Over The Weekend: Sarah Jaffe at the Granada Theater

Sarah Jaffe, Seryn, Jonathan Evan Clark
Granada Theater
September 11, 2010

Better than: Jaffe's CD release show at Sons of Hermann Hall back in May.

There still remain a sign or two of her youth and inexperience--like when, just a few songs in to her headlining slot at the Granada Theater on Saturday night, Sarah Jaffe excused herself from the audience so that she could go grab a guitar strap she'd left backstage. But those were but minor quibbles. Because, as she's been doing all year, the 24-year-old Jaffe continued to prove herself quite the pro on Saturday night.

It helped, of course that, laid out before her at the Granada was a throng of adoring fans. And there were many of them--so many, in fact, that Jaffe pulled off a rare feat at this show. On the strength of her full-length debut, Suburban Nature, and with two local openers setting the stage, sold the theater out.

It was well-deserved, of course. With praising press clippings coming in at a still-incredible rate some four months after her album was released, Jaffe has amassed an amazing following in these parts. It's the kind of massive, almost eye-rolling-inducing-sized following that only seems to set area acts up for an inevitable backlash. But that seems to not apply here--her music backs it up too well.

On this night, with Jaffe backed by her full, absurdly talented backing band--Centro-matic's Scott Danbom on keys, Pleasant Grove's Jeff Ryan on drums, The Crash That Took Me's Becki Howard on violin and the incomparable Robert Gomez on guitar and assorted other instruments--she showed just how powerful her tender, deliberately paced folk rock anthems can be.

Of course, that's not all Jaffe put on display. She showed plenty of the goofball nature that's so prevalent in her offstage demeanor, too.

After her set started with one surprise--the debut of Jaffe's first music video, "Clementine," which also prominently features the acting talents of area musicians Will Johnson, Glen Farris, Trenton Wheeler (of Seryn) and Jeremy Bueller (of Bosque Brown and The Hope Trust)--Jaffe gave her audiences another by sharing a clip of her dancing in a rather wacky manner and in various locales to some random electronic song. Then, once the screen guarding the stage rose and revealed Jaffe standing along behind it, she kept the electro angle going, showcasing a new opening that finds Jaffe dancing with her guitar before eventually blending it back into her normal folky groove. It was an odd opening to say the least, but, on the other hand, it showed Jaffe as an artist willing to take chances and continue to grow--just as did her performance of the plodding "A Sucker For Your Marketing," a new song that Jaffe says she hopes to release on a new EP being prepped to come out later this fall.

The crowd, in what had to have been the least surprising turn of the night, ate it all up with glee, even singing along with Jaffe as she sang two friends in the crowd "Happy Birthday," and then later during an impromptu singalong during her main set closer, "Before You Go."

The climax of the night came a few minutes later, though, when Jaffe and her band retruned for a two-song encore, which included the above cover of Radiohead's "Creep." Jaffe, a moment after launching into the song, joked that someone in the audience better Youtube the performance; it's little surprise that one did. It was a decidedly toned-down take on the track, but a beautiful one only bolster by the crowd, which, once again, all-too-willingly shouted and sang along to every word with their favorite local performer.

Mid-song, Jaffe, a little bit sarcastically but certainly with earnest too, thrust her fist in the air in pride. It was a celebratory moment--a brief glimpse of victory.

Remarkably though, even after all these years of watching her grow as an artist and performer, it still felt like just the start.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Jaffe's rise to the top of the local heap has been a long time coming; in my time at the Observer, it's been a pleasure to watch her ascent. Is her music my cup of tea? Not really at all, actually. But, fact is, her music is also undeniable.

Random Note: Jonathan Evan Clark, of the long-dormant-but-maybe-not-so-dormant-soon local favorite Comrade opened the night.

By The Way: Keep an eye out for "Clementine" on DC9 later this week.

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