Heartbreaking Bravery

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2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Erica Sutherland)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Littlefoot has earned consistent mentions on this site ever since their set at DBTS acted as an overdue introduction. Over that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know Erica Sutherland a little better, whose constantly involved in any number of fascinating projects. Sutherland graciously agreed to be a part of this edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories and offered up a beautiful photojournal chronicling a fateful 2016 trip that had a finale that was a little terrifying before it became necessarily heartening. Take in the sights (and accompanying memories) below.

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At the beginning of 2016, I flew to California to escape the harsh Boston winter and go on my first solo tour. After a stressful fall and an even more stressful week, I was ready to get away for a while. It was my first time seeing most of the west coast, and I was about to be traveling with two of the most easygoing people I’ve ever met. Scott, my photographer friend from Providence, works long hours at a pizza shop so he can save up money to travel.

I’m always impressed by Scott, because along with being a dreamer, he gets things done. He doesn’t just talk about things like going on a trip to Spain with a bunch of his friends to take photos, he actually does it. Miles, whose project, California Redemption Value, I was touring with, never seems bothered or stressed out by anything. He just kind of floats. He has a mysterious accent that has a little bit of a southern twang to it, even though he grew up in California.

When I started writing this, it became a detailed account of everything we saw, everyone we met, and all the bands we played with. For the sake of anyone with a short attention span (myself included), I’m just going to write my favorite moments as a list.


THE DRIVE

Everything along route 1 // listening to Mississippi Mixtapes // stopping in Eureka, CA and finding an abandoned train car // running around on a foggy beach at sunset, somewhere in Northern California // driving through all of the wide open spaces, the kind you don’t see back east // reading Stevie Nicks’ biography // many many trips to In-N-Out Burger

LOS ANGELES

Staying with Kaede, Jason & Lucy (three of my favorite humans) & their dog Monkey (one of my favorite non-humans) by the beach in Corona del Mar // meeting up with our pals Ian Sweet to play a show at a bowling alley // watching Nicey Music’s pop princess Banny Grove cut a rug on stage while wearing an amazing wig // window shopping on Rodeo Drive pretending I’m Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman // playing a show at Gnarburger with Shannon from Feels // being in the audience on the Conan O’Brien show


PORTLAND

Mississippi Records // playing with Haste and Brumes (she plays an electric harp!!!) // getting a big hug from my long lost pal Chip King // hanging out with Ty Segall & the Muggers (Miles’ friend Garth who we were staying with was opening for them) // Powell’s Bookstore


OLYMPIA

Skrill Meadow’s karaoke-style set // lots and lots of coffee // meeting Phoebe from Tiny Thunder Jewelry // our new friend Opio (same birthday as me!! same year!!) // meeting all of Miles’ old friends



SEATTLE

Playing with CAMP and Night Cadet // staying with Jenn Champion and her cute dogs // picking the nose of the Fremont Troll // octopuses on ice at Pike’s Market // riding the ferris wheel with Scott // taking a day off to explore Snoqualmie, the filming location of Twin Peaks >> the waterfall at the Great Northern, coffee and cherry pie at the diner, Ronette’s bridge




OAKLAND

Playing with Peacers and the Moonsaults! // exploring BIG SUR, the most magical place on earth, before the show


SAN DIEGO

Playing with Fake Tides & Big Bloom (& Miles at all of these shows – I never get tired of listening to CRV) // and what followed:

My memory of what happened after our last show in San Diego is a little fuzzy. I woke up back in LA with a fierce hangover and a Facebook message from a stranger that said “Did you lose something?” It was only then that I realized at some point during the night I’d lost my backpack, which contained my wallet, passport, medicines etc… basically my entire life. The woman who’d messaged me said her mother had found the backpack and asked her daughter to find me on Facebook to tell me, since she didn’t speak much English herself.

Miles and I drove back to San Diego, arriving at a tiny house where we were met by two elderly Mexican women and my backpack. I thanked them profusely in English while they spoke to me in Spanish, their hands gesturing in a manner that I assumed meant they were talking about how they found my backpack. The fact that a complete stranger cared enough to go out of their way to help me get my things back gave me that warm-fuzzy-“oh good, I still have faith in humanity” kind of feeling. I texted her daughter afterwards to thank her for getting in touch with me, and she responded, We’re all put on this Earth to help each other.

A year later, with the Trump administration rearing its ugly head, her words are more important than ever.

All photographs by Scott LaChapelle.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Katie Preston)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Katie Preston’s band, Pleistocene, has been consistently covered over the course of this site’s history (and were an important part of the A Step Forward compilation) so it’s good to have her be a part of this edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Better still, Preston turns her lens on a coterie of friends that have played a significant role in this site’s coverage, making her first entry into the series a little bit like a family affair. In recalling a weekend that had just occurred, Preston conjures up a lifetime’s worth of memories and gets to the root of what makes some things so meaningful. Buckle up and take it for a spin.

