Jerry Joseph 05/15/11
Laurelthirst Public House – Portland, OR
Words/Photos By Gr8ful Cougar
On Sunday, May the 15th, oft-local rocker Jerry Joseph paid a visit to the Laurelthirst Pub in Portland, Oregon.
Now, before we get started, it should be noted that this was our first time seeing Jerry Joseph and that there was no setlist available at the time of writing this review. So, song placement mentioned is approximate in cases and we didn’t catch all the names either. We’re there to have fun and taking notes during the show doesn’t really fit that bill…
The Laurelthirst is a pretty welcoming little place in south central Portland. The venue is a pub and has a nice long bar with stools and standing room at it as well as about fifteen four person tables. The staff was friendly and they had a pretty good selection of local microbrews on tap. The stage had a huge dark blue tapestry with the occasional star, much like the night sky, draped behind it, covering both walls and the ceiling above it. The stage was relatively low, just a few steps above floor height and was literally 8 feet away from where we were standing at the bar for the first set.
Showtime was slated for 9pm but as is often the case with the live music we choose to see, and lucky for us, the show began at 9:20 or so, just after we had arrived. Jerry walked out and grabbed his acoustic guitar, introducing former collaborater and bandmate Steven James Wright as both got settled in on stage. It looked like Wright had a jazz guitar or a wider body acoustic electric guitar as he sat down. They kicked right in, both of them on guitar, as the standing room portion of the venue filled up quickly. One of the first things we noticed was how positive the overall vibe of the show was. There were quite a few of us in a small space with constant movement of concertgoers as well but everyone was mellow and considerate of their neighbors.
The first set was around an hour and fifteen minutes long an was some thoroughly enjoyable acoustic music. The combination of Jerry’s soulful singing and powerful lyrics set to the rocking dual guitars kept the room moving. Many of the folks in the Laurelthirst were on their feet, taking full advantage of the standing room in front of the stage on two sides. While many of the songs we heard in the first set were not songs we had hear before, we thoroughly enjoyed the first set. A version of the song Ten Killer Fairies in the middle of the set was a big highlight. The stripped down sound of this song played acoustic further highlighted the soulfulness of it. The first set was for the most part a rockin’ one. Anyone who thinks that you can’t rock with acoustic guitars would have been proven wrong on this night.
At setbreak, I made a quick trip to pick up our friend Mike and just barely made it back in time to catch the start of the second set. I noiticed on my way out that Jerry had headed out pretty quickly to smoke and was chatting with folks outside on my way to the car. While I was gone, things had cleared out a bit and it allowed us to move over a few feet, which put us five feet from the stage and just about in the middle of the floor on that side. As I was walking back into the venue, the second set was just getting underway. Jerry was in place, minus the shoes and with a Red Bull at his feet as the set started. The little bit of extra space to start the set allowed everyone a little bit of room to move so the dancing for the second set was definitely more enjoyable. Our fellow concertgoers were very considerate folk, with the woman in front of us who wanted to be sure it was okay if she danced in front of us as a perfect example of this.
The energy improved even more in the second set. Things started out strong with a few songs in Apollo and The Road Home that were new to us but excellent in the acoustic two-guitar style. The set lasted for around seventy minutes as Jerry and SJW wound their way through rocking jams and the slower yet powerful Ship. Our proximity to the stage and the slightly smaller crowd for the second half of the show really improved our view of Jerry and the stage, making it an extra enjoyable set. There is something to be said for being close enough to be able to observe the performers passion up close. Near the end of the set we overheard a fellow concertgoer explaining to someone near us that the song we were enjoying, titled Beautiful Dirt, was new as of this year and had only been played a handful of times. It was a slower, extremely powerful song and turned out to be the second to last song played in the set. Just before the start of the song, Steven James Wright had switched instruments to what turned out to be some type of electric Sitar. It did not look that much different than a guitar but, WOW, the sound was great… It gave the end of the set and the encore a different edge. The last song of the set ended at twelve o’clock sharp, the supposed curfew and end of show. Jerry took a few steps off stage, consulted with someone and hopped back up on stage, informing us that the folks of the Laurelthirst had been kind enough to grant us an encore. And then he took a big swig of his Red Bull and he and SJW rocked it for another seven minutes, closing the night with the song Wisconsin Death Trip.