Damien Jurado – Where Shall You Take Me (Deluxe Reissue) album review

Damien Jurado is a seriously talented singer-songwriter from Seattle. That fact shouldn’t be very surprising, because all musicians are from Seattle, right?

Anyway, Damien is a musician with strong melodic gifts, a grasp of American musical history, and a highly intimate emotional quality that draws your attention in a very intense and focused way. This is traditional songcraft, unadorned, with the right amount of studio wizardry. This is evident on the first track, ‘Amateur Night’. The production is so sparse, desolate even, and Damien tells a story of addiction and violence that is simultaneously beautiful and unsettling. As the track unfolds, a quiet synth wash grows in volume, threatening to envelope and overwhelm the rest of the song.

Some of the strongest material is found in the demo tracks. The lack of production coupled with the very spare instrumentation plays some kind of trick of aural chronology on your perception, because it is very easy to forget that this guy has written this material so recently. As each of the demo tracks unfold, one is reminded that Mr. Jurado is a straight up songwriter. The material is so strong and arresting.

Some people might be turned off by the overall aesthetic, as it is very introspective and the tempos are really laid back. But, if you’re a fan of the more quiet side of Smog and you dig folk music and that genre with the stupid name, Americana, you really can’t go wrong. The emotive content will floor you.

Sasquatch 2012 Day Four: Sheepish Dogs and a Phallic Phoenix…

Be warned: I may use the term “Show of the Day” more than once. You’re now more prepared for the final day’s review of Sasquatch. I shall now get right to the music.

The Sheepdogs opened the day with a bang. “Show of the Day”! Didn’t think it would come that early did you? Well, here’s why they’re contenders for that title: They rocked so hard at noon on the final day of a four day music festival that people started randomly log-rolling down the gorge conjuring images of the original Woodstock. All that was missing was a mudslide and Jimi Hendrix. And let me tell you, Jimi might have had a word or two of praise for these boys from Saskatoon. Right out of the gate, frontman Ewan Currie hits the mic and announces, “We are The Sheepdogs. We’re from Saskatoon. Let’s do this!” From that point on I saw nothing but excitedly surprised faces looking to their friends or neighbours in the ever-so-delightful, “What’s going on here? What good ole’ fashion rock and roll amazing-ness am I witnessing?” From “Southern Dreaming” to “their Rolling Stones Cover-winning hit, “Who” the Sheepdogs channeled classic rock gods of old and got the day going in ways many of the Sasquatchers weren’t ready for. Really hitting their stride and with a fully captivated audience being pulled in from all over the gorge to the main stage’s rock presence, The Sheepdogs dropped their hit single “I Don’t Know” and everyone knew what song would be on their mind for the rest of the week despite all the acts before and yet to come and the hits those bands wish could be as great as this soon to be rock classic.

After the best start to any of my four days of music here, I headed over to the Media Tent for the obligatory uploading and the much anticipated interviews of the day. Well stuck inside, I heard The Fleet Foxes folky repeater “White Winter Hymnal” flow through the doors from one of the stages and was drawn to the Bigfoot Stage. Performing a fantastic tribute to the Foxes was Walk The Moon, the Cincinnati based indie-rock group and, like many others I saw wandering towards the stage in a trance, they’d successfully peaked my interest. I watched a couple more songs and could tell that their poppy single had hit when the screams of joy erupted out of the throng of fans as they decided it was time to play “Anna Sun”. A fun performance that will have me checking out more on them once back home.

Interviews kept me away from the stages for the next couple of hours (Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside, Vintage Trouble, and The Sheepdogs interviews all to come later this week) I missed Grouplove and Gary Clark Jr. which many I passed spoke very highly of. The former looking like they just dropped their boards off at the side of the stage and couldn’t wait to hit the waves right after apparently put on a great surf-rock, indie show and the latter garnering many, “You missed it. Just… oh! So good. You really missed out.”

Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside performed on the Yeti stage which was gratefully right next to the Media Tent so a quick pop outside had me grooving to the unique vocal talents of the charming and uber-cute Sallie Ford. Bringing to mind Regina Spectre (vocally) and a great, timeless sound that could have seen them releasing their hits in any decade from the 50’s on, Ford and her band had everyone jumping, jiving, and swinging while tossing their heads from side to side in celebration of the catchy tunes old and new fans alike couldn’t get enough of! In her little black dress with neon accents, Ford entertained all in attendance with her straight-to-the-point lyrics and pulled no punches writing about her feelings towards the music coming out recently; their single, “I Swear” opens with the line, “When I turn on the radio, it all sounds the same. It all sounds the same. What have these people done to music?” If Sallie Ford & The Sound outside have anything to do with it, a change is coming!

