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Concert review: John Roderick at The State Room

by on November 28, 2012

One of the better things I can say about social media is that it’s given me the ability to wait out a new Long Winters album via main man John Roderick’s presence on Twitter, on podcasts and as a writer in various outlets.

As many of the unfamiliar on hand Tuesday at The State Room found out when Roderick opened for (and played with) Jonathan Coulton, he’s a witty charmer. That’s true when he communicates via 140-word post (seriously, check out @JohnRoderick if you’re on Twitter), but even more so when he pens a song.

Roderick’s brief set Tuesday was full of Long Winters favorites like “Scared Straight” and “Cinnamon,” and his between-song banter showcased one of the more acute and comic minds in music. When not flattering the crowd by noting his affinity for mountain towns as a native Alaskan, or talking of family reunions in Malad, Idaho, Roderick talked about how Portland only has one $50 bill in circulation, moving from coffee shop purchase to tattoo artist to dreamcatcher salesman and back to the coffee shop.

The story was Roderick’s way of introducing the one new song in his set, “Not Moving to Portland,” which was a touching narrative as well as a funny skewering of the capital of hipsterdom in 2012. The phenomenon of Portland, Roderick noted, isn’t much different from what was happening in Seattle 20 years, “except instead of putting a bird on it, people were putting a syringe in it.”

“Pushover” was excellent, as was “Ultimatum,” an audience request (full disclosure: the request was mine) and an emotionally striking song that has been one of my Long Winters favorites for a while now, thanks to lines like “My arms miss you, my hands miss you. The stars sing, I’ve got their song in my head. I don’t want my words twisted, I don’t want you to listen too closely.” The ballad worked, and the audience fell into silence to watch Roderick’s passionate performance. Even the singer recognized the moment, saying at song’s end, “Thank you. I feel like we just went somewhere together.”

Roderick closed with “The Commander Thinks Aloud,” a live staple and another great song. Here’s hoping a new Long Winters record comes along soon, and brings Roderick back to town sooner rather than later.

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