Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Jessi Frick

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories

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.

Once again, I’d like to start off with thanking the 2016 crop of contributors for A Year’s Worth of Memories: James Greer, Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Amanda Dissinger, Loren DiBlasi, Katie Preston, Erica Sutherland, Nicola Leel, Jesse Amesmith, Phil McAndrew, Lindsay Hazen, John Rossiter, Sonia Weber, Lily Mastrodimos, Eric Slick, Jerard Fagerberg, Megan Manowitz, Amar Lal, Phyllis Ophelia, Elise Okusami, Isaac Eiger, Alisa Rodriguez, Ryan Wizniak, Nora Scott, Natalie Kirch, and Jessica Leach. There aren’t words powerful enough to adequately convey my gratitude for your efforts, time, care, and consideration. Apologies to anyone that may have contributed something that got lost in the shuffle (if this is you, please send me a note and we can try to work something out for next year).

As you may have noticed, every single entry into this year’s edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories (this one included) either ran or is running with the disclaimer up top. At the start of the year, Heartbreaking Bravery was effectively forced into a hiatus to work out technical complications that occurred due to what essentially amounted to a correspondence glitch. All sorts of things went haywire and reconnecting all the wires was a surprisingly difficult task. A number of things got lost in the shuffle.

For a brief time, I thought about ending the site permanently but reading back through the material that was still left on the table — as well as some of the material that was posted in the past — dissuaded me from calling it quits. These pieces needed to be published and it felt important, maybe even necessary, to continue this site.

While the timing may have rendered the 2016 installment of A Year’s Worth of Memories a little less timely than I would have liked, the pieces themselves largely transcended the time capsule-style trappings typically attributed to these types of works. Many touched on lessons that seemed timeless. All of them made me question what I’d eventually choose to write about it and how I’d present it whenever I did choose. The piece I wrote last year  was outrageously long and I didn’t want to go through something that exhausting again.

Eventually, I decided the best route would be to combine some of the common traits laid out by the 2016 series: splitting the piece into four pieces, focusing on personal triumphs while making room for gnawing anxieties, visual interludes, and paying tribute to the people and events that are worth celebrating. All that and more can be read below.

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SMALL FESTS & SHOWS

2016 was the year of small festivals; I’d always preferred them to the spectacle-laden retreats that seem to dominate the news cycles every year. Many of these small-scale events I’d been trying to see for years and 2016 just wound up being kind enough to allow me access to events like FRZN Fest, Wicker Park Fest, and Eaux Claires, among others. Unsurprisingly, each held its own share of memorable frustrations and scintillating highlights. In no particular moment, here are some of the standout moments.

Chicago was atypically warm for last year’s annual Music Frozen Dancing, which saw Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits, and the Black Lips playing outdoors to a packed crowd outside of the Empty Bottle. While all of the bands were good and the Black Lips, as they always do, managed to invoke the high school memories of discovering and participating in that genre of music, nothing could’ve topped Meat Wave unveiling “Glass Teeth” from what would eventually become their next record.

Ragged and sick, the band tore into the new material with the kind of excitement reserved for new material. It was a standout moment of a day that refused to end (my friend Josh and I wound up taking three different forms of public transit after the trains stopped running) after an off-the-books Heavy Times show wrapped in the early hours of the morning. It was a surreal moment and allowed for an extended view of Chicago at night. Exhausted, content, and desperate to get back to our sleeping quarters, it was a difficult night to forget.

Months later, I’d return for the unreasonably stacked Wicker Park Fest, excited to see a long list of friends and more than a few bands that had been on my bucket list. The weather had different plans. Not only did getting turned around on the way to the fest’s first day wind up forcing me to walk a few extra miles before being saved by a generous taxi driver who offered me a free ride after the first rain of the weekend started descending, more than half of the bands I’d intended to see got cancelled because of storms on both days.

Nearly as soon as I got through the gates, I was already rushing to take shelter with a bunch of other festivalgoers who had effectively sequestered themselves in Reckless Records, which would eventually lose power and offer up a faint glow with candles set up in various parts of the store People browsed records, reading materials, and gathered by the wind to watch the storm lift tents out of the ground and send them ricocheting down Paulina St. There was an odd magic to it all.

There were bright musical spots in the midst of all of that chaos, though, including an unbelievably explosive Jeff Rosenstock set that saw the songwriter leaping over the barricade gap, guitar still attached, to crowdsurf at the end of an abbreviated set. The whirlwind nature of Rosenstock’s performance, which came after the storm delays and restrictions were lifted, felt like an appropriate maelstrom of energy; a whirlwind performance driven by some unknowable force.

Five or six songs in length, it’d wind up being the highlight of the festival. Somewhere nearby, one of the trains on the blue line wound up getting blown off the rails by the intense winds and caused festival organizers to proceed with extra caution on the second day, which was hit with an even worse run of weather.

I spent much of that day with Sasha Geffen — the fist young music journalist I can remember truly admiring — who was with me when I was forming the initial idea for A Year’s Worth of Memories and was a vital part of its finalization. We took in great, sunny sets from Bad Bad Hats and Diet Cig before the storm reappeared and spent a lot of time in a powerless Emporium Arcade. During that run — which forced cancellations of both Pile and PUP — I was also fortunate enough to meet A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor David Anthony.

The last memorable moment of that festival caught me paralyzed in between two stages, with Ought ripping into “More Than Any Other Day” on one side and Alvvay‘s launching into “Archie, Marry Me” on the other. I took in both, unable to choose between two of the best songs of the past ten years before rushing over to Ought, who had their industrial sensibilities enhanced by their backdrop, trains running along the blue line in the background while being cloaked in a calm, post-storm glow. It was a perfect way to cap a very chaotic festival.

Three more small festivals had their fair share of spectacular moments as well: Bon Iver debuting an entire record at Eaux Claires, sending chills down my spine for the entirety of “715 – CR∑∑KS” while crickets audibly chirped on the forest perimeter, their sound elevated by the reverential silence of a crowd of thousands. Tickle Torture playing shortly after that set and delivering a slew of the festival’s best moments, including a finale that saw bandleader Elliot Kozel (formerly of Sleeping in the Aviary) getting completely naked while screaming “MY LOVE!” at the top of his lungs. That day starting at the gates, listening to the sounds of an expanded Tenement lineup blowing away a festival crowd and spending that day in the presence of some of my favorite people, including A Year’s Worth of Memories contributors Nina Corcoran (who I wrote about for my piece last year) and Sam Clark (who has played in more than one band with me).

Turkey Fest’s final day had a stellar lineup boasting four great acts: Wood Chickens, Trampoline Team, The Hussy, and Nobunny, with the latter two delivering incredible sets full of ridiculous high-energy antics. FRZN Fest had more than a few moments that wound up being burned into my memory. None more frustrating than an infuriatingly chatty crowd refusing to give Julien Baker anything beyond a modicum of courtesy. None more exciting than a characteristically perfect Charly Bliss set that had me continuously grinning while singing along to songs that comprised the best EP of this current decade and will litter one of 2017’s best records.

As much as I love both Julien Baker and Charly Bliss, though, there was something about Torres‘ set that felt almost holy. Playing after a good Eternal Summers set and the best Palehound set I’ve seen to date, Torres dove headfirst into a set that alternately gave me chills, lifted my spirits, calmed me, and — almost inexplicably — at one point had me on the verge of tears. To top it all off, Torres’ goosebump-inducing one-song encore wound up being tantamount to a religious experience that included a lovely moment between bandleader Mackenzie Scott and my friend Justin. I was fortunate enough to capture that moment in full and revisit it frequently.

For individual shows, there were a number of great outings that were peppered with heartening moments lingering around the peripheries of the main event. Walking into the High Noon Saloon to be greeted with an onslaught of hugs from my friends in Yowler, Eskimeaux, and Frankie Cosmos, only to be whisked away for a coffee reprieve in a nearby shop by Gabby, Greta, and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Athylia Paremski, before circling back to a powerhouse show. Charly Bliss and PUP combining for what was, bar none, the most intense show I’ve ever experienced (at one point I was nearly choked out by a girl clutching the neckline of my shirt to keep herself upright in the swirling sea of chaos behind me).

As meaningful as both of those shows were, though, it would have been impossible for anyone to top an event that occurred early on in December: the official reunion of Good Grief, a band that meant an extraordinary amount to me that was nearly gone forever, taking place in Guu’s, the tavern that’s acted as a refuge for me during my various stints in my home town. People from the shows that dominated my fondest Stevens Point memories from that run all flooded in from various parts of the upper Midwest to see this take place and everyone lost their voices screaming along. Making things even sweeter: an opening set from Heavy Looks, led in part by my friend Rosalind Greiert, watching her hit a stride as both a writer and performer, and feeling an irrepressible rush of a million good feelings as I watched her come into her own in real time.

To see something like that happening (both the Heavy Looks set and the Good Grief set), surrounded by friends so close they’re considered family, engaging in something meaningful is an exhilarating feeling and a lot of people who were present are likely still feeling some of those feelings reverberations. Good Grief weren’t exactly a household name before their dissolution but they were — and remain — one of the best bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Get caught up by watching the videos from that reunion set right here:

PLAYING MUSIC

In 2016, I had the good fortune of playing the most shows in any given year that I probably ever have in my life. In addition to finishing writing a (forthcoming) solo record, I was able to play in three different bands with people I respect, admire, and care for deeply.

