Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: Damien Jurado at Red 7

I want to start this post by acknowledging that I know very little about Damien Jurado. One of my good friends from High School has been trying to get me to listen to Damien Jurado for a decade or more and thanks to Jurado's most recent LP, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, I finally started paying attention. With that being said, I really can't report much about which songs were or were not played because I'm not that familiar with his catalogue. What I can tell you is that I almost didn't attend last night's show and that would have been a travesty. I arrived at Red 7 shortly after 10:30. I was expecting the first of three artists would be on stage when I entered but it turns out the second of three was already midway through his set. I was kind of bummed that I only got to hear two and half songs from Ola Podrida's David Wingo but what I did hear was beautiful and atmospheric.

Jurado took the stage shortly before 11pm and he started his line check. There was a distinctive hum/buzz in the line and the sound guy asked Jurado about it. Jurado said it's been doing that for the past few days but he didn't seem too concerned. The buzz was very audible and I could tell the sound guy was annoyed that he couldn't get rid of it but he was resigned to just try to lower it in the mix and accept that it would be there throughout the performance. When Jurado first started performing all I really heard was that buzz but by the time he hit the chorus of the first song not only was the buzz not a distraction it complimented the atmosphere of the songs with a distant AM radio vibe.

Damien Jurado - Jericho Road video via YouTube

For the first twenty minutes of the set I had total tunnel vision. I was so focused on the lyrics and the performance that when someone standing next to me accidentally brushed my arm I was completely startled because I had forgotten there were other people in the room. The audience was so completely quiet all you could hear was the songs and the distant hum of cars on 7th street. Not only was the audience almost completely silent, they kept their phones in their pockets and they simply listened. Needless to say, it was an eerie experience considering the utter disregard most Austin audiences have for a performance. There was a moment where it felt like we were all getting Langoliered and the show was going to end with the sound of Jurado cooing as the audience was blissfully eaten-up by those time creature things. Maybe that was just me though?

Jurado was by himself on stage armed with an acoustic guitar, some chorus and reverb affects and his voice. The performance felt naked, vulnerable and honest. He emoted in a way that didn't feel like a contrived performance as much as a genuine expression. This is a man who has lived the majority of his adult life on a stage A performer who has learned how to command a stage without resorting to any sort of tricks or gimmicks. The set was an hour long, with Jurado returning for a three song encore. The library-like quiet wasn't maintained throughout the entire performance but it was pretty damned close.

This is a crazy week for sold-out shows in Austin and last night's performance at Red 7 was the antithesis of most of those other shows. For me an ideal live music experience involves both the performers and audience giving in to the moment for as close to the duration of the performance as humanly possible. If you're in the audience, that means yielding attention from yourself for the duration of a band's set. It means talking time is later, right now let's all be together and listen. It means, taking some photos is cool but try to spend most of the time enjoying your actual reality. The folks who turned up for Damien Jurado last night get it, the people shouting along the lyrics in Orville's face at an OBN IIIs show get it too. It's not about being quiet as a mouse, it's about respecting the performance and getting what you paid for by enjoying the moment. Most importantly it's about trying not to annoy me. Can we all just work together toward trying to annoy me less? Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.