Entertainment

Double Major — ‘I want this to be a celebration of going to Western and living in Bellingham’

Odesza and Death Cab for Cutie perform for 13,000 fans at Civic Stadium

Odesza and Death Cab for Cutie formed while the bands' original members were students at Western Washington University in Bellingham. The “Double Major” benefit concert Saturday, May 18, 2019, was the first time the two played together.
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Odesza and Death Cab for Cutie formed while the bands' original members were students at Western Washington University in Bellingham. The “Double Major” benefit concert Saturday, May 18, 2019, was the first time the two played together.

While they were students at Western Washington University, members of Odesza and Death Cab for Cutie said they never particularly dreamed of performing at Bellingham’s Civic Stadium.

And why would they?

About the only musical acts to previously grace the athletic complex have been marching bands during halftimes of football games.

And the groups were college acts — plenty happy to showcase their talents in front of packed downtown bars.

Heck, by the time Odesza was in college and formed their duo in 2012, the WWU football team had long since disbanded, so the off-campus stadium probably never even entered their minds.

“It never seemed possible to us,” Death Cab bass player Nick Harmer told The Bellingham Herald. “The first few years when we were in Bellingham, we hoped to play the Viking Union to open for a national touring act. We had dreams of driving down to Seattle and playing our own show at The Crocodile. That seemed attainable — a reachable dream.”

So Saturday’s Double Major concert event, when an expected 13,000 people are expected to pack the Civic Stadium grandstands and field to welcome Odesza and Death Cab back to their Bellingham roots, actually is beyond their wildest dreams.

Death Cab for Cutie and Odesza are two bands that got their start while band members were students at Western Washington University. On Saturday, May 18, both groups are returning to Bellingham for a benefit concert dubbed “Double Major.”

The concert, which has been set up in conjunction with Western, is part of Alumni Weekend and will benefit the school’s alumni association scholarship endowment. Civic Stadium gates open at 4 p.m., and the concert is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.

“We’re expecting the energy to be great,” Odesza’s Clayton Knight told The Herald. “We’re going to be performing before fans we knew and grew up with. It’s kind of like going full circle. I think we’re going to take a little more pride, considering both bands got their start in Bellingham. We’re expecting that hometown energy to be there.”

Harmer and Knight both said they’ve been eagerly awaiting Saturday’s return since the two groups ran into each other at a California event three or four months ago, began reminiscing about getting their start in Bellingham and first floated the idea of making a combined return.

“When the show was coming together, I don’t know if I was fully processing the significance and scale of it all,” Harmer told The Herald. “Certainly as the event draws closer, it’s occurred to me that this is a pretty big deal. It’s exciting for Ben (Gibbard — Death Cab’s founder and vocals, guitar and piano) and I — and Jason (McGerr — drummer and Bellingham resident) to a degree. It should be a great trip down memory lane.”

Demand for concert tickets ‘was overwhelming’

The bands are hardly the only ones anxious for the event.

“It’s exciting to welcome these internationally accomplished Western alumni back home, and we look forward to a great evening of music for the Bellingham community,” Western President Sabah Randhawa said in a release. “Western students and alumni go on to achieve great things in every walk of life, but one thing that binds them together is a desire to make a positive difference for others.”

Added Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville in the release: “We are very excited to host these two bands, who got their start here at Western, and while this event will likely impact parking and traffic in the area, we believe there is a positive benefit for local businesses and the overall community.”

Tickets were scooped up almost as soon as they were available. The event sold out less than 48 hours after sales opened.

“That was so great to see,” Knight told The Herald. “You get a little nervous selling tickets for something like this — you’re never sure how people are going to respond. It was overwhelming to see it sell out so fast. Hopefully that means we can do more shows like this in Bellingham.”

‘Robust music scene’

While any future shows of this magnitude would likely have to include both Odesza and Death Cab, the bands are quick to point out they aren’t the only acts to come out Bellingham.

Also performing Saturday at Civic is LipStitch — a rock, pop punk, power pop band that lists Bellingham as its home town on its Facebook page. Also on the bill are Chong the Nomad, who has Pacific Northwest ties, and Robotaki.

“Bellingham really has a robust music scene,” Harmer told The Herald. “There were good bands there before we got there, and there have been good bands since we left. It’s exciting to know that we are part of that history, and this weekend we get to celebrate it.”

