Denver, how lucky it is that you and I have a place like the Hi-Dive. Words can almost express the many things I appreciate about this priceless Denver venue, but nothing can compare to being there in the midst of everything. Take a night such as April 17, 2012, for example. Walking up to the corner of Ellsworth and Broadway, you’d notice a new coffee shop is prettifying the former Fancy Tiger space (what could be better than a cafe named Happy Coffee?). Across the street from the venue’s front door, you would see two construction workers a-bulldozing into the late hours of the evening (Denver road construction, there’s nothing like it anywhere else). And then you would see the bustling commotion of the Hi-Dive mere hours before Seattle-based Damien Jurado is scheduled to perform. Inside, the venue was already on its way to being half-filled before the first act had even taken the stage; granted the the quaint size of our Hi-Dive, I speak more to the impressive punctuality of the ticket-holders.

What can I say about the opener, Denver based The Whicker and Pine? I really enjoyed the band’s description and feel it deserves to be quoted: “...whatever it’s called when a group of friends get in a room with an acoustic guitar, and what ever other instruments… would that be alt-country? Would that be so bad?” The band had a sizable amount of fans in attendance, and looked like they were happy to be where they were. This Denver act has an E.P. available for free if you check out their Facebook page give them a listen. A friend of mine relayed a story about The Whicker and Pine opening for the Jealous Sound back in February; if you happen to be a member of this band, you might owe Craig a beer. Just saying.

Up next was Peter Wolf Crier: wow. The impact of their energy was impressive given that both members were seated for the entire performance. Peter Pisano and Brian Moen are mad scientists disguised as two dudes in a band; and in my opinion, their authenticity is corroborated by the fact that there is a real Peter behind Peter Wolf Crier.

Moen, the band’s drummer, was decked in a collared shirt and laboratory-style glasses, and while setting up his kit he carried a small black satchel which most likely included the secret ingredients that Peter Wolf Crier uses to blow our minds nightly. Pisano mans the axe, the pipes and had approximately fifteen effects pedals for various sound manipulations at his disposal. Sometimes the stage setup couldn’t even handle it, as Pisano’s mic fizzled out; rather than overloading faulty cables and plugs (which is most likely what was the case), I’d like to think the mic itself would “wince” before Pisano belted out some of his more powerful notes.

Song transitions were quick. Peter Wolf Crier may be the new iteration of indie-jam-band where you can hardly keep up with where a song starts and stops as Pisano and Moen kept a steady pace of full rhythms and amazing solos. I imagined these two practice in a setting like a World War II bunker, and the songs they perform on stage were unique testimonies of a time and place that most of us will never know. To make the performance a little more surreal, Pisano took a moment to apologize for the minor delay, and promised he would “land us in Denver on time” for the scheduled connection for Damien Jurado. The captain and co-pilot wrapped things up in a loud, fast crescendo of heartfelt sound.

What a special treat to see the mythical creature known as Damien Jurado. He is mythical not for his infrequent sightings, for Jurado wouldn’t ever be thought a stranger in Denver and elsewhere with over a decade of touring under his belt and twelve full-length albums to date; the fact that this man’s music is real to me and borderline legendary. The authenticity of his candidness, his singing, the execution from Jurado and his band all came together for a unique and special performance - and Jurado may have influenced me to possibly start exploring a new career as a tambourinist.

Jurado is touring with four accompanying band members all of which performed exceptionally, given the sixteen hour drive they underwent to get from San Diego to Denver just the day before. Sometimes we (myself most of all) should take a moment to remember that these bands we see are humans too: they have bills, they get sick, they need to sleep, etc. As a terminally broke individual, I think it’s unforgivable when a band puts on a show that they didn’t want to or really weren’t prepared to carry out; for those shows I wish the merch table carried shirts that read “I used the money I was planning to pay my Xcel bill with and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”. Even so, Jurado was completely honest and still pulled off an energetic and full-force performance of his latest release Maraqopa.

Jurado and company opened the evening's set with “Cloudy Shoes” from the album St. Bartlett, and a barrage of cameras descended upon the stage - seriously, there were at least seven heavy-duty SLRs in the front row; it was like being at a presidential press junket. Jurado was right at home on stage at the hi-dive and performed all songs without shoes; there was nothing hippie about it, either - it seemed completely natural, especially for someone who just drove sixteen hours to be here.

Jurado disposed some sage advice on waylaying bacterial illness, and mentioned sometimes washing hands is not enough: “You ever kiss someone with a mask on? It’s hot.” As the crowd called out requests for "Ohio" - a seminal Jurado track from his album Rehearsals for Departure - a dialogue began between Jurado and the crowd in which he revealed part of his songwriting process. If you look at some of Jurado's track titles from St. Bartlett ("Arkansas," "Kansas City," "Wallingford," etc.) you'll notice a lot of names of places, and Jurado responded to the crowd's request for a song "about the midwest" by explaining these songs are usually not about the places they are named after, but merely need to be in a setting of some sort and so he picks a place and goes with it. Jurado quickly added that "Ohio" was written while he was high on codeine (the more you know!). Jurado's frank revelations were welcome and heartwarming, as if he were speaking to the crowd like we were a casual group of friends. As the band performed “Rachel and Cali” from St. Bartlett, I internally disagreed with Jurado when he sang, “I just don’t feel confident in crowds.”

Jurado danced as the band enthusiastically played through the evening until the supporting members departed and left Jurado himself to play the last three songs solo. Before the band left the stage, they played “Let Us All In” and it was as a bold performance, not only for the band but unexpectedly for me as well. During the end of the song, a bouncy Jurado suddenly turned to me (gasp) and handed over his tambourine. Sure, it seems fairly straightforward, being handed a tambourine, but I was just not expecting to be the one performing. I recall a time when I volunteered for my roommate’s co-ed softball team; not only was I not expecting to play, but when I went to bat I was also not expecting to hit the ball. But in both cases I hit the ground running, and at least during my brief stint playing tambourine for Damien Jurado I wasn’t seriously injured. I was pretty impressed with myself actually - I may just consider bringing my own tambourine to the next concert I review just in case the opportunity arises.

As Jurado prepared to play the last song of the evening, “Ohio,” he took a moment to express his gratitude for having his bandmates on this tour and explained that although he was happy to be playing these songs, he wasn’t the same Damien Jurado that represented the love-sick troubadour: “I’m moving on. I’m turning a new leaf. I like playing these acoustic songs and all but I don’t want to be sad anymore. And I’m not on Twitter anymore, either.” Twitter or no Twitter, Denver will eagerly anticipate Damien Jurado’s return.

One Response so far.

  1. Hey! Jon from The Whicker and Pine, I want to buy craig a beer! and i also want to hear the story he relayed! Thanks for the write up! That was a fun night.


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