2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories, Pt. 6
by Steven Spoerl
It’s been an insane project to run and I’ll hate to see it go but it’ll draw to a close soon. Not today, though. In the penultimate 2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories, another colorful collection of contributors touch on the moments and memories in music that meant something to them throughout the course of 2014. In this round, Patrick Garcia recounts the long process of getting Protomartyr to McAllen, TX, Athylia Paremski navigates around the people she grew to love by turning to their lyrics, Joseph Barchi shares some thoughts about the artists to find the strength in himself, Phil McAndrew relays some very just familial pride, and Johanna Warren waxes poetic about the power of The Moon. All of the pieces are moving pieces that aptly showcase some wonderful personalities, settling in perfectly with the spirit of this project. So, with no shortage of affection for everyone involved, it’s my honor to present (the second-to-last): 2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories.
“Capitalized in this Town”
“If by chance [our] drummer loses his job, explodes, or gets more time off, I’ll let you know”
This was the last sentence in an e-mail exchange between Protomartyr’s gruff-voiced Joe Casey and myself, but it wouldn’t be our last exchange. It happened in early Spring of 2013 when I took on the trepidation of trying to convince Protomartyr, based out of America’s ashen symbol of industrial heartbreak, Detroit, to play a show in the socio-economic scapegoat of ‘the border crisis’ that is South Texas, or, McAllen, TX, where I live and feverishly book shows.
I had only been recently turned onto Protomartyr by a roommate who wrote for Get Bent. He regularly received a dump of new music in his inbox to review each week and decided to put ‘em on one morning while I was burning some hash browns for breakfast. He clicked play on the record and “Ypsilanti”’s ruffian guitar line ripped out through the living room speaker. I was floored. We listened to the record on repeat over coffee for a good portion of the morning when I decided I needed to know more about this band.
I propped up my old laptop and sprung from tab to tab on my browser while the rest of their album, All Passion, No Technique, tumbled and wrenched in the background. I soon found Protomartyr’s social media presence- at the time, surprisingly updated and consistent. The band didn’t seem to have much ‘press’ at the time, but they did have the black and white printed kiss of approval from MRR, of which the band took a photo, shared on their Facebook profile, and, accordingly, received 9 likes. This was a great sign. The vibe of this band was clear- they were doing this themselves, and this became even more evident when their booking contact was simply listed as the band’s own gmail account- a sigh of relief for a promoter such as myself. Real communication between a band and a show booker is a golden thing, as even most DIY centric artists eventually cave to having a booking agent just before their secret is out.
So I did it, I e-mailed the dudes. Nothing special, just a quick hello and interest in booking a band from Detroit in McAllen TX. It made sense in that it didn’t make sense. Detroit, an ongoing media scapegoat that’s branded as being this disheveled, broken-down industrial shard of hope. McAllen, a border town 250 miles south of Austin on the southernmost tip of Texas, or, a market completely and geographically out of the way for any band touring the states. McAllen is regularly ranked #1 by shoddy socio-economic research for being consistently the poorest, the least educated, and un-healthiest city in the blood red state of Texas. The idea of connecting Detroit and McAllen became alluring. It’s like a marriage of two cities, or myths, both with huge socioeconomic issues, both with huge problems, both with huge, battered, cultural souls.
I didn’t type any of that in my e-mail to Protomartyr. It was the total opposite, short, and to the point, and as with many e-mails I’ve sent into the dark to smaller bands, I expected it to fall on deaf ears, either in an un-checked inbox, or, worse, read and left for dead in a digital stack of read messages.
