“We’re an imaginary band called The Postal Service,” Ben Gibbard announced midway through his group’s stirring set on the Coachella main stage Saturday night. He and Jimmy Tamborello may have started as an e-band, but the emotions their songs elicit are so real that they’ve sustained a substantial and loyal following for a decade with just one album to their name.
The Postal Service is an intensely nostalgic act. Not that they sound old or retro, it just seems that everyone who’s a fan is an extremely passionate fan and associates their 2003 album Give Up with a very specific and emotional time and place: a first high school romance, the end of college, New York City rebuilding after 9/11. I am a Postal Service outsider — for me, the album merely got lost in the shuffle during my freshman year in college — but those connections were apparent among the thousands who turned out for the Coachella set the night of April 13.
Gibbard and Tamborello, along with new touring member Jenny Lewis, played eight songs from the duo’s only album, as well as their two new tracks, “A Tattered Line of String” and the uplifting “Turn Around.” The delicate, introspective electro-pop of songs like “We Will Become Silhouettes” and “Clark Gable” was a refreshing counterpoint to the festival’s more aggressive, airhorn-laden DJ fare. They performed dance music you can make out and get sad to.
It was crisp music for a crisp desert night, and the opening bars of each song seemed to evoke hushed expressions of joy from fans who were grateful to be hearing the songs in a new context. The vocals throughout the show were as pristine as Tamborello’s bleep-bloops, with Lewis and Gibbard demonstrating a natural interplay that suggested years of touring together.
By the time the set closed with “Such Great Heights” and “Brand New Colony,” it felt like the band was just getting started, which is pretty much exactly how it felt with Give Up. Gibbard and Lewis finished up a cappella, chanting “Everything will change,” but with The Postal Service, nothing has changed but the time and the place.