untie me, I’ve said no vows: the shins @ Music Hall of Williamsburg // 3.15.17

I got to live out a dream. I cannot believe that I have seen The Shins live. I cannot believe that I will get to see them again this summer.

I’ve noticed a trend, and it’s that all of my most essential friends grew up listening to the same things I did. Not necessarily in full, but some of the crucials were present. I think that if you’re a music fanatic – or perhaps even if you’re not – music helps to account for some of the ways you see the world. If you’re constantly listening to a song or if you have lyrics toiling around in your mind, something somewhere sticks.

I got to see The Shins with someone who listened to them during her formative years just like I did, and that made the entire experience so much more fulfilling and sweet. It was really wonderful to mutually express disbelief when they played some deeper cuts that we had thought were absolutely improbable choices, or to both experience the totally pure heightened emotion when you see songs you have been listening to for almost a decade come to life.

What a kaleidoscope character James Mercer is! There were moments where he seemed so boyish and sweet, and moments where his eyes went wild which made me wonder if he’s simply an insane genius savant, no more, no less – most likely, I’ve since decided. Then there were moments where he got personal – like when he was introducing Mildenhall – and moments when he played the guitar like a rockstar. All of them meld into this single human who I admittedly struggle to fathom, but completely adore.

Quick moment of appreciation for their set decorations which threw off total “Soul Meets Body”-meets-Sufjan-Stevens vibes (which is a confusing conglomerate), but were gorgeous and appropriate nonetheless. That set quickly raced to the top of my personal favorite set dressings list, alongside Real Estate’s 2014 tour stage lighting, The Districts’ 2015 stage, and The Killers 10th Anniversary Decennial (for obvious reasons – the antler keyboard made a comeback!!!). I don’t know who brought giant yellow happy face balloons to The Shins gig, but they somehow made the entire affair that much more whimsical.

I took five full videos which I think is a new personal record for full videos taken at a gig. See them under the cut (with indulgent commentary!)…


I cannot get the sound of “Caring is Creepy” live out of my head. The locomotion of the guitar and drums in the background is absolutely incredible when it’s brought to life.  I have always, always, always, loved this song, which I know is a popular opinion, but after hearing it live I am utterly obsessed with it. I think I tend to have a natural aversion to a band’s most popular song, but this is one of very few exceptions. Even now, I can’t get my favorite lines out of my head: it’s a luscious mix of words and tricks that let us bet when you know we should fold. On rocks I dreamt of where we’d stepped and of the whole mess of roads we’re now on. 

Pure poetry.


when I was just nine years old, I swear that I dreamt your face on a football field and a kiss that I kept under my vest apart from everything but the heart in my chest.

Is there anything else one could possibly say about this?


Every time I listen to this song I feel a verifiable tension in my heart. This performance was a personal attack on me. I specifically asked The Shins to not play this (via discussion with my concert companion). Didn’t they hear me? It is my absolute undoing in every way, shape, and form.

Gone for Good is a song that I definitely did not understand when I was younger. I most likely skipped it every time, because I have exactly no recollection of listening to it. When I heard about the upcoming release of Heartworms and began diving back into The Shins’ catalog, this song hit me like a ton of bricks, which is a simile I hate to use, but it’s the only one that comes to mind. I suppose I wish that I still did not understand it, but unfortunately, I do.

So, I guess if I had to see Gone For Good live, I’m glad that it was with lighting that made Mercer appear in a nostalgic sepia-tone which undoubtedly speaks to the western-y mood of this song and makes you vividly imagine placing your wedding ring on the track of a train for the wheels to nullify…in other words, I suppose it was fitting that it was the most painful rendition of this song possible.


When this song dropped, my opinion on it was: who knew Mercer’s voice could drop so low? My opinion now is: I cannot believe that Mercer’s voice can drop so low and that I’ve heard it do so. I think that Mercer’s introduction to this song was my favorite moment of the night.


Never in a million years did I think that I would hear this absolutely life-wrecking beauty of a song live. Never in a zillion years did I expect a fight to break out in the pit just below me due to a dude that took it upon himself to proper BOP to this song (and only this song, mind you. He was stationary enough for me to not have noticed him prior to this).

But maybe that’s my favorite thing about seeing The Shins live – at times it felt like a punk cavern club, at times it felt incredibly sentimental, at times it felt incredibly classic and curated to an audience. At all times, it felt special as hell.


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