Last Night: Sharon Van Etten, etc. at Fitzgerald's
Sharon Van Etten
Photos by Alexa Crenshaw
Sharon Van Etten, Damien Jurado, Yellow Ostrich Fitzgerald's November 1, 2012
Such a variety of entertaining shows were happening in Houston last night, I wish I could have somehow been at several places at once. I arrived at Fitzgerald's feeling dragged from a long day, honestly poised to write a bad review, maturely imagining all of the kids right upstairs at Tomahawk and Pujol having a stupid fun time, while fearing I'd be stuck watching something that dragged longer than my day did.
Lo and behold, I was pleasantly surprised. All three acts are excellent musicians who each brought something different yet equally great.
Yellow Ostrich drummer Michael Tapper
This was Brooklyn band Yellow Ostrich's second show in Houston, this time sharing many songs off Strange Land, their new EP and first as a band of three members.
The music is danceable, tasty-sweet lo-fi pop, and they have their basic formula of catchy riffs with well-placed vocals down. It sounded similar to sister Brooklyn band The Antlers, with whom they have played with before. Again, Yellow Ostrich's music is incredibly catchy.
So, as opposed to the stupid-fun but possibly enduring sonic punishment happening upstairs, I fast grew content where I was. Yellow Ostrich's music is well-calculated, but not overly calculated. It's good mood music, which is fun.
Next was solo acoustic act Damien Jurado, the set I was afraid would possibly drag on the most for me. As he began his act on a slow, repetitive note, I was harshly looking forward to an unoriginal Mellow Show --a drag of an acoustic jam session, indeed maybe channeling Dave Matthews. Please read ahead, because I was sorely wrong.
As Jurado's show developed, his honed acoustic guitar-craft increasingly shone through. Some musicians make acoustic guitar sound as plain as a whole-wheat English muffin, needing some kind of butter and/or jam. I hate plain English muffins.
However, some musicians make acoustic guitar, whether softly or loudly strummed, sound most powerful. Jurado proved himself of the latter sort, leaving much of the audience entranced.
His set was on the quiet side, though, and a few audience members that were talking during his set were drowning him out. This prompted one audience member to yell, "Hey! If you wanna talk, go outside! Let's listen." And that shut everyone up, which was great.
Sharon Van Etten most respectfully followed, opening with an apology for scoffing at a couple of audience members for talking during Jurado's set as well. She then followed that with a most respectful sound.
Van Etten's music is unashamedly dreamy, scenic and, well, beautiful live. Just like the two acts before her, Etten and her band played a well-calculated, yet not overly calculated sound. It was simple yet transfixing.
The band members proved themselves to be wonderful multiinstrumentalists as well. Notably, the usage of an omnichord and a harmonium was most intriguing. An omnichord produces a most satisfying sound. Most brilliantly, towards the end of the set, touring guitarist Doug Keith began playing his electric guitar like a violin, resulting in a sound better than either instrument.
The moral of the story is, this was all great quality music, and I left Fitzgerald's in a much better mood. When you assume...
Personal Bias: I was in a bad mood, but that changed!
The Crowd: This was actually the most full I have seen Fitzgerald's downstairs to be.
Overheard In the Crowd:: "Shut up!" This came from a couple of other audience members during Damien Jurado's set too. People paid respect.
Random Notebook Dump: I want to play with an omnichord. That's quotable.
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