Ben Gibbard @ Noise Pop 2011

Like many previous renditions of the festival, Noise Pop 2011 was a cavern of over-stimulus: several shows per night stacked bottom to top with bands, myriad of concert attendees eager to be there for any number of reasons, alcohol and dark venues and eclectic entertainment. Lots and lots of music, often loud, often surrounded by similarly loud patrons. Noise Pop closing nights traditionally close the festivals with a bang - something particularly unique to act as the finale.

The 2011 closing show was certainly unique and special, but not in the traditional sense. Packed lineups and stage antics were replaced by just two musicians and one fully captivated, silent audience: Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie, the Postal Service) and Zach Rogue (Rogue Wave).

There's something to be said about watching a solo show that features seasoned performers. Aside from musical prowess and notoriety - can't really fake that when you're all alone on stage with just your voice and your instrument - a musician makes for a stellar solo show when he/she possesses something extra to help keep the audience's attention. For Ben Gibbard  and Zach Rogue, this came in the form of witty stage banter. Some examples:

Zach Rogue, taking the stage: "Hi everyone. I'm Ben Gibbard."

Ben Gibbard, after an audience member yells at him to play "Complicated", the Avril Lavigne song:  "NO. I played that song once, like 10 years ago, and have been paying for it ever since then. Lesson learned: don't play pop songs ironically."

And so on. The comfortable presence from both frontmen made the packed Great American Music Hall feel less crowded and a bit more like any other casual Sunday night venture.

As opposed to a show with a four-band lineup, wherein the average audience may only have a scattered knowledge of the evening's playlist, there was little unfamiliarity with Sunday's two-man bill. While some audience members were there solely to live out their favorite Death Cab and Postal Service memories, the majority of the audience showed nearly as much appreciation for Zack Rogue's stripped-down versions of "Publish My Love" and "Lake Michigan" as they did for Ben Gibbard's "Cath" and "I Will You Into the Dark."

The more obvious song choices were combined with some left-field contributions: Zach Rogue's beautiful cover of Buddy Holly's "Everyday," Ben Gibbard closing the night with "Such Great Heights," special guests Jimmy LaValle (the Album Leaf) and Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü). While some may say that this should be the standard for any solo show worth its salt, the overall combination still felt completely magical.

Ben Gibbard

Ben Gibbard @ Noise Pop 2011

Ben Gibbard @ Noise Pop 2011

Ben Gibbard @ Noise Pop 2011

Ben Gibbard @ Noise Pop 2011

Zach Rogue

Zach Rogue @ Noise Pop 2011

Zach Rogue @ Noise Pop 2011

Zach Rogue @ Noise Pop 2011

Zach Rogue @ Noise Pop 2011

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