Death Cab for Cutie set to close out yearlong tour at Sonoma Harvest Music Festival

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If You Go

What: Sonoma Harvest Music Festival

When: Sept. 14-15 (Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals and Lauryn Hill, with supporting acts Ceelo Green and The Record Company.); Sept. 21-22 (Chvrches, Walk the Moon and MisterWives and Death Cab for Cutie). Gates open at 11 a.m. Where: B.R. Cohn Winery, 15000 Sonoma Hwy, Glen Ellen

Admission: $119 for single-day general admission tickets; $239 for weekend passes, plus service fees

Information:sonomaharvestmusicfestival.com

When indie-rock bulwark Death Cab for Cutie visits Glen Ellen on Sept. 22 as part of the two-weekend Sonoma Harvest Music Festival, which kicks off Saturday, it will conclude the band’s yearlong worldwide tour, appropriately culminating with the region’s annual celebration of the season.

“There’s no better time or place to be than in Northern California at the end of summer,” said Dave Depper, guitar-keyboardist of the band with Pacific Northwest roots. “I love the landscape and pace of life there, and the people I’ve met in your part of the world are so content and friendly-seeming. It’ll be the last burst of sunshine before I come home to fall in Portland, where it’s never sunny.”

The second-annual event put on by BottleRock Presents at B.R. Cohn Winery will also offer the 38-year-old rocker a chance to either dispel or reinforce faint childhood memories of Sonoma County. While in middle school, Depper’s family nearly moved from Chico to Santa Rosa, where they’d often visited his uncle, before settling on Bend, Oregon, and later seeing him land in the region’s early-2000s alternative music scene not long after Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard founded the Seattle-area group, which now has a cult-like following.

After initially joining the band as a touring member in 2015 following the departure of guitarist and longtime Death Cab co-conspirator Chris Walla, Depper was officially added to the lineup about a year later. He and Gibbard had developed a friendship before then through similar music circles and Gibbard’s now-wife, and bonded even more over what Depper called a mutual obsession with running.

Depper, whose prior professional credits include playing with the Fruit Bats and Ray LaMontagne, in addition to a solo career, admits getting the invite from Gibbard and playing with a band of which he was long a fan was “surreal,” but going on four years later he’s totally immersed. He and fellow newcomer, keyboard-guitarist Zac Rae, meshed quickly with band veterans, bassist Nick Harmer and drummer Jason McGerr, though the musical collaboration came a bit more slowly, he said.

However, the release of Death Cab’s first single since Walla left the band — October 2016’s “Million Dollar Loan,” as part of a music project spearheaded by Bay Area author Dave Eggers in protest of Donald Trump’s nomination to the Republican Party presidential ticket — got the ball rolling. With continued touring in the buildup to recording the eight-time Grammy Award-nominated band’s ninth album, they’ve fully hit their stride.

“That was a really catalyzing moment. Like, ‘I am on a Death Cab song. That’s my guitar playing and that’s Ben’s voice,’ ” Depper said last week by phone of the Eggers’ project. “The musical chemistry started to emerge at the end of that touring. And then recording for ‘Thank You for Today,’ we had to come up with an entire new album of stuff and figure out how to create and do it. That’s led to a more fearless approach … and it will inform what we do next.”

During the yearlong tour in support of the album, which twice took them across the United States, as well as stops in Brazil, Europe and Australia, the band worked on finalizing their latest effort — a five-song release titled “The Blue EP” that dropped just last week. That’s likely to be among the songs the band plays while headlining the final Sunday’s show, which also include Silversun Pickups and the Cold War Kids.

If You Go

What: Sonoma Harvest Music Festival

When: Sept. 14-15 (Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals and Lauryn Hill, with supporting acts Ceelo Green and The Record Company.); Sept. 21-22 (Chvrches, Walk the Moon and MisterWives and Death Cab for Cutie). Gates open at 11 a.m. Where: B.R. Cohn Winery, 15000 Sonoma Hwy, Glen Ellen

Admission: $119 for single-day general admission tickets; $239 for weekend passes, plus service fees

Information:sonomaharvestmusicfestival.com

The band takes a slightly different approach to the festival circuit, where they expect more casual fans than their complete diehards, but remain mindful about never offering the same performance twice.

“Ben is very scientific about it, and has a record of every song and where we’ve played them, with a spreadsheet that goes back years and years. He knows when a where, and he takes it very seriously,” said Depper. “So the set list will be expertly concocted for max enjoyment by all.”

The festival, which drew upwards of 6,000 people over two days last year, expanded to two weekends this year. Weekend one is headlined by Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals and Lauryn Hill, with supporting acts Ceelo Green and The Record Company. Chvrches, Walk the Moon and MisterWives play the day before Death Cab for Cutie hits the stage.

The Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation is the fundraising beneficiary of the event, with Pat Roney, CEO and founding partner of Vintage Wine Estates — and owner of B.R. Cohn Winery since 2015 — providing a flat $10,000 donation each year to the area nonprofit. The Parks Foundation has also benefited from his donation of cases of wine for the summer Funky Friday concert series hosted annually at the Hood Mansion at the base of Hood Mountain Regional Park in the Sonoma Valley.

“It’s a very generous contribution and we’re extremely grateful,” said Melissa Kelley, executive director of the Parks Foundation. “We’re fortunate to live in a community that greatly values its parks. They’re doing all the hard work and just being really kind and giving a donation to us.”

The nonprofit supports the 57 regional parks, including funds to build and maintain trails, offer summer camp stipends and cover some transportation costs for the 18,000 schoolchildren who visit each year. The proceeds from the festival have so far been dedicated to trails, a new group picnic area and a permanent bathroom facility at Sonoma Valley Regional Park.

In the days before the festival, Death Cab for Cutie will make two other California Wine Country stops, in Saratoga and Paso Robles, before closing down the local event — fittingly the last day of summer. Afterwards, Depper and his fellow band members look forward to some well-earned downtime and whatever comes next for the popular rock quintet.

“I’m very much looking forward to those shows. I really haven’t spent enough time there at all,” he said. “We’ll play a bit next year, but nothing like the touring of this year. When the Death Cab machine is up and running, it’s very hard to fit anything else in. That’s not a complaint, I love it.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler.

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