Within the day though, Joe Casey, Protomartyr’s vocalist, had responded with interest. Casey was humbled and wrote out praise and thanks, but also expressed what was not surprising, though sincere and great in its reality: Protomartyr was, refreshingly, a band tied down to day (and night) jobs, and reluctantly couldn’t tour, at least at the time. This response was refreshing to me because, in today’s contemporary realm of music, more than ever the idea of ‘indie’ or being ‘independent’ couldn’t be a more golden fleeced balloon for artists who can afford to live the part, be branded as the part, or sell the part to an even wider expanse of ‘indie’ consumers, without having to necessarily work, or work for it- it’s weird, but it’s true. So many bands are composed of lucky individuals who can afford to tour or make music all day. This is not a bad thing but it’s also not a reality for many. Protomartyr, in the exchange I had with Joe, came off as definitely not having this privilege, unfortunately, and- arguably- fortunately. I keep seeing fortunately because I guess I’m used to working with so many artists who have earned, or been granted, the opportunity to pursue full time careers in music, and become total assholes. Given, an artist owes fans nothing, but I also can’t say I haven’t noticed a correlation between artists more financially strapped to working class realms being nicer, more humble, and more enthused to play shows. What happened shortly after this exchange, though, would be the rolling out of what I could only imagine as being a bizarre dream for a genuine indie band- organic growth and awareness.
In the months since the exchange, Protomartyr started getting attention, and they were doing it without polished videos, or for a paid sub-tier Coachella slot, or for the handwork of a well-seasoned publicist. It began to sink in – they were pretty much living that coveted fable of a band getting discovered and praised for being just that- a great band. Likewise, with their growth, their fans who were there from the start also began to feel that slow burn of anxiety and satisfaction: here is a band, shadowed and great, now being awkwardly forced out into the laptop spotlight of new fans and listeners clicking across a Protomartyr YouTube video or six month late pitchfork review.
Like clockwork or karma or whatever, the opportunity presented itself: Protomartyr would do a weeklong stretch at SXSW with McAllen being a possibility in the days before the fest. Casey and I began the conversation- but it became apparent that the band was still very much not a full-time endeavor- and by full time, I don’t mean they weren’t living and breathing their band, I mean most of the dudes still had jobs that didn’t provide the luxury of asking for weeks off at a time for tour. This was the context for Casey’s quote above, which provided a deserving jest in response to my persistence and refusal to lose out on the opportunity to book a band I had seen grow into a larger consciousness. Their drummer was anchored in and couldn’t get the extra date for a McAllen gig, and alas, the band would not be able to make the trek south to McAllen this time. In an awkward stream of e-mails, Joe and I both apologized for being misread, me on my stubbornness, Joe for being Joe without me knowing Joe. At the time, it felt like I had just a let balloon go by accident that was floating beyond my grasp and I was frustrated at the idea of this band, which owed me nothing, floating out of my grasp to better things. Thankfully, the exchange I had with Joe resonated, and when the band eventually embarked on a tour through the south again shortly afterwards in May, I would finally land them.
The show happened on May 29, 2014 at Cine El Rey, a venue built in the 1940’s that was originally a movie theatre that catered to the segregated Hispanic and Chicano populations before the advancement and effects of the Civil Rights movements of the 1960’s. The theatre has major history, which is often overlooked by most artists out for the book, but reveled with most- like Protomartyr, Shabazz Palaces, and Laura Jane Grace- who cherish the humanities. The band played on the balcony to a packed space and delivered a steady shelling of post-punk shimmer and grit. The crowd that night was full of movement, chants, and was leveling and volleying the energy the band exuded. It was great, and on several occasions I recall Protomartyr’s drummer squinting with a befuddled smile at the kids thrashing around, myself included. At the end of the night the band, beaming alongside their new fans, kept it real and stayed over at my place after the show.
So many bands travel to weird places while touring but very rarely do bands want to come to a place like McAllen, TX. It happens, but it’s rare, and it’s a huge financial, physical, and logistical burden on artists who aren’t doing this for huge guarantees and clam chowder at the right soupy temperature. Scoring Protomartyr in South Texas was my favorite moment of booking in 2014 because, like with the band’s notability, the booking itself came into a slow, frustrating, but eventual, well-deserved fruition based off persistence and timing. More importantly, though, is that they- again a punk band that came out of Detroit’s underground- made a nationally shadowed city feel illuminated.
