back on track, though you could feel a restless rustle in the crowd. But there was plenty of ammo in the show's final act, where OR stacked its hits and the swell we came to experience was felt in clap-alongs and sing-alongs and a push to the front of the stage.

Wye Oak 3.jpg
Photo by Jon Gitchoff

Opener Wye Oak, from Baltimore, is a somewhat odd pairing with Okkervil River. Where Will Sheff is so passionate as to occasionally seem like a cartoon come to life, Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner may not have even lifted her eyelids more than halfway the entire set. Not that it much mattered -- she and drummer/keyboardist/loop operator/octopus Andy Stack are making some of the most entrancing music around. Especially at maximum volume (check) on a system that can deliver all the threads tying these songs together (obviously check). This year's Civilian showed that, three albums in, the duo is still improving, still finding ways to use the incredible talent at its disposal to create music that is noisy and delicate, often in the same song.

Wasner's answer to Sheff's "It's pathetic how much I love you" was a deadpan "thank you so much," a polite smile and a wave.

Notes, setlist and more photos on the next page.

Location Info


The Pageant

6161 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, MO

Category: Music

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Funny how you can drink in the pit at Scottrade Center, but the Pageant cries about it like a little 16 year old bitch.


Headline should read: "Easy Listening Alt-Rock Band favored by Thirtysomething Suburban Dads at the Pageant - Review, Photos, Setlist" We'll be seeing their t-shirts at central county 2nd grade CYC soccer games shortly.


Solid and at times great show—but when you've seen the band at least a half dozen times, you can't expect every show to be their best. Even their so-so shows can be near-religious experiences, and I would never pass up an opportunity to see them. 

The highlights were spectacular, and I find absolutely no fault with just about anything they played off of "Black Sheep Boy", "Stage Names", and "Stand Ins". I felt the spots where the show faltered were due to subpar material from the new album and from "Down the River of Golden Dreams". But I think when they played their best material, there were plenty of goosebumps around the room. 

I did feel that the show was best experienced in the pit area. I don't get down there often due to the Pageant's absurd alcohol policies, but last night it was definitely worth it to finish my drink quickly and get as close as possible to the band. 

I disagree with dawhizz about Lauren's guitar playing. I think her addition to the band has done great things for their live shows, and I appreciate that she doesn't just play the solos off the album note for note. 

Thanks for the review and the set list. 


Was Lauren Gurgiolo's guitar playing distracting for anyone else? I don't know if it was where I was standing (pretty much front and center), the volume, the mix, or the playing itself, but more often than not it I found it overwhelming and grating.  I'd never seen them before, so maybe this is what they sound like live, but it really took away from the show, for me.  I was also surprised by how much I liked Wye Oak.  I'd always heard them described as a folk-rock band, but you'd never know it from the show last night.


Good, not great show.  I have been known to evangelize about that 2008 show and their 2005 Way Out Club show.  The sound in the crowd for the first three songs was atrocious.  Embarrassing, really.  Throughout the night, the sound on the floor was way better than even standing right behind the sounds board.  The sound guy seriously looked like he was figuring out how to use the soundboard for the first time: exasperated look, scratching his head, croutching down looking at the amps under the board. 

It was also ridiculous that you couldn't bring drinks on the floor for a band whose average crowd age is easily in the late 20's- early 30's range. That was a big reason the crowd was slow to find its way to the floor.

No Key, No Plan is one of my favorites, but that slowed down version, while frustrating, was interesting to see.  Still would have preferred the rocking version. 

Something wasn't clicking, and I am just not sure what it was. It was still a perfectly good show, though.

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