The band I played with the least was the band that I’d played with the most in 2015, A Blue Harbor. Geographic complications have essentially forced us into a hiatus by the middle of the year but we were still able to play a few shows in support of the full-length we’d recorded in Minneapolis in 2015, including a local show for a pop-up art gallery for an arts collective that made me feel a surge of hope for our small town. As unlikely as it seems at this point, something tells me the things this band has to offer have been far from exhausted (and our guitarist/vocalist, Matty, has been releasing a continuous string of excellent material on her own).

I accepted an invitation to join a new band called Doorstopper and have taken up residency behind  the kit. Jarad Olson, the bassist for both Good Grief and Heavy Looks as well as an incredible songwriter in his own right, had teamed up with our friend Melissa Haack to allow her poetry a musical platform in an odd experiment that’s been paying the type of dividends that I’m legitimately not sure any of us had expected. It’s become a band whose mantra has remained — and with good reason — “let’s get weird.” It’s a band that has been given the tag “premenstrual post-punk” and it’s the type of band that takes a suggestion for a “doom-wop” song seriously. And it’s a band that hasn’t stopped getting better and more interesting with each successive practice.

While Doorstopper has been occupying itself in the shadows, building something interesting, I also found myself being re-integrated into a resurgent Holly & the Nice Lions, who played all over the state of Wisconsin in 2016, with a host of fascinating bands. Some of those bands (Bad Wig, Midnight Reruns) were made up of the people we’ve been close friends with for years. Some of those bands (Young Jesus, POPE, Mo Troper) constitute the best emerging bands America has to offer.

One of those bands (Bully) has earned international acclaim. One of those bands (The Muffs) continues to be rightfully revered as not only icons but living legends. Through all of those shows, the weird parties surrounding them, and everything else that the minutiae of being in band carries, we’ve grown closer as a unit and I’m proud to consider both of the other members as family. Whether we were being towed to a house show after blowing a tire or playing hard enough to generate our own blood, we’ve found ways to continuously elevate each other, keep each other in check, and look out for each other. Show after show, song after song, the band kept getting better and we — impossibly — kept enjoying each other’s company more. It’s hard to imagine a better situation.

MY PARTNER

For all of the memorable things I was able to do in both film and music throughout 2016, by the year’s end none of it felt as meaningful as it would have if I didn’t get to share it with my partner, Simone. Throughout the last quarter of the year, we went from being good friends to being inseparable, willfully colliding at nearly every turn. I learned to rediscover the depths of my love for discovering new music by viewing it through her eyes. I rediscovered the importance of engaging in active good. I made up my mind to constantly strive to better myself in productive ways.

A series of shared trips to the various corners of the state of Wisconsin led to some genuinely unforgettable moments, whether it was carving out new, unbeaten paths in gorgeous parks on beautiful days or getting swept up in the (typically far too humid) intensity of shows in basements, dive bars, or anywhere else we might find people playing instruments (or picking up instruments of our own to play each other Bishop Allen songs). I’ll steal her glasses, she’ll steal my camera. We’ll laugh, we’ll listen, we’ll watch, and we’ll keep moving forward.

The survival of Heartbreaking Bravery can, in many ways, be directly attributed to her involvement in my life. All of the frustrating, terrifying events that have happened over the course of the year’s last stretch seemed easier to weather with her at my side and she’s constantly given me at least one major reason to celebrate the future. I’m thankful, grateful, and unbelievably lucky.

A STEP FORWARD

By the end of 2016, Heartbreaking Bravery had gained additional purpose. In the face of one of the most anti-arts (and anti-press) administrations in America’s history, the need to fight back by any means necessary increased. Even before the election, the fact that the current president’s campaign had carried him so far was troublesome. With a milestone rapidly approaching for the site, that happening at the forefront of the nation’s political landscape (and, more directly, America’s landscape), and an unending desire to be productive and actively contribute to good causes, I chose to resolve all of my feelings into one massive project: A Step Forward.

At first, I only expected a handful of people to be interested in contributing to the project. More than half of the artists I reached out to responded immediately and gifted the compilation, designed to serve as Heartbreaking Bravery’s 1000th post, incredible material. In a matter of weeks, I had more than 50 songs kicking around in my inbox. A few months later, my finger was lingering above the publish button, set to release 100 songs from 100 artists that had, in some way or another, been involved with this site’s history. By that point, I’d enlisted the help of Jes Skolnik to locate worthy causes and had struck up a correspondence with the Chicag0-based Rape Victim Advocates. All of the money made from the pay-your-own pricetag of A Step Forward would be going towards that organization.

Looking through all of the songs, whether they were demos, early mixes, new songs, remixes, or old favorites, and all of the artists who had chosen to give me a part of their lives because they believed in the things I was doing and the causes I was supporting was an overwhelming feeling. A lot of people that have had near-death experiences have described the sensation of seeing their life flash before their eyes and, in that moment with my finger hovering over the button to release this compilation, it was hard not to take stock of everything that had happened in my life over the course of this site’s existence. It was a jarring feeling but one that filled me with hope and with love for the people who have supported this place, stuck by my side, and lent their voice to any of the various projects to have run on Heartbreaking Bravery.

I was on the verge of tears when I woke up to the flood of responses the compilation had elicited and how much it had generated for people who put the funds to good use. I’d stayed up for nearly 50 straight hours getting the preparations for the project in place. Cody Dyb, one of my closest friends, was kind enough to let me use his internet to upload the materials (the internet at my house is obscenely slow) and I’d collapsed into a deep sleep shortly after returning home. Phil McAndrew, one of my favorite artists working today (and a regular contributor to this series), contributed an original piece to the project that has become one of my most-treasured renderings.

In the weeks leading up to A Step Forward‘s released, I’d done an ink sketch of what would become Heartbreaking Bravery’s logo. Petite League’s Lorenzo Cook — another Syracuse-based artist whose band contributed an incredible song to the compilation — meticulously tightened and superimposed the logo onto the image for the album art and the banner that can be seen at the top of this segment. I’m unbelievably grateful for both of their contributions and am lucky to count them both as friends. I also have to give special mention, once more, to Fred Thomas.

For more than a few years, I’ve considered Thomas to be one of the best lyricists in music (2017’s Changer finds him attaining stratospheric highs). When I reached out to him about the project and he suggested a song tackling the weird inter-scene dynamics that occur around someone being outed as a sexual predator, I wasn’t just flattered, I was flattened. That the ensuing work would be one of his strangest — partially inspired by S U R V I V E’s outstanding Stranger Things score work and a nice (if unintentional) nod to that particular act’s name — felt appropriate. “What Happens When the Costumes Come Off” is a song that perfectly embodied the tumultuous events that led to the formation of A Step Forward in my mind and has resonated with me ever since my first, oddly disorienting listen. There’s fear present in that song, there’s an incessant questioning, there’s a feeling of damage, but — most importantly — there is a feeling of resilience.

It’s that final feeling, resilience, that I’ve chosen to carry into 2017. With what America’s currently facing, resilience will be necessary. I’ve already been inspired by my friends’ resilience and generosity and I’ve vowed to carry on that spirit as best as possible. I’ve vowed to both make more room for and to elevate the voices of the groups who have been unfairly othered due to location, socioeconomic standing, or — infuriatingly — appearance, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Historically, the people that have followed this site have shared a similar mindset and I’m constantly humbled by their company. We’re all in this fight together and it’s important to listen to the fears, concerns, and desires of the people that have been denied a platform for the worst reasons all too frequently.

The shows and festivals made 2016, in turns, fascinating, frustrating, and genuinely exciting. The people I was fortunate enough to be playing some of those shows provided 2016 a level of comfort. My partner not only served as a constant source of inspiration but continuously reminded me of the good in the world and all of the reasons that hope should never be abandoned. A Step Forward taught me that I’ll never be alone in my belief that empathy, camaraderie, and compassion will always find a way to thrive and that now, more than ever, it’s important to carry on the work, the ideology, and the spirit of Heartbreaking Bravery. I will do my best to personally embody whatever legacy it may have at every single turn and I will always be honored by the company it’s allowed me to share. 2017 may seem bleak from the outset but I have every reason to find heart in the fight to ensure it’s better than what we expect.

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Of course, this series wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t thank everyone who’s contributed through the years. As I said earlier, all of your contributions — and the fact that you care at all — mean more than I could ever convey with just words. So thank you, again, to both all of those names listed at the top of this post and all of the following names for their past contributions: Loren DiBlasiSabyn Mayfield, Tica Douglas, Fred ThomasIsabel ReidySami Martasian, Ben GriggBella Mazzetti, David Anthony, Jamie Coletta, Chris SutterCole Kinsler, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, Stephen TringaliToby Reif, Elaiza Santos, Amelia Pitcherella, Katie Bennett, Miranda Fisher, Christine Varriale, Sam Clark, Julia Leiby, Kelly Johnson, Jessi Frick, Nicholas Cummins, Athylia Paremski,  David GlickmanSasha Geffen, Jeanette Wall, Eva Grace Hendricks, Caroline Rayner, Joseph Barchi, Edgar GonzalezShari Heck, Michael Caridi, Dave Benton, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Tess Duncan, Michelle Zauner, Jeff Bolt, Katie Capri, Quinn Moreland, Oliver Kalb, Ali Donohue, Ray McAndrew, Christopher Good, David Sackllah, Rick Maguire, Stephen Pierce, Johanna Warren, and Patrick Garcia.

