Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: A Year’s Worth of Memories

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Jerard Fagerberg)

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.

Over the past few years, Jerard Fagerberg has staked out a place as one of my favorite writers currently working in the upper Midwest (there aren’t as many of us as some may think). We’ve crossed paths a few times in the metaphorical sense and only once in person. Virtually every time, Fagerberg has served as a reminder of the good portions of music journalism so it’s no surprise that’s what he’s chosen to turn his focus on in this piece, his second for A Year’s Worth of Memories. It’s a window into the life of a freelancer that does away with any overly eager romanticizing in favor of the situation’s harsher realities and its inevitable conclusion. It’s an exacting piece and something worth remembering for those of us living in that world of odd pleasures and exhausting punishment. Give it a read below.
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The Work

Being a freelance writer is about testing your capacity for madness.

Research binges. Deadline anxiety. Marathon transcriptions. They’re the ugly antecedents to a finished, published piece, and they add up like a bar tab.

Running on coffee and cigarettes is addictive when the work of being a “writer” is so embroiled in your self-worth. If you’re not stretching your days to utter exasperation, you’re fucking up your vocation. You’ve sacrificed your identity. No one makes sure you pitch, write, and file other than yourself. If you don’t do it, you’re disappointing your most venomous critic.

I’ve been struggling with the “writer” identity for the past several years (I wrote about it here last year), but this was the first time I pursued it so destructively. I worked too hard. I couldn’t say no.

224 stories. 200,000 words. 365 days.

My personal life progressed tremendously in 2016. Gaal and I bought a house. I fell in love with my dog 1,000 times.  I got two new positions at my day job. I met scads of new people, including Steven, who I shared an immaculate PUP show with.

I’d never before let these things — the frankly unindustrious factors — define myself as a person. I have always been the sum total of my work, and it has never been enough.

I said goodbye to that mentality in December. After a week spent laboring over my keyboard, cranking out word after phrase after paragraph to the point of exhaustion, I decided that an identity isn’t worth it.

2017 is the year it’s enough. Though I’ll look at the tabulation of bylines and words and grimace next year, I’ll have more that isn’t so squarely calculated to remember.

 

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Eric Slick)

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.

In the last edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories, Eric Slick turned in a beautiful piece recapping an eventful year while dealing with some tumultuous times. This time around the Lithuania bandleader and Dr. Dog drummer (as well as solo artist) repeats that formula and touches on the things that made 2016 memorable. From falling in love and moving to a new city to finishing two records and meeting some personal heroes, there’s a lot to peruse. All of it’s shot through with Slick’s endearing voice and offers up some personal insight into the life of one of today’s hardest working artists. Enjoy.

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2016: A Year’s Worth Of Memories

2016, the year that Facebook exploded. downloaded a plug-in for Chrome that disabled my News Feed so I could start focusing on something positive. My 2016 was weird, not nearly as weird as 2015. Let’s get the worst of it over first: I contracted Lyme’s Disease from an unruly tick while running in the woods, went to the ER four different times for all of the medical anomalies related to Lyme, and narrowly escaped death in Nashville in my first major car accident (we survived, my Ford Focus didn’t).

Now that I’m done kvetching, let’s move on to my favorite moments of 2016.

Moving to a new city and falling in love

I moved to Richmond, Virginia in January. I didn’t tell anybody in Philadelphia until the summertime. I was tired of people from my hometown accusing me of being a certain way, so I decided to start fresh in a place that was completely unfamiliar to me. I moved because I fell in love with an amazing person, someone who is 1000 times the person I could ever hope to be. Selfless, hilarious, intelligent, talented, compassionate. I’m happy I moved. Philadelphia, I loved you, but you were bringing me down.

There’s a great community of musicians in Richmond and the rent is affordable. I can get with the small college town mentality. The coffee here is fucking incredible. That’s a prerequisite wherever I decide to lay my head.

Going to Europe with Dr. Dog

I never talk about Dr. Dog because I’m a jerk. They are the best people on the planet. I wish I could be as cool as the rest of the guys in the band, but I’m not. I’m a doofy nerd who likes Abstract Expressionism and Stravinsky.

We’ve always struggled to make a European tour happen but this year we got to do it twice. I love going over there. The food situations are super dank. Why haven’t we figured out how to make our truck stops filled with organic produce? We have the same resources! I think the majority of Americans like boring ass bland food.

I like the modesty of European crowds. They don’t clap when you play. They give you constructive criticism when you’re done. They’re not full of shit. It’s great.

Meeting Weird Al and Paul Simon in the same month

I know it’s shallow to say you like meeting celebrities. Famous people aren’t much different than regular people. They just occasionally give themselves the license to behave like jerks because of their assumed power. It’s sad. I still get all loopy and endorphin-y when I meet a person I really admire. It’s disgusting to watch me bloviate.

