The frigid, slushy aftermath of a mid-afternoon snow shower is something that Damien Jurado is probably used to by now. The Seattle singer-songwriter is, in many ways, an archetype of the ‘musician’s musician.’ Beloved by fellow artists and producers, Jurado has crafted his own world inside his songs; many of the stories and characters occupying the fictitious place called Maraqopa. His devoted cadre of fans packed the intimate confines of the Boot and Saddle for a sold-out performance that was just as mystifying as Jurado’s charmingly esoteric lyrics.
Referring to his solo/acoustic setup as the “book tour” version of his act, Jurado showcased songs from his newly released eleventh album, Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Sun. In not trying to duplicate producer Richard Swift’s spacey arrangements, Jurado’s minimalist renditions gave the new songs like “Silver Timothy” and “Jericho Road” added weight and emotionality.
Remaining nearly silent between songs for the first half of the set, Jurado opened up after his guitar’s pickup gave out (mid-song, no less). Reintroducing the concert as “a giant house show,” Jurado pressed on for a few more songs before addressing the crowd in an extended (and interactive) storytelling period.
Relating memories of a Fugazi show in which members of the band were working the door, Jurado’s demeanor shifted from focused intensity to aloof charisma. He acknowledged this as being a side effect of living in Seattle, and demonstrated the conversation-stopping “Seattle Chill.” “We’ll be really nice to you,” he explained, “but we don’t want to be friends or hang out with you.”
Fielding a question regarding his imagined wonderland of Maraqopa, Jurado elucidated about the silver-clad inhabitants and their mysterious rituals. He also mused that one of his older songs, “Reel To Reel,” could theoretically be about his latest fascination: Justin Bieber. If that seems out-of-character for Jurado, it shouldn’t; defying expectation (and explanation) has been his game for nearly 20 years. Despite his apparently frosty manner, Damien Jurado is a classic troubadour with stories to tell both within and without his music.
Opening the show was another Seattle resident, Courtney Marie Andrews. The young singer-songwriter quickly won over the crowd with her intricate finger-picking and complex between-song tunings. She joked about having little to say whilst adjusting the strings, and did her best to keep her set from becoming an Eagles tribute. Her latest album, On My Page, was released last year.
photo by Eric Schuman