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Damien Jurado/Suffering and the Hideous Thieves
June 18, 2005 - The Paradox - Seattle, WA
by Katie Sauro

It always strikes me how eerily silent the audience gets when folk singer/songwriter Damien Jurado performs.  There are no side conversations, no muffled coughs, nothing but unspoken awe.  Every single person there is so attuned to Jurado, as he sings softly, modestly into the microphone poised perfectly to emanate his quiet, sometimes heartbreakingly sad, voice out to the crowd.

There are no grand entrances for Jurado.  He comes out on stage, shuffles some papers, tunes his guitar, and begins to strum.  He’s not trying to impress anyone, he doesn’t care what people think.  He is simply there to play his beautiful songs, and in Saturday night’s case, to raise money for a friend with cancer. 

Jurado played several new songs to start off the set, and several others he said he rarely performs live.  These rarities date back to his Sub Pop days, with albums like
Rehearsals for Departure and Ghost of David, and songs such as “Curbside” and “Desert.”  His set seemed to span much of his musical catalogue.  Well, maybe not “much” of his catalogue, as he has put out over twenty CDs, LPs, and EPs, but the set was extensive, nevertheless. He is a very talented songwriter, a storyteller in fact, evoking painful feelings of love, loss, infidelity, loneliness, heartbreak, and death, with only an acoustic guitar and his own haunting voice.  It was truly a privilege to hear Jurado play both extremes – the very old and the brand new – of his folk rock collection, songs we are hardly ever privy to, but I am so used to hearing him play my favorite song, “Ohio,” during shows that it was quite disappointing when he didn’t.

He sat on a folding chair in a red zip-up inside-out sweatshirt, with lyrics to his songs on a music stand in front of him.  It seemed kind of odd that he wasn’t able to remember his own songs, but when you’ve written that many, I guess it’s only natural to need a reminder.

There were several opening acts before Jurado took the stage, one of which was Suffering and the Hideous Thieves.  They looked promising during their set-up, trotting out an accordion, saxophone, and even a few derby hats, including one atop the head of an Elvis Costello look-a-like.  The screeching, squealing, and caterwauling that ensued, however, caused me to think otherwise.

But I stuck it out through all of that, and was extremely glad that I did.  Jurado’s songs are so powerful, so evocative, so hauntingly beautiful, that they lingered in the air long after I left the Paradox that night.