Damien Jurado @ City Varieties Music Hall

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Charlotte Bresh headed down to the wonderful City Varieties Music Hall, ready to find out if the soundtrack to her travels was better through a mic than a speaker.

When going to see Damien Jurado, I wasn’t sure quite what my expectations were. I had discovered him through one of my best friends whilst we were travelling. We’d fallen in love with his The Horizon Just Laughed, and consequentially everything else the modern-day, genre-defying troubadour had ever released, all within a very short space of time.  However, since falling asleep at 6 am, on 8-hour long coach journeys for a month, he hadn’t really been on my radar- how would he fair up without me staring faux-wistfully out a grubby window at the sunrise?

Alas, it ended up being one of my favourite gigs of all time. Somehow my very first experience stepping into the beautiful City Varieties Music Hall, I was instantly hit by the grandiosity of the building, along with the ethereal crooning of support act Dana Gavanski. Gavanski’s primarily acoustic set was a charming amuse-bouche, full of elfin giggles, heartbreak-based lullabies, and a Macedonian folk song to close. Any fans of London Grammar or Anna B Savage would be silly not to check out this up and comer.

And then on to the main event. Entering the stage in silence, sitting down in silence, tuning his guitar in silence, and flicking through this songbook his silence. It really wasn’t looking like this gig was going to be a chatty one. Yet, as soon as those fingers took to the strings, and Jurado let out the first endearing note of ‘The Shape of a Storm’, the silence of the hall seemed wildly appropriate. From that moment onward, the night was more a meditative experience that anything else. Jurado himself noted how ‘some songs are songs, some songs are meditation’, and the intricacy of his lyrics make this difficult not to notice. The audience was also let it on the neurological condition Jurado had recently been diagnosed with, inhibiting his playing abilities (not that you’d notice). 

Around halfway through, the singer stopped to tell a story about his songs being based on films, purely so he could rest his hands, but also forcing you to realise that this artist’s initial quiescence was not a matter of nerves, or ego, but of calm. Jurado can walk onto any stage, at any time, with just a guitar and his anthology, and silence a room of people for a full 90 minutes, providing them with a catharsis that very few artists can. Lucky enough to have heard one the unreleased tracks first-hand, I absolutely cannot wait for his new album (released at the beginning of May), and I highly suggest you have a listen for some much-needed exam stress relief when it comes to it.

CHARLOTTE BRESH

[Header Image: NPR]