Monday, November 13, 2006

Best Gig I Ever Done See #4 - Damien Jurado

Damien Jurado
Sheffield 1999

Back at the turn of the millenium when minidisk was the new thang, my ex-flatmate Tom from Reveal Records gave me a couple of the compilations of new releases they had put on minidisk to play in the shop, and track one on the first disk was by an American fella called Damien Jurado. Obviously,with it being at the start, I listened to that song quite a bit (It was "Ohio" from Rehearsals For Departure) and when Tom asked me a few weeks later if I fancied a trip up to Sheffield to see him play I though yeah why not..

The gig was in a pub on the outskirts of Sheffield - don't remember the name, but it might have been The Pheasant, or The Golden Pheasant? Damien was supporting The Handsome Family and it took place in the back room which was laid out with tables and candles..a move that immediately worried me - especially as all the people there seemed to be in their 30's and 40's and drinking wine. Then there was me, Tom and a lad called Grant (famous primarily for being daft enough to rent rooms in his house to serial piss-takers Thatcher & Shepherd) - sat at a table looking uncomfortable by candlelight. Maybe somone else was with us - my memory really is crap at times.

Then Damien got up to sing, sat at the front on a sofa, a much bigger bloke than I expected (not fat exactly - just looked more like a rugby player than a singer-songwriter..), and throughout his set you could hear a pin drop as he played a selection of songs from his first two albums. He loosened up as the gig went on and became more chatty, coming across as a genuinely funny, self-effacing guy. He invited a girl up to sing harmonies on a couple of his songs - one of which stuck in my head for years and I was always frustrated that I couldn't find it on any of his albums. Then eventually I located it on the b-side of the ultra-rare Halo Friendly 7" on Summershine Records. Here it is for your pleasure

Damien Jurado - Ocean Shores '87

It was one of those rare gigs where the artist engaged directly with the audience and performed out of his skin leaving you with that feeling of having witnessed something truly extraordinary.

After Damien, The Handsome Family came on and damn near ruined it all by being the exact opposite - smug & annoying with unmemorable songs. I only managed to bear a handful of songs before heading for the bar - standing in the carpark in the late summer evening with my pint. I don't think any of us stuck their whole set.

Damien has an excellent new album out called And Now That I'm In Your Shadow on Secretly Canadian. It's somewhat more downbeat than his last couple but is fantastic nonetheless. I got tickets to see him at The Luminaire in Kilburn in December as he does a short UK tour - miss him and miss out!

Buy And Now That I'm In Your Shadow from Amazon

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Best Gig I Ever Done See #3 - The Wedding Present

The Wedding Present
The Duchess Of York, Leeds 1989

I mentioned previously in The Edsel Auctioneer post how the lure of bands like The Wedding Present led me to choose Leeds Poly as my seat of learning at the tail end of the 1980's, and yet again one of my bestest gigs EVER was at the legendary Duchess Of York.

By the autumn of 1989 The Wedding Present were one of the biggest indie bands in the UK (having filled the almighty vacuum created by the demise of The Smiths) and were about to release their major label debut album "Bizarro" on RCA. Having already seen them play some pretty large venues such as Notts Trent Poly and Confetti's, a nightclub in Derby, it's hard to explain how incredible it was to see them in a tiny venue like The Duchess - particularly as we only stumbled upon the gig by accident.

Me and my mate Woody from back home had inexplicably decided to go see Sarah Records also-rans St Christopher play. I don't think I'd even heard them at this point (I'm sure if I had then I wouldn't have gone along - they were pretty ordinary. The singer's voice was like a proto-Coner Oberst doing Larry The Lamb impressions plus he was damn ugly). It must have been a quiet night and the boredom got the better of us.

Upon arriving at The Duchess, we paid our couple of quid and were promptly informed by the guy on the door that The Wedding Present were doing a secret warm-up gig and St Christopher were just the support act.

And so it was we found ourselves a few feet from the stage, packed like Sardines, bouncing around to an all-new Wedding Present set. I mostly remember Grapper grinning like a lunatic through the whole thing, clearly having the time of his life, and then walking back to the bus shivering as the sweat started to freeze in our clothes.

I guess at this point I could bleat on like Old-Man Indiepop about how they were a much better band back then and post something from Bizarro, but whilst I DO still think of the Gedge/Grapper/Gregory/Smith line-up as THE Wedding Present they are still going (albeit David Gedge and the Session Cats) and I ought to give them their due - so it's the latest BBC Session that I'll go for. Four cover versions, all great songs that seem to work well when Gedged. Take it

Wedding Present 2006 BBC Covers Session

Buy Bizarro at Amazon

Oh and also the following year we saw them play at The Coliseum in Leeds - a much bigger venue where they filmed the live video "*Punk" - another memorable gig if only because they had to leave the lights on for all the cameras and that made it so ludicrously hot that they had to keep throwing water on the crowd. So (as I said I wouldn't do it) here is the obligatory Bizarro track "Bewitched" on YouTube

Look out for the floppy-haired mong who appears shoulder-high in the crowd after 10 seconds - that's me!