DYLAN OF DENTON: Denton, Texas musician Sarah Jaffe often plays her songs with different arrangements and varying support. Sometimes it’s just her and a guitar. Other times she plays with a backing violinist and guitarist. Last night, Jaffe played with friend and guitarist Robert Gomez, at an intimate show in downtown Des Moines, Iowa at the Vaudeville Mews. It was a a bit sparse, but Jaffe didn’t mind — telling fans she’s more than happy to play anywhere for however many people want to listen. She played a range of songs, including those off her 2008 debut EP “Even Born Again”, and off her current record, “Suburban Nature” (2010).
She played my favorite “Backwards/Forwards”: “Wake up in the twilight / You’re a dream in black and blue / You’re in between the sky and the ground / And I can never get to you / A dirty compromise / A dirty split in the making / Well that’s an abyss of a thought / Truly no one knows what they’ve got.” She even unveiled a new song, “A Sucker For Your Marketing”, which will be part of an upcoming EP. The song is a new direction for Jaffe, with its rocking punk thump — the version played in Des Moines featured Gomez on a stand-up drum. Jaffe, in a quiet moment between songs, asked her coy band-mate to play a few verses of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” on the accordion. Reluctant at first, Gomez proceeded to get the crowd clapping with an honest-to-goodness effort that sounded just like it — with Jaffe laughingly trying to sing out a few verses. It was all in good fun on a beautiful late night.
My friends will tell you, it takes a pretty good musician to get me out to the clubs these days. But I didn’t want to miss a chance to see Jaffe play in a Des Moines venue, only to become one of those folks who would say one day, “Oh yeah, Dylan played down the street, but I never did go see him.” It’s such a marvel to hear an artist who isn’t trying to bowl audiences over with loudness, gimmicky sounds, and flailing about. Jaffe doesn’t need to, because she’s gifted. The deeper Jaffe went into her set, the more apparent it became that her strength rests in quiet moments. It’s what makes her high-end vocals even more jarring, her loud moments even louder, or her sad verses even more disquieting. If you were at the Mews last night, you were one of the lucky few. Jaffe can bring audiences to hushed reverence with songs like “Clementine”, with its keen sense of loss, “Fifty states / Fifty lines / Fifty crying all the times / Fifty boys / Fifty lies / Fifty I’m gonna change my minds … / All that time, wasted / I wish I was a little more delicate.” Ironically, she told the crowd that her lead single is a track she nearly gave up on, if not for her mother, who said she liked it. Note: Also, read an archived post about Jaffe from Their Bated Breath. (Oh, and Robert, next time you’re back in Des Moines, I promise I’ll have a better brand of smokes.) — Photo, words, and video by David D. Robbins Jr.
VIDEO BELOW: Sarah Jaffe “Clementine” (Des Moines, Aug. 30, 2010)