Damien Jurado, David Bazan, See Me River – Chop Suey
Published 01-22-2009 on my old wordpress blog.

Tonight’s show was another benefit for John Spalding. It seemed well attended for Chop Suey on a Wednesday. Possibly because of the exciting line up of depressing singers.

I was just reading on Chop Suey’s website that they’ve been acquired by some Japanese night club. Like from Japan. I thought that funny that a Chinese-themed night club was bought by a Japanese one. Like WWII all over again.

I am writing tonight’s review in a hurry without much research because I want to go to sleep. If I get time, I’ll edit out the mistakes and misconceptions, so don’t get all pissy.

See Me River
These gentlemen and lady drummer played music that the kids from my college alma mater, UC Santa Cruz, would have lost their minds for. Just enough mountain music influence to entertain the folkies, just enough danciness and bluegrass feel to entertain those guys, and just enough depression to get all the kids that liked the Cure. I don’t know why I went to that school, I never really liked any of those things. I guess I liked the ocean and the adventure. At any rate, See Me River’s lack of enthusiasm was definitely contagious. I felt no need to dance, even though the songs were fast. The bassist stared at his bass the whole time. The singer was less exciting than Beat Happening. Probably the least enthusiastic 70’s southern rock with some folksy electronicy stuff ever. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against depressing music. In fact, I love it. It’s just that See Me River’s brand was not what I wanted.

David Bazan
You may know this name from bands such as Pedro the Lion or Headphones. Mr. Bazan is a Northwest hero and has a devout following. There is much talk about the Xtianity of his lyrics and as a staunch anti-Xtian, they are sometimes hard for me to listen to. But Mr. Bazan’s plaintive cry and signature vocals over his well-designed chord structures have me converting to his cause. They are sung with actual passion. From the first song to the last song, he means everything he says and everything he says rings with melancholy truths. If I had an English degree I might understand if he is for or against religion, but since I can’t think that deeply it is hard for me to sort through the lyrics. After listening tonight, I think he’s a doubter. Maybe I should do some research and write some essays about it. Maybe I should have asked when he offered “Are there any questions at this point in the show?” Mr. Bazan would have answered. In fact, he did answer every question. He also checked his cell phone a few times (to check the time, probably). It’s pretty clear that Mr. Bazan has difficulty with focus and has that nervous talking thing. But the things he says are funny, so we don’t mind. And when he plays a song, everything focuses just fine.

Damien Jurado
Tonight’s set was exactly like weeping. It seemed hard for Mr. Jurado to sing at first. Like he was trying to hold it all in. Every once in a while, a sob or a short outburst of lyrics. Crescendoing to a finale of wailing that you couldn’t help but want to join. He played a couple songs in the middle back to back that really crushed my heart. But I was smiling a lot while I squinted my eyes a bit to not display the real emotion underneath. Crying at movies might be one thing, but standing in the middle of a room while tears rolled around your smile would make you appear insane. Which I probably am. If Mr. Bazan has difficulty focusing, Mr. Jurado has social anxiety, or as they used to say: shyness. It’s kind of like he has a stutter and the only way he can get words out is to sing them. Between songs, his words slur together and he talks quietly. “I think I would have something to say if I had something to say. But I don’t.” I think this is why I love him (like a brother) so much. I know just what it is like. To want to grow old and be that guy I once saw at the bowling alley with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his white t-shirt sleeve and his haircut straight from the 50s, bowling alone. There’s something romantic about the ideal of suffering through all of this… life and persevering until the very end despite all the loneliness and depression in the world. I think that Mr. Jurado and I would have a lot to talk about if we could understand what we were saying to each other. He’d have a lot of advice to give me, since he’s been through so much. Or at least, that’s what his songs seem to say. “They’re not all sad sounding, just sad lyrically, I guess.” Damien Jurado is my hero in these dark times. The voice of the saddest parts of everything. In the most perfect, awesomely touching way. Not for a second do you consider that any of these heart-wrenching songs are fiction. It is clear that all of this is the simple facts and that the terrible sadness that accompanies them is a heavy burden to bear, but not so heavy as to stop him from going on. Particularly when he shares the load with the rest of us. Even him carrying that great weight is a sign to us that everything will be alright. That humans are capable of enduring the worst of things and still surviving. That in the end, after all that has possibly gone wrong has gone wrong, there is still hope for something better. That’s the underlying theme that makes these songs so powerful. The hope that we can all survive our deep sadness. Yes, we can.

What a great show. Four more this week.

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Keywords: damien jurado, David Bazan, See Me River, show

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