Aftermath: Silver Jews at Walter's on Washington
Photo by Bill Olive / Click here for a slideshow
Under the circumstances, the sight was painfully familiar: a crowd of people in a parking lot, waiting. But instead of water, ice or MREs, this group desperately needed some kind of shared experience that didn’t involve clearing debris or scavenging for supplies - in short, music (really, really good music). David Berman, singer and songwriter for the Silver Jews, stepped outside the door at Walter’s on Washington and thanked everyone for being patient. “We’re almost ready,” he said.
The move to Walter’s might have been for the best, though. The place was packed; the Orange Show couldn’t have accommodated that crowd. The concert started promptly at 7 p.m. - Walter’s graciously allowed the Silver Jews to go on as a separate event before the Queers show scheduled for 10 p.m.
The general mood was shellshock. Tragedy seemed to envelop the evening, but only for a while. After the solo opener James Jackson Toth, the Jews didn’t waste time and jumped into “What Is Not But Could Be If” off their recent album Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea. The band had been wearing vaguely Western-style suits on this tour, a choice that gave the proceedings, as guitarist Peyton Pinkerton told me, a “Vegas vibe.”
But there would be no suits tonight. “It’s casual Thursday,” he said. It was definitely the right choice. When Berman sang, “So how do we get out of this, family shadows all of this,” dressed in jeans and a green “Grand Old Golf & Games” T-shirt, it landed poignantly; he looked familiar (maybe even a little white trash). A suit would’ve been alienating.
Pinkerton and William Tyler crafted delicate and lush cascades on guitar - the arrangement on “Trains Across the Sea,” off the Jews’ 1994 debut album Starlite Walker, was breathtaking. On album, that song has a kind of shambolic, stream-of-conscious, inward feel (“Half-hours on Earth / What are they worth / I don’t know”), but Pinkerton and Tyler, with help from Tony Crow on keys, gave Berman an ocean of sound to float upon. It was ‘90s solipsism on an epic scale, and I mean that in a good way.
Other highlights included “Smith & Jones Forever" - the audience cheered at the line, “I got two tickets to a midnight execution / We’ll hitchhike our way from Odessa to Houston.” David and Cassie shared a sweet moment during the duet “We Could Be Looking for the Same Thing.”
An echo effect was employed occasionally, and most hilariously on the rousing closer “Punks in the Beerlight,” when Berman shouted “Toulouse-Lautrec! Trec! Trec!” But mostly it was 18 beautiful songs, at a time when we could all use just a few seconds of beauty. – Troy Schulze
What Is Not But Could Be If
Aloysius, Bluegrass Drummer
Smith & Jones Forever
San Francisco B.C.
I’m Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You
My Pillow Is the Threshold
Inside The Golden Days of Missing You
Strange Victory / Strange Defeat
Trains Across The Sea
We Could Be Looking For the Same Thing
Punks in the Beerlight