On Tragedy and Friends through Music

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This is what I woke up to this morning.

This was the first indication to me that something had gone horribly wrong while I slept.

I was immediately filled with relief that my friend Larry was safe, about a millisecond later came sinking dread because if Larry was marked as safe that meant someone else wasn’t.

I don’t want to talk about the horror in Orlando. Partly because this just isn’t the place for those kinds of things but also because I just can’t put myself through that right now. I do want to talk about something else though. I want to talk about friendship and love. Because waking up to seeing Larry’s little picture and designation of being safe reminded me of how many friends I have all over the place because of music. Larry and I met two years ago while he was touring with Matt Woods. He dragged his Florida ass all over the country and ended up out here in California. I got to spend a few days with Larry. He is good people. And I only know him because of music.

I believe it was Autopsy IV that introduced me to the idea of “friends through music” right on this very page. It’s a concept that deserved a name. It’s something very dear to me.

Like many of you music is my primary hobby/passion/reason for living. One of the greatest parts of that is all of the amazing people I get to meet because of music. When I look through my friends list on Facebook I see people living all of the country (all over the world even) that I never would have met without music. Some of them are musicians I’ve had the pleasure of seeing when they toured through my little corner of California, some of them are people got to know because we love the same bands. Some of them are people I have never met but we have this thing, this incredibly important thing, in common. All of them are just as important to me as the music that has brought us all together.

I took a trip south last year to see the Dexateens. While there I met up with Nick who was in the process of moving from Santa Barbara to New Jersey. I had lunch with Nashville resident Todd who I first met in Portland. I met Scott (also from New Jersey), Justin (from Alabama) and Bryan (from Florida) all of whom I had “known” online for some time. The next night in Birmingham I ran into my friend Haley from Georgia who I first met in Denver, Colorado. All because of music. For a relatively socially awkward guy from the middle of California that is pretty incredible.

I never made it to any of the large gatherings that people in our scene (forgive the term, I think it’s accurate) participate in. I missed all of the Suburban Home Anniversary parties and I haven’t made it to a Holiday Hangout or a Lucero Block Party yet, I will someday. Every time those things I happen I marvel at the lineups and I check out the videos posted of bands playing. More than that though I see friends in pictures hanging out with each other. It brings me such joy to see all of those people together in the same space. it’s a special thing we have, perhaps unique to our time. This ability to find each other and interact in meaningful ways despite the physical distance between us. This ability to come together with our fellow travelers in music is something that should never be taken for granted.

I’m so grateful to be a part of a community built on the joy of music with all of you people. I truly care about, love and wish the best for all of my friends through music, even the ones I haven’t met in person or maybe have’t even talked with. Thank you all for being such a great community of people, with excellent taste in music. Thank you for making me feel less alone in this big ole world. Be well. Like the man said “All we have is each other”

Support ART – M.Lockwood Porter and Michael Dean Damron need your help!

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Hey Cats and Kittens!

I am a HUGE fan of crowdfunding. I think eliminating the middle man is the best thing ever. I think it’s rad that I get the opportunity to be a patron of the art that I support. How fantastic is it that bands that are amazing can ask their fans to kick down a few bucks to support their latest endeavor rather than hope that some record label deems them worthy? As a fan of “good music” I have spent years watching great artists being passed over by an industry looking for “hits”  instead of art. But now I get to put my money where my mouth is. So today I want to talk about two of those crowd funded endeavors that I think are easily worth your time and money.

First up is M. Lockwood Porter. I first heard about Max from John Moreland. John mentioned Max to me as an artist he knew from Oklahoma that wasn’t getting a fair shot in my town of San Luis Obispo. Max had recently relocated from Oklahoma to San Francisco, California. I was really bummed that Max had toured down and played a venue I knew well, Frog  Peach Pub, but I had somehow missed it. I made sure to see Max the next time he came through and I was absolutely blown away when I did. Since then I have been fortunate enough to see him on several occasions (yay West Coast!). Max reminds me of Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s. Both of them play fantastic pop songs featuring a country lean but with serious depth and incredibly witty lyrics. Shortly after I met Max he released “27”, a great album filled with folk songs informed by pop influences, most notably Big Star. Max sings the kind of songs I’d like to write, hooky as fuck but rewarding on multiple listens. If you’ve checked out “27” I know that you will want to chip in a few bucks to make his next album happen. Please do so here. Max is the kind of guy that is one step away from being on every great radio station in America, help him get there.

