Want to end all the craziness in our country (like Baltimore burning right now)? Dismantling our system of white supremacy -- and its ugly uncle wealth disparity -- would be a good start. And if you somehow think the system of white supremacy that our nation was literally built on isn't a thing anymore, and doesn't still affect every facet of our culture in one way or another, then ending that illusion would be a good start. Until white people -- and all of the ruling class, which is essentially all white, which kinda says it all -- start really speaking up (legislation, education, etc) about the system we have in place, its bloody roots, the ways they've (we've) benefited from said system, and how it all makes for all sorts of pain for just about all of us (let's say 99%), this isn't gonna just go away. So let's please stop with the sanctimonious pleas for peace and #AllLivesMatter and 'respecting property' blah blah (along with the more overtly racist rhetoric), and just recognize the inevitability of more and more upset in our broken, dying, careening-towards-third-world cities. Let's talk about that. Let's post about that. It's actually not that complex, it's just really uncomfortable. Not as uncomfortable, though, as being brutally paralyzed and essentially murdered like Freddie Gray was. May he rest in peace. May we work towards real, sustainable justice in honor of his short, sad life.
Anyone out there that needs a little support today (or if you just wanna hear a gorgeous tune), this gracious and graceful performance (one of so many in Tracy Chapman's subtle, singular career) will do just fine. Music, when done well, somehow creates space for so much. Silence, suffused.
One of my favorite things about having hung out this long in RockLand™ is looking around and seeing who's still here with me. Not just here as in making music for a modest living; here as in still having actual fun with it, pushing it, questioning it, and just never taking it (or life in general) for granted. Safe to say Kevin Seconds embodies all of that as well as anyone I've ever heard about, much less hung out with. After decades of writing, singing, touring, painting, running the coolest little coffee shop there ever was, and too much more, now he's over 100 songs into making 400 tunes this year. I attempted something similar last year, and it was so much fun and so much work, and his tunes are way more fully realized (and just better haha) than mine were, dammit. Inspiring as ever.
All that is to say that gettin invited over to his place and sing with him & Al, on the scrappysweet badass little wonder that is song 101, is as much validation as I'll ever need that this life has worked out impossibly well, and that for whatever mistakes I've made on any number of levels, I've done some decent stuff too. Thanks to them, Hank, Lu... and really, the whole Sacto crew that keeps this place fresh, friendly and rocking. Excited for our show in June and whatever shows show up after that. Turn up!
This is clever. The poster on the left apparently indicates the only artists that have any members that aren't dudes. Similar posters could be made using many other rock festival demographic rarities too, of course. Over the last coupla decades, I've noticed, commented on and tried in various ways to avoid/change the overwhelming #whitestraightdudeness of rock/indie/punk/hxc shows/scenes, and/or to at least help my little rocklife be less homogenous. Ideology aside, I've just learned that I have more fun and feel happier when I'm spending time with a more diverse group of people, whether that's at shows or parties or picnics or anything. I think we all do, even (and perhaps especially) when it brings a measure of initial/occasional discomfort. Anyway, here's to rockworld gettin a little more worldly.
ps - If it needs saying, as a vet of many dudebands, I give myself as hard a time about this kinda thing as I do anyone else. In a weird way, that's one of many reasons I think I've ended up a solo artist, cos then I can play music with more folks more freely, which has happened lots (and continues to more and more) in various situations and permutations.
#BlackLivesMatter is being used as a rallying cry to point out that, in our current cultural systems (here in the US, and just about everywhere else too), black lives are clearly less valued and otherwise treated differently in endless, ugly ways, from cradle to grave.
Serious question: does anyone deny that?
Yes, it is depressing. No, it should not be minimized. If all lives mattered equally in the context of our cultural systems, then there would be no need for #BlackLivesMatter. But they don't, so there is, and here we are.
When I was getting this tour together, I got a nice msg from a cool German couple in a small city called Montabaur.
First off, just being touch with nice people around the world through the music I've made is something that never fails to make me smile, even in my worst of moods.
