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Review: The Round 83 Featuring Damien Jurado, Jonathan Russell and Members of Pretty Broken Things

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Last night, I attended my first event at the Fremont Abbey. If I may be so blunt, I’m not sure how another night there will be able to top what I experienced on this muggy Spring evening. The Abbey hosts a monthly event called The Round where it features musicians, artists, and poets all giving the audience their finest – one performance at a time. Last night the line up was pretty impeccable – the legendary Damien Jurado, Jonathan Russell from our latest local favorite The Head and the Heart, and a new act on the rise Pretty Broken Things as well as an incredibly talented poet and two skilled painters. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this event – and to be honest I wasn’t that excited. However, the second I got to my seat that all changed.

In case you, like me, have never been to the Fremont Abbey before, take one piece of advice from me: when you buy tickets, spring for the front row seats. My friend and I arrived about 15 minutes before the music was scheduled to start, and there our seats were – front row on the aisle – so close to the stage I could extend my legs (which are VERY short) and touch it. Once the performers came out and took their seats, it was almost as if they were sitting in our laps. There, maybe six feet in front of me, were Jon and Damien and Katie. That alone made the night special. Then, they started to play.

I’d never heard of Pretty Broken Things before, but I’m now committing to attending every show they put on in Seattle ever. Lead singer Katie Costello was joined by a few of her band mates throughout the performance, but clearly what was on display were her pipes and her song writing abilities. The songs she played made me wish she’d never stop. Her vocals are rich, sultry, and so thick with emotion she could have made my heart stop had she wanted to. She and the rest of her band will be playing this Thursday at Columbia City Theater with Ok Sweetheart and Sons of Warren Oates – tickets available for only $8 here. Do yourself a favor and check this band out NOW.

Damien Jurado… what can I say about this local legend that hasn’t already been said before. If you’ve listened to any of his records or seen him live, you already know everything I’m about to say. He’s got a soothing, clear voice and when he sang I was afraid to breathe for fear of missing something. He played several songs from his latest record, Maraqopa, including my personal favorite, ‘Working Titles,’ and old faves like ‘Sheets.’ What really made this evening with him special was that since this was such an intimate setting, the audience really got to be playful with him. He was cracking jokes and poking fun at himself- constantly gushing over how overshadowed he was next to Katie Costello’s songs. It was endearing and charming, and made me an even bigger fan than I was before.

I think every girl in the venue got pregnant when Jonathan Russel from The Head and the Heart played the Bill Withers song ‘Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone.’ Jon has a voice that shakes your soul, and the music he played last night was surprising and refreshing. He opted to play songs that were seemingly new to the crowd and stayed away from his more familiar Head and the Heart songs. In my opinion, he couldn’t have made a better choice. His song choices were refreshing and made sure to showcase his vocal capabilities in all their glory – he consistently reached for notes that took the air out of my lungs and left me in total awe. He’s great with his band, but he’s equally as great flying solo.

Last night I left the Abbey in a sort of trance. As far as shows go, this one was one of the few in which the ticket stub will get saved. Each of these performers played music that set the audience free from any thoughts other than “I Love My Life” while they were playing – and that sort of freedom is rare and far more noteworthy than I can express in this review, no matter how hard I try.

Katie Costello and Damien Jurado
Damien Jurado and Jonathan Russell