Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Sam Clark)

sam clark

No contributor has collaborated with me on as many projects, both in terms of writing about music and writing music, than Sam Clark. We’ve played together in at least three bands and we’ve written together for at least three different publications. We continue to make music and we continue to write about music on our own terms but jump at collaborating any time we’re presented with the chance. For the past few years, he’s been running the outstanding dimestore saints and last year he released two EP’s of deeply compelling ambient music under the Ancient Mariners moniker. I’m very fortunate to be able to call him a close friend and to have found someone in such an isolated town that shared in some incredibly niche interests. I’m also very lucky to have him back as a returning contributor to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series. Here, he turns his attention to the difficulties of living in an area that severely restricts access to good shows, finding solace in Washington through visiting Wisconsin artists, and learning that isolation isn’t always because of physical surroundings. Read the piece below, keep both eyes on dimestore saints, and remember that you can always build new homes.


2015 is already a flickering memory, and I’m fine with that. This past year was one of my darkest and most disorienting on record – save for perhaps 1992, which was half-spent in utero. I was out of school for the first time in seventeen years with little to show for all of my academic work, and spent most of it in the midst of a year-long lease on an apartment in the northwestern-most tip of the Pacific Northwest, two thousand miles away from all of my close friends and family; I was listless and sometimes lonely, and things generally felt stagnant.

A burgeoning homesickness for western Wisconsin was partially alleviated by an intimate S. Carey living room show in late February. I feel somewhat like a fraud in admitting this, but I go to relatively few live shows a year in comparison to some of my fellow writers. Part of this shortcoming is probably derived from social anxiety, sure, but another key factor has always been proximity; local music scene aside, the nearest concert venue was often an hour or more away from where I lived, and travel time frequently became an issue.

Bellingham is a bit different – it occupies a sweet spot on I-5 almost halfway between Vancouver and Seattle that’s often attractive to bands in the middle of West Coast stretches – so I jumped at the chance to see a homegrown artist whose national tour happened to bring him within a half-mile of my apartment.

The ensuing performance was beautiful; fifty people crammed into a pristine turn-of-the-century home with vaulted ceilings to hear sprawling ambient soundscapes culled from little more than a Fender Rhodes, pedal steel, and heavily-textured electric guitar. That brief respite was then extended into the following month, thanks to a stellar Field Report solo set at a bar around the corner from my apartment; together, these events served as a reminder that salient musical traits of home were, miraculously, much closer than I believed.

Coincidental Wisconsin-related things continued throughout the spring, from a co-worker whose improv trio had performed with one from Eau Claire that I know well, to a random stranger stopping me on a footpath for a conversation because he too had graduated from the alma mater embroidered on my sweatshirt nearly forty years prior, to Sylvan Esso stopping in at the bagel shop I managed the morning after their Vancouver show. A strange conglomerate of events, to be sure, but they were absolutely intrinsic to my growing level of comfort in an unfamiliar place.

I’m back home in central Wisconsin now, and will be for awhile, but it was reassuring to watch all of those connections fall into place so organically, and to learn that I’m never quite as isolated as I feel.

-Sam Clark

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Christine Varriale)


Back in 2014, Christine Varriale (pictured above, center) and I spent a week exploring the city of Toronto and taking in as many NXNE shows that we possibly could. Since then, she’s introduced me to a number of my favorite people (including her Puppy Problems bandmate and fellow A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Sami Martasian, who she also writes with over at Allston Pudding). Varriale also plays in a band called Gay Sin and remains a fixture of Boston’s constantly thriving music scene. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise then, that she chooses to turn her eyes towards the city for her second A Year’s Worth of Memories piece. Here, she deals with Krill’s loss, the city’s malleability, and expectantly turns towards the future. Read those thoughts below and remember that defeat can give way to hope.


It’s February 5th, and I’m on a train to NYC from Boston, not on a mission for my usual trip to NYC for CMJ. It’s a weird feeling but a great environment to observe my beloved Boston music scene in 2015 from afar both physically and temporally.

Boston is inherently a cyclical city. Many young people move to Boston for college and then leave shortly after to spread their roots in a new city. I’ve never been much for change, so I’ve stayed in Massachusetts my whole life. Sometimes I wonder if this is good or bad, but there’s a piece of me in Boston that I can’t cut out. My roots are too deep.

But back to that cycle thing: Boston’s basement scene is ever-changing. There are staple houses that survive years like Thieves Grotto and Whitehaus, but then there are some that fade away like Butcher Shoppe, The Womb and Gay Gardens. We look back at lost venues fondly, but we do not cry for them. Something new is always beginning like Milhaus, Grandma’s House and The ER. New residents start their own pockets of the scene whether it’s BU bros, Berklee punks or our resident show moms.

And much like the houses, many of the bands cycle through too. We lost our heroes Krill in 2015, and soon we will lose other bands to new cities. More tears should be wept away, because our bumbling music scene is now scattered across this country. With the demise of these staples in our scene, younger bands are forming to take their place in quasi-homage. Bands like Du VideHorse Jumper of Love, and Stumpf are our new Krill. Palehound, Lady PillsUrsula, and Gravel are our new Speedy Ortiz. Some of us stay like Pile, Fat History Month, Kal Marks, and Big Buck Hunter.

How will 2016 spread its branches? Will these bands move or will they thrive within the Boston community to become the next Pile or Krill? It’s always a toss up here, but I can’t wait to see how this year plays out.

-Christine Varriale