“How do you guys even know this song? they all start the same,” said Damien Jurado after a false start during his intimate set at the Mercury Lounge on October 23rd.
I like a room like the Mercury Lounge with a guy like Jurado on a night when he is only using two instruments: his voice and guitar. You can hear the room breathing, the groaning of the hinges on the door in the back; the sound of loose change as someone searches for bills to pay the bartender at the makeshift bar in the back; the way it calls for the designated “Shhh” guy. Mostly I like how it makes the performer chatty in between tunings, where he will forget where he is and share a home recording of his son accompanying one of his songs via an iPhone to the mic.
Playing new songs mixed with others off of his latest – and one of my favorites of the year – Maraqopa, Jurado was solo and pretty raw: raw throat from a long flight, raw material after a couple months painting and not playing. Though you and I would never say he is, in his own words, a “terrible professional musician” – Jurado is an artist you want to see at work. You love some of his work in particular, but are just as interested in seeing him working things out, alone or with his band.
Tonight there was no roadie, no set up, no looping, no encore. There was a chair, a glass of beer, maybe, tuning in between songs, lots of looking down at a sheet of paper. It was the best show I’ve been to all year. Something about watching a craftsman, little signs of a showman, a guy who creates to create, not for bright lights but because what else is there?
See more shots from the show and watch the video for “Museum of Flight“ below. Maraqopa is out now via Secretly Canadian.