My birthday present this year will be hard to top – two tickets to see Paul Simon at the Ryman Auditorium. I was fortunate enough to meet him. We didn’t talk about music at all. He just talked about the several(!) times he’s ingested ayahuasca. For those who don’t know, Google it. My five minutes with Paul Simon… talking about the time he “saw the God particle”. Unreal, but I kept it cool.

Well.

I didn’t keep it cool for long. Later that month I got to see Weird Al after a lifetime of waiting. I’m friends with his drummer, John “Bermuda” Schwartz. After the show, I was introduced to His Weirdness. Meeting Weird Al was easily the most strange celebrity encounter I’ve ever had. I’m a megafan. I was starstruck. I choked on my words and probably made a babbling fool out of myself. There’s a picture of us together but I can’t bring myself to post it online. It’s too special.

Bermuda then took us out to Dave and Buster’s, regaled us with incredible tour stories, and then bought us sundaes. How did he know I love D&B? Check that one off of the bucket list.

Favorite live shows of 2016, in no particular order:

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil in LA

Weird Al in Nashville

Paul Simon in Nashville

Shimmer and Ahleuchatistas in Philadelphia

Scott Clark 4tet in Richmond

Finishing my solo record and the new Lithuania record

My best friends convinced me to finish my solo record.

I did all the basic tracking during the last week of 2014 at Phil Elverum’s studio in Anacortes, WA. Last year sucked so bad that I lost all my momentum in finishing it… and I procrastinated. Procrastination is the death knell.

2016 was very therapeutic – I finally felt vulnerable again. The record practically wrapped itself in a little under a month. Ricardo Lagomasino and Jose Diaz Rohena (the engineers/producers) powered through my insecurities and delivered something I’m really proud of. We recorded the new Lithuania record almost immediately after that. We did it in four days. I’m excited for people to hear it. Time to write the next ones.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Lily Mastrodimos)

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.

Last year, Lily Mastrodimos turned in one of A Year’s Worth of Memories‘ most definitive pieces. It was an uncompromising look at depression and learning to navigate that with different methods of self-care. It’s an honor to be hosting yet another Mastrodimos piece as part of this year’s edition of the series and this time around the musician’s turned in another definitive entry. The Long Neck mastermind (and Jawbreaker Reunion guitarist/vocalist) once again grapples with grief, loss, and finding strength and comfort through music. Tragic, absorbing, and uplifting, it’s more than worth the read.

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My family lost 3 grandparents in 2016: my maternal grandmother (Nana) and both of my paternal grandparents (Yiayia and Pappou). Nana left us on January 20, Yiayia passed away on February 23, and Pappou passed several months later on September 13. I find it overwhelmingly difficult to separate everything I experienced or did this past year with the grief that my family and I felt. It is so deeply ingrained in 2016, and sometimes I see it as two arms holding everything I did this year close to its chest and refusing to let go. 2016 was a big year for me scientifically and musically, but the grief I felt fused more closely to my relationship with music, becoming a part of everything I wrote or played or listened to throughout the year.

I associate Nana’s passing with the Adult Mom/Jawbreaker Reunion tour, Yiayia’s with the Titus Andronicus show that let my sister and I shed the pain of the previous month and a half, and Pappou’s with the end of the gobbinjr/Long Neck tour. It felt like everything I did in between their passings was already defined by them, and it became a daily challenge to figure out how I would cope with the weight of each.

Nana’s passing had cut me down and kept me down for what felt like eternity. She had always been so supportive of both my musical and scientific aspirations, though she put more emphasis on my biological pursuits. Nevertheless, she would mail me newspaper articles about interesting bands or performances, and would insist that I write a ballad for the next JBR album. When she left, things froze and I felt like I was sinking. Yiayia’s passing sucked what remaining energy I had left away from me. After seven months of working through the pain and feeling like I was getting better, Pappou’s passing brought a strange and heavy weight to my shoulders.

I came to recognize that grief feels like a standstill, and the grief that follows the death of a loved one was one that I had not felt before. It was immobilizing and overwhelmingly exhausting. My grief settled in the center of my chest like a pile of stones, crushing the air from my lungs and sending out waves throughout the rest of my body. I was depressed and felt hollow. Things felt surreal. Days were interminable, and I couldn’t bring myself to get anything done.

Everything I was, everything I encountered, every inch of space that surrounded me, felt monstrously heavy. I was becoming increasingly anxious that I was blurring the line between self-pity and the pain of grief, terrified that I was growing lazy and comfortable within the shell that mourning had built around me.