After talking to Vintage Trouble earlier in the day, I knew I was in for a performance but had no idea I was about to see… wait for it… a “Show of the Day”! Ty Taylor (vocals), Nalle Colt (guitar), Richard Danielson (drums), and Rick Barrio Dill (bass guitar) took the stage literally had people stopping in their tracks, turning, and running full speed for the stage that was throwing out the good times none of us knew we needed but all were more than happy to get! If James Brown and Al Green had a baby, and that baby got together with Otis Redding; the progeny that would have resulted MIGHT be able to hold a candle to the Ty’s hip-shaking, mic-swinging, full-out dance machine movin’ ways! Getting the crowd involved in nearly every song and Taylor would ask of his fans, “I’m gonna say, ‘Strike your light on me’, and you’re gonna say, ‘Right On Me!’ You can do that, I KNOW you can!” and so many more great inventions to get everyone loving very second these boys were on stage. From their slower, soulful stops at, “Nobody Told Me” to the ass-shakin’ journey through “Blues Hand Me Down”, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed myself so much in a very long time and I don’t think I was alone in feeling that way judging by the faces in the crowd!

Another quick interview kept me from The Joy Formidable who I heard thoroughly entertained but made it with time to spare for Feist. The Canadian indie rocker came out rocking her black guitar with florescent pink decal, sunhat, cute blue dress, and Joplin-esque round sunglasses in front of an adoring crowd. From the get-go though, she didn’t seem to be grabbing everyone in the crowd, plenty right near the front to be sure: her tried and true fans, but the masses on the hill seemed only sporadically entertained when they bothered to listen at all. With a line-up this massively talented, Feist just couldn’t seem to fill the huge stage with enough sound to really capture those maybe not familiar with her indie sound. A fun show, and she was clearly enjoying herself and having a fun with her fans, Feist none-the-less failed to “wow” me with mediocre guitar solos and a rather blase presence. During her closer, “Sea Lion”, she asked her audience to, “… treat us up here like Bon Jovi. Or… well, treat us like any 80’s hands-wavin’ in the air-type band you want to invoke!” and for me I drifted off into the thoughts of which 80’s band I’d rather be seeing on stage instead of joining in.

Wandering off after Feist in a bit of a lull, I came across a name that I’m stunned I didn’t pick up on from the schedule because sure enough, in all his big-and-tall, goofy yet serious demeanour was John C. Reilly, cowboy hat and all crooning out some of his country music on the Yeti Stage. “Dewey Cox” himself (although much less ridiculous and obviously not in any sort of character role) stood before me on stage and had quite the audience loving every note. Although country isn’t a fan favourite in my apartment, I did really enjoy Reilly and, as he introduced a number his accompanying artists, “… my lady and man friends…”. Whether many in the crowd, much like myself, were drawn simply to the fact that John C. Reilly was on stage or the serious country fans out there found a new country music man, everyone seemed in good spirits and Reilly responded in sort thanking everyone and tossing out the occasional joke to keep his quirky reputation in tack: reverb from the mic elicited a mid-verse, “that was those guys.” pointing to the security team in front of the stage and everyone got a good laugh in.

Back in time for Silversun Pickups, this now decade old alternative rock band had the crowd eating up every word coming off of vocalist Brian Aubert’s lips by the time I arrived. Although I missed the first few songs, I arrived in time for the group to discuss the inflatable monkey on-stage with them they’d tenderly named “Rufus” after the, in Aubert’s words, “… time travelling sage that so radically aided Bill and Ted. Right?” Aubert’s charming and disarming at once, the cute-as-a-button with a bass-playing bad-ass streak in her bassist Nikki Monninger, subdued but terribly talented sound manipulator and keyboardist, Joe Lester, and Animal, I mean Chris Guanlao, on drums (seriously… the wild thrashing, orang-utan-arm-swinging, red-shirt wearing man was so very much Animal that I had to wonder who was based off of who), Silversun Pickups rocked out hard!

They thanked all their fans for coming out as this was apparently the first time they’ve been on stage in a long time and they sweetly mentioned that, near the end of their set as it was, “… we get giddy. We just feel so fucking privileged to be here!” Although I only recognized bits and pieces of songs from a catalogue I own but seldom listen to on my computer, I’ll be putting this band on more of my playlist the moment I sit down to re-organize my music, which, will be immediately after the all-out mind blowing weekend that was still to end by that point!

I have to admit something here: I was crazy excited to see Tenacious D with frontman Jack Black on stage and had set my expectations pretty high in hopes of hilarity and heavy metal awesomeness. The set having a backdrop that appeared at first to be a massive phoenix but at second glance, the body being a veiny shaft and set of balls upon closer inspection tossed all my worries of being disappointed out the window. Jack Black and Kyle Glass walked on stage like the rock gods they tell everyone they are in full robes, waiting only for roadies to remove the robes for them before laying down the tasty licks that we’ve all come to love. Engaging the audience between every song, Black had everyone literally doubling over with quick-witted jokes and ridiculously over-the-top antics! While speaking of the beautiful setting, Black went from, “You’ve gotta respect Mother Earth when you see a place like this.” to the song Deathstar: the point of which is that the Earth’s fucked so we better build a Deathstar. Oh yes, and than an “man-in-suit” Alien Squid staggered onto stage that Black promptly “kills” with a nerve gun while continuing to play guitar and sing! At one point he called for his “Sax-a-ma-BOOM” and a roadie ran on stage with a Fisher Price, six-years-old and under style plastic saxophone. The sad part: the 45 second jazz-pop-disco-type-thing that he played was lightyears better than most of the pop on the radio today, something MGMT or the like would kill to sample! From a guitar shredding Sasquatch, a possessed-by-Satan John Konesky (electric guitar and backing vocals), and the Phoenix head lowering during their closing number and splooging confetti out of it’s “head” onto the audience, Tenacious D, in their own words, “… rocked real fuckin’ hard. I don’t think you can argue that we fuckin’ rocked you. Hard.”