As always, I love you all.

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories

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Before I dive into what made 2015 such an incredible year for me on a personal level, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge all of the contributor’s to this edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories: Loren DiBlasi, Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Sabyn Mayfield, Nicola Leel, Lindsay Hazen, Tica Douglas, Fred Thomas, Phil McAndrew, Isabel Reidy, Jessica Leach, Sami Martasian, Ben Grigg, Amanda Dissinger, Bella Mazzetti, David Anthony, Jamie Coletta, Chris Sutter, John Rossiter, Cole Kinsler, Megan Manowitz, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, Stephen Tringali, Alisa Rodriguez, Toby Reif, Elaiza Santos, Amelia Pitcherella, Katie Bennett, Miranda Fisher, Christine Varriale, Sam Clark, Julia Leiby, Kelly Johnson, Jessi Frick, Nicholas Cummins, Lily Mastrodimos, Jerard Fagerberg, Athylia Paremski, Eric Slick, David Glickman, and Ryan Wizniak. All of your interest, support, and contributions mean the world to me (more on that below).

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The 12 months that comprised last year were among the most rewarding, the most challenging, and the most outright surreal I’ve experienced in my 26 years of existence. Narrowing it down to one defining moment proved to be a laughable impossibility for me so I’ve taken a cue from several of this edition’s contributors and decided to focus on a series of moments rather than one overarching event.

Before getting to those, though, it’s worth mentioning several of the smallest moments that have managed to stick in my memory. That list goes as follows: drinking tea on the roof of DBTS with Greg Rutkin as we watched the sun rise on my first morning in Brooklyn, looking up a few months later only to suddenly realize that Rutkin, Krill‘s Aaron Ratoff, and myself were all having a half-absent living room jam session, eating bagels on the sidewalk at the crack of dawn with Saintseneca after spending the previous night getting ridiculous at Rocka Rolla, feeling a surge of pride watching Patio play their first show, and getting recognized by Rob Sheffield and Simon Vozick-Levinson (two writers who I’ve admired for years).

Additionally: being pulled further and further into the world of Ronnie Stone, spending an afternoon kicking around with Bad Wig (a WI band made up of people I’ve considered family for years), watching Tenement continue their steady ascension on their own terms, all of the shows I saw that don’t get mentioned in the space below, walking through one of Martin Scorsese’s sets for VINYL with Glueboy‘s Coby Chafets (who was an absolute joy to have as both an NYC guide and as a roommate), being absolutely destroyed by an overwhelming sense of familliarity at a morning screening of The End of the Tour which I was fortune enough to take in with Chandler Levack (one of my favorite directors), and becoming a member of Film Independent.

Further still: getting hugged by Eskimeaux‘s Gabrielle Smith before I could even get out a formal introduction, having Girlpool‘s Harmony Tividad tell me she knew how to spell my last name right after we first met, spending a perfect evening getting to know Callan Dwan (who I’ve been messaging every Sunday since we first met) and Casey Weissbuch following one of their shows playing alongside Mitski, receiving a drunken group phone call from my closest hometown friends on the Fourth of July, and finding the fortune to be a recipient of the continuous support of both Exploding In Sound‘s Dan Goldin and Father/Daughter‘s Jessi Frick.

As well as: feeling completely at ease working doors for both Baby’s All Right and Elvis Guesthouse (a task made even more enjoyable by the welcoming presence of Alex Lilienfeld), spending my first week in Brooklyn waking up to the sounds of Felix Walworth meticulously tracking the forthcoming Told Slant record, and traveling to the twin cities with one of the bands I play bass in — A Blue Harbor — to track Troubled Hearts (and holding the cassette for the first time, suddenly realizing I’d just completed something that had been on my bucket list for over a decade).

And finally: Watching members of Lost Boy ? and Titus Andronicus close out a show at Shea Stadium with a set of on-the-fly Neil Young covers, taking in Exploding in Sound’s Extended Weekend celebration (and being floored by Stove‘s performance of “Wet Food” and — as always — Pile‘s “Special Snowflakes“), feeling a deep sense of camaraderie and an inkling of pride during AdHoc’s Carwash showcase, seeing Used Kids come inches away from reuniting at The Acheron (their only full-length remains quintessential summer listening) during a show that also saw Jeff Bolt manning the kit for Benny the Jet Rodriguez, and spending half a year living in a city where a handful of people actually seemed to care about the work I’d been doing with this very site.

I could go on and on (and on) about the overwhelming bevvy of small moments that I continue to look back on with great fondness or wax ecstatic about the steps taken in 2015 to ensure a more inclusive climate in the music industry (while still recognizing there’s a long way to go) but, after a while, that would become tedious for just about anyone (myself included). Rest assured, there are several more paragraph’s worth of those moments and the scope of the portrait they illustrate would be overwhelming. As is likely evidenced above, it was tremendously difficult for me to pare down what moment stood out most in my chaotic run through 2015 and left me with no less than a dozen absurdly strong candidates.

While a dozen may seem overly self-indulgent, it’s my belief that these 12 moments form the most complete representation of my year. Most of them are connected to my time spent living in Brooklyn (a city that I came to love and hope to return to as a resident), which helped me not only shape my identity but — possibly for the first time — feel a strong sense of validity in my work. 2015 may have been made up of 12 months but the 5+ I spent living in Brooklyn produced 12 of my favorite moments. All of them are covered below.

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Montana & the Marvelles Play In Secret

The first time I remember realizing that I was exactly where I wanted to be was, unsurprisingly, at DBTS. I’d been sleeping on couches for a few days there by that point and getting the swing of the city while navigating my way through a handful of Northside showcases. During that first run, the place was buzzing with both anxiety and excitement over a secret wedding celebration that they were going to be throwing for a close friend. Champagne had been bought in bulk, balloons had been floated to the ceiling, a disco ball had been set in motion, a taco line had been prepared, and a root beer float setup was at the ready by the time the event was set into motion.

Everyone had been told to dress to the tens and looked the part. At that point, I still felt like an interloper was getting increasingly comfortable with my new surroundings. Nearly everyone I’d been introduced to had been extremely welcoming and the first group of people that had made a kind gesture were Montana & the Marvelles, who were wrapping up a rehearsal when I first stepped foot inside of DBTS. The wedding celebration was their first public appearance and they tore into it with a ferocious sense of determination, delivering a handful of great covers in the process.

Watching them that night and looking around at everyone who came out to celebrate reminded me of why I made the decision to move; no other place is as facilitating of those kinds of events (or moments). By the time the band hit their finale — an explosive, joyous cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” — I was overcome with gratitude and decided, for once, to stop filming and dance. It was also the first of many nights I had that led to everyone taking in the summer night’s breezes on the DBTS rooftop, where I put the finishing touches on my introduction packet for the band. As a whole, it remains one of the times where I felt like I’d actually found a place where I belonged.

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Charly Bliss Makes A Formal Introduction at Northside

One of the bands I was most excited to meet at the outset of my move was Charly Bliss, who had topped my EP’s list in 2014. No person had been trying to persuade me to make the move more than their guitarist/vocalist Eva Hendricks, who had been unbelievably supportive of what I’d been doing prior to my discovery of Charly Bliss (that this note had no bearing on the band becoming one of my absolute favorites made the prospect of meeting even sweeter).

I’d been walking around Brooklyn with a few people from DBTS before the Father/Daughter Northside showcase was scheduled to start and had fielded several excited messages from Hendricks before we ran into each other on a street outside of Shea Stadium. Everyone was happy to see everyone else and Hendricks nearly pulled me to the ground with a hug that neither of us broke until after a full minute had passed. After a long round of catching up, the showcase kicked off in earnest and featured a handful of great performances from bands worth their salt.

Charly Bliss closed the night out and opened their set with the still-unreleased “Percolator“, with Jessi Frick firing off streamers at the climactic point of the introduction, providing a moment that felt transcendental. Surrounded by people I loved, seeing a band I’d granted an endless amount of praise (who were then in the process of becoming one of my favorite live acts at a terrifying pace), and being in the presence of both for the first time was an invigorating jolt that moved me more than just about anything else I experienced in 2015. 

Jason Isbell Pulls the Sun Down at Prospect Park

Jason Isbell‘s an artist that I don’t frequently write about on this space — his stature guarantees him press from so many other outlets already — but genuinely love (and have since my first listen of Drive-By Truckers’ classic Decoration Day). For several summers myself and my friend (and frequent bandmate) Jake Wetuski would take out our guitars and cover Isbell songs with each other, trading leads or playing together. When I found out that Isbell would be playing Prospect Park for the free Celebrate Brooklyn series, I jumped at the chance.

A solo train ride over had me thinking about all of the ways my life had changed that summer, about how I spent most of the flight from O’Hare to LaGuardia listening to Southeastern, about how I was already pining for the company of certain people but finally becoming content with my place in the world. The sounds of Dawn Landes‘ set guided me through Prospect Park to the stage, where I immediately found a place with a good view of the stage that didn’t obstruct or impede anyone else’s view.

Less than forty minutes later, Isbell was setting up on stage and announcing that his wife and bandmate, Amanda Shires, wouldn’t be joining them because she was expecting the arrival of their newborn in the following week. Gleaming with pride and amping up the “aw, shucks” Southern charm, Isbell took advantage of an absolutely perfect spring night and delivered a deeply heartfelt set of material that I’d been waiting years to see in a live setting. It only took about half of a set before I had to fight back tears, as an adoring crowd exploded with applause in the middle of a mesmerizing performance of “Cover Me Up” in response to a key line about sobering up, showering the songwriter with a tremendous display of affection, support, and actual love.

