This July, the Decemberists will perform alongside local orchestras at select dates in amphitheaters in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago and Columbia, Md.
The Portland, Ore.-based act is currently playing 1,500- to 3,000-capacity theaters in support of its Capitol debut, "The Crane Wife," which has sold 214,000 copies in the United States since its October release according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The idea to match the Decemberists with orchestras came after Johanna Rees, who has booked similar shows at Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl, approached the act's booking agent Kevin French, with Bigshot Touring Artists.
"I was the liaison between the band and the orchestra folks, because they don't really know how the rock world works," Rees tells Billboard.biz. "And if you're a fan, it's such a perfect band to put with an orchestra. Musically, they're just astounding."
To help organize the dates, Rees, who also books the L.A.'s Walt Disney
Concert Hall, reached out to various venue and orchestra promoters around the country. "I needed to make sure all the pieces fit together," she says.
"Obviously, an orchestra promoter may not be able to promote a rock concert the way it needs to be promoted."
In 2004, Rees paired French electronic duo Air with an orchestra for a
sold-out concert at the 17,300-seat Hollywood Bowl. And over the next two years, she did the same with Dead Can Dance (2005) and Belle and Sebastian (2006).
"After the third year, the artists, managers and agents started calling -- and so did some of the orchestra promoters that I know," Rees says. "They were wondering how to be a part of it."
For the Decemberists July 7 concert at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Rees predicts many concertgoers will simply attend out of a desire to experience something different. "I think people are just interested in seeing a band play with an orchestra, even if they don't know the band or orchestra that well." Indie act Band of Horses will open the show. Ticket prices range from $20 to $105.
For the orchestra shows, the Decemberists will play songs from its entire catalog, according to sources close to the band. Leading up to the five orchestra-backed concerts, which hit 4,500-17,300-capacity sheds, the Decemberists are scheduled to appear at Indio, Calif.'s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 28, and Manchester, Tenn.'s Bonnaroo Festival on June 17. Beyond that, the band is expected to hit theaters again this fall.
Late last year, following the release of "The Crane Wife," the Decemberists took to the road, performing in ballrooms and theaters. Eighteen shows reported to Billboard Boxscore grossed $695,763 and drew nearly 32,000 in attendance. That's a significant jump from 2005, when the act grossed $361,570 for 22 reported gigs, according to Boxscore.
Along with growing box-office numbers, the Decemberists have seen an increase in album sales -- "The Crane Wife" has already moved 62,000 more units than 2005's "Picaresque," the band's last for indie Kill Rock Stars.
Here are the Decemberists summer tour dates:
June 16: Manchester, Tenn. (Bonnaroo Festival)
July 7: Los Angeles (Hollywood Bowl, w/ LA Philharmonic, Band of Horses)
July 13: Atlanta (Chastain Park, w/ Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)
July 14: Columbia, Md. (Merriweather Post Pavilion, w/ Baltimore Symphony
July 15: Philadelphia (Mann Center for the Performing Arts, w/ Mann Festival
July 16: New York (Central Park Summerstage, w/ Grizzly Bear)
July 18: Chicago (Jay Pritzker Pavillion, w/ Grant Park Orchestra)
July 22: Troutdale, Ore. (Edgefield Winery, w/ Menomena)