-Parick Garcia (Tiger’s Blood)
2014 in Lyrics
Though I only just met the core of The Epoch early last year, they are friends that I have learned much from and hope to continue learning from in the years to come. This also goes for any and all souls surely associated with The Epoch. Though already timeless, I feel 2015 is truly going to electrify the epoch’s takeover because of their proper knack of cultivating all that is good. I eternally appreciate every last one of their existences and wish them warmth and comfort always. One of my favorite memories in their realm is a morning jam session complete with henry and Oliver singing southern twang style on-the-spot songs, Felix grooving on a banjo-head guitar, Emily taking a break from woodworking to make some breakfast, gabby and jack playing around with Gabby’s new spy cam, and hopeful thoughts of Susannah coming home from work to hang in her lovely studio. I am very grateful to have stayed at the Epoch haus the times I did, to have witnessed the beauty of their routines, and to have left with pure inspiration.
Charlotte Oleena is a human that i have not yet had the lucky chance to cross paths with yet, except in our dreams. Her spirit and the way she creates the most blanketing atmospheric sounds, especially in shallow, are one of the most breathtaking and inspiring things I could think of. I owe her a good cup of tea and some moon gazing hopefully someday when life allows.
Greta Kline is one of the funniest and most welcoming souls I was lucky enough to catch early last year as well. We met in Boston at a show right after we had done our steep sounds art exchange interview. Meeting her and gabby was really lovely and conversations of dogs and good things are never-ending with these too. I was also taught some very secret games and at another Frankie show, we all bonded over a bunny. Frankie Cosmos, Porches., and Eskimeaux have all been eternally stuck in my head ever since.
All of the lads (Mike, Greg, Nick, Dave) in LVL UP are spectacular beings doing spectacular things. Now is a good time to mention, Double Double Whammy is one of the most superb labels of all existence. Additionally, David Blaine’s The Steakhouse is also a very cool space doing very cool things and I hope it continues to bring joy to all. Hoping the new year brings more time to hang out in good spaces with these kind folk.
Laetitia is such a gorgeous soul and I am excited to see all the good she will surely accomplish this coming year.
To me, Mitski is world domination.
I was lucky enough to hang out with both Warren and Sam a few times this year as they came through to play shows and stayed with me. All of the work they did last year is beyond astonishing and they are both two of the most honest, kind, and real humans out there. They care they take in creating active, supportive, and beautiful environments and ambiances is everything. That being said, everything orchid tapes releases is a piece of art itself and the principles fueling this label and labor of love are just as important. One of my favorite memories of these two is Sam playing around and writing something lovely on guitar and warren devotedly working on his computer as the room fills with the scent of lemongrass and ginger.
Living in the age of Alex G is simply something I feel lucky to be able to experience. The several times I have been lucky to hang out with these souls (Alex, Sam, John, and Dexter) and to experience these lyrics and songs come to life echo in my mind always. I honestly could not imagine this line any other way besides leaving the lips of every person in the room singing along with every word.
Mat and Delaney (as well as Elvis Depressedly mates Eric, Noel, and Justin) stayed with me a few times this year as well and getting to know them more closely has been really nice. They are truly some of the
most kindhearted and honest human beings i have come across. New Alhambra is so pure and an absolute reflection of being completely true to one’s self.
Virginia is another human who made last year especially special to me. Her music, tours, art, cassette creations, and overall existence truly is integral to the inner workings of the world. If you have not discovered this yet, I hope you can do so soon.
Aaron Maine is a remarkable human and Porches. is everything. When I met him and Greta together, I was reminded of simply good ol’ humble human respectfulness and kindness. All old Porches. songs are very important life lessons, and all of the new porches will forever reinforce these ideals and only allow for more goodness and learning.
Krill is forever and I hope to see them again soon in Boston. I remember hearing this song for the first time on a radio show recording that Jonah did and have been ever so excited for this upcoming record since. I recall several Krill sets from the past year and each one is filled with pure rejuvenating energy. Every time I see krill, it is very good and I recommend it to those seeking to solve internal conflicts.