After the sun set and the crowd had exploded in frantic applause after Isbell’s landmark set, he returned to the stage. By that point, the sun had set and no one was making a push for the exit. The band returned, one at a time, slowly locking into “Danko/Manuel“, a song he penned for the Drive-By Truckers as a tribute to the influential members of The Band.

As the song opened with “let the night air cool you off”, it felt as if everything outside of that moment had ceased mattering; this was Isbell’s triumphant 2015 run hitting an apex and seeing a talent like that find the audience and respect he’d so richly deserved for close to 15 years was beyond heartening. Few things gave me as much hope for the future as that specific moment, one that offered up definitive proof that hard work, dedication, and sheer artistry can be rewarded in the way they deserve.

With Isbell’s vocals floating off into the distance, beyond the sea of people seated on blankets in the grass behind the main area, I found something resembling faith and knew that in both New York and Wisconsin, I’d surrounded myself with the right people, people I believed in, and that no matter the slew of hardships I may have to face, that they’d ultimately guide me to the right place. I stayed in that park, staring at that stage, for as long as I was allowed, before removing myself from the spot where I knew I’d wind up okay.

“Doomsday” Lives Up To Its Name at Pier 84

Another free, outdoor show I had the good fortune of attending saw Weyes Blood, Speedy Ortiz, and Waxahatchee joining forces for a mid-day show on a pier in Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River. After a quick stroll through Times Square, I headed for the pier and met up with a handful of my closest friends who were listening to strains of Weyes Blood as they enjoyed a makeshift picnic. Before long, Weyes Blood’s set had ended, more friends had made their presence known, and everyone was milling around the front of the stage, taking in both the sunlight and the river’s breeze.

Before Speedy Ortiz’s set started, the weather very quickly became downcast and quietly threatening. Underneath that stormy backdrop, Speedy Ortiz kicked off one of their most impassioned sets to date. I’ve had a range of experiences with Speedy Ortiz over the past few years but none of them quite matched the way that their performance of “Doomsday” affected me on that pier. “Doomsday” has always hit me hard (it’s an easy song-of-the-decade candidate for me) but when Sadie Dupuis and Darl Ferm started into it that day and rain started coming down (and then picking up as the song progressed), it felt otherworldly.

Something in that performance seemed to ignite something in Speedy Ortiz, who seemed to be channeling a series of pent-up frustrations into a staggering set that culminated with a weather-damaged instrumental freakout as the sky was split open by cracks of lightning that appeared over the Hudson River. By then the crowd had dwindled to a select few brave souls who managed to withstand the torrential downpour.

Waxahatchee’s set was, unfortunately, cancelled due to the weather but I lucked into a fitting epilogue via a bowling-quest-turned-diner-adventure with A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Gabriela June Tully Claymore, her fellow Stereogum writer James Rettig, and a few friends. Desperately trying to get dry using a bathroom hand-dryer, I found myself unable to suppress a shit-eating grin, knowing full well I was wrapping up a day worth talking about for years to come.  

Johanna Warren V

Johanna Warren Serenades the Skyline

I saw Johanna Warren three times in 2015, each one differing radically from the other. The first was an hour from my hometown, where I drove to profile her for Consequence of Second. The second time was a basement show that presented a whole host of memorable moments from my introduction to harpist Mikaela Rose Davis (and the spine-tingling Elliott Smith cover she used to soundcheck) to the fabric of a mothering station getting licked by the flame of a few too many candles and interrupting a performance art piece that saw a woman strip naked, consume her own blood from an IV bag, and spit it back out onto a row of carefully arranged flowers in mason jars.

As wild as that basement show was, Warren’s last-minute performance on a rootop overlooking the skylines of both Brooklyn and Manhattan was the one that stood out most. After the show’s original location notified Warren that they’d discovered they had a bed bug infestation the day before her set was scheduled, a group of people worked extremely hard to locate a new venue. Fortunately, Damon Stang had open space on the top of his apartment complex.

Only a dozen or so people showed up, all apparently friends of Warren’s, contributing even greater intimacy to an already intimate evening. An assortment of wine, liquor, and bakery items were all up for grabs and everyone quietly talked among themselves as night swiftly descended, providing Warren with a suitably quiet backdrop. Lit by only the lights of the city and operating without a microphone, Warren delivered a haunting set to a captivated audience that reveled in the majestic sweep of the backdrop, the performance, the night itself, and the experience as a whole. Unexpected and surprisingly moving, it saw Warren fully realizing the effect of music as a healing agent and close a few wounds in the process.     

PWR BTTM Hands Out Ugly Cherries

One of the first bands I ran into after moving to Brooklyn was PWR BTTM, who would very quickly become close friends. They’re people that I’m continuously grateful to have in my life and it’s been an honor to get to know the band’s members. I was very quickly drawn to them for not just their music but their outspoken stance on their values (and their willingness to make them so abundantly clear in any applicable scenario). For all of those reasons and many more, I was tremendously excited to be at their release show for Ugly Cherries, one of my favorite records of 2015.

Charly BlissEva Hendricks had baked a gigantic batch of cupcakes adorned with cherries for the occasion, guitarist/vocalist (and occasional drummer) Benjamin Hopkins had hidden the evening’s outfit away at a thrift store for weeks before claiming it prior to the show, and the opening lineup of Kississippi, Fern Mayo, and Charly Bliss was suitably stacked. The parents of a few of the bands were in attendance and Silent Barn was unbelievably packed.

Three strong sets into the evening and a visibly nervous Hopkins was setting up on stage as drummer (and occasional guitarist/vocalist) Liv Bruce adjusted the kit. I’d seen PWR BTTM a handful of times leading up to that show but none of those sets were adequate preparation for the outpouring of energy from both the band and the audience of their set that night, which felt as much like a celebration as it did a victory lap. Amid screams of “I love you” and “you’re amazing”, PWR BTTM’s songs took on the magnitude of anthems and were, appropriately, granted the requisite scream-a-longs by a dedicated and devoted audience.

For all the moments of blistering energy, disarming sincerity, and delightfully irreverent snark, one of the moments that’s stayed with me was the unveiling of a new song that saw Hopkins pick up a bass and deliver a tender ballad about feeling completely dismantled by different forms of slight abuse, causing Charly Bliss’ Hendricks to break down in tears on the side of the stage, overwhelmed by feelings of protection, love, and empathy. That it came towards the end of a riotous set only heightened its impact, leaving a sold-out room unified in small devastation.

Before long, though, spirits were at the ceiling again and PWR BTTM’s dresses were more than halfway off, and hundreds of people were nearing a state of delirium. Encore chants were inevitable and when the call was swift and immediate, those pleas were rewarded with a frantic rendition of “Carbs” before Hopkins and Bruce exited the stage, visibly exhausted, and subjected themselves to a seemingly endless swarm of overjoyed embraces from a community that rallied behind them and got to take part in a moment that carried significant meaning for far more people than either Hopkins, Bruce, or Fern Mayo’s Nicholas Cummins (who joined the band for several songs) could have ever anticipated.

Mike Krol

Mike Krol Does the Upper Midwest Proud at Baby’s All Right

Before the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase, the last two shows I’d booked had both featured two bands who had a tremendous impact on my life and musical development: Good Grief and Sleeping in the Aviary. Both bands, sadly, have long ceased operations, though their various members still play together in a handful of projects.

In 2015, Sleeping in the Aviary managed to have somewhat of a resurgence, with both the release of an astonishing outtakes collection ad 80% of the band’s final lineup once again combining forces as Mike Krol‘s backing band. Krol had relocated from the upper Midwest to California on his way to delivering 2015’s blistering Turkey, one of the year’s most exhilarating records (and his extremely unexpected but entirely welcome debut for Merge).

Krol’s stop at Baby’s All Right came shortly after I’d started picking up shifts at the door, pushing my anticipation for the show to even greater heights (it was a show that’d been circled on my calendar in the immediate moments following its announcement). Being connected to yet another venue that would be playing host to a few familiar faces, a few of which I’d grown up playing shows with, felt like an oddly appropriate next step.

The night’s opening bands delivered solid sets but what Mike Krol & co. delivered on that stage that night was unforgettable. Fully attired in the record’s signature fringe’d-up police attire, the band meticulously covered the perimeter of the stage with razor wire and carefully placed a series of lights in the open spaces among the coils. A few minutes later and the band was off, immediately at full-throttle. Out of sheer curiosity, I glanced over my shoulder at the size of the audience and was met with the vision of a sold-out audience all incredibly excited to throw themselves into celebrating an artist that, up until 2015, was only known in select circles for two sharp bandcamp releases.

Krol and his band covered close to his entire discography on that stage, whipping the sizable audience into an absolute frenzy. A surging sea of implacable bodies spiraling aimlessly into each other contributed to the anything-goes attitude that informed the band’s set (a welcome reminder of Sleeping in the Aviary’s heyday). Towards the end, the person running house lights could no longer resist sitting still and slyly tried to supplement the band’s light setup, prompting a startled “what the fuck was that?!” from Krol himself, followed shortly by a “do that again!“, which was delivered with a reckless excitability.