The next crowdfunding opportunity I want to talk about is one that is incredibly close to me. Michael Dean Damron is currently crowdfunding his new album. I love Mike. I love Mike because he is one of the best human beings I have ever met. Full stop. I love Mike because he has introduced me to some people and artists that have shaped my life in big ways. Fernando, John Moreland, Jack Parker and Mishka Shubaly (buy his new book, seriously, fuck you, buy this book) are just some of the artists whose work Mike has introduced me to. And those people are some of my favorite people currently walking this earth. Mike brought all of that into my life, as well as countless other people’s lives. Mike has always championed his fellow artists while quietly being head and shoulders above almost all of them. You might know him from the most underrated band I can think of, I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In the House, or from his numerous incredible solo records. He is the guy that tours with ALL of your favorite bands. I assure you that just about all of the artists you love look up to this man. He is a singular force on the musical landscape. If there was a god, and if that god was just, Mike’s name would be spoken in the same way that we speak of Neil, Townes and Waylon. I know this sounds like bullshit. I know that it sounds like I’m slobbering all over Mike and collecting a fat paycheck from his label but that isn’t the case. I just believe in him. I just think he is perhaps the best artist of a generation. I think Chad has a better voice, Micah pulls at my heartstrings more, the Dexateens rock harder, Lucero makes me throw my arms around my buddies more, Snodgrass will always write my favorite songs, Shane is the most honest man in music, but Mike is MY favorite. Mike is everything I want to be. Mike is the raw talent that the rest of us strive for. He has not gotten his due, he probably never will. But he still keeps on because he has to. You have the opportunity to be a part of that. Throw a few bucks his way if you believe in art in any way,shape or form. I guarantee you will not regret it. He is the best.

The sad truth in this day and age is that if we don’t support art it will go away.

Not on my watch. Join Me. Give some love to Max and Mike, even if it’s only a buck. Fight for art.

 

Richmond Fontaine – “You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To”

Sometimes I’m just late to the party. When I was in high school I figured out that I was in love with a girl about two days before I found out I was going to be moving out of town. I just never let myself notice her until it was too late. That brings me to Richmond Fontaine.

I first heard the name because of a poster that my musical partner of the past few years had up in his house. He is a big fan of the band and that alone should have been enough to compel me to seek them out but for some reason I didn’t.

I have had the pleasure of seeing Richmond Fontaine guitarist Dan Eccles play, supporting some amazing artists such as Fernando and Michael Dean Damron. Eccles is an incredibly talented guitarist. He plays with a perfect blend of emotive and tasteful style, flashy enough to impress your average concert attendee but with a depth that has left every musician I know in awe. And yet I still didn’t check out the band he was best known for. I was never in a rush because I figured I had all the time in the world. Wrong again.

You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing to Go Back To” is last call for Richmond Fontaine. It’s the end of the party and dammit I just got here. After twenty years and more than ten albums they’ve reached the end of their road. This album is the first one of theirs that I have heard, and it’s left me wanting more. I think they did that on purpose.

The album sets an immediate tone with the gentle instrumental “Leaving Bev’s Miners Club at Dawn.” What follows is an exploration of the feeling of being late to the party but wanting it to continue; wishing you had tried harder, pushed more, made it there on time but also accepting that you didn’t. In resignation, not anger. This has happened before, maybe it happens almost every night. The yearning for a different outcome remains, though.

Early on the album on, Willy Vlautin sings, “Let’s hit one more place / before we go home / let’s go in when it’s dark / come out with the sun”. He knows the night is a failure as always, but it never hurts to try. Some writers use geography to describe the emotions they want to convey with their songs, Vlautin uses characters to explore that landscape instead. He drags you straight into that world instead of leaving you to observe it from behind the glass.

Musically this album feels like a summer record to me, a perfect mate to the twilight of the season, with desolate but consenting lyrics and music that is mournful without wallowing. On this record Richmond Fontaine sounds like the band I wish Wilco had become, maybe what they should have become. It’d be easy to label it alt.country, but it’s more clearly just excellent songcraft.

Along with the tremendous guitar work from Eccles there are some beautifully subtle bass parts from Freddy Trujillo, just the right amount of aching pedal steel from Paul Brainard, propelling but not overpowering drums from Sean Oldham (especially on “A Night in the City”) and exquisite keyboard flourishes from guest Jenny Conlee. All of this builds a perfect bed for Vlautin’s yearning but assured vocals. As is always my test, I need to believe a singer in order to believe a song, and I’m absolutely buying what Willy Vlautin is selling.

I hope you weren’t late to the Richmond Fontaine party like I was. But, if you are at least we get the sheer joy of starting at the end of the story and working our way back to see where this all started.

Check out their latest and final album, “You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing to Go Back To”, out now on Fluff and Gravy Records. And if the band comes through your town any time soon, make sure you catch them. Let’s hit one more show before the party is over.

Rock Report – “Shoot the Mariner” in San Luis Obispo

Hey buddies!

