The Mucky Duck in Houston, TX is a superb concept for generating a wonderful experience at a live event. The ambiance could be described as a combination of an Irish pub for gathering with friends and an overly decorated dark cabin where you were forced to sleep on the couch under the moose head. There are stained glass ducks and a wall full of signed headshots from famous musicians (Ani DiFranco, Dixie Chicks, Okkervil River, Old Crow Medicine Show) who miraculously found this itty-bitty gem in the middle of one of the largest cities in America. Each ticket holder along with their compadres gets their own assigned table. The table service includes a waitress that will bring you food and drinks. Not having to worry about partial leg numbness or losing your spot as you take a leak or grab a beverage is a mighty step up in the world of live venues. With maybe 150-200 people max capacity, every seat in the house is appealing.
Sarah Jaffe’s stage presence was humble and personable. A blend that is few and far between in a live performer. Her cunning banter consummated a bond between herself and the twinkle-eyed onlookers. It was like having a beer with a life long faux-pal, you looked forward to hearing her deepest, darkest, and laughable secrets. Her song title, “Vulnerable”, would be the perfect word to describe what was about to take place.
Jaffe’s live arrangements were fresh and exciting. The first song, “Under” aroused an explosive drum beat absent on the album version. By the third song, “A Sucker for Your Marketing”, Jaffe had the crowd not only in the palm of her hand, but chiseled in the lines of her palms when she switched from acoustic to the bass guitar. She bought it last summer from a local Denton, TX pawn shop where she got a “two-fer, a mismatched drum set and a fender bass that was probably worth one hundred dollars.” She continued on with her bass playing in the beautifully melodramatic intro for “Vulnerable.” The audience was so attentive you could hear a woman’s heels tapping on the rustic floors towards the shoe holder’s table. “So quiet. It’s either lucky or it’s like a first blind date that makes me nervous. I mean your hot, you’re really hot.” Having only a few headlining shows after her success has blossomed, this might be one of the first instances when a full room was there specifically to see only her perform. “The next song is a 50 second song I wrote on the Jersey Turnpike.” She said the song, “Logical Plateau” distinctly reminds her of the people she was with. Jaffe shyly blushed through the song from her nervousness. The crowd pleaser of the night was her most popular song, “Clemetine.” The most expressive and seemingly emotional song for Jaffe was “Two Intangibles Can’t be Had.” The aura of feeling she had while she wrote that song for the first time was fragrant. Imagining the plausible scene of her crying with an empty bottle of some sort of alcohol by her side, “He says to me, loneliness is universal so be happy when you cry, and yet I crave to be alone still I can’t be sure.” ”When you Rest” was another unreleased song that she premiered for the audience. The song was unlike any of her others, it was electronic and cadence driven. “It was an accident, doesn’t mean it’s good. I’m stepping my toes into this water” as the crowd giggled she said she made up a new expression. ”I don’t listen to the type of music I play…my music just comes out like folk.” The final song, “Before You Go” starts off with an a capella audience sing-a-long. She tells us to “Do what I do” then sarcasticlly mumbles with a charming grin, “Play the guitar.” Jaffe proceeds to tell us to sing the “oh ah oh”, saying, “just like church camp, let go.”
Sarah Jaffe – Two Intangibles Can’t Be Had (Even Born Again – EP 2008)
Sarah Jaffe – Better Than Nothing (Suburban Nature 2010)
1. Under (Even Born Again)
2. Backwards / Forwards (Even Born Again)
3. A Sucker For Your Marketing (Unreleased)
4. Vulnerable (Suburban Nature)
5. Logical Plateau (Unreleased)
6. Clementine (Suburban Nature)
7. Two Intangibles Can’t Be Had (Even Born Again)
8. When You Rest (Unreleased)
9. Before You Go (Suburban Nature)