Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Damien Jurado - JBM -- Black Cat - May 21 2012

JBM - From the Brooklyn melting pot of musical pilgrims, comes this quartet of musicians from various cities and countries. There are drums, bass, guitar/keyboards, and a Montreal born lead vocalist/guitarist/pianist/songwriter, Jesse Marchant. His voice instantly takes hold of the song with a resonance similar to Josh Ritter, but a bit more ethereal. The music is gripping wtih its folk rock pace and subtle psyche-drone techniques. This is not unlike the great Woven Hand, although it is not as dark. Very haunting material, still, and you could hear a pin drop during quiet moments, which is quite rare at the Black Cat. The band added some effective moves to these songs. At one point, the drummer had a snare beat a 1/2 note off from where it was expected. This was just jarring enough to add to the tension within the music. I highly recommend this music for indie lovers, psyche-folk fans. And as a real bonus, you will not have to wait long as they are playing a brief residency at DC9, and will be performing on June 5th and 12th.
Damien Jurado - Last seen at the Iota in June, 2010, I was looking forward to see what this fine singer/songwriter had for us on the big stage at the Black Cat. As Jurado himself mentioned, his first couple of DC shows were in front of 3 people (see below) and this was the first big stage he has played on here. Clearly, people are 'getting him' as the club was about half-full which is enough to justify the move from the smaller stages in town. And there is still plenty of great music 'to get', as the nearly 75 minute set offered loads of deeply moving songs to the responsive crowd. His voice is dazzling and reminds me of some sort of combination of Jackson Frank and the criminally underrated Bob Theil. Like those two, there is a dreamy psyche-folk undercurrent here, both in the songs and arrangements. The band is excellent, offering a surprising amount of synthesizer, including some mellotron styled runs. The songs vary a bit, rocking out even, but the dreamy atmosphere is maintained throughout. The music is a bit more rooted than Theil and some of the psychier folk artists, sort of a balance between heaven and earth, but I would not call it rootsy. They had a real Doorsian rocker late in the set before the band left him alone to play about 20 minutes of solo acoustic guitar and voice. That was a nice change-up and worked perfectly, even though many would often choose to do this material early in the set. He performed one encore, while thankfully not going offstage but simply asking if people wanted one more (even though the roar was obvious). He played it unplugged and un-mic'ed to further take the set deeper into the core of his songs. There was loads of talent and smarts on display tonight, and it appears music lovers are slowing finding their way to Damien Jurado.

Quote of the Night: paraphrasing Damien Jurado who appreciated the crowd's support... "My first tours here in '97 and '98 were in front of 3 people (guy working the door, another guy, and a soundman who walked out half-way through the set). I've recently played downstairs and didn't even know of this stage. Awesome! But that's all ok, because I'm all about the long road."

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