Damien Jurado/Laura Gibson concert in Birmingham, AL 4/22/09

The show was awesome. Local band went on first, and the most memorable thing was some weird fan reading a book about visions of the endtimes in front of the stage and then waving his hands as if in a trance as the band was winding down their final song.

Next came Laura Gibson, and man was I impressed. A voice sort of like a quiet version of Adelle (that "Chasing Pavements" girl) with an interesting band to back her up. Picked her guitar like modern singer/songwriters do, but the occassional strumming gave it a folkish feel to it. The music was simply ethereal. I felt inclined to close my eyes on a few songs, and only one was a little repetitive and maudlin, though, I can't remember which one it was. The songs were all different; something difficult for a single musician with skeleton percussion and effects.

But talk about monoability. Jurado came on by himself and played songs the way the songs were originally written anyway, regardless of their need for a band now. The acoustic set was intimate. I was literally 2 ft from Damien; I could have strummed his guitar for him. But I would never do that, because the set list was amazing. A few crowd favorites and pandora tracks, and also one song that he had written on this tour, which was a simple two-chord progression that I tried to learn when I got home at 2am. Couldn't mimic it.

I had taken down a poster before he show because the kind doorman at Bottletree (great local B'ham venue) told me it would happen eventually. I had a sharpie with me, and got Damien to sign the poster after the show. I was with a guy that I had met that night, and he approached Jurado to ask why he didn't play any Nick Drake. Damien looked at him silently (which is his expression anyway) and the guy apologized by blaming alcohol talking. I started up a convo with Damien about his influences. I wanted to know how his residency in Seattle afected his songwriting. He told me Seattle did very little; he already had a lot of material before moving there. Turns out, he lived in Selma, AL for a while, and other various small towns across the US. This suburban and even rural lifestyle had more of an impact on his songwriting than anything, and one can sense this in his music. Also prevalent is a confessional songwriting like that of John Lennon. Some say he writes about other's troubles, and this may be true of some songs, but one of the songs last night dealt with a story of his brother who was going insane and taken away by doctors, begging his brother (Damien) not to let them. Hypothetical, yes, but its still him in the story. By the end, we're struck by his conclusion that he would rather have his brother die than suffer the instiution, and he asks God to let this happen. Such songwriting is evidence of a life spent thinking quiet, personal, and often dark thoughts in the American wasteland of suburbia. At least Damien is able to share it with us.

Thu 4/23/2009 9:27 AM