They wanted me to come and play in their living room, donation-style. I love me a good house show, and their invitation seemed especially nice and clear (my favorite combination), so I happily accepted. They kept in touch as it neared. They booked me a hotel room (though I would've happily stayed on a couch, etc). They made a nice, simple meal, which we all shared before the guests arrived. They set up their modest, beautiful home with chairs and snacks and drinks for all. A bunch of their equally friendly friends came out and we had a really, really nice night of music. Everyone there chipped in 10€-ish or more or whatever they could, people bought stuff, I'm sure there was plenty of money in my pocket at the end of the night (I never count the money, takes away from the experience for me) to cover my travel costs, with some for savings.
When it goes this well and it's this personal, it is the best sort of humbling ever.
But wait, there's more.
The next day was a day off. It was a sudden schedule change, so I didn't have anywhere to stay. Thanks to the first cool couple inquiring on my behalf, another cool couple kindly said that I could stay at their nearby home. That's where I'm sitting right now. I just went out to see what nice-sounding music they had put on, and I saw this CD. I didn't really get it at first;, thought maybe someone had recorded the show and made up a CD incredibly quickly, which wouldn't really have surprised me, given how incredibly thoughtful everyone involved had been thus far. Then I was told that it was actually a little homemade promo CD that the hosts had made up and shared with their friends and colleagues as an invitation to the show.
Clearly, it blew my mind. THIS is why I'm so effusive with my gratitude (whether in person or over the internets) to anyone that cares about the music & me. This is why I try so hard to show it; not just in words, but also in actions. For anyone that's ever wondered about that (or doubted my sincerity, all you cynical critics haha), this 24 hours is it. This is what helps when I miss home and wonder about what I'll do with the rest of my life. If it can be anything like this, I'm in. This is the sort of communication and community I will steer towards for however many more years I make stuff for a living.
Oh, did I mention the big cardboard cut-out of Are Two in their living room, or the mug that everyone put their donation into? So there's that, too. Nice nerds unite.
A while back, I was super surprised to receive an invitation to write something for a cool publication called Pear Noir. I was really flattered and happy with myself initially, then progressively more frightened at the prospect of trying to write anything longer than a song or a journal entry. It took a while, but this short story arrived. I'm really happy it did. Click here to read it if you like.
My heart is more tender and porous (figuratively speaking) than ever. This crazy tornado drone (pun intended) of DuckDynastyTrayvonZimmermanNewtownMandelaHealthCareRKellySlaneGirlRacismAntisemitismHomphobiaMisogynyAusterityOnandonandonandon just overwhelms and paralyzes me with sadness so easily right now. Seeing people react to and reflect on it (or not) can be even more wrenching. Conflict on every level feels so scary and ugly right now. At the same time, so many ridiculously joyous things on global and personal levels (same thing, really) are equally vivid and palpable, bring happy tears and silly jigs even more easily than usual. It's all feelings that, also especially lately, don't really feel fitting to post about, other than to say it like this. That might change, but who knows. It also feels better to write it on my personal website, even when I share it via FB or whatever. There's something about the insane scale of 'communication' right now, the way bits and bytes can be take out of context, glanced at and impulsively echoed or eviscerated, blasted out everywhere, repeated and repeated and lost. I'm treasuring more than ever personal, direct connection right now, whether it's in relationship with people that like the music/ideas that I make or people I know on a more traditional, day-to-day, physically-present level.
Have a happy, healthy, honest, heaving-with-emotion day -- holi-day or otherwise.
On the bus home after dropping off my beaten-up old car for some serious surgery, I listened to this podcast about emo. A friend said he'd thought of me when he listened to it, and I really like Grantland, Bill Simmons, etc, so I checked it out. While it's a little surreal and I can hear my ego whining about not being mentioned in it (I can't help but think that Chris Dashboard purposefully avoided mentioning me, since I know how much Far and onelinedrawing meant to him, which makes me wonder if he's mad at me or something)... what I'm primarily feeling is a deep happiness that, while I've danced around the outskirts of so many scenes and labels, we've made a little world outside of all that somehow, and we're still here. So, for anyone that met me through music I've been a part of making, no matter when that happened: I'm so grateful that through all this, our conversation remains simple & direct (more and more, really), on this (relatively) small scale. Thank you.
ps - All that said, Kerrang! has written some really nice, thoughtful stuff over the years and I'm forever thankful to them... and anyone else that spreads the word that way.