Damien Jurado and the Greatness of Growing Up

Filed under i used to be so cool, living in new york is neat, music is my boyfriend, no i really do love ohio

It’s funny, growing up. When I was a wee lass of 18 at college in Columbus, freshly released from my dad’s worries about my venturing into strange neighborhoods in the big city, I’d buy show tickets months in advance. I’d skip classes to be one of the first in line. I’d be happy leaning against the stage for hours waiting for my band to appear. I didn’t mind suffering through three or four terrible local openers, and I didn’t mind waiting around in the rain and the stink of a back alley to talk to the band afterward. If I couldn’t find someone who wanted to do these things with me, I’d go alone. I saw my favourite band more than 50 times between 2000 and 2005, but that number doesn’t even begin to elucidate the sheer amount of shows I saw as a whole.

I know that I’m old because none of that interests me anymore. I don’t want to sit in a car for fourteen hours straight just to see one of my bands open for someone else in places like Georgia and South Carolina. I don’t want to stand around and listen to a band for three hours anymore, let alone the three hours before the show starts when everyone’s pushing to get to the front and I can’t drink anything lest I have to pee and the club’s playing some unknown crap over the speaker system that’s not even in the same genre of the band I’m there to see.

So last night was perfect. I went home after work, watched my “Criminal Minds”, and then took the bus down to the Mercury Lounge in the Lower East Side to see one of my long-time favourites, Damien Jurado.

Kamran met me there at 9:15, and we pushed ourselves against the wall the best we could for the 15 minutes until the doors opened. The bar area is basically just a long hallway, so everyone was touching everyone else, and there was nowhere to escape and nothing to do, and all I could think about was how miserable I would’ve been had I been there alone. The show started soon after, and we were right in front, and we hadn’t been waiting around for three hours, and we were happy.

Damien Jurado, Mercury Lounge, NYC

Damien is just sort of an amazing guy. He sings these incredibly sad songs, and he comes off as so thoughtful, but there are these moments where he’ll say something so bashfully joyful that it kind of makes you wonder if his whole songwriter persona is a put-on. Last night, he told us about sitting next to a girl on a plane who was listening to music; at first, it was David Bowie, but then suddenly something even more familiar came on, and he realized it was his own song. She sat there listening to his entire album and had no idea she was sitting beside him. I just love thinking about how that must have felt.

He was wearing his Seattle uniform of flannel shirt, lumberjack jeans, and moccasins. The woman doing his backing vocals, Melodie Knight from Campfire OK, was wearing black leggings, a black tunic, a black shawl, black strappy wedges, and a black bowler hat. I said, “I think she’s dressed the way she thought New Yorkers would be dressed.” Kamran said, “I think that’s how they dress in Seattle.” I said, “That’s how they dressed in New York in the 80s.” Kamran said, “That’s how they dressed in Seattle in the 90s.” So then it made sense.

I know I won’t be able to explain how good Damien is with dynamics, the way he can have an audience straining to hear him one moment and how he can fill an entire room with just an acoustic guitar the next, and how something as simple as a foot tap can change an entire song, so I’ll just link you to some songs instead.

Here’s my favourite recent song of his:

Here’s my favourite song of his of all time:

And here’s the song that made me cry last night, because it’s so clearly written about me:

I would wonder why a man from Seattle has multiple songs about Ohio, but it just seems so obvious why.


  1. I’ve only been to one concert… it was fun, but leaving the apartment was kind of a pain…

    • Like . . . one concert ever? Not, like . . . one concert this week? Please tell me you’re deaf. Or only like Justin Bieber but don’t want to put up with the screaming fangirls wrecking your listening experience.

      • Hahaha…
        no such luck. I’m pretty much anti-Bieber. Although in complete fairness, I’ve never actually listened to a single one of his songs – which I’m fairly proud of. :)

  2. Jessica says:

    I still love going to concerts, but like you I won’t make a huge effort any more unless it’s really worth it or I have the right people with me.

    Never heard of him, but I love the songs you posted!

    • God bless new mothers. You (and maybe Kelly) will probably be the only one with the freedom to listen to these things today. Which should be reason for everyone else to realize it’s time to quit their jobs.

      At this point, I’m like, “Do I reeeeeeeally want to pay whatever-plus-Ticketmaster-charges to feel hassled all night?” If it’s not a tiny venue and a band with polite followers, I probably ain’t goin’.

  3. Leigh says:

    I’m a little insulted that you’re saying you wouldn’t jump in a car with me and drive fourteen hours to see a concert. Those were the best fourteen hours of your life!

    • I mean, you know I wouldn’t trade those five years of my life for anything. But it wouldn’t be the same! The band wouldn’t be as good, or if it was, it’d be actually-famous, so the venue would be some packed arena where you couldn’t get within a mile of the stage. We wouldn’t know anyone there, and we wouldn’t have a free place to stay, and it would suck in comparison. Also, the band wouldn’t like lasagna.

  4. aaron says:

    yeah i’m pretty jealous

  5. Dishy says:

    You just put into words my own late teen/early twenties existence. I haven;t been to a show in forever, partly b.c finances are so tight, and babysitters hard to come by, but moreso b/c my husband and I have reached a stage where it’s nicer to simply sit side-by-side on the couch listening to our favorite music. That’s exactly how we spent this past new year’s eve. And although it may sound dull, it was yet another memory I’ll cherish forever.

    I will have to check out Damien’s music – thanks for the videos. I listen to the radio all day and hear lots of new music I love, but gone are the days when I’d pour through record stores in quest. Now so many of the bands I grew up listening to in even my early/mid 20s are BIG. Neat that we’ve all sort of grown up together.

  6. If I were a songwriter, I’d write a whole ALBUM about Ohio, and I’ve never even been there.

    But The Guy has promised to take me to Ohio so I can eat pumpkin and Utah so I can stare at Mormons.