But the two pillars of that scene are definitely Death Cab, which formed in 1997, and Odesza, and that’s what makes Saturday’s event special — not only for their fans still in Bellingham, but also the band members themselves.

“We’ve been huge fans of Death Cab forever,” Knight told The Herald. “Coming up in Bellingham, we knew their story, and we looked up to them as we came up through our college careers. Getting to perform with them, that’s really exciting.”

And getting the chance to do that do that in front of a hometown crowd makes that even more special.

“One thing you’re never really aware of is what particular legacy you have in a town once you leave,” Harmer said. “It’s going to be fun to see the reaction to our band and our music and re-investigate what our band means to Bellingham and Bellingham means to our band.”

‘A sea of current and former Western students’

So what can the 13,000 fans who turn out at Civic and the nearby Puget Neighborhood residents who decide to open their sliding glass doors expect to hear Saturday?

The concert represents the last opportunity the Pacific Northwest will get to see Odesza’s “A Moment Apart” show, Knight said, promising a full production, including a drum line and “everything we can give.”

But how will Odesza’s electro-pop mix with Death Cabs alternative rock sound?

“Musically, I’d say Odesza and Death Cab have a common DNA,” Harmer said. “We’re not going to overlap a whole lot — they’re pop and we’re indie rock — but not so radically that people are going to be scratching their heads wondering what’s going on.

“Obviously, some portion of the crowd is going to be looking forward to us and another portion is going to be looking forward to them, but hopefully everyone can enjoy the entire show and just make this a celebration of the diverse music community in Bellingham.”

And that, more than anything, is what Saturday’s show is all about.

“I’m expecting there to be a sea of current and former Western students,” Harmer told The Herald. “I want this to be a celebration of going to Western and living in Bellingham. I like the idea of people starting to live their lives and then get this chance to go back and catch up with each other and celebrate with one another where they came from and where they’re going. I’m just so glad our music helps them get to do that.”

If you’re going to ‘Double Major’

PARKING

There’s no parking at the concert venue. The parking lots around Civic Field will be used for emergency vehicles, production and operations vehicles, heavy equipment, foot traffic, carpool parking, ride shares, bikes, and staff vehicles.

Taking Lyft, Uber or a taxi? Go to the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center parking lot at 1114 Potter St.

Concert producer, AEG Presents, has offered limited carpool parking passes to ticket buyers. They will be valid for vehicles with a minimum of four concert-goers. Carpool parking will be at the Civic Field Main lot from 2 to 11:59 p.m.

OTHER PARKING OPTIONS

Parking passes and shuttle service to and from Civic Field are on sale through the WWU Alumni Association. Register at alumni.wwu.edu. Shuttle service will run from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., before the concert, from WWU’s 12A and C lots, 450 S. College Drive. Those lots are 2 miles southwest of Civic Field. After, shuttle service will be at Civic Field Way and Moore Street from 9:30 p.m. to midnight.

Lincoln Creek Park & Ride, 800 Lincoln St. The lot is 1 mile south of Civic Field and is on the WTA bus route.

Commercial Street Parking Garage, 1300 Commercial St. in the downtown. It is 1.5 miles west of Civic Field and three blocks from the WTA downtown station. More spaces downtown can be found at downtownbellingham.com/parking.

RIDE THE BUS

Whatcom Transportation Authority will provide extra bus service on Saturday:

Before the show, take these routes to Civic Field Stadium: 190, 512, 525, 533 and 540.

After, catch Routes 190 or 512 on Puget Street, directly outside the main exit. This is the only place where the bus will pick up concert-goers after the show. These also will be the only routes operating then.

Route 190 will go to WWU and downtown via Lincoln Street, Bill McDonald Parkway, High Street and Billy Frank Jr. Street.

Route 512 will head to downtown by way of Lakeway Drive and Holly Street.

Rides cost $1 cash in exact change only or WTA bus passes.

OTHER DETAILS

Go to cob.org/doublemajor for general information, including updates on parking and traffic revisions.

Call 360-676-7433 or go to ridewta.com for bus route and schedule information.

Go to alumni.wwu.edu/wwualumniweekend for more on the Western Washington University Alumni Weekend events.

Kie Relyea contributed to this story.

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David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.

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