Writing kept me busy and gave me something to do while I tried to make sense of everything I was feeling and processing. Most of the music I wrote during this time was either quiet and hushed or very loud, with no real in-between. It felt like the louder songs took longer for me to work on, like I had to find the energy to sing them. Playing shows with JBR and Long Neck also provided relief through consistent bursts of energy, even if singing certain songs made me feel raw or exposed, like I had to relive everything I was feeling or thinking word-by-word.

When I got back home, I’d retreat to my room and try to muster up the fortitude to go over the quieter songs, the ones that specifically focused on loss and mourning, the ones I wrote for Nana, the ones I wrote to help me figure out how I could feel better. While some of these songs will never see the light of day, they allowed me to channel the grief I was feeling into something, anything.

When I wasn’t writing or playing, I found refuge in Battle Ave, Titus Andronicus, Mitski, Jeff Rosenstock, PUP, Chumped, the So So Glos– bands whose music I could scream to in the car when I needed to release my anxiety or tension. My job had me working throughout the northernmost regions of New Jersey, close to the New York border. I’d drive around the forests of Passaic and Bergen counties, past lakes and reservoirs and mountains, haunted roads and abandoned tourist attractions.

The silence and isolation of this part of the state was soon filled with the crashing sounds of guitars, the bittersweet words of strangers, the driving and soul-shaking bass tones, all swallowing me in a sea of noise within the confines of my old car. It was a kind of escapism that let me drown out my own frantic thoughts with something louder, something I could lend my voice to and still feel like I was beating back the sadness.

I realize now that much of what I listened to in 2016 was music that tied me to land, to my favorite places, to my home or the places where I felt home. Battle Ave’s Year of Nod, for instance, brought me back to the woods upstate where I had found comfort during other tumultuous times. Titus Andronicus reminded me that I could never be truly lost or alone in my homeland of Jersey, and I found myself listening to The Monitor most of all. For my sister and I, “The Battle of Hampton Roads” became something like our own battle cry- especially at the last line (“I’d be nothing without you, my darling, please don’t ever leave”).

When we saw Titus in February, hours after attending Yiayia’s funeral, we received a shot of catharsis that we desperately, desperately needed. We could hardly believe it when the first chord was struck for “Battle”, and spent a majority of the song screaming along. When the last line came around, we lost it. Suddenly, we were heavily sobbing, hugging each other and shouting “Please don’t ever leave” through the tears. The last few months washed over us in a bitter and acute sense of grief, then quickly melted away and left us with immense relief, joy, and peace. We left the show amazed, empowered, hopeful, and for the first time in a long time, happy.

For the most part, the music that got me through the year focused on relationships, on connections, on the love we have for our friends and our family, on the importance that these people hold in our lives. It was the music that you and your best friends or your sibling would scream to each other in a big crowd.

And we drank, and we talked shit, and I was happy” (“Name That Thing”, Chumped)

“Do you believe in something beautiful? Then get up and be it” (“Me and Mia”, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists)

Music that is loud and commands you to let people know just how much they mean to you, and how you would feel if they were suddenly gone.

“I’d be nothing without you, my darling, please don’t ever leave”

“I gotta let you know while you’re alive cos I’ll be a disaster when you die” (“…While You’re Alive”, Jeff Rosenstock)

“I look up at the gaps of sunlight. I miss you more than anything” (“Francis Forever”, Mitski)

Music that reminds you that it’s OK to take breaks, but you have to fucking get up and keep moving, as seemingly impossible as that feels, because this cannot break you.

I called up some folks I truly love and hung up after they said hello. I got so tired of discussing my future, I’ve started avoiding the people I love” (“Nausea”, Jeff Rosenstock)

“This winter hasn’t been so rough. Oh it was cold, but it wasn’t cold enough to freeze the blood between my spine. And at least I survived” (“Dark Days”, PUP)

Then there was the music I actually made with my best friends. The shows I played towards the end of the Adult Mom/JBR tour– and the enormous support of my bandmates and tourmates– helped me get through the news of Nana’s hospitalization and her declining health. The release of JBR’s second album and the show we played to celebrate it filled me with a tremendous sense of pride and joy that left me elated and filled with so much love.

When I started feeling small or uncomfortable or anxious in the area I call my home, Long Neck shows and practices reminded me that I could carry the grief I had without feeling ashamed, and my bandmates were there to help me find my footing again. Our tour with gobbinjr felt like an amazing dream, and in recording our second album I can revisit everything I felt in 2016 without feeling heavy, lost, scared, or alone, because I have them.