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This is taken pretty much straight out of my diary, which is why it’s told like it just happened, but really it happened back in April, even though it still stands out vividly to me.

There are good days and bad days. I sometimes go long periods of time where it feels like my day job takes up everything I’ve got. There are slumps and then there are moments of solid gold that kind of even it all out. This past weekend was more of a streak than a moment. My time was strictly spent doing the things that make me happy. We (Pleistocene) had a show at the Sanc, Dylan from Skirt’s place. If you’re lost at this point in the story, you are probably not from Rochester, NY but stick with me. There were about seventy youths there. By youths I mean adults who like seeing bands in basements.

Besides us, Green Dreams, Total Yuppies, and Potty Mouth played. We had a girl pit during Potty Mouth’s set. It felt good to bounce off each other, occasionally falling (lovingly) into the bassist, who stood a foot away from me on the same brown shag carpet. I took pictures of Abby after the show with her guitar for my zine. We got home late and left for NYC early Saturday morning. I worked on my zine on the way there, cutting out pictures of the people I’d seen play over the course of the month with their instruments into heart shapes. Erick made us stop for Arby’s twice. When we got to Brooklyn I got to meet my best friend’s new guy. Being long distance best friends, any new development in her life feels especially exciting, after only hearing stories about him for months.

Becca and I used to be in a band together in college called Paul’s Grandfather. When I lived in Brooklyn, I lived with Becca and worked at Crif Dogs with her. We used to be pretty much inseparable. My moving back to Rochester has been hard in that way. Her and I picked up where things left off by going out for piña coladas at Old Stanley’s with the rest of Pleistocene, hopping between there and the bodega next door for tacos before heading over to the show.

The venue was probably the shittiest I’ve ever played. No offense, Aviv. They’ve since changed locations and I’m sure it’s better now. But tonight Jim and the rest of the Painted Zeros were there and tons of other friends from past-lives who showed up from out of the woodwork. Slight played first. I got on Erick’s shoulders with a lighter, which got a couple laughs from the nine audience members. Then Sonny Baker’s band played, triggering old memories of Buffalo, NY.

A crowd started to fill in at this point. We had a fun set. I slid on my knees and scraped them up pretty good. Then Becca played. Her band, Bethlehem Steel was going through a line-up change so she played solo. She mesmerized us all, like always. We all got pretty drunk after. Palled around with Katie Lau over many Jager shots and ended up back at Old Stanley’s for more piña coladas and pinball. That night at Becca’s apartment we made the biggest, most disgusting plate of loaded nachos that was almost too gross to eat but that didn’t stop us from all picking at it for breakfast the next morning.

We left early Sunday so I could make it to rehearsal. It was my first time singing with both Mikaela Davis and Cammy Enaharo at the same time. Cammy, of course is in Pleistocene but this is a whole new venture. We were recording harmonies for our friend Ben’s album. Our voices surprised me when they first came together – like a shiver down the spine, except more like an electrocution. We decided that we should start a band and that band would be called the Vinaigrettes. There you have it, a weekend for the highlight reel for sure. Now I’m back to the working week, although that hardly seems so bad after a three day golden streak.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Loren DiBlasi)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

There are not enough kind words to adequately describe how much Loren DiBlasi has meant to this site and its development. One of the people that’s been supportive since the very beginning. she’s been a vital part of every edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories and has been kind enough to deliver another one of this series’ essential pieces. Life-altering experiences, panic attacks, family, self-assessment, and music abound in another burst of admirable sincerity from the Patio bassist/vocalist and MTV News editor. As always, it’s more than worth the read.

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Not Getting to the Gig

I remember my first show. It was a “concert,” really, but the concept was the same — I was seeing live music, of my own choosing, for the very first time. October 17, 2005. I was sixteen. Franz Ferdinand headlined the Theater at Madison Square Garden with TV On The Radio and Cut Copy (again, 2005). My birthday was months earlier, but I hadn’t asked for a party. Instead, I waited until my favorite band came to my city, then bullied my mom into driving me and three friends to see them. I wasn’t allowed to take the train into the city alone. And yet, I had never felt more free.

This is it, I remember thinking. I’m going to be part of this. At the time, I didn’t think I’d ever play music. I’m not sure I thought I’d write about it, either. I was sixteen. I just knew that it was mine, and now that I’d found it, no one was ever going to take it away from me. Though tiny from my distant seat, the people onstage were gods, not men. The room was huge but the experience was intimate, because it was all happening to me for the first time.

I remember my first panic attack at a show. July 3, 2015. Pile played the Bell House, and I had postponed my Fourth of July weekend trip in order to see them. I was too wrapped up in self-denial to realize that this show, in particular, was one I shouldn’t have planned to attend. Not because of the band (whom I love and haven’t seen since) but because of other, more personal reasons. My deeply broken, damaged heart — and even more damaged mind — simply wasn’t ready. I made it to the bathroom before realizing I could no longer breathe. It was the single worst night of my life.