Don’t let it matter at all
It’s not your fault
I know what it feels like on the floor
what it feels like
They wanna hurt you
because they’re hurting too
Don’t let ‘em inside your head
They’ll take control of everything you’ve ever loved and did or wanted to be
I got to meet and hang out with Rachel two times last year and that was not enough. The latter night was simply endless hugs, happiness, love, dollar store escapades, piggy back rides, life, and all that is good in the universe. Rachel is a connoisseur of cheer and truly every one of her lyrics and the entirety of the brown horse split (with Spencer Radcliffe) is meaningful and important, but this song is especially crucial for your soul.
~ ~ ~
2014 was filled with the eyes, hearts, kind words, and embraces of so many people I hope to keep close to my soul. The list of lyrics I’ve kept in my heart from this past year along with the memories cherished are quite extensive. Though I am missing many more important words and humans, I hope some of these help you like they have helped me. Good spirits live on in words and sounds, and when coincidence or life allows certain paths to cross, that should be used to make something special if possible. It is not the records or shows, but rather the significance of the people and words that defined last year for me. The lyrics above renew so much for me. As I reminisce, I wanted to share some of these with you and hope that they inspire you to make or do something you want to do. 2015 should be about spirits inspiring other spirits to be most true to the good inside them, for people to get a grasp on how to better the world we live in, to appreciate small things you might have overlooked in the past, and to support the people who need it the most.
-Athylia Paremski (Steep Sounds)
A Love-Shaped Year
2014 was a year of love for me. I fell in love with a boy for the first time, but more importantly, I learned Perfume Genius released “Queen“. When I first heard it, I wasn’t impressed. It didn’t strike me the same way his earlier songs had. I listened to it once and then went to work. I spent the next six hours obsessing over it. “NO FAMILY IS SAFE WHEN I SASHAY” ran through my head on an endless loop. I went home and listened to the song for six hours.
Within that video and song I found courage. I found anger. I found a hymn and a battle cry. I was going to wear what I felt confident in, no matter how uncomfortable it made the straight people around me. I found a new sense of self love within Queen. It felt revolutionary to be able to look in the mirror and love parts of what I saw. I saw Perfect Pussy at Pitchfork that summer, and when some asshole decided to punch me in the stomach, I didn’t cry. I was in a crop top and short shorts and a really great shade of purple lipstick. My immediate reaction to being punched was to vomit directly onto his face. I could feel Meredith’s vocals pound into me. I felt my fist connect with the bro’s face.
I felt a righteous anger bolster me. I felt confidence. I screamed in his stunned and vomit-covered face. He walked off in a bruised and disgusted daze. I felt immediately exhausted, and empowered. Perfect Pussy’s set raged on. Meredith was a force of nature onstage. I could feel her power radiating on stage. I took some of her power with me that day. I carry it in my fists and I carry it in my mind. I have it as a constant reminder that if a boy decides to fuck with me, I am not defenseless. I am loved and I am powerful.
The other big moment of love was falling in love for the first time. It was all soundtracked by Mitski. The night I met him, for the sake of anonymity let’s call him Matt, was the night I saw Mitski for the first time. I had never listened to her before. I was at the silent barn CMJ showcase. I was wearing my favorite button down with little Dalmatians on it. I had been awake since five AM. I was exhausted and anxious and hoping to be kissed.
Mercury was in retrograde, and it was Drake’s birthday. It was set to be an incredible evening. I was standing in the back holding Matt’s hand when Mitski started her set. We had walked in from the outside late and the second we stood still to listen, everything stopped. Maybe it was the lights, or the boy pressed up against me, or the pot brownie, but I felt myself wrapped up in a romantic little haze. Mitski was so stunning I actually felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Matt and I kissed for the first time during “Townie“. I kissed him, something I never did. I don’t take risks when it comes to boys. I’m always terrified I’m being too intense, but in the soft light of the silent barn, being intense felt like the only option. We kissed as Mitski sang “I WANT TO KISS LIKE MY HEART IS HITTING THE GROUND” and holy hell did I.
When Mitski sang “I’m writing this at three am” I felt understood in a ridiculously cliché way. I was always writing about boys at 3 am. I was always trying to find my voice at 3 am.