In 2016, music reminded me that when your loved ones leave you, it doesn’t mean love itself is gone. If anything, you begin to see the love that you have in your life more clearly. You want to take everyone in your life and write them long letters expressing how much you love them, so they can have a physical record of it. You want to savor every moment you spend with your family and your friends and your pets and hell, even strangers or vague acquaintances. You become increasingly nostalgic, and while at times the memories sting you, eventually they flood you with warmth and you quietly give thanks to the time you were given with people who have come and gone.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank everyone who helped me make it through the year. I won’t name everyone, because it’s a fair list, and chances are you already know who you are. (If you don’t, be sure that the next time I see you, I will hug you and tell you in person.) But I want you to know that I am so immensely thankful to have you all in my life, so grateful for everything you did for me. I want you all to know how much you are cared for, how much you are appreciated, how much you are loved. For the new year I resolve to be more open and honest with the people in my life, take more risks, be more thankful and live without fear, and be as available and kind as best I can, and not take the people in my life for granted.

We all grieve differently, and I’m not going to pretend to speak on behalf of everyone who has ever lost someone and mourned gravely and deeply. My grief was and is my own. It took me nearly the entirety of 2016 to start feeling O, to understand that there is no limit for the time you can spend grieving. There are days that are still tough, and as we’re nearing the end of January I know that things may start feeling weird and off and tough again. But I am more confident now that I’ll make it through. I will be OK because love still exists and will continue to exist, because I will keep making music no matter what, because I am surrounded by amazing and supportive and caring people, and life will keep moving forward.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (John Rossiter)

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.

One of the bands that Heartbreaking Bravery was built to celebrate was Young Jesus. Ever since Home, the band’s been consistently releasing some of the best material of any year they put something out. The band’s leader, John Rossiter (pictured left), has been kind enough to provide this site with a whole array of material for premieres and publishing, including a piece for the last edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Rossiter’s graciously returning for this year’s edition with a piece examining some moments on the bands tours and revelations gleaned from introspection. Read it below.

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Too many thoughts for this year. Too too many. I don’t even know where to begin and I think that’s part of the point– part of this dark and swirling and sordid winter of a U.S. soul. There’s no single laser-focus problem or answer (I know this is nothing new but I don’t know what else to write).

I wanna write to you like I know you. Maybe we’ve played the same houses, seen the same bands, read the same books. And still you are DISTANT— on some computer or phone (like me right now). There are strands here though, the tiniest bridges or strings. Cobwebs connecting us in some real tenuous ways. Tenuous but they’re there. Together in the no-answer?

This year was, like the last few years, full of touring, recording, work. We played an exhausted two hour improv set in Yorkville, IL where (looking back on it) we probably sounded something like Phish meets Neu!. I got a fever in Houston and missed out on Fuddruckers. Slept on a ranch with ten huskies and a few horse in the middle of a Dallas thunderstorm. Time’s gone gauzy and Like Bill Callahan said in “Jim Cain“, “I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again. Something too big to be seen was passing over and over me.”

There was a line from a tune we released this year, where it culminates in me yelling, “I am ashamed to believe in myself!” The more I think about it, the more the whole idea changes. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether I believe in myself. I’ve come to believe in the constant flux construction of it all– the distance and intimacy between me, Eric, Kern, Marcel (the band)– our families, our friends, people at shows– the daily strange process of living.

I’m trying to grant it a certain vigilance and respect and thought. Consideration of space (for people, for things). I don’t know you but I believe in this daily effort, the slow strengthening of our tiny strings. There are Too-Big-Things passing over us. We’ll be around. I’m not sure what kinda model to follow, how our music should be released, at what level our actions need to speak of resistance and care. But I wanna talk about it and hear what you think.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Lindsay Hazen)

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.

Last year Lindsay Hazen contributed an astounding piece to this series that focused on using music as a means of coping. This time around, Hazen continues to celebrate the music that makes life worth living. In a chronicling of great shows, artists, and records, Hazen also offers a unique window into some personal experiences accrued throughout 2016. As always, the writing’s compelling, swift, and lands with impact. It’s a beautiful piece that more than deserves anyone’s time. Tackle it in full below.

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I saw Weaves at a free NXNE showcase at Sonic Boom’s temporary location on Bathurst. They played with Courtney Barnett, Army Girls, and Baby Eagle. My partner and I got day-tipsy on free French beer and did the annoying thing we do in record stores where we walk around and then yell to each other excitedly about things we want. Or… I did. You don’t understand Weaves until you see them. Jasmyn Burke trembles. She commands your attention. She is a diva in the most positive of connotations. She is extremely kind.

