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Jonathan Meiburg Loves Sharks

Pictured: Shearwater at The Parish in Austin, TX. Courtesy Dallas Observer.

Last Saturday marked the first event at the Duke Coffeehouse since it's re-opening, offering a line up of mostly acoustic folk music (there were two banjos!). Headlining was former Okkervil River singer Jonathan Meiburg, now with his new band Shearwater. I arrived at the end of the first set, where I caught The Tourist forgetting the words to the last song he played. I still can't figure out if this was on purpose.

The re-vamped space offered more seating than normal, three people could fit on one bean bag couch. The granite counter was also filled with people. Money well spent indeed. Next up was Aimee of Des Ark, deciding to play a stripped-down set at the coffeehouse while the rest of her band playing at Bull City Headquarters. She sat on a seat so close to the crowd that I could feel the ground quake every time she stomped her boots. After her first song, she announced that she was worried about her singing voice because she was watching 30 Rock for hours the day before and has the habit of picking up quirky accents of voices she hears a lot. She was the only person in the room concerned about her voice. Still, a part of me is sad she didn't try and cover Muffin Top.

Regardless of whether or not you like Shearwater, listening to Jonathan Meiburg's voice will make you quake and tremble as you feel the emotion coursing through his words. One moment his songs are frail and sad, the next they are seething with rage. His voice, featured in its full range on nearly every song, combines eerily soft tones with a piercing falsetto while managing to weave in a story. This is never more evident than on his track "Leviathan, Bound." He mentioned afterwards that the words were inspired by the film Blue Water, White Death, documenting a whaling crew searching the oceans for the world's largest predator. Listening to Meiburg's set on Saturday, I don't think there is a more appropriate visual.

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