Opening

You’re

You’re my bondage and my freedom,
my flesh burning like a naked summer night,
you’re my country.

Hazel eyes marbled green,
you’re awesome, beautiful, and brave,
you’re my desire always just out of reach.

Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963). From Poems of Nazim Hikmet, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, Persea Books, 2002.

(555 Bandcamp page)

555

555, the solo electronic project of Christopher Farstad, is also a member of the electronic music group Food Pyramid. Playing live at The Business.

Summer Music

Some recording artists, like some poets, can’t be discussed in the vulgar commercial terms of audiences, as Robert Graves famously said a zillion years ago when the world was so much younger than it is now, when the world was enraptured by her poets, the canaries in our coal mines of culture.

Advance Base

Advance Base

These recording artists, as indeed our dwindling number of poets, speak to people directly, one on one, not in groups. Whether on vinyl or in live performance, the job is about talking to one person at a time, continuously, with every word, every note, yours for the taking.

Advance Base

Advance Base

That’s the secret behind Owen Ashworth’s latest project, Advance Base, and his touring, but was also true of his other project, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. His recent appearance at The Business in Anacortes, WA (for the record, Anacortes is not a hipster town, you’re thinking of that other place), proved Mr. Graves right, even all these zillions of years later. Every song Owen offered up, with several selections from his latest LP, “Nephew in the Wild” (Orindal Records, 2015), which I wrote about… whenever, was like something personal, for each of us in the room.

Advance Base

Advance Base

The applause at the end of each piece seemed to crash in and stomp on the tenderness of what felt like something very quiet, very intimate, very… just for me, OK! But it’s the polite thing to do, to applaud when songs finish. And yet, every time, the noise of such annoying social conventions with Ashworth’s songs breaks the spell, which only reinforces the long dead, irascible Mr. Graves, all those zillions of years ago.

Real conversation has no need of praise or apology. That night, at The Business, everything, every story, every song, every feeling, every memory, was… just between us.

Hotter Than Hot

Selector Dub NarcoticEverything might happen for a reason, sure. While I can’t rule that option out, I’m thinking probably not, though. Most of the time any reason, or reasons, would be as random, or illogical, or inexplicable, or downright dumbass, without meaning, devoid of any planning, only turning out to be the result of the endless, boring, Selector Dub Narcoticrepetitive, and random mysteries of the moment with no more malice or forethought or “divine” engine behind it than the simple passing of time, the passing from youth into older age, from inexperience into experience: humans being humans. If there are happy accidents then surely there must be unhappy other things as well, all fuel for those hunters after drama and darkness.

Selector Dub NarcoticSometimes I wonder how I would be able to live my life if every time I make a mistake someone was there ready to put it down in print, to attribute it to a grand plot to upset the balance of right and wrong. I’d be so fucked if that were the case. Most of us would be. So fuck the recent bad press about Calvin Johnson and K Records and the upsets and sinking ships and legal briefs and drama hunters. We weren’t there, we don’t know, and those who were there are on it now, searching for a way out, a way back into the light. So we can all get back to the music, and our collective humanity.

Selector Dub NarcoticThing is, Calvin Johnson gave us so much cool: cool music, cool radio, cool record label, cool analog retro recordings, cool vinyl, cool cassette tapes, cool interviews, cool discoveries, all flowing through his teeming creativity and restless mind searching for the “new,” the exciting, to entertain and enthrall us. To have him close out the first night of The Business Presents, the mini music festival and brainchild of Nick Rennis and his own teeming, restless imagination for what a modern-day record shop might be in a ruined landscape where most people have no idea how to sell music, in a world where most people hate new music, was a brilliant healing moment at a time when the darkness seemed poised to win big victories against all of us who just want more great music, who just want to pause to remember fallen friends, who want kindness more than the hammer blows of media bullying. Selector Dub NarcoticJohnson’s Selector Dub Narcotic is just another band in his evolution as a performer, human, and unique creative explorer. Meeting him was exciting. Watching him perform was happy healing escape.

Things break. In Japan, they fix broken objects like tea bowls with gold to celebrate the break, to make it visible, to make it more valuable as a thing mended than as a broken thing to be thrown away. We all break things. We crash through our lives and leave our scratch marks on everything we smash into pieces. Selector Dub NarcoticPolymaths like Johnson and Rennis, surveyors and purveyors of what might be, challenge us by asking the important larger questions about why we’re here and what we should do with the time we have before us. The answers can be found, but it’s hard work. Each new insight slowly downloads into our brains and we move ahead, haltingly, randomly. We all run out of time. This is just a crazy experiment in being alive, people. Just do shit. Make shit. Be kind. And fix it when it breaks.

Pressed Like Flowers

The past it is a magic word
Too beautiful to last,
It looks back like a lovely face—
Who can forget the past?
There’s music in its childhood
That’s known in every tongue,
Like the music of the wildwood
All chorus to the song.

(From the poem “Childhood,” by John Clare, in I Am: The Selected Poetry of John Clare, edited by Jonathan Bate, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003.)

Ralph White

Remember Everything

Weariness of Men

My grandmother said when she was young
The grass was so wild and high
You couldn’t see a man on horseback.

In the fields she made out
Three barns,
Dark and blown down from the weather
Like her husbands.

She remembers them in the dark,
Cursing the beasts
And how they would leave the bed
In the morning,
The dead grass of their eyes
Stacked against her.

(From What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford, Copper Canyon Press, 2015. A songwriter’s poet. Buy this book. But it now.)

Ralph White

Riverman

Austin-based loner, wanderer, song-collector, explorer, experimenter, Afrolachian, curator of cultural inheritance, Ralph White is a man who would have amused the likes of Bill Monroe, the “Father of Bluegrass,” even as his versions of bluegrass cross boldly into the exposed and unprotected lands of punk. His tunings would have impressed the likes of Nick Drake. White lives and works outside of the small definitions that rule the rest of our lives. Just imagine what it must take, to let go that much, of all the structures and desires that bind us and keep us trapped in our limitations. Here he’s playing an in-store show at the exciting new space at The Business, two one-hour sets, unflagging in the summer heat, in Anacortes, WA; storytelling and camping and playing his unfolding songs up the West Coast, living close to the earth, traveling in light. The original riverman.