From that moment onward, the band’s seemingly full-blast attack was buoyed even further by a series of frantic lighting triggers from the person manning the boards for their house. As the lights danced all over the iconic backdrop and the overhead lights fell into patterns that complemented the band’s self-triggered perimeter strobes, the entire place descended into something approaching mania. Everything came to a head in their explosive finale and left an entire room of people staring dumbfounded at a stage, equally unsure of what they’d just witnessed and grateful that they were able to take in something so unapologetic in its blistering intensity.

Making the night even sweeter was an unexpected greeting from Krol, who I still hadn’t officially met at the time, after noticing my National Beekeepers Society shirt. We talked Wisconsin music, met up with the rest of the band and a few mutual friends, and Krol let slip that their was going to be a secret Daughter show to close out the venue’s night slot. I wound up making my way into the Daughter show and was blown away by their new material (they announced Not To Disappear at that show and froze my blood with a startling rendition of “Doing The Right Thing“) but couldn’t shake the feeling of overwhelming giddiness from having witnessed some friends from my old home absolutely take apart my new one.  

A Night Out With Nina Corcoran and Paul Thomas Anderson

When I first met Nina Corcoran, we were both looking for each other and completely unaware we were standing less than 10 feet apart. It was at Pitchfork 2014 and we were both lined up to get a good view of St. Vincent (who, as expected, turned in a mesmerizing set). I remembered being a little nervous around her as I still had no idea who she was beyond someone who wrote at Allston Pudding that A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Christine Varriale thought I’d get along with nicely.

It may have taken about a year but Christine’s assumption seemed almost eerily prophetic. For the first edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories, Nina took me by surprise and included me as a focal point in her piece. After that piece renewed a dialogue between the two of us, it started gradually expanding. After establishing a mutual love for all things Meat Wave, we started talking on close to a weekly basis. Before long, I was living in Brooklyn and we were making plans to meet up on her trips to the city.

We’d met up for meals and all too brief hangout sessions whenever we could but the only time we managed to be in the same place for more than an hour was when we attended the premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Junun at the New York Film Festival. I’d been debating on whether or not to make the effort to go due to an attempt to fight back the irritating plague that is the common cold. I told Nina what was happening and she was empathetic, displaying a casual grace in her understanding.

I missed her, though, and had never had the opportunity to attend a premiere, much less one with an accompanying Q&A from a massively influential director (or one that was responsible for a few of my favorite films). After grabbing a packet of kleenex and a warm sweatshirt, I made the trek out to meet Nina in Manhattan. She immediately greeted me with a warm embrace, making me feel both welcome and comfortable rather than the cold-addled burden I half-expected I’d wind up being.

With the start time of the film still a ways off, we decided to grab some soup from a nearby stand that supplemented our containers with an apple, bread, and pieces of chocolate. I refrained from adding ice cream onto that haul for fear of negatively affecting my health but Nina couldn’t resist its pull and led me to a cute shop that was in the area. After learning I still hadn’t been to Central Park, we walked through its gates and found it to be mostly abandoned, settling down at a table near the grass to quietly eat dinner and discuss the merits of Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, among others.

After we’d finished our meals, we took a nighttime stroll through the park, coming to a stop at a baseball diamond. We stood there together, silent for a moment, before turning around and immediately realizing our size (and our place) as we stared up at the lit-up skyscrapers that comprise the Manhattan skyline. In those fleeting seconds, I forgot everything that wasn’t the fact that I was happy to be sharing this view with a person who’s meant more to me than she’ll likely ever know or realize. I don’t remember what broke the silence but I’m grateful for the small eternity where, cold and all, life felt perfect.

It was difficult to leave that spot but we had a film to catch and while Junun was every bit the film I’d hoped it would be, it paled in comparison to realizing I was wrapped up in something exceedingly lovely and utterly intangible with a person I’ve come to genuinely care for, a person who’s continuously succeeded at an impressively high level, a person who’s constantly given me something to aspire to, a person that’s shown me a lot of my goals aren’t as far away as I occasionally think, and a person who never fails to make my life feel a little more worthwhile.

We’d meet up a few weeks later for a surprisingly painful goodbye brunch before I made my way back to Wisconsin (a state where we’ve both resided) and nearly refused to let go of each other out of the sheer fear of being separated by a seemingly incalculable distance. During that last embrace, I closed my eyes and, for a split second, saw the lights of those buildings that towered over us that night in Manhattan.   

Dilly Dally

Dilly Dally Steals CMJ (With An Unexpected Assist)

My time spent living in Brooklyn was book-ended by the Northside Festival and CMJ, with each providing a whole slew of moments I’ll recall fondly years down the line. Whether it was meeting the people I’d waited so long to meet at the former or celebrating with the people I’d come to know at the latter, each was at least partially defined by an unavoidable sense of community.

CMJ may have had its first two great moments come by way of some of my closest friends (a pizza run with Bad Wig and a Chinatown trip with Perfect Pussy) but my priority for the festival was to do something I’d been desperately hoping to do for the past few years: take in a Dilly Dally set. I didn’t have to wait long, as the first night I went out to CMJ was closed out by the band, I just had to come to terms with my near-crippling fear that their set might be a disappointment. As is often the case, that thought was absolutely demolished mere seconds into listening in on their soundcheck.

While a surprisingly large amount of people had filtered out of Santos Party House’s unbelievably stacked NME showcase by the time Dilly Dally took the stage, they still managed to fill the venue’s basement with legions of people caught between nervous excitement and the early signs of sleep deprivation/fatigue. It only took Dilly Dally a few notes to ignite the room with a thunderous sound that sounded like it was threatening to overtake the sound system’s capacities on more than one occasion.

Everyone in that band put absolutely everything on the line for that performance, diving deep and coming up with a punch ferocious enough to knock even the harshest cynic for a very disorienting six. Guitarist/vocalist Katie Monks unleashed a series of guttural yowls while guitarist Liz Ball tore into one scintillating lead line after another while the rhythm section provided an overwhelming show of force that generated enough power to shake my frame.

As was expected, many of the night’s highlights came courtesy of the live versions of the songs that made up Sore, their brooding full-length debut. Another small handful came from their brilliant early 7″ releases but the moment that I felt myself practically leave my body was when they tore into an absolutely vicious, if miniature, take on Drake’s “Know Yourself” that featured one of the filthiest bass tones I’ve ever heard. Jaw agape, I was standing motionless, hopelessly filming the spectacle while keeping my eyes off of the camera and frozen to the stage, at once separated from and completely tuned into the reality of the situation.

Easily the absolute heaviest thing I heard last year, the band wound up reprising it a few days later during another impressively explosive set at Baby’s All Right for BrooklynVegan’s CMJ showcase, which I sprinted a full mile to make sure I caught. Both of their sets demonstrated the impressive scope of the band’s singular power as live performers and laid just about everyone else who played CMJ to complete waste. No band delivered more impressively on absurd expectations than Dilly Dally, who dominated this site’s December coverage and will likely remain a critical part of conversation well into the future.

Meredith Graves Tears Up at the Honor Press Showcase

Where do I even begin with the unbelievable debt of gratitude I owe to Meredith Graves? One of the reasons I started this site was because I wanted a forum to interview Meredith, who responded in kind to an unsolicited Facebook message and graciously agreed to a Skype session. I had no idea when that was being set up that she would go on to become one of my closest friends, confidants, and most trusted advisers, or that she would eventually start flipping the script to tirelessly attempt to promote and endorse the work I’d been doing on my own.

The summer that followed that initial conversation was mostly spent on the phone with Meredith having hour-long talks about life’s various intricacies, the merits of art, social politics, our deepest fears, our desires, oddball literature, classic film, and anything else that randomly entered our minds. We traded demos, proposed collaborations, and — for some time — became key parts of each other’s daily routine. We’ve relied on each other to keep ourselves tethered to reality and sought out each other’s presence in times of celebration.

We’ve ignored each other, exchanged very sincere declarations of love, and have constantly fought on one another’s behalf. We’ve pitched various outlets pieces focusing on each other’s achievements, attempted to compliment each other to death, and experienced several surreal moments together (from almost breaking a hammock that was too small for either of us on our own to watching Pleasure Leftists play inside of a halfpipe in the attic of a bike shop). We’ve despaired together, we’ve drank together, we’ve schemed together, we’ve surprised each other, we’ve brought each other to the point of tears, and we’ve remained a steadfast part of each other’s lives.

Meredith was responsible for giving me one of my first gigs in Brooklyn, working Perfect Pussy‘s mail order with Ray McAndrew, and has gone out of her way time and time again to fight for my best interests. She’s given me extraordinary introductions to everyone under the sun and flat out earned the title of this site’s patron saint. She pleaded with me to come live in the city where she resided for the three years we’ve been improbably close friends and I finally took her up on the request (for an incredibly large number of reasons, though her presence definitely played a very heavy factor).

For the past several years Meredith’s been attempting to balance twice as much as any normal human could handle but finding reasons to fight. I beamed along with her as she told me that she had a business email and that Honor Press, her newly formed label, had been given the green light from all involved parties. I grinned as she nearly worked herself up to the point of passing out over signing So Stressed, and I immediately made plans to attend the half-secret Honor Press showcase at CMJ as soon as she told me it was going to happen.