Let me 12788230_10154152055982150_659792746_nstart this the way I start most of my relationships, with an apology. I’ve been slacking on making a first post for 9b, sorry. When RSV invited me to write a few pieces for the site I was beyond honored to do so. Like many of you’ve I’ve been following the site for years and years and it has been an important part of my musical dialogue. I’ve discovered bands that I ended up loving through this site and gotten to know a few of those friends-through-music that we all hold so dear as well. Halfway through the intro and I haven’t introduced myself, good start. I’m Patrick, I’m in the Dead Volts, we’ve opened for a bunch of bands you probably like a lot. I’m from San Luis Obispo, California and I’m going do my damnedest to let you folks know about music happening here on the Central Coast of California. We’ve been fortunate out here to be a regular stop for a lot of bands you likely know about like Drag the River, Two Cow Garage, Lucero, Michael Dean Damron, John Moreland and plenty of others. Odds are I will talk a little bit about some of those folks but mostly I want to tell you about bands from here.

My initial post was actually going to be about a San Luis Obispo band called Bearcats as they are one of my favorites and they deserve some love but last night (Wed 2/24/16) I had one of those awesome rock’n’roll experiences that I wanted to share with you.

I like seeing shows on off nights because there is something special about the bands and the audience that comes out that is different than your typical Friday or Saturday night show. At my most usual haunt, the Frog and Peach Pub (full disclosure I do book some shows in there and do some promo work for them), this is even more true as the weekends tend to be cover bands and reggae catering to a meat market style crowd. The bands are essentially background for the party. On the off nights though it’s all about the show. Last night was a 5 band bill, a showcase for Lost State Records, a local label that does mostly cassettes and vinyl for screamo/emo bands and a few outliers. I was working at another show a town over so I unfortunately missed the previously mentioned Bearcats but I was able to catch the last three bands on the bill. The band playing when I walked in the door was…not rad. Just didn’t do it for me. It’s not them, it’s me. I try to stay positive but honestly it was tough because I had missed the band I wanted to see, my other buddies (Blissed Out) were playing last and I was gearing up to not enjoy the other bands in-between. I hate doing stuff like that, I’d like to be more open to things, but that’s just where my head was at. I hung out at the bar as the bands switched over and bunched up with a few of my friends to check out the next act.

Immediately I thought these guys were going to be terrible. They committed one of the greatest band sins in my book, wearing shorts on stage. I don’t know why but it’s always bothered me. Shorts and flip-flops are just not supposed to be on stage. I blame a Toad the Wet Sprocket concert I saw in my teenage years for this bias against shorts. The name also came off as jokey, “Shoot the Mariner”. But the bassist was playing a Telecaster bass and one of the guitarists was playing a Jaguar (I think, might been a Jazzmaster) so that was at least a good sign. The crowd was clearly there to see these guys and a goofy in-joke vibe was present throughout. I figured I was in for some standard college rock jokey band nonsense. But I’m a stupid old man.

They started playing.

It’s rare for me to see a band and immediately like them. So I fought off the feeling that I was seeing something special and told one of my friends that they were okay after the first tune. But then they were also pretty okay with their second song. I think it was four songs in when I finally cracked. All my “seen it all” posturing had to take a backseat to the sheer joy I was getting out of watching these guys do their thing. I’m guilty of being pretty cynical sometimes but it felt fantastic to let go of that and get into the band.

They were high energy, matched only by the crowd’s enthusiasm for them. I couldn’t divine how well the crowd knew the songs but they obviously knew the band and knew the show they were in for. It’s pretty rare around here to have a bar packed with 75-125 people on a Wednesday night for a local showcase, it felt like the fantasy Saturday night I have in my head where loud, sweaty and close are virtues for a rock’n’roll band instead points against them.

I have a hard time categorizing music. I hear so many different things in people’s songs that it’s hard to pigeonhole something by giving it a style. I’m not sure who these guys cite as influences but I heard a little bit of Sunny Day Real Estate in there, some Weezer perhaps, the Sea and Cake and some straight up punk influences all swaddles in gobs of feedback as well as some left hand turns into almost prog territory. They were fantastic. The singing was largely in the dual vocalist emo neighborhood but I mean that in a good way. The vocals went from spoken word to primal screams and I believed every word. That’s the reason I liked these guys more than anything else. I absolutely believed that they believed in what they were doing and what their sound was. Throughout their set I was impressed by every song more than the last. They were just in the zone. By the time they wrapped I was slightly stunned and filled with pride to see a San Luis Obispo band playing that well and connecting with a crowd on such a visceral level.

I bought two CD’s from one of the dudes post show. I haven’t listened to them yet because I wanted to write this up before I muddied the waters of my mind by hearing them outside of the environment. I don’t really know anything about these guys yet. This part of liking a band is so frickin exciting I wish it could last forever. It’s the mystery, excitement and increased expectations of the “new”, I love this part! This is why music is so important to me. 30 mins of someone playing leaves me buzzing and thinking about rock’n’roll for days to come. The biggest compliment I can pay these guys right now is to say I’d really like to play a show with them sometime. Check ‘em out but more importantly go see a band you’ve never heard of on an off night in your town. Okay, I’ve got some music to listen to.