The crowd at the Fox Theatre took the bad news stoically.
By bad news I'm referring to here, of course, is the simple songs of heartbreak and woe that Damien Jurado and Jeremy Enigk played this past Saturday that held the late-twenties through middle-aged crowd in an almost silent, reverent daze. I swear I saw almost no head-bobbing, let alone dancing (save one resilient swaying woman in the front row). Their reverence makes more sense in context: For much of this audience, these two artists had presumably soundtracked the angst of their early teenage years.
For Enigk's part, his band, Sunny Day Real Estate, influenced the early-'90s rock world by creating a sound that’s often credited with launching the entire genre of emo. Jurado, meanwhile, came along a few years later and ended up signing with Sunny Day's label, Sub Pop, thanks to Enigk, a booster early on who made the label aware of him. The two share a similar cult following, though the music Jurado makes (often referred to as “lo-fi,” though “singer-songwriter” or “folk” might suffice) has antecedents in many older bands.
The pair delivered inspired and endearingly imperfect sets on acoustic guitar (Enigk also played keyboard), which could be expected of the first date in a tour that comes between recording and releasing albums for both artists. Enigk actually downplayed the album’s release, planned for September, saying there was still much to “fix” on it. Jurado mentioned that the new song he played, “Gillian Was a Horse” (due to appear on his forthcoming album, also slated for release this September), was changed from “Gillian Was a Whore” at the advice of his label.
Their self-effacements offered insight into their respective careers.
Enigk was perpetually smiling, rocking back and forth on his heels, thrusting his face into the mike to hit those silvery, distinctive notes, and stepping back to play the beautifully simplistic melodies that made the original electric versions so catchy and exciting. His slightly receding hairline and more rotund figure were the only separation from his emotive but quiet (Sunny Day Real Estate famously refused interviews) self of fifteen years ago. Hits like “In Circles,” “How It Feels to be Something On” and “Guitar and Video Games” didn’t suffer from the years.The first couple of songs he played on keys, from his solo albums, blurred together, but the last track before the encore had its moment of furious glory when Enigk slammed the bottom keys in a cacophony fitting his angst.
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Jurado was perpetually frowning and averting his eyes from the crowd while playing, but kept up a mostly humorous, sometimes slightly obnoxious banter in-between songs (after one particularly long rant about his life and his dislike of the term singer-songwriter, he called himself a “whiny bitch”). His misanthropic act fits an artist who once released a CD (Postcards and Audio Letters) that featured no “songs,” only a collage of found sounds and audio fragments.
All of the songs he played on Saturday, however, had that mysterious power of solid wordplay and original delivery, like Enigk’s, which made them rise above the crop of lonesome tunes played by dudes with acoustic guitars on any given Saturday night elsewhere. Both Enigk and Jurado had the presence of veterans and quirkiness of those who inspire a devoted following.
Spending two hours with artists like that is always good news.
-- James Anthofer