The Chance Theater is a dingy little venue in the slightly sketchy, but not terrifying part of Poughkeepsie. There is a river monster mural along the brick wall next to the entrance/will call booth. It is not the slightest bit menacing.
The crowd was already picking up around 6:30 p.m., the will call line extending easily past the doors and to the parking lot around the next corner. The sea of flannel and thick rimmed glasses rumbled with approval whenever they could take a few steps forward as the bouncer checked bags. But this audience was not entirely comprised of the hipster type-cast; there were high school aged fan girls, a reasonable quantity of bros and girls who probably listened to I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning on some mixtape from The O.C. in their younger days. When you’ve been playing shows as long as Bright Eyes, you’re liable to pick up a few strays.
The venue filled quickly though not timely, according to the shows 7 p.m. start time. We’d nestled into a comfy spot in the pit where we could easily lean back on the wall and watch the nodding heads. Dr. Dog was the opener, settling in with a psychedelic sound and incredibly smooth harmonies. The crowd was receptive, though probably unfamiliar with the Philadelphia-bred sound, but they seemed happy nonetheless.
By 9 p.m., Bright Eyes took to the stage. Conor Oberst stands kind of shyly in front of the microphone at first, guitar in hand and he takes a solid moment to get a look at the crowd. The unnerving pubescent screams and love-declarations are met with a genuine reply of “I love you too,” and you’re somehow sure he means it. He introduces himself and his band as “Right Eyes, the best Bright Eyes cover band out of des Moines, Iowa.”
He kicked off the show with some songs from his newest album “The People’s Key,” starting out with the record’s moody first track “Firewall.” As the night went on, Oberst traveled back to 2005, giving tastes of “We are Nowhere This is Now,” “Another Travelin’ Song ” and “Landlocked Blues.”
By 11 p.m., the encore number was in full swing, Dr. Dog came back out on stage to party to “Road to Joy” and so began the lengthy jam session and introductions of each band member. Oberst gave a rambling little monologue for each member of his band, urging the crowd to scream “from the bottom of [their] lungs.”