I saw her with her band RatTail at the Drake Underground. She shone then, too. Angular, jagged guitar, insistent drums complement her voice in many of the songs on Weaves’ self-titled debut. Morgan Waters was the best thing about his previous band, Sweet Thing (whom you might remember for being the ridiculously catchy song from Easy A that wasn’t “Pocket Full Of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield). I saw them at the Mod Club with Allie Hughes, one of the best moments from the first year I lived in Toronto (a period of my life I have to actively try not to romanticize).

I saw PUP a couple of years ago, on a snowy night in Toronto (the second time), at a show in the public library in Yorkville. They played with Alvvays. They covered “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys. I remember how I felt my body tremble when they began to play “Reservoir”. I listen to it when I get really bad panic attacks. I can’t help but feel the carpet of the library under my feet, I can’t help but breathe – let the song expand inside me, let my heart race along with it and spend my nervous energy. What’s left to lose? What am I supposed to do now? Nothing. Anything I can, anything I want. I knew what I was doing after all. PUP is that kind of band. They’re a band that lifts. Unites. Makes songs into anthems; crowds into tempests; energy into things that matter.

PUP makes The Dream being over sound like taking the pill that wakes you up from The Matrix and into 2016. It feels like true things that you can’t say to the ones you love. It feels like Canada – expansive, yet claustrophobic at the same time. Dark corners in which you can lose yourself. Being snowblind in the sun. I was sad they didn’t win the Polaris. I was more thrilled than I can express that 2016 was very much The Year of PUP. They can only get better.

When I’m 70 I can’t wait to get sweaty in the crowd of geriatric PUP fans and pay $250 to see them at the Skydome or something equally arena-esque and brag to my grandchildren that I knew they were rockstars when I read about a band called Topanga in Exclaim! I knew what I was doing after all. When I left the library it was snowing, but I held my jacket in my arms and let the cold embrace me. I was numb on the subway home. My lungs were killing me, I didn’t even get high. I knew what I was doing after all.

I saw The Lonely Parade in Taco Pica, which hosts its fair share of Saint John’s local DIY shows. I went with my two friends. I acted like a dork. I was ridiculously excited. Their song “Stomach” is one of my favourite songs of all time. I was not prepared for their set. I wish I had been less self-conscious and danced. They were so fucking ridiculously groovy. No Shade, their startlingly wonderful album from this year, is mixed to sound cool and dry. It sounds… acerbic.

It sounds witty. In person their sound is heavy and warm, surrounding you. The bass lines flow like lava, weaving through the percussion. Watching “Johnny Utah” literally dropped my jaw. The guitar solo in “Girl“… I cannot speak more highly of their musicianship. “No AM” is a real highlight of the album, the use of reverb and the rhythmic patterns remind me of Controller.Controller, and I get another amazing guitar solo I can embarrassingly rock out to at the bus stop.

I was lucky enough to see Casper Skulls, Chastity, Blessed, Billy Moon, Sheik, and hand-drawn (RIP). I was able to watch producer-composer-engineer Artifiseer (Ian Livingstone) and Arkanjello (Gabe Williams) the musical polyglot who crafted my favourite record of 2017 (so far), Vegan Songs, evolve as artists and work with found sound and imagery grounded in real experiences of maritime life. Gabe has a singing voice like a young Bowie. He has programming sensibility of Caribou on a Grimes and Lana Del Rey listening kick, and makes songs that are frenetic – kaleidoscopic almost. There’s a beautiful fracturing in his tones.

I am glad that the world finally found out that Toronto has long been the source of some of the best punk music in history (Martha and the Muffins, anyone?) and is home to some of the world’s legendary spaces – spaces that feel like home to any music person. The Horseshoe Tavern and Lee’s Palace are more a part of me than any house I have ever lived in. New spaces are opening all the time. I can’t count how many shows I’ve wished I could see at Smiling Buddha this year that made my heart ache from across the country.

But right now, pay attention to New Brunswick. Sackville has Sappyfest and bands the likes of Partner and Baby Eagle. Fredericton is also a DIY hotbed with deep relationships with the Halifax and Montreal scenes. And Saint John, my adopted home, is a place where people make pain and struggle into beauty, make some innovative venue spaces that give diverse artists a voice – including the Panic Room, Taco Pica, live performances at the City Market, and the historic Imperial Theatre.

We lost so much this year, so many people, so many dreams, so many fights. But we have fought, won, reclaimed, rejoiced. As a community we yelled, donated, protested, protected, aided, loved and learned so much this year. 2016 is the year that we declared music our home and our sanctuary. We are going into 2017 blind to the future but facing it together.

