So you hope that one person can solve everything.
A pair of highly complementary singer-songwriters came to Vaudeville Mews on Saturday night. Damien Jurado, from Seattle, has this high, lonesome voice that perfectly suits his mournful, meditative folk songs. San Francisco-based John Vanderslice has a more conversational type of voice, keeping the focus on his vivid, finely wrought storytelling, as you might expect from a guy who has worked with word-smart veterans like the Mountain Goats and Death Cab for Cutie. Both Jurado, the opener, and Vanderslice, the headliner, put on riveting performances in front of a mostly rapt and hushed crowd that paid $15 a ticket, in comparison with the $5 to $10 most of the shows I go to cost.

Vanderslice, wearing a Magik*Magik Orchestra T-shirt and with his hair bleached California platinum, accompanied himself on guitar (acoustic and electric) and otherwise played only with a drummer. But what a drummer! I wish my phone camera had properly captured Vanderslice's grin during the drum solos; the guy could also play a little bit on the keyboard at the same time he was drumming. As with Jurado the last time he came through town, Vanderslice is a musician I've always held in generally high esteem, but whose specific songs and albums I probably haven't known as well as those of his peers. And just like Jurado the last time he came through town, Vanderslice's performance Saturday firmly proved to me he's somebody whose records (vinyl reissues on Afternoon Records) I should really get to know better. The man is just a consummate pro, each lyrical twist and turn holding my attention and usually forcing me to mirror his smile. The set ended with the drummer in the audience, Jurado back out with him, and Vanderslice strumming/singing un-amplified-- an old gimmick, sure, but one I never get tired of-- while we sang along (or tried) to songs like "White Dove." At the merch table after the show, our friend Angela M., aka Lady Dusbabaloni, happened to mention to Vanderslice as he was signing a poster for her that he hadn't played her favorite song; moments later, he was sweeping us back to the dressing room, where he proceeded to play "Too Much Time" just for a few of us. As we left, he was still back there with a guy in the crowd who knew all the words-- spending some quality time with a No. 1 fan. Class act.

It was a trick of the light.
Jurado, for his part, sounded no less beautiful than his show here last summer, which I wrote about at much greater length. He didn't do "Ohio" this time, but he played plenty of plaintive, arresting songs, and the presence of a female backing vocalist singing harmonies was a really nice touch. I received a tweet during the show from my online friend Martin Douglas suggesting that I should give Sarah Jurado a hug, and for some reason I mistakenly assumed Sarah was the backup singer; she wasn't. It was funny.

Dracula's casserole.
Also saw the live debut of Mantis Pincers, a local quasi-supergroup comprising Devin Frank and David Olson from the Poison Control Center, Eric Moffit from Wolves in the Attic, John Huffman from the Autumn Project, and Jordan Mayland from Nuclear Rodeo, Volcano Boys (also with Moffit) and basically every cool Ames band ever. They were on a bill with Shipbuilding Co., which features Mike Eisener, formerly of Head of Femur. The "Pince-ing" was supposed to commence around, oh, 9:30 or 10:30, but the local boys ended up headlining, which meant they went on around 1 a.m., which meant I was still there but not particularly awake, so I can say the show rocked and they played actual songs and not free-jazz noise-improv freakouts as they had initially planned, but I can't really tell you much more than that. Anyway, this was Friday night, at Vaudeville Mews. It was their first show, and I'm hoping it's not their last.

Also also saw the Des Moines debut of Party! Party! at Hessen Haus. Did I mention liters were $5? Do you know how big a liter is? I sang the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" even though I don't think I've ever sung the entire song out loud before-- it helps the words are very simple, and the melody is, too, and that Nick from Party! Party! sang Fergie's verse for me (he also got the "l'chaim" line, though, which is totally the best moment in the song!). Pat Fleming from PCC went on after me and did "Born to Run." I'm glad I didn't have to follow him.

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