The CMJ Music Marathon swung into action yesterday for a week of nonstop music across New York City.

Ben Gibbard is no stranger to the annual music festival, having performed during the 2000 edition at Brownies, a dive bar on the lower east side of Manhattan.

After more than a decade, his career has taken him full circle.

“I started playing at Brownies and on Barsuk Records,” stated Gibbard, as he stepped onto a small stage at the back of the room. “Now I’m back at Brownies and on Barsuk Records. What happened? The last 12 years didn’t exist.”

Of course, Brownies is now The HiFi Bar. And though the name has changed, the people, music and history has stayed the same. For this reason, Gibbard’s intimate performance for an invite-only crowd for the release of his new record, Former Lives, was all the more memorable.

Gibbard manned the stage with just his guitar and keyboard, no more than two feet from a barroom capacity crowd packed tightly and inching closer with each song. His setlist skipped from the multiple catalogs that bear his name; The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie and his solo work.

gibbard setlist copy Ben Gibbard Returns To Play Performs Lengthy Record Release Show At New Yorks HiFi Bar

[PHOTOS] Ben Gibbard at The HiFi Bar

Gibbard also vows to perform a different cover for each city on his upcoming tour, which begins November 1st in Minnesota and returns to New York City on November 5th at The Town Hall.

Aside from performing an array of material, Gibbard also shared an interesting story from the last time he performed at Brownies, when many people referred to him as the “Collapsing Vegan.”

“I was impossibly sick,” he said, recalling falling on stage and being brought to the hospital by then and current owner, Mike Stuto. “He was kind enough to take me to the hospital, and not only that, he let me stay at his apartment until it was time to do the show.” Stuto claims his actions were to “save the show,” but the two have been close friends ever since.

Gibbard finished his over hour long set, but fans, strained backs and all, requested an encore. Obviously unprepared for the request, Gibbard decided to take suggestions for the encore, first performing “A Lack Of Color” followed by “Marching Bands Of Manhattan,” a song he admittedly never attempted acoustically before.

“It’s gonna be rough,” he proclaimed. And to begin it was, restarting after uttering the first lines “If I could open my arms.” But from there Gibbard finished the night without any hiccups, making for a memorable night that concluded far better than the time he slept on Stuto’s couch.

Ben Gibbard Tour Dates:

  • 09-26 Big Sur, CA – Henry Miller Library
  • 10-14 Toronto, Ontario – The Danforth Music Hall
  • 11-01 Minneapolis, MN – Assembly Hall at The Women’s Club
  • 11-02 Chicago, IL – Athenaeum Theatre
  • 11-04 Somerville, MA – Somerville Theater
  • 11-05 New York, NY – Town Hall
  • 11-07 Glenside, PA – Keswick Theatre
  • 11-08 Washington, DC – Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
  • 11-10 Saxapahaw, NC – The Haw River Ballroom
  • 11-11 Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
  • 11-13 San Francisco, CA – Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
  • 11-14 Los Angeles, CA – Wilshire Ebell

–E.J. Judge, CBS Local


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