There hasn’t been a new studio album from Death Cab for Cutie since 2015, but he band is celebrating its 20th anniversary in a pretty cool way: by releasing an audio recording of their first show.
Taped on November 22, 1997, DCFC’s first set was actually recorded on a Dictaphone in Bellingham, Washington by Trevor Adams. The band were playing at an acoustic venue called The Pacer House, in front of a crowd of around 25 people. According to Benjamin Gibbard “None of us thought we were starting a band nor did our ambitions for DCFC extend very far past this particular evening. We simply thought it would be fun to play these songs for our friends before moving on to other things. “
Gibbard had just recorded a demo of You Can Play These Songs With Chords and thought he was just getting together with a group of friends to entertain other friends on the weekend before Thanksgiving.
But history was made that night, after all. As Gibbard notes, “It was one of the greatest nights of my life at the time and its significance has only grown since.”
Adams’ recording is exceedingly rare – the first-ever appearance by a groundbreaking band with the hiss of the Dictaphone and the sounds of the crowd adding ambiance. Unlike many live albums, which are recorded to be as tight as possible, this one has all the hallmarks of an early house show. The band even interrupts the set so they can announce that a red Honda Accord needs to be moved.
On Facebook, Gibbard said “Chris Walla and I had just finished the You Can Play These Songs with Chords cassette and we thought it would be fun to play a few shows around Bellingham to celebrate the release. We recruited Nick Harmer to play bass and Walla’s childhood friend Nathan Good to play drums.” Gibbard also thanked host Adams for inviting them to play.
All proceeds from the release will go to Seattle non-profit Aurora Commons. The non-profit aims to strengthen communities by providing educational resources, food, life and career advice to people who live near Aurora Avenue. Death Cab frequently plays benefit shows. Earlier in 2017, the band played for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, with their cover of Soundgarden’s “Fell on Black Days” quickly going viral. The cover version was a tribute to Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, who died earlier this year.