Whenever I travel, always in some wild Hometapes spirit, the relief map of my life experiences a frantic uplift of mountain ranges, a swift, time-defying formation of valleys, and new, deep rivers rushing down through it all.
From that first embrace in that faraway place, to the shuffle of dozens of feet onto a stage, to the music, oh the music. Emails drift into hills as I grip the steering wheel, the computer in my pocket hums with voices and pictures pile up like road signs. You learn to remember as you live, to think and speak and write and hold it together — while you take deep breath after deep breath and do entirely new things, acting on the experience of every year, every day, every moment lived before.
And then you come home, or at least to your steady address, and find your world multiplied. Your true home is expanded across a whole nation and a group of people in your heart. And you want to share it. But you’ve gotta find the light to do it by — ‘cause the sun’s dipped behind the peaks. Those peaks you pushed up out of the earth, yourself, days before.
Returning from a week in North Carolina, we carried with us hundreds of pictures, gigs on gigs on gigs of video footage, new names, old names, thousands of words-turned-into-stories, and every stay-up-til-sunrise feeling to match. We went with a mission, built around Hopscotch Fest, where Matthew E. White and 30 performers converged on stage for a performance dubbed One Incantation Under God, a transcendent-and-still-resonating manifestation of the album Big Inner and all the parts that built it: the rhythm section, the horns, the strings, the choir, the art team, the label team, the family, and the friends. Matthew, as always — in his artist shape, or the label shape of Spacebomb — went straight-up nuclear, exploding into a new old light alongside everyone that continues to help construct this particular landscape of New American Music. Yeah, I’ll capitalize it. And I’ll go so far as to say that Music can stand for much more than notions of sound alone. Every sense sings its own song.
So we sang into the following day and created our third North Carolina Friend Island (and I think it may be the tenth in Island History, hot damn). Held in a church, light shining through stained glass, soft carpet underfoot, hushed voices layering in the space before the show began with Snow Panda’s brilliant invocation, Friend Island was the long exhale we all needed — from the night before, from the year before. The tour of our universe that followed — Matthew E. White (with the Spacebomb choir ladies joining in), Hiss Golden Messenger, Sunless (Hometapes’ own Adam Heathcott) — tended toward the stopping of time. You sat there. You looked up. You looked over. You closed your eyes. You could be alone or together.
You could argue this was all foreplay for the climax of Death Blues. Jon Mueller and his band took to the stage and traveled through every inch of the space and — by way of hammered guitars, upright bass, voice, and Mueller’s language of percussion — through every person in the space. Talk about senses. Outside, Slingshot Coffee Co. and Crumb administered our own brand of communion. By the end of Friend Island, I’m questioning what a “release” truly is. Depending on the conditions, a record is a performance is a conversation is a t-shirt is a look-in-the-eye is a cup of coffee is the closing of a van door after a long, long day.
The night came on quick. We ate at Chuck’s (I had a Bear In Heaven), walked down the street in Raleigh, and recognized almost everyone we saw. Waking up at 5am the next morning, the dream state took us over fully, and we dove into a twelve hour music video shoot, on the streets of Durham, for Matthew E. White. The guys from Kamp Grizzly make eye music — and Adam and I guided them through our quiet but constant world of architecture+nature, into our friends’ houses, toward walls of clouds, to Cook Out. We continued the wild tale of Big Inner, alongside Matthew E. White himself. I shot pictures on film all day. We listened to the same song over and over — and all I wanna do is hear it again. That same day, Megafaun was having their party in Raleigh, the likes of Adam Granduciel (War on Drugs), Chris Corsano, and William Tyler joining them on stage. That night, we saw Megafaun do a galaxy spiral alongside Arnold Dreyblatt. Then we ran to drink in No BS Brass, “the best live band in America.” Nearly sleepless for days, I still couldn’t let the night go…til the sun burst through the clouds — and I was flying right through them.
Between these words and pictures is the whole story. I could say I wish you were there, but, if you’re reading this right now, you know, you were.
Big love to Jeremy M. Lange and Abigail Stinnett for a couple of the pictures you see above, as well as to everyone who was in front of my camera.