Matt and I talked about Mitski’s set for the rest of the night. I started falling for him in the back of that crowd and I didn’t stop until I hit the ground. Before Matt and i inevitably ended things and I had my heart shattered, we saw Mitski together for a second time.
I just had finished my last final. I got in my friend’s car and we drove the four hours to Brooklyn. Mitski and I had talked a few times on social media, and she was kind enough to put me on the list for the show. I felt a moment of self-love and power during her set that I had never felt before. She played “I Don’t Smoke” for me and I was given the opportunity to scream every word in Matt’s face.
Let me tell you, yelling “I AM STRONGER THAN YOU GIVE ME CREDIT FOR” in the face of the boy who is ripping out your heart, is one of the most empowering moments a person can have. Two weeks later Matt and I still hadn’t ended things. Christmas day we sat in my friend’s car listening to Radiator Hospital. We were making out and I at one point stopped to sing the words “I didn’t want this to mean nothing”. It felt cathartic to finally hear someone say what I had been hiding.
Even after Matt and I ended things, I found comfort in returning to Bury Me at Makeout Creek. It was the soundtrack to my first love- but it had also become more than that for me. I think that’s one of the greatest things about really truly incredible music. No matter who shows it to you, no matter what memories are attached, if it is incredible, all of that fades away. Then it’s just you with this person’s words. Mitski’s words helped make 2014 a year of love for me, but more than that, she helped make it a year of power.
-Joseph Barchi (@theyarenotaboy)
A Family Reunion
- Holy shit. I’ve had a lot of great music experiences this year, many of them not just favorite music experiences of 2014, but favorite music experiences of my entire three decades on planet Earth.
My favorite music experience of the year was definitely on Friday, April 4. I got to watch my two younger brothers play a sold-out show at Death By Audio in Brooklyn, New York. For my brother Ray and his Perfect Pussy bandmates, it was a record release show for their critically acclaimed Say Yes To Love (their first full-length album). It felt like a triumphant homecoming after their first insane five or six month United States tour (all practically non-stop). My brother Tyler and his old band Sarongs, a band that I’ve desperately missed, reunited just for this one show, to open for Perfect Pussy along with two other upstate New York bands: Friendless Bummer and Green Dreams.
Sarongs hadn’t played together in a few years, the members having all left Syracuse, scattering to different cities. But they sounded as if they had never stopped. I’d only ever seen them play in basements and living rooms in Syracuse (I’m not even sure if they ever played anywhere that wasn’t a basement or living room in Syracuse), so seeing them play as part of a sold-out show in Brooklyn was really great. Sarongs was the only band I was aware of that was doing amazing, surprising things in Syracuse, NY in 2010.
I left Syracuse for California in January 2011, right around the time that Sarongs dissolved, and then came back to Syracuse in the middle of 2013, right around the time that Perfect Pussy started exploding. It was a great show, all family ties aside. Sarongs and Perfect Pussy are two bands that I can say with a lot of certainty that I’d love even if my brothers weren’t members. But the family ties made it really special. It was the first time in a while that all three McAndrew brothers were together in the same place. There were so many friends at that show. My parents were there as well as most of the Perfect Pussy band members’ parents. It was the most insane, energetic, heartwarming show I’d been at in a long time. There were a lot of big, happy hugs and high fives. It was also during this weekend in New York that Perfect Pussy and I first talked about working on something together, the result of that being the comic book that doubles as packaging for their brand new 7″ split with Joanna Gruesome. Working on that project- and later getting to hang out with Joanna Gruesome and see them play with Perfect Pussy- would definitely be a close second for my favorite music moments in 2014.
A Devoti0nal Offering to The Moon
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the task of singling out one moment from what has been unequivocally the most magical year of my life, so I’m just going to write about today, because today makes as good a subject as any other day, everything is a metaphor for everything else, every breath contains the whole universe, etc.
