After the show was over and the crowd trickled out I asked Damien if I could do a quick portrait. He said sure. All I needed was a little smile and that is exactly what I got. Photo: Gavan Nelson
It’s a rare opportunity to see such a well respected and talented musician only feet away, playing without a microphone or amplifier. A lime-green chair is the only thing Damien Jurado needed to perform to an intimate crowd of no more than 50 people last Tuesday night at Big Cartel in downtown Salt Lake. Jurado is playing just a handful of these “living-room shows” on his US tour this month, and those who were lucky enough to get a ticket for Tuesday night’s show witnessed a truly remarkable performance.
Things got off to a bit of an awkward start, as the crowd gave Jurado a cold, silent welcome, without any applause. I don’t know if people were just star-struck and being shy, but with a guitar in each hand, Jurado quietly and carefully weaved his way to the front of the room and sat down on the chair. As soon as Jurado began his first song, the mood in the room quickly relaxed and everyone seemed to have the same “this is fucking awesome” look on their face. This is the first time I’ve seen Jurado play live, but it seemed like the quiet welcome shook his confidence a little, as he blazed through songs, one right after another, acting somewhat shy to the crowd.
With eleven studio albums under his belt, Jurado has quite an expansive catalog, but his more recent albums were well represented. From his latest album, 2012’s Maraqopa, Jurado delivered great, stripped-down renditions of songs like “Working Titles” and “Museum of Flight.” Although the studio cuts are beautifully polished, Jurado somehow managed to make the acoustic versions even more heartfelt and sincere with just his voice and guitar. However, Jurado opted not to play some of Maraqopa’s true gems, like “Life Away from the Garden” or “Reel to Reel.” From his 2008 album, Caught in the Trees, Jurado also gave a gorgeous performance of “Sheets,” perhaps his most well known song. Due to the fact that Jurado used no sort of amplification, every song had a truly pure quality to it, and his delicate voice easily filled the room.
After about the eighth or ninth song, Jurado finally put down his guitar and chatted with the crowd for about ten minutes. He admitted to being a little nervous, and a bit tired as well, as the show was his ninth straight in a row. The little “intermission” turned into a nice conversation between Jurado and the crowd, as he discussed what he likes about Utah, his show in Denver the night before, and his thoughts on marijuana now being legal in Washington, his home state. When he picked up the guitar again, Jurado played for about another 15 or 20 minutes and the show ended. The intimate setting at Big Cartel only magnified Jurado’s sad and beautiful songs, and it certainly left an indelible mark on those who caught the fine set of music.
Big Cartel is hosting a few more living room shows in the near future. Check out their Facebook page for more info.