Closing down the festival with songs from all over his massive back-catalogue was the one and only Beck. Opening with “Black Tambourine” of his Guero album, the worn-in black leather jacket, black hat, and black boots had Beck Hansen, known the world-round simply as Beck, looked every bit the part of the alternative rock, anti-folk singer-songwriter who fits all those categories and so many more. Launching straight into “Devil’s Haircut” which, unfortunately, he left the final scream-styling lyrics to his back up vocalist, still had his fans going nuts and the gorge rocking. A surprise to me (possibly not to others though), his third song of the night was his freshman smash hit “Loser” and I couldn’t have been happier: It’s the song, no matter how many hits he releases or how many incredible melodies he lays out, you wish you could see live! I, for one, payed very close attention to the big screens during the chorus and am now almost positive that he’s saying, “So…. (something) pay at the door?” Alright… so I’m still not sure but it was just amazing hearing his live version. The rough part: Jack Black and Tenacious D rocked so hard that many, myself included, felt fully satisfied after hearing a couple of classics from Beck and therefore headed for the exits.

After four days of music, three sleepless nights, more costumes than the largest party store could ever carry at once, a bit of dehydration and just a few too many “premium” (insert Labatt Blue or Molson Canadian here, then laugh uproariously) tall-boys, the weekend ended with new friends formed, new music found, and new respect for the majestic setting that is the Gorge Amphitheatre. I’m fully aware that a whole different sort of party was going on right under my nose involving all sorts of fantastically illegal drugs, week-long binges, all-night raves, and far too few condoms, but, well, that’s the great thing about such massive festivals: everyone has their own version of a stellar weekend and far be it from me to judge anyone’s idea of “The weekend they’ll never remember but never forget”? Alright… so that was a bit judgy. Sue me. I loved every minute of this festival and couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. Mind successfully blown. Oh, and for the record, Jack White was hands down the “Show of the Festival” but, let’s be honest, he’s in a league of his own so that’s not really fair to the rest of the absolutely amazing artists that graced the stage day after day. Riggs out.

Check out Chelsea Chernobyl’s photos of Day Four

Sasquatch 2012 Daily line-up preview Monday, May 28th, 2012

Been an unbelievable experience thus far, hasn’t it?

Today Sasquatch goes out with a lot of tree rustling (get the Bigfoot reference?).

If you haven’t realized sleep is for Tuesday, I’m annoyed. You don’t go to a music festival to sleep.

The Sheepdogs will be kicking things off at midday, beginning an onslaught of strong scheduling clashes and forced choices from then on. The Sasquatch stage has a stacked line up from it’s start, as does the Bigfoot stage. How can you choose between fun. and The Joy Formidable? For us, it’s definitely fun. but I’m not so sure on your taste.

The problem continues though, because the Banana Shack will be boasting Nick Kroll, Felix Cartal and SBTRKT as well as Yeti coaxing you with Cass McCombs and Shearwater and the Maine Stage with Don’t Talk To The Cops.

Your evening choices are easy, it’s a genre preference – Beck or Nero? Hardly close, although Mogwai are pretty fantastic, so where will you be? Better decide quickly, the performances only happen once.

The official Sasquatch Monday schedule:
Sasquatch Stage:
12:00pm The Sheepdogs
1:05pm Grouplove
2:10pm Gary Clark Jr.
3:15pm Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
4:30pm The Joy Formidable
5:30pm Feist
7:00pm Silversun Pickups
8:30pm Tenacious D
10:00pm Beck
Bigfoot Stage:
12:00 pm The Sights
12:45pm Walk The Moon
1:45pm Ben Howard
2:45pm Damien Jurado
3:35pm Cloud Cult
4:40pm fun.
5:45pm Shabazz Palaces
6:50pm The Cave Slingers
8:00pm Spiritualized
9:30pm Mogwai
Banana Shack:
1:55pm Chelsea Peretti
2:40pm John Mulaney
3:25pm Nick Kroll
4:40pm Awesome Tapes From Africa
5:40pm Felix Cartal
6:45pm LA Riots
8:00pm SBTRKT
9:30pm Nero (DJ set)
Yeti Stage:
12:15pm Gold Leaves
1:20pm Poor Man
2:35pm Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
3:30pm Cass McCombs Band
4:35pm Vintage Trouble
5:40pm Shear Water
6:45pm John Reilly and Friends
(featuring Becky Stark and Tom Brosseau)
7:50pm Ted Leo and The Pharmacists
The Maine Stage:
2:15pm Katie Kate
3:30pm Don't Talk To The Cops
4:25pm Fresh Espresso