I’m going to write about today, even though today was actually a really hard day. It’s a counterintuitive move, given how many moments of unadulterated bliss occurred in 2014, but one that feels deeply appropriate, as I attribute the splendor of my year in no small part to actively cultivating a sort of alchemical theme in my internal processes. I am learning to exercise the power of my own mind to shape my experience. When a challenging situation arises, I look for the lesson; when I get snagged on a thorn, I find the rose. I am learning how, within my own heart, to transmute destructive emotions like fear and anger into their opposites: love and gratitude. For instance, if my best friend doesn’t text me a rainbow of emoji hearts on my birthday tomorrow, I might experience feelings of abandonment, resentment and self-pity. Whereas in the past I might have latched onto those emotions, become convinced that my friend doesn’t love me, and let myself get sucked into a vortex of misery, I would now make an effort to sit with those feelings and realize my friend is probably just super busy and the real issue is that I’m attaching my self-worth to external validation because I’m not loving myself enough. So I say, “Thank you, friend, for pointing out to me the work I have to do on myself.”
When you take on this kind of work, amazing things start to happen. Sometimes it almost feels like the most challenging days become the best days, because you learn so much. So, here’s to today, which was a highly educational day.
I had trouble sleeping last night. My brain kept looping the highlights reel from what has been an outstandingly difficult and draining week. I sprang out of bed at 8:00 a.m. and started frantically throwing things in my backpack, all the while hearing my higher self trying to steady me- “Slow down, breeeeaaaathe”- but masochistically letting anxiety take hold and almost reveling in the horror of what was escalating to a full-blown panic attack. My usual grounding morning rituals were thrown to the wind. I was a runaway train.
I barreled out the door and into my car and slapped on a façade of cool, calm collectedness before picking up my incredible friend and collaborator Jess. She and I were driving upstate to make a music video about The Moon in which I was going to be mostly/entirely naked and possibly/definitely dancing. Nothing was set in stone- all I knew was I had two tubes of body paint, a disco ball, and a vague yet strong feeling that I had something to heal.
Earlier this week I realized how quickly the shoot was coming up and started feeling a little panicky about my lack of a plan, so I pulled up a few Kate Bush videos and started strategizing my approach. Right off the bat I came upon three major issues: 1) I have no notable dance skills or experience 2) I have some very charged feminist sensitivity around semi-nude dancing, and 3) my struggles with self-love have historically manifested themselves as cruel, compassionless objectification of my own body. Thus, the thought of showing considerable skin and conceivably shaking it, on film, called forth a broad spectrum of emotional responses ranging from abject terror to ecstatic triumph… which is generally how I know I need to do something. The way I see it, those squishy, tender, uncomfortable emotions are just big neon markers for wherein lies the stuff that needs healing- after all, “the edge is where the action is,” or so say some permaculturists and yoga teachers (and, I hope, U2’s The Edge, pre- and/or post-coitus).
So, around 3pm today I found myself completely naked, painted white from head to toe like some ritual sacrifice, standing on frozen mud in a beautifully decrepit old horse barn, convulsing with full-body shivers as my own voice cooed from my laptop speakers: Don’t be drawn to me; I may be here today, but soon black moss will cover over my dead body. I sang along, teeth chattering and lungs constricting in frigid spasms, waving my arms in awkward jerking motions and feeling like a frightened, wounded rabbit who was losing a lot of blood very quickly.
Jess, benevolent angel that she is, suggested that we go inside. Flooded with relief, loss and defeat, I stumbled out of the barn, feeling a deep well of buried grief and stress steadily rising to the surface. As soon as the warmth of Jess’s parents’ farmhouse wrapped around my numb flesh, something broke. I sat down in a chair and wept.
This video was to be, as my forthcoming album is, a devotional offering to The Moon, with whom I have been in intimate relationship this year. She has been teaching me how to attune with the cycles of my body and all natural things, and to learn to embrace the darkness as well as the light, for the crest cannot exist without the trough. Although Jess and I got no usable footage today- by the time we got an indoor location set up, we had run out of time- I will forever think of the experience as exactly that: a devotional offering. Yep, here’s where that inner alchemy kicks in: today I totally failed at making a music video, but I succeeded in performing an unexpectedly cathartic ceremony of sacrifice, a symbolic gesture of gratitude for the cosmic guidance and blessings I received in 2014 and the innumerable “favorite moments” I could have written about.