‘You have the right to be mad, but when you carry it alone you find it only getting in the way.’ In 2016, music carried us. We let it inspire us and drive us and effect real change and use art to be as selfless as our empty wallets and full hearts let us be. Thank you to the artists I’ve seen perform, the people whose lyrics and riffs and beats made me want to be a better person than I was yesterday. And thank you to Saint John for being my shelter in a world that sometimes feels like its falling apart.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Phil McAndrew)

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.

Somewhere over the past few years, Phil McAndrew became a vital part of Heartbreaking Bravery. The band McAndrew plays in, The Nudes, was kind enough to offer a song to the site for a premiere spot, he’s contributed to every edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories, and gifted the A Step Forward compilation with it’s gorgeous album art. A gifted musician, writer, and artist, McAndrew turns the attention to the time he set up a show for the first time. It’s a heartening read that can (and should) be explored below. Enjoy.

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Right at the beginning of 2016 my pal Isabel sent me a message. Isabel was planing to take their band Izzy True out on the road in the spring with Painted Zeros and they were looking to play a show here in my zone, in Syracuse, New York. They asked if The Nudes would want to play too (I play drums in The Nudes) and wondered if I could set it up.

I’d played many shows before and I’d been recruited to draw flyers for a lot of shows over the years, but I’d never set a show up myself. I’d always been happy to let other people handle that stuff because it seemed like a lot of work and I don’t even really know how a guitar amp works. But I said yes, I will set this show up. So I asked my friend Jon (Spit Fam Tapes), who I was pretty sure had some idea of how guitar amps work, if he could help me run a show and he agreed.

Fast forward to April. The Nudes had finished recording some new songs and were scrambling to get a new tape ready in time for the show, which was set for April 9th and had swelled to a massive five band show. In addition to Painted Zeros, Izzy True and The Nudes, Crusher was coming up from Brooklyn to play and Real Things was coming up from New Paltz, New York.

All five bands were connected in some beautiful way – Izzy True were touring with their good friends and Don Giovanni label mates Painted Zeros. Painted Zeros had a practice space in Brooklyn right next to Crusher and had been helping Crusher record some songs. My brother Ray was playing bass in Crusher. My bandmate and roommate Shauna was good friends with Real Things drummer Kate, who I am pretty sure had previously played in a band with Izzy True drummer Angela.

I’d been pulling all-nighters for weeks trying to hit a final deadline for a graphic novel that I’d spent a year and a half illustrating. After staying up all night on April 7th, I’d managed to finish work on the book at 5:55 am on April 8. I slept for a few hours and then went with Shauna to a print shop to print inserts for the new tapes that we’d been working on. I was feeling very bonkers and scattered and exhausted, but also super powerful and full of excitement.

The next day I ran a bunch of errands and then met Jon at the venue, Spark Contemporary Art Space. Jon is a chef by day and he’d made food for the show and we had free coffee for anyone that wanted it and beer for anyone that knew to ask for it. We got the space set up and puttered around listening to music from my laptop, waiting for people (and bands) to show up. I had no idea if anyone would come! My worst fear was that nobody would come and I’d have to send four touring bands on their way with little or no money. Luckily somewhere between 100 and 150 people came (which most of the time is unheard of in Syracuse) and had fun.

Jon ran sound and I manned the door. We recruited our friend Brendan to do some live projector light art stuff, so the bands played with a backdrop of swirling liquid colors and lights. Everyone got wild and shredded. I don’t say this to toot my own horn, but it truly was one of the best shows I’ve seen in Syracuse, not only because of the quality of the bands that played but also because the space seemed to be actually glowing and pulsating with love and good vibes.

A drunk man hugged me at the end of the show and said “please do this again.” Another person told me that it was the first show they could remember seeing where they felt compelled to buy a record or tape from every single band that played. After the show Isabel gave me some Mœbius trading cards that they picked up on earlier on tour at a comic shop in Portland, OR, a gift that I still treasure and keep near my drawing space as a memento of this perfect day.

We had a total of thirteen or fourteen touring musicians who needed a place to crash that night. The sleepiest handful of rockers went and buried themselves in blankets at my dear sweet parents’ house after the show, which at the time was only about a mile away. Everybody else stayed up all night hanging out at my house. Jared of Painted Zeros was turning a year older at midnight that night and he demanded that people stay up and finish a bottle of whiskey with him. I remember being up very late in my kitchen, laughing with Jared and Jon and my brother Ray and Crusher’s drummer Kat. Eventually every nook and cranny of my apartment was filled with sleeping people, like the opening scene in Muppets From Space where characters are popping out of cabinets and bathtubs and dresser drawers.

