Sunday, April 09, 2006

Franz Ferdinand

When we first moved here, everywhere I went and everything I did would be with the thought:


Everything seemed alien to us. Now, I've just about got used to the house. Stepping out of the house and walking the children to school still brings on a less pronounced:


Eventually, I dare say, it will become:

"Yeah, we're living in America, no big deal."

Even though we're getting used to being here and are starting to settle in, there is still occasionally something that once again highlights the fact that the Atlantic is a very big pond.

This story is one such case. All the clues were there. At the end of this story you will all wonder how we can be so stupid and the only defence that I have to offer is that, although the truth was there for anyone to see, our expectations were so strong that we were blinded to the blindingly obvious.

When we found out that Franz Ferdinand were playing at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium and that Duke had a number of cut-price tickets set aside for staff and students, we jumped at the chance.

The Ticket
The Ticket
We were quite pleased that they had managed to cross the Atlantic divide and make it big here (big enough to fill a 9000-seater stadium; compare this with the 200 or so people who came to see The Wedding Present). When we got the tickets, we found that they were being supported by an American band that we'd never heard of called Death Cab for Cutie. This is where we missed the first clue (see picture of ticket). We thought it strange that the support band is listed first, but after all, they're on first and perhaps that's how they do it in America.

Anyone with half a braincell has by now realised our mistake, but not us. Our stupidity runs much deeper than this.

We took the liberty of downloading the latest Death Cab for Cutie album from the internet before the gig, so we had an idea of what they were like. They were decidedly uninspiring. Each song started with what can be described as a promising intro, but failed to develop into anything more interesting. The entire album lacked (as the French would say) a certain "I don't know what" and by the end I was quite bored with it. Nevertheless, they weren't rubbish -- they were obviously trying hard, but only succeeded in coming across as a bit pretentious. I thought that, although they're no Franz Ferdinand, they'd probably be OK as a support band.

The second clue came on the night of the gig (Friday), when the babysitter became animated to hear that we were going to see Death Cab for Cutie, but had never heard of Franz Ferdinand. Still, we were too slow to understand the implications of this and dismissed it out of hand.

The doors were due to open at 5:30 and the first band was due to come on at 7:00. I have never known a gig that starts on time (apart from the one at the Cat's Cradle), so we got there at about 7:30. The queue was very long. We wondered why entry to the stadium was taking so long, even though everyone seemed to already have tickets. The event staff were keen to keep reassuring the queue that they need not worry and they won't miss the show. From this, we assumed that they were running a bit behind with getting everyone in so were delaying the start of the gig. Forty five minutes later, we reached the front of the queue and realised what was taking so long. The security was strict enough to rival an airport. EVERY SINGLE PERSON was being individually searched before being allowed in. Come to think of it, even airport security isn't that tight!

Anyway, we finally took our seats at about 8:15 only to find that Franz Ferdinand were already on stage and happily playing away to their hearts' content. We were very annoyed because not only had we missed the entire support, but had also missed some of Franz Ferdinand. I didn't want this to spoil the night, so I worked hard at trying to overcome my (as I thought) righteous anger.

Herein lies another couple of clues. Timing wise, if the support came on at 7:00, then if Franz Ferdinand came on at about 8:00 and played for about an hour and a half, they'd be finished by 9:30, which is far too early for a gig to end. I tried to justify this problem with timing by thinking that perhaps they would be doing an extra-long set. I wasn't happy with this explanation, but couldn't think of a better one. The other clue was that people who were behind us in the queue were still rolling in about half an hour later than us, but didn't seem to be in the slightest bit bothered that they'd missed most of the show.

Franz Ferdinand were excellent. Despite my negative feelings about missing half the gig, I could not fault their performance (what there was of it). We only got to hear about 8 to 10 songs before they went off stage at about 9:00, all the lights came on and people started filing out. There was not even the sniff of a possible encore. Mark and I looked at each other and wondered aloud what was going on. It was only then that the penny dropped and the unthinkable became thinkable.

Franz Ferdinand were the support band. We were so starting to get used to living in the US that we'd forgotten that in Wonderland many things can be topsy-turvy. Franz Ferdinand are not big in the USA, but the band that we'd never heard of is. All the anomalies were instantly explained and everything started to make sense.