On all of the occasions I was able to spend celebrating Meredith’s accomplishments, this one felt different from the outset. Somehow, it seemed more meaningful than any other random show or festival appearance. At some point last year, I don’t know when and I don’t know how, the band Cloud Castle Lake came up in one of our conversations. Meredith had just discovered a very passionate love for the band’s music and I’d recently been blown away by the composition of one of their music videos. Fast forward to September and they’re all standing outside of the Silent Barn, waiting to play a showcase she’d put together, having made the trip over from Ireland for the occasion.

Aye Nako were to open the night and Perfect Pussy were set to close, leaving Cloud Castle Lake in a prime middle slot position. Talking to Meredith outside, it was easy to spot some small trembling; nervous tics betraying both excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. Sleep deprived but positively glowing, she seemed like she wasn’t sure if she wanted the show to start or simply take in the moment prior to the kick-off; the deep breath before the headlong dive towards impact.

She didn’t have to wait long, despite the show starting a little later than scheduled (an occurrence that just about everyone was expecting).

Aye Nako played first and played well, setting an intriguing tone for the evening and for Cloud Castle Lake. What happened next caught just about everyone off guard as the band launched into a set that went from being oddly moving to feeling sacred. Everyone was locked into the tapestries the band was meticulously weaving, swaying absent-mindedly as the band swiftly navigated intricate movements of deeply impressive compositions. I stood by Meredith’s side as she sighed and surrendered completely to the band’s overpowering spell.

About halfway through their set, a moment of clarity hit and the reality of the situation seemed to collapse in on Meredith, who slid her back down the wall, as her eyes brimmed with tears. Surrounded by people she loved, in a place that treated her well, watching her favorite bands play a show she booked, it was as if all of the things that normally weigh heavy on her mind were dissolved in one fell swoop. My heart nearly gave out as I watched her go through the motions of realizing her role in facilitating something that swung on a pendulum from powerful to transcendental.

We locked eyes for a moment and she put my immediate concern at rest with a half-smile, clearly overwhelmed by what was playing out in the room. Shortly after, she regained her composition and joined the rest of the audience in their half-sways as Cloud Castle Lake issued out one quiet, involved prayer after another. The rest of Perfect Pussy were hesitant to take the stage once Daniel McAuley’s last falsetto had receded into the ether, fully aware that Cloud Castle Lake had just transported an entire room of people to a place that many of them were likely discovering for the first time.

To this day, I’m not entirely sure where that performance took Meredith but I’m grateful that she got to take the kind of journey she so richly deserved.

Krill’s Story Comes Full Circle at DBTS

No band has been mentioned in this edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories more times than Krill. Their impact on their respective communities was undeniable and they clearly struck a very deep cord with a lot of the people that comprised those groups. Idolized, celebrated, acclaimed, and fearlessly loved, their decision to call it quits in 2015 prompted a colossal deal of sadness from anyone that’d ever subscribed to the cult of Krill.

Making the blow even worse was the fact that it came in the midst of a creative spree that saw the band experimenting more readily and crafting some of their finest material. The band had strung together a monumental 2015 run, bolstered by the success of their jaw-dropping A Distant Fist Unclenching and hordes of critics’ praise from nationally recognized (and highly influential) publications.

They’d played what was one of the first great sets I saw in 2015, celebrated the 4th of July by playing a show at Silent Barn with Swirlies, and delivered a towering set as a headliner during the second night of Exploding In Sound’s Extended Weekend. While all of those sets were admittedly as inspiring as everyone had made Krill shows out to be, it was their second-to-last ever show, a secret benefit for the Silent Barn’s reconstruction at DBTS, that stood out as the most meaningful.

Not only was the band playing a place I’d briefly called home but it was also where they played their very first show, giving the proceedings an oddly emotional bent. Unsurprisingly, after word got out, the show sold out faster than most DBTS shows and saw the room overflowing with people who wanted to be present for Krill’s last hurrah in a more intimate DIY setting.

Cende and LVL UP played the roles of openers as effectively as possible, delivering solid sets that wouldn’t detract from a moment that was rightfully Krill’s. By the time Krill were adjusting their mix, the main room was overflowing with people and there was a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd lined up the stairwell. Their ensuing set was so perfectly definitive of Krill that it nearly managed to be completely indescribable.

In turns, it was tightly controlled and threatened to completely unravel. Shambolic and poised, it existed in this strange dichotomy that Krill had so expertly exploited for years but rarely with as much purpose as they did during that set. When something nears its end, we, as humans, do our best to make the most of the remaining pieces of its life. Krill knew that by the time the following week rolled around, they’d have given up that aspect of their life and it was abundantly clear that they were hell-bent on making their remaining time count.

Aaron Ratoff’s guitar kept falling out of tune, Ian Becker hit his drums with a greater velocity than usual, and Jonah Furman embraced every aspect of his being en route to a tour de force performance that absolutely demolished the room where they started their career. By the time the inevitable chant of “Krill, Krill, Krill Forever” went up, DBTS resident (and Cende guitarist) Dave Medina had found a way to literally crowdsurf on the audience, enhancing the night’s descent into frenzied insanity. Everyone, as always seemed to be the case with Krill, was in this together; a thriving community that celebrated its best aspects as readily as it acknowledged its weaknesses.

As Krill sprinted towards the finish line, the out-of-control audience came dangerously close to toppling their equipment, and Dave manage to successfully find a way to balance on top of a tattered styrofoam surfboard as he was hoisted up by the crowd, it was incredibly evident that although everyone knew that the run had to end, no one wanted to come back down. Encore chants were given and obliged until it simply became a point of exhaustion, leaving everyone involved with a sense that they’d taken part in something worth talking about years down the line.

Krill is dead; long live Krill; Krill forever.   

Putting Together A Year’s Worth of Memories

To anyone who actually bothered to read through the entirety of the content above (which essentially amounts to a grossly over-indulgent novella), you have my very sincere gratitude and a ton of respect. This is the second year I’ve curated A Year’s Worth of Memories and the response for this round has been even more enthusiastic than when I first tried out the series at the outset of 2015.

I’d once again like to thank the people who were mentioned in this piece’s prologue (especially the returning contributors: Loren DiBlasi, David Glickman, Athylia Paremski, David Glickman, Jessi Frick, Stephen Tringali, Cole Kinsler, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, David Anthony, Phil McAndrew, Sam Clark, Miranda Fisher, and Christine Varriale).

Additionally, I’d like to once again thank last year’s contributors: Sasha Geffen, Jeanette Wall, Eva Grace Hendricks, Caroline Rayner, Joseph Barchi, Edgar Gonzalez, Jesse Amesmith, Shari Heck, Michael Caridi, Dave Benton, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Tess Duncan, Michelle Zauner, Jeff Bolt, Katie Capri, Quinn Moreland, Oliver Kalb, Ali Donohue, Ray McAndrew, Christopher Good, David Sackllah, Rick Maguire, Stephen Pierce, Johanna Warren, and Patrick Garcia.

Putting together the first two installments of this series has been reassuring in unfathomable ways. Seeing the outpouring of support from people not only willing to listen but express interest in participating from all over the world has meant the world to me; without those reminders this place would likely cease existing. For that, I’m unbelievably grateful. It’s easy to forget how many people you have on your side when you can’t see them in front of you so when so many come together to fight for something that was once just a fraction of an idea, especially when they’re people you’ve admired and celebrated, is a surreal thing to experience.

Heartbreaking Bravery has always been a support structure and to extend that out to other people and give them a chance to express their thanks for others, reflect on themselves, or simply join in a healthy conversation is an incredibly important aspect of what keeps this place functioning. Being able to facilitate something of that nature, especially when the names attached continuously unveil work worth celebrating, has been a profoundly moving experience. It’s been a deeply rewarding experience and it’s helped provide this place with meaning.

To all of the people who became a small part of this site’s history either this year or last year (and to anyone who contributes in any way in the coming years), I will once again simply state: I love you all.

-Steven Spoerl

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Jessi Frick)

jessi frick

Few people have had as direct of an effect on this site’s coverage as Jessi Frick and the work she does with Father/Daughter Records. For the past few years we’ve been locked in a never-ending battle of vocal support and have frequently fought on behalf of the same bands and records. She’s seen me at my most enthusiastic (the Northside showcase), my most exhausted (the CMJ showcase), and a few stops along the way. Always an inspiration and a source of strange comfort, she’s fiercely protective of the artists on her label and the people she loves (for example: every artist on her label). With that in mind, it’s probably unsurprising that for her piece as a returning contributor to A Year’s Worth of Memories focuses on an act that meets that criteria. Here, she talks about the enormous impact one band had on her 2015. Read it below and then find a way to celebrate the family you’ve built.

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2015: Year of the Cig

When you run a record label, it’s essentially like being the matriarch (in my case) of a big ass family. You love your children equally for their enduring and sometimes unique qualities, and are always there to love and nurture them as well as disciplining them when they get out of line. Their lives are my life and my life is their life and together we are a wildly dysfunctional congregation of misfits.

In late 2014 I received an email from Dean Engle, a musician whose work I highly admire. In the email he tipped me off to a band from his hometown of New Paltz, NY called Diet Cig. I clicked the link. It took all of five seconds for me to fall helplessly in love with them. I needed this band in my life. It turned out their personalities nearly outshone their music — Alex & Noah immediately became the ying to my yang. They are everything I wanted to be and do when I was in my early 20’s. They are spontaneous and reckless and FUN.

Luckily, they welcomed me into their world, thus kicking off what was to be the most insane year in the history of this label. Everyone went ballistic and it was the ultimate. Diet Cig are a band that literally leaves it all out on the stage. They work hard for you have the best time of your life. Offstage, Noah and Alex are caring, dedicated people who are a joy to be in the same space with.