Someone told me a few days later that it was the first time they could remember seeing a show in Syracuse where none of the bands that played were fronted by dudes. I know for a fact that there had been other shows here in recent memory where most, if not all of the bands, were fronted by people who are not dudes. But this person was right to point out that this is sadly a rarity here in Syracuse. And when it does happen, the show is often promoted as an “all girl band show!” or something. So I made it my mission to continue booking shows and to normalize shows where all or even half the people playing music are women (or people who don’t identify as male).

I realized that by continuing to occasionally take on the responsibility of booking shows (and helping friends with shows that they’re booking), I’ve been able to have some small bit of influence on the local music scene in ways that I think and hope are very positive. Plus, I get to make sure that bands that I am really excited about come through town every so often. I ended up booking a bunch of shows throughout the rest of the 2016 and already have one coming up in 2017 with two of my favorite bands.

2015 & 2016: Two Year’s Worth of Memories (Jesse Amesmith)

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.

In the first edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories Green Dreams’ Jesse Amesmith wrote about a show in Rochester that was memorable for all the right reasons (while some of the lead-up was needlessly tense). In 2015, Amesmith turned in a piece about confronting thoughts of inadequacy just after the last chapter of that edition had been posted. As an amendment, that post will run alongside Amesmith’s piece for 2016, a brief summary of stray thoughts that had accumulated over the course of Green Dreams’ summer tour. Both are teeming with insight, heart, and humanity. Amesmith continues to be inspiring at every turn and having her as a consistent part of this series, as always, is nothing short of a privilege.

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2015

Some years are exciting, and others are transitory, a build up to potential future excitement. For me, 2015 was a year of setting up dominoes… quietly and carefully aligning the pieces for their future fall. The older I get the less time makes sense, and the more I am able to make sense of it by just staying in the current moment. Do you ever feel like there was so much that happened that nothing at all did? I opened a yoga studio with my mom, Green Dreams wrote and recorded an album I’m very proud of (look for it on Honor Press this summer), I made art that excites me, we got a new bass player, I spent time with friends and family… and I punched a heckler in the face during a set we played in April.

The latter left me a vacillating mess of anxiety & depression. The trauma of being assaulted at a show in a small town and being gossiped about and degraded publicly dredged up a lot of old bullshit leftover from my teenage years, reinforced by a cultural climate that wants to silence my dissonance. I don’t even want to talk about it most times, because talking about it gives the situation and the people who came after me power, or maybe because I’m afraid that it will bring unwanted attention from these men and others who would rather tell me all the reasons it was my fault instead of holding one of their own accountable.

At what point does personal safety  and peace of mind intersect with standing up for what you know is right? What you believe in your heart? Is it worth wading through the muck? Is it worth having mud smeared in your face and hair, only to be criticized for getting dirty in the swamp? What even is this metaphor? Welcome to my brain this past year. It’s been rough.

When so many more good things happened to me last year by comparison, why is this awful memory taking up so much space in my brain? Smeared over top of everything I have accomplished is this thick layer of shame. The Shame tells me that talking about the good things isn’t truthful, or worthwhile, because nothing I do ever feels like enough. It tells me that the bad things need to be kept QUIET! “Nobody wants to hear about YOU”, The Shame hisses. The voice inside constantly tells me these terrible lies we all tell ourselves. On it’s best days it sounds like my abusers and detractors, on it’s worst days the voice is my own.

It’s not enough to have a supportive partner, to sign with a label, to have your dream career and lifestyle. Be thinner. Be nicer. Be more agreeable. Be sexy. Be demure. Be younger. Be any way other than how you are right now. You know what though? Even if I could be all of those things it STILL wouldn’t be enough. The voice is insatiable. It’s not sustainable. 2015 was a year that I stopped trusting that voice, and started to question it’s motives. That isn’t me. My eating disorder isn’t me. The me you see isn’t me. The me I see on my worst days isn’t me. It isn’t you, either. We are not these things. We are not our Shame and Doubt. We exist beyond the confines of our bodies, society, space and time.

My heart breaks over and over and over again when that voice repeats that None of It is Enough. For myself, for this world, for everyone who feels like I do. I feel like none of my accomplishments matter if I don’t look a certain way, or act a certain way, like the more I do the longer that list of expectations becomes. I’m trying to shake these feelings and learn to love myself more every day, even if that means a year of wading through the muck. It’s fucking hard.

More and more I am learning that the only thing we can do to stand up against the oppression of the world around us is to soften. To those who love us, to those who oppose us, and most of all to ourselves. 2015 was a year of intense vulnerability, a year where I embraced the idea that to move on I have to really let go. I hope talking about these things reminds you that you’re not alone, that we all struggle with what it means to be us in this world. Keep being you, I’m gonna keep being me. I am enough, and so are you.