So much happened in the ten years between those two nights. I developed my passion for writing and left high school. I moved to the city to attend college, mostly in search of more music. I graduated and didn’t get a job. I moved back home. I took the train back and forth for job interviews and intermittent writing gigs. I wrote art reviews, band profiles, even TV recaps. I got paid for none of it. I kept writing whatever I could until people started noticing. It took a long time, but they finally did.

Eventually I said “fuck it” and moved into the house my family owns in Ridgewood, Queens, which they’d kept and rented after moving out of the city. Growing up, the house in Ridgewood wasn’t where I’d thought I’d end up. To my family, Italian and tenacious, that was the place they’d left in favor of better schools and more square footage, and there was no going back. They wanted me to live in the city, but not in Ridgewood. At 24 and broke, I had no choice.

Little did I realize that Ridgewood was exactly where I wanted to be. In Ridgewood I was a short train ride from Williamsburg, home of Death by Audio, Glasslands, and 285 Kent. I was a seven minute drive from Silent Barn, Palisades, and cult house venue David Blaine’s The Steakhouse. Shea Stadium was nearby, too; I even found an internship at a startup music site on the same block as Shea. I always tell people that my career started at Shea, when Dan Goldin introduced me to Derek Evers of Impose at a Big Ups show. I can trace every word I’ve written since back to that single moment. It was March 21, 2014, three days before I turned 25.

Throughout the next year and beyond, I don’t think I missed one show. Going to the show was my life, and the only life I’d ever wanted. Making actual money — to eat, pay my bills, go to the doctor — would come later, but at the time, I didn’t care. I couldn’t buy anything. I walked most places and I was really skinny. But I was there.

I made so many friends there. Label people, band people, fan people like myself. People started sending me their stuff so I could write about it for whatever small publication or local blog I’d be connected to at the time. If two people read it, I’d done my job. I was so happy. I wanted to be a voice within the community that I was starting to make my own. The fact that I now work for an huge corporation is funny to me, still, which isn’t to say I’m not grateful for MTV News and the people (many of them idols) I work with every day. I take nothing for granted.

I consider these sweaty nights at places like Shea and Death By Audio to be the happiest of my life. I didn’t have much — at least not in comparison to what I have now — but it was the beginning of something magical for me. It was the beginning of the life I’d always wanted.

But this isn’t a happy tale — at least, not entirely. When the show is your life, and then you lose it, you have no life. This is what I thought. This is what I believed. I felt it was my fault. I made myself a victim for a long time, and as a result, I stopped going places entirely. Especially to shows.

To say that this dark period was the result of the dissolution of my relationship with another person is extremely diminishing — that’s where it might have began, but there was so much more in the middle. So much emptiness that I had to claw through, so much aloneness that I had to grapple with and make peace with and explore to find the origin of. Not for a second of last year did I feel “normal,” and yet I was finally experiencing human emotions in a very normal way for the first time. Coming to terms with pain is terrifying and yet entirely necessary if you plan to live a “normal” life. Which I’d always wanted to. I never wanted to give up.

I’ve missed so many shows in the last two years. I still miss so many shows. I can blame my schedule or the demands of Patio or money or whatever else I want, but deep down, I know that I am still very afraid. When your emotions are so deeply tied into everything you do and the places you go, it’s hard to walk into a room where you know you are vulnerable (the anticipation is the worst). SXSW was particularly difficult for me this year, despite the fact that my band hadn’t even released any music and was still invited onto a bill alongside Mitski, Washer, Palm, Kal Marks and Guerilla Toss. I got drunk and shed a lot of tears. I also reconnected with old friends and had one of the best days of my life. I shared a moment of clarity with someone that I’d really needed, despite being afraid of it for so long. Thinking about it still makes me cry but I also think it was so beautiful. That’s how I look at the world now; there is no light or darkness. Everything is grey.

Show anxiety often feels extremely specific, and it wasn’t until I started becoming more vocal about it that I realized others around me had been experiencing it, too. Getting to the gig is supposed to be fun and fulfilling — it was my entire social life — but when it’s not, it sucks worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. But what I’ve learned in the past two years is that sometimes it’s okay to stay home, and that’s nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. Sometimes you need a night in to relax in a robe watching The Golden Girls and eating delivery nachos (this very scenario is what first inspired the concept of “Luxury” that drove Patio’s first EP). Writing music, reading books, and having dinner with old friends are some other things you can do instead of going to the gig. There are other places than the gig. The gig will always be there.

I’ve accepted that it’s at the gig, surrounded by friends, where I often feel most alone. Even this very moment, as I finish work and get ready to go see Washer, my stomach feels queasy and I can’t help but wish I could just go to sleep early tonight. It’s definitely okay to do that, but this time, I won’t. I know that when I climb the stairs to Shea I’ll be climbing my way to a million friends, and it doesn’t matter who else might be there or what anxieties I might face. Sometimes I go to the show; sometimes I play the show; sometimes I stay home from the show. I’m not sure if that ending is happy or sad. But I think next time Pile plays New York, I’ll be there.