Now, a year later, we talk almost every single day. When I don’t hear from them in over 48 hours, I get nervous like a mom. I literally can’t imagine a time in my life when we weren’t best buds. Basically 2015 was the best.

-Jessi Frick

Father/Daughter Records Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Charly Bliss IX

A lot of the coverage on this site is going to look a little different in the coming months. As much love as I have in my heart for Wisconsin, a change of scenery was necessary. After a long day of travel and some time to explore, a show felt necessary. One attended by a handful of contributors to last year’s A Year’s Worth of Memories series, thrown by one of this site’s most-covered labels, and headlined by the band that topped this site’s list of the best 2014 EP’s and “necessary” turned very quickly to catharsis. Shea Stadium packed in a reasonable crowd, each one seemingly devoted to either one or all of the bands, despite the considerable humidity essentially rendering the venue a sweatbox.

Pupppy, Rivergazer, Diet Cig, Attic Abasement, and Charly Bliss were all in fine form and there was a very palpable and genuine love running throughout each respective bands for the music they were making. Some opted for a more relaxed route (Rivergazer, Attic Abasement) without sacrificing any of their innate magnetism while others took a more frenzied approach (Diet Cig, Charly Bliss). Pupppy kicked things off by splitting the difference between the two extremes. The sound was incredible throughout, the crowd was dancing, and spirits were high. In all, it was a perfect jumping-off point for NYC coverage and a heartening reminder that all the ill-informed naysayers about Brooklyn’s DIY scene being dead are still completely, unequivocally wrong.

Scan through a photo set and video set containing pictures and clips of each band below.

 

 

1. Pupppy – Outkast
2. Rivergazer – Lonely
3. Diet Cig – Dinner Date
4. Attic Abasement – Sorry About Your Dick
5. Charly Bliss – The Golden Age
6. Charly Bliss – Dairy Queen
7. Charly Bliss – Pacer

2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories, Pt. 3

A million and half thank you’s are due to everyone who’s contributed pieces to this ongoing series so far: Michelle Zauner, Sam Clark, Tess Duncan, Caroline Rayner, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Eva Grace Hendricks, Dave Benton, Michael Caridi, Shari Heck, David Anthony, Quinn Moreland, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, Jesse Amesmith, Katie Capri, Jeff Bolt, and everyone who contributed a piece to this round. Hats off to Jesse Frick, Stephen Tringali, Oliver Kalb, David Glickman, and Loren Diblasi for all of the wonderful pieces included below. As always, it’s the most surreal, sincere honor to be able to be providing all of this wonderful writing a home. Enough from me, on to what’s really important: part 3 of 2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories.

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Partying (Unofficially)

Hands down my favorite musical moments of the year happened in Austin and Brooklyn, the locations of our unofficial SXSW and CMJ parties, respectively. When you run or work at a label, most interactions with bands, fans, media, and peers are all done virtually. But all bets are off once we’re on the same turf. There is no better feeling after spending 6+ months on a record release or planning a showcase than to see people ENJOYING what you helped to create.

Presenting a show at a festival like SXSW or CMJ is a massive undertaking, a huge pain in the ass of an undertaking. Finding sponsors to help cover venue rentals and bar tabs, scheduling 12+ bands’ time slots around their 15+ other shows, politely screaming in sync with everyone else’s promoting of their own shows, not to mention doing all of this in your spare time outside of your day job- it’s exhausting.

But then I think back to the evening of March 13, 2014- Monster Rally’s Ted Feighan is doing his fucking awesome thing on the second of two stages at our Liberation SXSW party with Gold Robot, Small Plates, and Inflated Records. For a few moments, everyone in the crowd throws their grievances and inhibitions out the window and starts dancing. It no longer matters what website you write for or who you manage or “ugh, I can’t believe that guy who refuses to reply to my emails is here!” For once, everyone remembers why we hustle, why we sacrifice, why we believe and soak it in.

Fast forward to October 24, 2014. I’m standing in the back of The Silent Barn, a community space that I have the utmost respect and undying love for. The Silent Barn is what arts communities around the world should be. It also currently houses some of my favorite Muppet people as well as Gravesend Studios, a recording space that every band in NYC needs to check out. But I digress. Through various ebbs and flows, Jeanette of Miscreant Zine & Records and I team up and with the help of Nina at Silent Barn decide to shoot for a 12-hour party because 6-hour parties are for chumps.

The line-up came together like buttah. We managed to squeeze in 19 of our favorite musical people and everyone played a full set! Jeanette and Liz put together a phenomenal issue of The Miscreant special for the party with submissions from all of the performers. My dad and stepmom flew in from Miami to come to the party. Friends from all over swung by throughout the day to say hi, drink wine, get haircuts, and just enjoy being with one another. We underestimated the schedule so the 12-hour party turned into a 14-hour party but that didn’t faze us- we were still dancing like mad at almost 4am with Moon Bounce closing out the night. It was a beautiful thing.

Now, looking forward to 2015, a new year filled with new records and new parties to organize and I think to myself, I am one lucky son of a gun. Thanks to everyone who made this year so special- much love to you all.

xx Jessi

-Jessi Frick (Father/Daughter Records)

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Setting Sail

This past year, I was fortunate enough to work on several music videos for artists that I truly respect as either the cinematographer (Roomrunner, Chastity Belt, Speedy Ortiz) or the director (Connections, Big Ups).

Many may already know the struggles of making independent music videos- they don’t pay much (or anything at all); the budgets are incredibly small but the expectations are high; and they would mostly be impossible to produce if it were not for the devoted and passionate filmmakers who make them.

The second music video I worked on this year- Chastity Belt’s “Black Sail”- stands out as the most intense, most gratifying memory of 2014. My friend Maegan Houang had pitched the band a sprawling western/horror concept and asked me to be the cinematographer on the video. The treatment was spectacular and Maegan is one of the most talented directors I know. Of course I wanted to be involved.

We prepared for the video over the coming months but the sheer scale of it did not really hit me until I arrived in Yucca Valley the day before the shoot. There, sitting on the side of the road, was an enormous tractor-trailer towing a full-size Conestoga wagon. Beside it were period-correct barrels, broken chairs, rifles- everything a production designer might have on a production with a real budget. I had no idea how Maegan had pulled this together but I assumed she had done it through pure tenacity.

Getting the wagon to the location was an entirely different issue. Between it and the filming location was a long and winding sand path, some small hills, and even more sand and bushes. The tractor-trailer obviously couldn’t take the wagon any farther, so we hitched it to a 4×4 that slowly towed the wagon through the terrain. All the while, we had to turn the wagon’s wheels by hand and guide it along.

I fell asleep that night curled up in a sleeping bag in the back of my car (remember, this was a low budget music video). My ears were ringing. I knew this meant that my stress level was at an all-time high. I felt an enormous pressure to make this video look better than anything I had ever shot before. The potential for everything to fall perfectly into place on the first day of the shoot could not have been greater. And that’s exactly why I had nightmares of the entire production going up in flames.

Thankfully, this did not happen. We had all prepared well. I had an excellent crew (1st assistant camera Vito Huizar, key grip Nate Thomson, and many others). And the weather was kind to us.

After the video premiered online in late August of 2014, Stereogum featured it on their 5 Best Videos Of The Week list. It was accepted into the Los Angeles Music Video Festival and won the Audience Award. Reflecting back on the project, I could not be more proud of my contribution.

-Stephen Tringali (Director/Cinematographer)

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Some Thoughts About The Epoch and My Year

When I think back on my year, I first think of my friends and how proud I am of them for everything they’ve accomplished in just a few months. Though 2014 is the first year that our collective The Epoch has really come into the fore in New York City, the truth is that each of us in the collective has been working on our separate projects for almost four years now. Instead of writing about my favorite moment or album of this year, I want to share some thoughts about our collective’s history and the significance this year played in re-forming my ideas about being a part of a music scene.

Henry Crawford, who now plays under the moniker Small Wonder, used to play in a loud rock band called The Mighty Handful. Their shows were spectacles, in a variety of ways. Jack Greenleaf, often instead of playing an instrument, would throw confetti at the audience and run back and forth around the stage like those two extra members of Arcade Fire. Henry and Jack Ferencz, the co-frontman, would flail and convulse violently. An inaudible violin and the occasional appearance of brass players were sort of a ploy to assure the audience of the intelligence and ambitiousness of the band. There were tons of things that were over the top and nearly lame about The Mighty Handful but they were also a beautiful band to see. All of them were around sixteen years old and were so earnestly excited about their band that, even when they sounded terrible, their energy infected everyone in the room. They were willing to fall on their face and seem ridiculous and it made them able to achieve higher heights than the more “mature” pre-chill-wave bands that they were playing shows with in 2008.

Eventually the members of the Mighty Handful broke up and went to college in different cities. Those of us who remained friends formed separate solo projects, most of us adopting a lighter touch and quieter sound. In 2011, we began calling our group of musician friends “The Epoch,” and started to use the word ‘collective’ to describe the group dynamic we’d already had for a number of years. Though all of the old members of the Mighty Handful are now embarrassed by their high school super-group, the Mighty Handful’s lofty ambition and high-stakes rocking-out hasn’t really left us– I think that in some ways our collective’s slogan “The Epoch is Now” is basically a reflection of the same bravado that guided the Mighty Handful to rock out so hard. We’ve just re-contextualized their boyish energy into a somber stoicism that appears more humble but is basically just a less teenage way of demonstrating that we’re super serious about the music we’re making.