2016

My favorite part of 2016 was probably our summer tour. People we met on the road were still optimistic about the fall & the future, and my own life was on a roll; I was about to turn 30, my band was finishing up a record, my business was starting to happen, and it was warm & sunny. We swam as often as we could, and made sure to eat lots of greens, fresh fruit, and drank enough water. We told each other when we needed space, and held each other when we were tired or needed a cry. The folks we stayed with took excellent care of us, and old & new friendships were forged and cared for.

In a lot of ways this trip represented our idealized world… one where we can still afford to drive large heavy vehicles around the country to hopefully play for enough to get to the next place, where we can forgive each other for times we were young or careless, or selfish. A summertime world where there IS enough when we lean in and look for it… but the brightest sun casts the darkest shadows. More than one place we stopped for gas was hurried through, trying to keep quiet & unobtrusive… respectful muppets in the sea of travelers & passersby.

I think a lot about the people that live in these small places, how much they must hurt too, and love too, and get swept away in the sea of the mind, too. This trip, in hindsight, offers the gift of perspective. People who keep hidden away in their own dark corner of the world will only have the perspective from which they sit, and that part of the unlearning of what has happened culturally this year we need to get out of our own bubbles and into new places, expanding our view of the world.

It becomes much harder to hate when you’ve seen more of the world. People are people everywhere you go. For better or worse, the more different we are the more glaring our similarities become. I think most people just want to be heard, ya know? In 2016 I learned that more than ever I need to stop being ruled my ego and what chains me to my idea of myself. All we can do is take care of each other and the world around us. The first step is stepping out of your dark corner, and into the sun.

We’re all just meat skeletons tethered to a floating rock, and I love you. Here are some photos from the Green Dreams Summer Tour 2016, I hope they feel warm to look at, and remind you of what it’s like to go new places and experience new things. Here’s to more of that, this year. ❤

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Nicola Leel)

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.

Returning after an excellent entry into last year’s edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories, Doe‘s Nicola Leel decides to focus in on finding reasons to maintain hope in times of darkness. In addition to releasing one of last year’s best records, Some Things Last Longer Than You, Doe played their fair share of memorable shows (and had their fair share of memorable moments). Here, Leel fondly recalls a snowstorm that Doe had to brave in between Berlin and Erlangen, which made a show in Regensburg even sweeter. Leel continues to be one of my favorite people in music and getting an insight into her worldview only reinforces that position. Dive in and see the light.

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We released our first album in 2016 and had a lot of great experiences as a result, but the one that sticks is a surreal night in Europe when we were on tour with Happy Accidents and Personal Best.

We had played in Berlin the previous night and were driving through Germany towards the next show when snow started falling, gently at first, before developing into a heavy blizzard that through the windscreen looked like we were travelling through space at light-year speed. This was particularly ominous for our driver Kerry, who had never driven in any kind of snow before. After travelling through what felt like the portal to another world for around an hour, the traffic came to a standstill on the motorway, but the snow kept falling. An hour passed, two, all of the vehicles around us turned off their engines and the motorway fell deathly silent.

With the snow showing no signs of letting up and no sign of movement or even human life nearby, we killed the time with a cheery conversation in which we imagined all of the possible scenarios should this be the end of the world. Maybe there was no-one in the other vehicles, maybe they’d all just disappeared and we were in another dimension where we were the only people left in the world. Maybe some kind of sickness had taken over and zombies would slowly appear from the darkness between the cars. We also decided what order we would die in and took it upon ourselves to decide upon the order of the Happy Accidents car too.

When we finally made it to the venue 4 hours late and reunited with the other car, we learned that whilst we’d been talking end-of-world death order scenarios they’d been recording a fun podcast and listening to pop-punk. Tilman, the promoter, was understandably a little stressed and told us there had been no sign of snow in Erlangen, which made it feel even more eerie as this was just 45 minutes away from where we had spent 3 hours on the motorway. Suitably spooked, we set up as quickly as we could and played short sets to the handful of people who, incredibly, had stuck around to watch us. Though we’d all lost our minds a little it was a fun show and the small audience were great.

Awakening to the sun streaming through the blinds in Tilman’s beautiful apartment the next morning, we learned that Donald Trump had been elected President of the United States. Maybe we had travelled through a portal after all, and had come out of the other side in a dystopian future where everything looked beautiful but nothing felt right. I was completely flattened and yet full of a strange hopefulness because of the situation I was in and the people I was with. That night we played in a basement in Regensburg, it was the best show of tour and everyone played sets full of furious energy, shared by everyone who was packed into the tiny, smoke filled room.

It feels weird taking good things from a year that was so unkind to so many, but as cliche as it sounds, I felt very fortunate at that moment in time to be exactly where I was, doing exactly what I was doing, as a result of music.

 

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.