Two Bellingham music giants return for biggest concert in Whatcom County history
Though it’s only approximately 90 miles away, in many ways it’s a completely different world.
“We always say when we’re on stage that we’re from Seattle, Washington,” Death Cab for Cutie bass player Nick Harmer told The Bellingham Herald. “We identify as a Seattle band.
“But Bellingham is where we started and where we’re from. For (singer and guitarist Ben Gibbard) and me, we became friends in Bellingham, and we went to school at Western Washington University. We lived together there before we were even a band. It’s a really significant place for Ben and I.”
All you have to do is look at the lyrics from some of their early albums — particularly their second (We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes from 2000) and third (The Photo Album from 2001) — to see how special Bellingham was to the band, according to a 2011 MTV.com story. At the time, the band and the individual members were trying to establish themselves personally and professionally after graduating from WWU.
“I was literally just going and applying for jobs, and I couldn’t get a job, and I was getting more and more broke, and you find yourself groveling for jobs you don’t even want,” Gibbard told MTV.com. “So I wrote a lot of songs (here in Seattle) about Bellingham and how much I missed (it), because I wanted to go back to the life we had up there, because it was so much more simple than this.”
Now firmly grounded in Seattle, the alternative rock band is looking forward to a chance to revisit its simpler roots in Bellingham this weekend.
Death Cab will join with Odesza — an electro-pop duo that also got its start while at WWU — for a benefit concert for the school’s alumni association scholarship endowment dubbed “Double Major.” The largest audience for a musical concert in Whatcom County history — an estimated 13,000 people — is expected to show up for the event, which begins at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at Civic Stadium.
“This isn’t our first show in Bellingham since graduation,” Harmer told The Herald. “Our drummer (Jason McGerr) is still from Bellingham, so we pop up there quite a bit. But somehow this one seems a whole lot more reflective and nostalgic — not that the others haven’t.”
What makes this visit different than a performance at the Viking Union a few years ago and one at Mount Baker Theatre in 2009, Harmer said, is that the band plans to spend the entire weekend in town, visiting old favorite hangouts, such as Casa Que Pasa, the Beaver Inn and the Horseshoe Cafe.
“We’ll probably go down to Fairhaven and walk around a bit,” Harmer said. “It wasn’t significant to the band, but we spent a lot of rainy days down there at the Colophone Cafe. I’m interested to see how much it’s changed. We might even take a hike up to Sehome Hill (Arboretum). There are a lot of places that mean so much to us up there.”
Perhaps none means more, Harmer said, than the house on Ellis Street where some of the original band members lived, became friends and even recorded songs after Gibbard decided to expand a solo project into a band in 1997.
“I’m sure we’ll drive by that place,” Harmer said. “Lots of good memories from that place. Lots of good memories from our time up there. We’re excited to go back up there and remember some of those times.”