adrian is rad


Oct 20: Damien Jurado at the Swedish American Hall and Beirut at the Great American

Filed under: — adrian @ 9:11 pm

Last Friday I managed my third (I believe) ever two show night [1] [2]: with Damien Jurado w/ Rosie Thomas followed by Beirut.

The night started with meeting Dave and Dasha outside the Swedish American Hall at about 8:15. We got inside and Rosie Thomas was on, having already started her set. Rosie is really funny in a goofy way. She has this tiny voice but has a huge voice, easily filing the hall when she wanted to. Her set was good: her music’s a bit on the sappy side, but it’s still nice. Her between set banter was very funny; I’m not entirely surprised she’s also sometimes a stand-up comic (as “Sheila”). Apparently she’s friends with Sufjan, which makes me happy.

[full write up and pics continue after the break]

Damien came on after a little bit of a break. He sat and played guitar throughout. He had a guy (Eric) playing electric guitar, keyboards and percussion and a girl (Jenna) playing cello and shaker. He called this group “Damien Jurado, the Band” and said he’d decided he’d never play alone again. Jenna actually did most of the talking during the show between songs. They did a nice set of songs off of the new album, And Now that I’m in Your Shadow, which I really recommend, as well as a bunch of older songs, “Tragedy”, “Simple Hello”, “Letters and Drawings” and “Abilene”. The sound that’s he’s reached on this tour and on the latest album is really pleasing: the guitar and cello go really well together in DJ’s songs and the guitar/ drums/ keyboards work well in there as well. At some point Jenna took center stage and played and sang a song on guitar for a friend’s birthday. Among the little talking Damien did was saying that most of his writing is not-autobiographical and he generally writes about Middle America even though he’s never lived there. The last song of the 3-song encore was “Ohio” (one of my favorites he’s ever written) saying he’d “really never ever play it again.” The version he does live has an even better guitar part than the recorded version. Oh, one more thing about “Ohio”: apparently he wrote it while on serious painkillers after a surgery and doesn’t actually remember writing it; he just found a drugged up version of it on his tape player.

As soon as the encore end, I snapped up the new DJ album and a reissue of the EP Gathered in Song and rushed across town to the Great American Music Hall. I hit a bunch of traffic lights on the way there but I also found parking right across the street (a rarity!) so I think it was a wash. They were already changing the marquee to read the name of the next night’s performer so I was scared. When I got to the ticket window a GAMH employee said “Fashionably late, huh?” to which I replied “I was at another show across town” with a smile.

Beirut, I found out, was mid-3rd song when I got there: a rollicking serbian folk number. The crowd was a bit slow but when the opening bars of “Mount Wroclai” hit everyone cheered and the crowd was in from then on. When Zach Condon, the young (20ish) lead singer, sometime ukulele player and trumpeter, blasted into the horn line in that song along with the other trumpet player, I had a huge smile on my face. They played through songs without much concern for a setlist, doing musical chairs (hahaha) with the instruments along the way. Traditional balkan numbers were mixed in right along with the hipster favorites and other album tracks. Each person in the band seemed to play two or three instruments; for example, one guy went from mandolin to ukulele to baritone sax to clarinet to glockenspiel effortlessly while another covered accordion and cello in equal amounts.

Some people left a few songs in (from a sold out show, shame), so obviously some people were just there to check out the buzz, but overall it seemed like the crowd was into it.

The songs were like the album but with way more energy, for the most part, often sped up slightly, with the exception of “Scenic World” which traded the fast electronic part for a slowed down glockenspiel and violin part and ended with a gorgeous pizzicato cello part.

Beirut, I feel, is a bit gimmicky, but, things I know for sure from this show: Zach’s a good songwriter and a great orchestrator (orkestartor?). He’s a good and amazingly ballsy trumpet player (he really put it all out there—I’m not sure how he does that night after night without blowing his lip) and a great singer. I was also impressed by the new songs they played and I hope they’re captured the way I heard them played at the show. I don’t think they’re going to be a one-album-and-out indie pop flare.

They did a double encore: the first I’d seen in a while. They finally stopped playing because they really seemed to know no more songs. During the first encore, half the band decended into the audience and played from there for a song. Zach lost his shoe and wouldn’t play the second encore till it was found.

Beirut had the following instruments on stage, by my count: three ukuleles, a teardrop mandolin, a nylon string guitar, a cello, two violins, an accordion, a melodica, a keyboard, a glockenspiel, a clarinet, a baritone saxophone, a euphonium, a fluegelhorn, two trumpets, a frame drum, multiple tambourines, and a drum kit.

I was inspired at each concert: DJ inspired me to try to write narrative songs with deep characters while Beirut inspired me to try to write songs where I put more out there in terms of brass lines, orchestration and singing.

[1] November 18, 2000, I saw an early show of Elf Power w/ the Glands Upstairs at the Middle East with Jesse and then we joined Farhad and a bunch of people Downstairs at the Middle East for a late-ish show of Man…or Astroman?

[2] May 4, 2002, I saw Belle and Sebastian at the Orpheum early in the night and then rushed to Cambridge and the Middle East Downstairs to see Pedro the Lion who played with Damien Jurado that night, coincidentally, but I think I may have missed his set.

2 Responses to “Oct 20: Damien Jurado at the Swedish American Hall and Beirut at the Great American”

  1. adrian is rad » that beirut show Says:

    […] That Beirut show that I went to has has popped up at the Internet Archive. […]

  2. ipickmynose: an SF-centric indie music blog » dewey music, free jason anderson mp3s, ohbijou and great lake swimmer video, bay area->sxsw, new elvis perkins & joe pug Says:

    […] on the song titles to preview them. Pretty slick. Shown above is tBeirut @ Great American show that I loved. (Great recording after the first few songs during which a woman is screaming a […]

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