‘We’re Not Kids Anymore’
Bellingham welcomes back ODESZA and Death Cab for Cutie for the biggest show in Whatcom County history
By Chris Butcher
Joyful tears were shed across the field as lead singer, Ben Gibbard, serenaded the crowd with a solo rendition of the lush acoustic ballad “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.” Hypnotized by the heavy-hearted love song, the audience instinctively chimed in. Gibbard passed the final chorus off to the crowd and instantly every voice could be heard echoing within the stadium.
This would be a historic evening for Bellingham as two local legacies, Death Cab for Cutie and ODESZA, teamed up to present Double Major — a benefit concert for Western Washington University’s Alumni Association Scholarship Endowment. For Odesza members, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, this show was an opportunity to play alongside a band that had given them hope when they were just young students, aspiring to make it in the music industry.
“This is a dream lineup for us. We used to think if Death Cab made it, then there’s a chance,” Mills said.
Acts that have made it, like Death Cab for Cutie and now ODESZA, continue to be a source of inspiration in Bellingham’s growing community of musical artists — for bands like Lipstitch, Bellingham’s own certified punk rockers and one of the openers for Double Major.
Lipstitch is made up of rhythm guitarist and vocalist Amanda Hodgins, bassist Danielle LeBeau, lead guitarist Chris Williams and drummer Bryan Hunter. Their songs consist of chugging power chords intertwined with melodic vocals and roaring solos.
“After playing music for all these years, to open for a band that I’ve always valued in the weirdest ways, it’s special,” LeBeau said.
For Lipstitch it’s not just Death Cab’s music that inspires them but the impact their accomplishments have had on the direction of pop culture. Sharing the stage with their heroes is a reminder to the band that you don’t have to come from a big-name city to be noticed for your artistic voice.
Prior to forming Lipstitch, Hodgins and Hunter were both in the band Babewaves with bassist Dylan Kloch. While their former band was famous for their use of experimental song writing amplified through dark, sludgy riffs, their new group decided to take things in a different direction, “I craved wanting to play simple, fast, punk rock songs again,” Hodgins said.
To maintain momentum after Double Major, Lipstitch is releasing two new singles and is currently in the planning stages of a mini North American tour. For Lipstitch and the other opening acts this opportunity reflects the same position Death Cab and ODESZA were in when they were first being recognized.
“Our very ever first gig was back at the Wild Buffalo. Knight and I learned the program we were using and how to make a live show all within a matter of two weeks,” Mills said.
In addition to the Double Major show ODESZA booked two nights at the Wild Buffalo, a popular club in downtown Bellingham. For the Mills and Knight, to go from being an opening act to selling out the club they began their career in, was an accomplishment of its own.
“I remember walking up on stage, with our friends in the audience and having this feeling of ‘this is what I want to do,’” Mills said.
Mills said that anyone trying to reach a musical breakthrough should remain genuine and avoid sticking to musical trends or “you could end up in a pigeon hole of something you don’t even enjoy.”
“When we were making it up there [in Bellingham], no one got it. We were the weird kids who were trying to take someone’s indie vocals and make a new song out of them and people were like ‘you’re ruining the song,’” Mills said.
Back when the first announcements for the show had been made, Mills confessed that he and his musical counterpart hadn’t been sure what to expect. When tickets sold out in a single day it surprised the both of them. Similar to a family reunion, they were able to see people who shot their first music videos and hosted their first shows.
To this day, Mills’s best friend, whom he met while taking classes in Western’s design program, still does all of their onstage visuals.
“We’ve spent so much time [at Western], so many formative years of our lives, we met there, we made our first album there, and now we’re going to be walking on that campus as such different people. We’re not kids anymore,” Mills said.
Before ending, Death Cab reminisced about their Whatcom roots, from writing songs at 1138 Ellis St. to touring the world — all made possible by Bellingham’s long-lasting music scene.
“We love you Bellingham, we are nothing without you!” Gibbard shouted.