The Dandy Warhols Live @ The Showbox
Dec. 6, 2019 in Seattle
Words by John Regan; Photos by Naomi Regan
Portland ministers of fun, The Dandy Warhols, brought their 25th anniversary tour and traveling roadshow to a sold out Showbox on Friday, December 6. My wife Naomi and I attended and met friends beforehand.
With primarily a cult following, The Dandy Warhols broke into mainstream circles with their 2003 radio-friendly hit “We Used to Be Friends,” which was used as the theme song for the hugely popular TV show Veronica Mars. They also gained fame with their 2000 song “Bohemian Like You, which was featured in a 2001 Vodaphone ad that encapsulated the Northwest “Capitol Hill” vibe in a classic and timeless way.
Both songs are fun, danceable tracks that personify the band’s sound rather than compromises made to seek out radio hits—that is why the fans love the songs and love the band. To their credit, the Dandys have remained an indie and small club band despite the hits and while the band may have wanted to be bigger, they must (on some level) love the street cred of still playing more intimate venues after all these years alongside stadium shows. I know I am thankful for their artistic choices and being true to themselves. The Portland quartet never fully shed their indie darling skin, which is a good thing—especially for those of us lucky enough to attend the Showbox in early December 2019.
The Dandy Warhols feature singer-guitarist Courtney Taylor-Taylor, guitarist Peter Holmström, drummer Eric Hedford, and keyboardist Zia McCabe who also sings background vocals, plays a mean tambourine, and stands on a platform to the right of the band, surrounded by her equipment—looking like parts DJ and parts conductor of musical charms. Like a great actor, Zia steals the stage from her quieter and more withdrawn male bandmates and seem happy to let her be the focal point, which allows the others to simply play. It’s great to see strong women in music and Zia McCabe puts her indelible stamp on the Dandy Warhols live show.
Linked musically, metaphorically, and via the big screen to their sister act, The Brian Jonestown Massacre of San Francisco—both bands, who are friends with each other, appeared in the 2004 documentary film Dig! BJM are the darker and more psychedelic band and The Dandy Warhols are more up-tempo and fun, but you can hear each band in the other. Like identical twins who have tried everything under the sun to look and sound different from each other, they remain inexplicably joined.
On this temperate December night, The Dandy Warhols played a variety of songs from their catalog and a pair of covers and delivered most of the favorites that fans wanted to hear. The biggest hits—”We Used to be Friends” and “Bohemian Like You” got everyone dancing and kicked the party into high gear. However, for me, the highlight was “Godless,” which is the opening track off their third album (and my favorite) Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia (2000) and it was delivered flawlessly. The song has more of the psychedelic sound reminiscent of Brian Jonestown Massacre and 1960s/1970s psych-rock with pop and punk rock hooks interspersed within. It’s a soothingly hypnotic track and they nailed it.
The encore included “Boys Better” by Pete International Airport, a side project of Peter Holmström, and then an outro with Zia McCabe on vocals in which she invited the entire crowd to the after party (more below).
After the show, keyboardist Zia did a DJ session at Belltown’s Screwdriver and my wife and I attended. Because we have mutual friends with Zia, I was able to get a picture with her outside the Showbox and then another of her DJing with me cheering her in the background like an excited fanboy. I was so incredibly impressed with her song selection and skill as a DJ—it was a continuation of the party at The Showbox. The avocation is a bonafide side gig for Zia under the name of DJ Rescue with the tagline of “Saving good parties from bad music since 2001.” How rock and roll is that?
In the video, Zia is playing “Oh Lord” by the aforementioned Brian Jonestown Massacre and dancing behind the turntables as folks danced and jumped around the bar. She also played the ‘Stones “Shake Your Hips,” “Long Tall Shortly” from the Kinks, The Sonics “Have Love Will Travel” and “Disco 2000” by Pulp.. Quite the bohemian set.
I had such a blast at the show and the after party. It seemed like one conjoined magic carpet ride, which I did not want to end. When I told Nada Editor Matt Ashworth that I was going to the show and would be happy to do a review, he replied, “They are fun,” and fun they were.
The Dandy Warhols bring fun to the show and keep the party going after. It was my first time seeing them and I will catch them next time for sure. I wholeheartedly recommend seeing them.
Dandy Warhols Showbox Setlist
- Holding Me Up
- We Used to Be Friends
- Get Off
- High Life
- Plan A
- You Were the Last High
- I Love You
- They’re Gone
- Be Alright
- Bohemian Like You
- Little Drummer Boy (Cover)
- Boys Better (Pete International Airport)
- Zia Outro