There was also another band, called The Cribs who were on at 7:00-ish, followed by Franz Ferdinand at 8:00-ish and the main band, Death Cab for Cutie, at nearly 9:30. I've heard of The Cribs, but have never heard them, so was very disappointed when I found out that I'd missed them.

Death Cab for Cutie came on. Armed with the realisation that they were the main band; and upon witnessing the increased excitement of the crowd, I became determined to see the good in them. I thought, "They must be better live than their album suggests for them to be so popular". I was already familiar with many of the songs that they played from their album, but unfortunately, despite my initial enthusiasm and desperation to take home something good from the evening, after five or six songs I had to admit to myself that I was bored and that Death Cab for Cutie lacked both interest and stage presence (especially as a follow-on from Franz Ferdinand). By the time they were half way through the second song of their encore I found myself hoping that there would not be a third. By this stage, many of those near us who donned Franz Ferdinand T-shirts had already left.

Even with all that went wrong (missing The Cribs and the start of Franz Ferdinand), just going out together was fun. Also, to put it into perspective, Death Cab for Cutie weren't bad. It's more that it surprised me that they were good enough to almost fill a 9000 seater stadium. I say "almost fill" because it was clear that there were many who, like us, had gone to see Franz Ferdinand; although I doubt that any of them were as stupid as us in not realising that they were the support band.

All in all, despite everything, we had a thoroughly good night out.

So, what is the moral of this story? What were the lessons to be learnt?
  1. Don't expect bands that are big everywhere else in the world to be big in the USA.
  2. Don't expect that just because a band is big in the USA, we'll have heard of it.
  3. Expect there to be an extra support band that has not been billed. This seems to be the done thing in the US. When we went to see The Wedding Present there was an unexpected extra band as well.
  4. Expect US gigs to start on time.


Since Friday, we've downloaded an excellent live recording of a Franz Ferdinand gig in Berlin last year. It really is very good.

The other thing is that it seems that Death Cab for Cutie have done several small-venue European tours over the past 3-4 years, but it's just that we'd never heard of them. It also turns out that on the current tour they are supposedly "co-headlining" with Franz Ferdinand. This was far from the reality that we experienced.

On the bright side, at least we got the T-shirt:

Back of the Franz Ferdinand T-shirt, showing the tour datesMark wearing his new Franz Ferdinand T-shirtA close up of the tour dates, showing Durham, NC


Michael said...

I know lots of college students who love Death Cab for Cutie, but alas, I don't know them or Franz Ferdinand. I learned more from your post than from the 1 bona fide concert I've ever been too.

Just curious... were there many above 30's there?

Viola said...

Perhaps a handful. Most looked like students.

Selwyn 42 said...

Talking to Mark, I mused on the importance of writing down the order of songs sung at a live concert - does anyone remember if no-one does this? Witness Mark and Pa attending Abba Concert back in the 1980s. Somewhere, Mark has the running order.

I thought there was going to be something about lamp posts dressed as trees?

Viola said...

Here's the "lamp posts dressed as trees" post:

"You Can't See the Mast for the Tree"

I'll have to ask Mark if he remembers having the playlist for an Abba concert.

Selwyn 42 said...

I think 'past posts' should be dated - then I would know where to look for - say - 'lamp posts dressed as trees'. If you look at one past post, all the others take up a new position - very confusing. Loved the photo of the lamp post - more convincing than when seen 'in the flesh' as it were.

Fran said...

I've never heard of the band Death Cab for Cutie either. However, interestingly, it is the name of a song by Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and featured on the Beatles' film, "Magical Mystery Tour". Info courtesy of Matthew.

Fran said...

P.S. Matthew and Kate saw Franz Ferdinand at the Leeds Festival 2004 and said they were one of the highlights of the festival - brilliant live band.

Mark Goodacre said...

Yes, the Abba concert my dad is referring to was Wembley Arena, November 1979, and I did write down the setlist and I still have it somewhere.

On some of the forums for particular bands, they publish a setlist after a given gig. e.g. The Fall News site usually puts up the official set list, and then adds how the set played in fact differs from the set list (see recently at

Mark Goodacre said...

On the question of bootlegs, there's also a great Franz Ferdinand "Live at the Wireless" out there, from when FF played in Sydney, Australia earlier this year and it was broadcast in Australian radio.