Wednesday, October 26, 2005
I went to see Damien Jurado at The Charlotte in Leicester on Monday, getting soaked through on my way down there, so that I was pretty pissed off with the world by the time the gig began. But this is actually a pretty good way to be when you're listening to twisted folk music. Tales of drowning lovers and insane brothers then just mix in with your mood.
Because Jurado's not much known in England we got the dubious treat of three support acts, but these all went by quite speedily. Pacific Ocean Fire were first on and obviously a local band, with cheering supporters all present and correct. Their sound is fairly standard alt.country - Whiskeytown, Uncle Tupelo and all that crowd being natural influences, though they could probably name any of dozens of others. It was competent, enjoyable, and I found a couple of the songs really impressive. They don't have their own style yet, but that'll probably come with time as they were all fairly young. But why must English singers put on American accents?
Loose Salute were up next, and absolutely godawful. I've since seen lots of positive reviews for this group online, but I can only say the reviewers must have been paid. It was middle of the road pub rock, tinged with Americana, and fronted by the demon seed of Gwen Stefani and some hillbilly trailer trash. The band were fine enough actually, and the music decent if dull, but the woman singer was really, really embarrassing. Every once in a while during she'd started awkwardly swinging her hips in a 'provocative' style, and I swear there could be no more effective cure for homosexuality. I still feel scarred by the memory of it.
Dolorean were therefore welcome relief, and very good. The singer was suffering from long tour syndrome, with a bad cold and sore throat, and he apologised for his voice in advance. But this just meant that he sounded like Ryan Adams on a good night - nothing much obviously wrong. The music was folky and dark - quite close to Jurado's own style - and the band were very tight. Lyrics touched on wrongdoing, dead loves, eternal hellfire and the like, and continued to confirm my feeling that deceptively quiet folk music is where the twisted heart of country came to die. "Hannibal, MO", a number about a failed joint suicide and the family that wants to chase the narrator down, finished the set in a nicely dark and thrashy way. I bought one of their albums after the gig, "Not Exotic", and I'd recommend it to anyone who can get a hold of it, and who likes that sort of thing.
The band then returned, minus singer, to form Damien Jurado's backing group. He came across as very shy between songs, and kept thanking the audience for making the journey out, as if he couldn't believe anyone would want to see him. Though he doesn't have the greatest stage presence, he's still a very good performer, and just hearing his music live was enough for me, as I've been half in love with his albums for about four or five years now. From my biased point of view he could therefore do little wrong, and he did a fine set, with a good mix of new songs and old classics (mostly from the beautiful Rehearsals For Departure album), solo guitar and full band. His voice was occasionally lost in the louder numbers, like "Great Today", but since grunge folk is mainly mood music anyway, that didn't matter too much.
Overall it was a great show, and I'd recommend seeing either Jurado or Dolorean (I think they occasionally call themselves Dolo-rado in combination) to anyone who gets the chance, even if they have to stand around for hours in the rain beforehand.
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