The Postal Service keep the nostalgia fresh with some help from Big Freedia & Baths at the Greek Theatre Berkeley

The-Postal-ServiceBy Mike Frash //

The Postal Service with Big Freedia, Baths //
The Greek Theatre – U.C. Berkeley
July 26th, 2013 //

The Postal Service played their third-ever Bay Area show at the Greek Theatre on Friday — the supergroup had previously performed at two tiny clubs, Bottom of the Hill and the Los Gatos Outhouse, respectively, in 2003 before their only record Give Up became a massive success. It was a night of nostalgia, yet The Postal Service made everything feel fresh, successfully sucking in the attention of the surprisingly youthful crowd. The audience was engaged throughout the show, a setting and mood that should be partially attributed to the night’s two openers, one that seemed completely out-of-place and another perfect.

Baths is a fast-rising electronic musician (born Will Wiesenfeld) who is touring on his excellent second record Obsidian. Baths is the ideal opener for The Postal Service — his music is more somber and moody, but his digital textures are so similar. The crunchy, industrialized beats found in “Worsening” and “Ossuary” sound related to the underlying, limping baseline in The Postal Service song “This Place Is a Prison”. Wiesenfeld and Postal Service digital mastermind Jimmy Tamborello have the same knack for atypical, Nintendo glitch production and therefore are kindred spirits.


Wiesenfeld’s live show includes another performer to help with button pushing, knob turning and electric guitar. The stage production is decidedly minimalist — both artists face each other while playing muddled, industrialized sounds from MIDI pads stacked on top of the boxed they were originally packaged in. Wiesenfeld plays the keyboard live and nails his passionate, on the brink-of-death lyrics with precision. His falsetto was on point, and all of the electronic sampling was performed live except for the driving, minimalist beats.

The audience may have been chatting away for much of Baths’ performance, but all it took was some booty twerkin’ and the first Sissy Bounce performance the Greek has witnessed to get everyone on their feet. When looking at the bill for the evening, it was hard to gauge how a Postal Service crowd would react to Big Freedia, the Queen Diva of Bounce. Bounce music is a rap-based hip-hop subgenre from New Orleans, heavy on bass with a NOLA second-line mentality — hence the booty.


If ya got it, shake it — bouncing female booty while wearing short shorts or tight spandex is virtually synonymous with bounce music itself, and Big Freedia understands this historical aspect. The Queen Diva has worked the art of booty bouncing into live production art, as her dancers know how to put on an entertaining show that is exciting and fun to watch.

The dancers performed upside-down booty rockin’ with handstands, ran the booty train with Freedia as the locomotive and climbed speakers and lighting pillars to shake that ass. It was anything but boring, either making you dance or ask yourself, “What the fuck am I watching?” The wild, random featured act was joined by Postal Service leader Ben Gibbard for some booty shakin’ to end the set — it was the final night Big Freedia opened for the headliners on this tour.


Big Freedia ended up prepping the crowd perfectly for The Postal Service, getting everyone’s attention turned toward the stage. The crowd was attentive during The Postal Service set, adding harmonious sing-alongs to the group’s biggest songs. Some of these moments were spontaneous, others were encouraged by the performers. Opening song “The District Sleeps Alone Night” elicited a perfectly blended sing-along with the line “I was the one worth leaving” — but show closer “Brand New Colony” ended the night in a most memorable fashion. They ended the concert by encouraging the audience to join them in continuing “Everything Will Change” a cappella — and those in attendance obliged Gibbard wholeheartedly. He counted out the four beats in the measure before signaling to the crowd to yell the line, and it was clear the frontman was pleased with the participation after the final notes had been played.

The set was performed tight and cleanly — the foursome is clearly honed in at this point of the tour. The mid-set cover of Beat Happening song “Our Secret” was a highlight. The track built then segued into atmospheric territory — it was a long song but ended right as it was starting taking off. Gibbard jumped into press row for the set-ending “Natural Anthem”, leaving the rest of the group to awkwardly leave the stage for the encore.


Once again, Jenny Lewis is the MVP. She’s so present in the moment while in control of her craft. Gibbard was enthusiastic and might be one of the worst dancers in live music today. But he owns his stage presence with gusto, and it makes you realize one possible reason why he shifted from electropop back to more indie-laden fare with Death Cab for Cutie.

At one point, Gibbard sincerely thanked everyone for being there, saying that “We know you have many options for your concert dollar. Thank you for not choosing Justin Bieber,” playfully referencing the Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z mega-show happening at Candlestick Park across the bay. While that comparison is weird, frankly, everyone present at the Greek must have had a couple goose-bumpy moments thinking back to a time 10 years ago when they first listened to The Postal Service.

The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
We Will Become Silhouettes
Sleeping In
Turn Around
Nothing Better
Recycled Air
Be Still My Heart
Clark Gable
Our Secret (Beat Happening cover)
This Place Is a Prison
There’s Never Enough Time
A Tattered Line of String
Such Great Heights
Natural Anthem

(This IS) the Dream of Evan and Chan
Brand New Colony


  1. Big Freedia was awful. Everyone was talking about how it was such a poor decision to bring along a musical act so different from the Postal Service. Their musical styles did not mix well for a harmonious concert. I’m not sure what show you were at, but the consensus was this was truly a terrible decision.


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