In January of this year, Henry released an album called Wendy, a downtrodden and elegant record that’s hugely dynamic and sonically intricate. It’s a really demanding album that took Henry about three years to write and a year to record, the product of long periods of hunkering down with Jack Greenleaf, who produced and arranged the record. Wendy got the attention of a number of blogs and was basically the first Epoch project that got some notice in the “blogosphere.” It was the first of a slew of Epoch projects that came out in the first part of this year. In April, I released my second album as Bellows, Blue Breath, which I began writing working on in late 2011 and continued to write, record and revise for almost three years. In May, Jack Greenleaf released his second album as Sharpless, a painstaking record called The One I Wanted To Be. All three of these albums made minor blips in the NYC indie blog circuit. They circulated moderately well around mid-level blogs and ended up getting tape and vinyl releases on small indie labels. The attention was hugely important to us and we talked about it almost obsessively in the spring and summer. Then, as is the way of the Internet, people stopped talking about the albums and moved onto other things.

It was then that we started to freak out. Had Wendy gotten enough attention? Had people understood Blue Breath? Was some information about J-Pop necessary to see what Jack was going for with Sharpless? Reading these questions back to myself, they look totally ridiculous. It’s tough to admit the amount of emotional stress each of us went through over the inevitable decay of our blog cycle, but it’s totally true and worth discussing.

At sixteen, the allure of rockstardom can be deeply entangled in the way you develop as a young artist. Most teenage bands emulate the songwriters that speak to them the most. I know in my high school music scene, we had sound-a-likes of Joy Division, Modest Mouse, and The Replacements, to name a few. It’s not that we were plagiarizing— it was more like practicing a foreign language: translating other peoples’ words can be the easiest way to figure out how to speak by yourself.

I’ve found that songwriting is a performance, not just in the obvious sense, but also because it involves constantly and aggressively reimagining your personality. Obviously no one is as dark and brooding as their songs suggest (or as bubbly and outgoing, as the case may be), but the songs they sing depict a darker aspect of their everyday self that isn’t readily available to anyone other than close friends. Performing a “character” when you sing a song you wrote isn’t as glam or gaudy an act as it might sound- I think a lot of artists and singers like to show a more serious side of themselves, possibly because they think it’ll be more easily believed or swallowed by their audience, or maybe because it feels good to exorcise hidden parts of yourself that you don’t get to express in everyday life. The character can be so close to the real person that it’s very hard to distinguish them- sometimes it might not even be a noticeable difference, but I’ve found that there’s always a distance between the person a song tells you about and the person who you meet after a show.

I’ve only recently been able to notice a difference between the voice I use when I write Bellows songs and the person I am in public. The union of these two distinct personalities is interesting to me and is something I’ve been trying to explore in my music lately (the song “Cease to Be”, the last track on my album Blue Breath is about this idea. I describe a close friend of mine looking at herself in the mirror and seeing a complete person, a sort of net-zero of self-image and reflected self: “You look at her once and you know completely/she is the way that you thought she’d be/something like clarity that I seek out/to look in the mirror and cease to be”).

It’s increasingly clear to me, however, that the character a songwriter presents to the public very quickly becomes a product. Songwriters who become popular very quickly lose access to the private, personal characters they invent once they begin the process of signing off time and effort to companies with the ability to turn their art into money. I’m not really a kook or conspiracy theorist about the music industry, but I do think that it can be a problem when music is sold as a seemingly “authentic” experience of confessional, hyper-real access to a singer’s private life. We have a culture in our indie rock world that puts these “characters” songwriters invent on a very high pedestal. I’ve heard that Elliott Smith, the prototype of the depressed, drug-addicted songwriter on whom so many songwriters base their unstable and reckless behavior, was nothing like the person his songs made him out to be. By the end of his career, it’s obvious that he was deeply disturbed by how commodified his depression and addiction were- he was becoming rich off of his own pain- and was expected to stay in pain forever in order to keep the checks coming.

Obviously I’m not famous by any means, so my doubts about the industry around DIY and indie music communities are mostly speculative. But as I see more of my friends move into low and mid-levels of popularity, I see them stricken with the same questions. Do you want a company to require you to tour six months out of the year? Was that the reason you made your first record? Do you want your time off touring to be sequestered to the task of writing something that matches (or hopefully exceeds) your last record? Even when that last record took you three years to write? And by whose standards can you even judge the worth of your music if not your own? The further distanced you are from the process of actually making your art, the more difficult it is answer these questions. When I was most distressed about whether my album was doing well in the blog world, I was least connected to the actual music I had made. I would walk my dog around my neighborhood listening to the album on repeat, but may as well have been listening to nothing. My anxiety made it impossible to hear what I had done, because I was so intent on hearing it from everybody’s ears but my own.

It seems to me that the only way to survive as a person trying to take things seriously in this unforgiving music world is to create your own fulfillment. If the act of writing songs itself is no longer satisfying to you, you’ve already failed yourself. There’s no possibility of failing or succeeding in the wider world of indie music because you’ve categorically denied yourself the ability to experience real joy or satisfaction. Everything is hollow because you’ve projected an image yourself that’s so far removed from the person you are in private that you don’t even have access to that person anymore.

At the risk of sounding corny, I’m going to end this with three sort of self-important/self-flagellating reminders I’ve been trying to drill into my own brain:

  1. Access yourself. Write songs because you want to. Not for an album. Not for a blog or record label. Because, again, you want to and because you have to believe that something pure guided you to be so psyched about making music when you were sixteen and there wasn’t anybody coming to your shows.
  2. The private act of making music is the only thing that matters- the stuff that’s created behind closed doors when nobody’s commenting and there’s nobody else to hear and appreciate it but you.

    3.  There’s no Album of the Year.

-Oliver Kalb (Bellows)

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Upon Seeing Majical Cloudz at Fun Fun Fun Fest

I saw Majical Cloudz for the first time five days after my aunt had died. We were close, and devastating doesn’t even begin to cover what I felt when I received the phone call from my mom that she had passed away. I spent that whole day stumbling around Austin feeling hollow, bursting into tears when I started to talk or think about her. I didn’t want to do anything at all in the days that followed but I made it out for the show, in large part to help celebrate a friend’s birthday. “Childhood’s End” had already made its way onto my iPod, but Impersonator hadn’t come out yet, and for the most part I was entering the show knowing little of what to expect; just a few overheard stories about their sets being powerful. The duo took the stage nonchalantly and, over the course of the show, latched onto something inside of me. The songs were simple, sparse, but carried a weight to them, a sense of importance that could not be shaken. I left their show thinking how desperately I wanted- no- needed to experience their music again.

I grabbed a copy of Impersonator as soon as I possibly could; I listened to that album practically every day of 2013, internalizing every song, every lyric. “Childhood’s End” became about my emotional state, the romanticism of “Silver Rings” became a source of small comfort. I couldn’t listen to “Bugs Don’t Buzz” for long stretches of time; the way it way it talked so point-blank about death was something I couldn’t always handle. My favorite track, though, was the last one, “Notebook”, a song about comforting a loved one in a hospital while confronting one’s own mortality. I lost count of the nights where I would stay up to three in the morning, listening to that song, wanting to scream the line “I don’t want to turn to the Bible yet”. This is the album- and the band- that got me through a terrible time in my life.

And so after more than a year, I finally got to see them perform again. I skipped out on seeing Dinosaur Jr to get the best spot possible and waited patiently. Matt Otto and Devon Walsh soon took the stage, just as casually as they did last time, and began to play. A complete hush quickly fell over the audience (something I’ve only witnessed at Majical Cloudz shows) and the opening lines of “This is Magic” came out of the speakers. The next song was “Notebook”, which Welsh dedicated to me after I yelped for joy. I was wanted to tell him everything that song meant to me, but all I could do was sing along. I would have been content with this show, re-experiencing the quiet intensity that I witnessed before, now being a little more aware of what I was experiencing. Instead though, for the fourth song Welsh stepped into the crowd and started performing from there. The dynamic changed instantly, as the audience began to move to the music, singing and even shouting along to the lyrics.

Suddenly, this wasn’t about me experiencing music that meant something to me; it was about the audience collectively experiencing these songs together. We swayed when Welshed asked us to, crouched down for another song. People swarmed around Welsh, wanting to be as close to him as possible, to sing every word along with him. Everyone hung on every moment; even the new songs were mesmerizing (one with the line “I’ll be your friend ‘till I’m buried in the ground” in particular left a dull pain in my chest). In between every song I would turn and look at the people around me. Everyone wore the same small smile, one crafted from the sense of knowing that the people next to you were experiencing, in their own way, the same brilliant catharsis as you. The band ended the show with “Bugs Don’t Buzz”, with the song’s ominous piano lines sounding even more foreboding at such a high volume. And yet as the lyrics came in, as Welsh and the crowd sang about love crumbling in the face of death, there was no dread in the air. Because these songs weren’t about the end, they were about living a life, despite knowing the end was there. Experiencing that feeling, surrounded by strangers all experiencing similar feelings, was amazing. Welsh and Otto managed to make the tent they were performing in, at a massive music festival, seem like the most intimate spot in the world.

They were performing again later that night, but I didn’t go; I couldn’t experience something like that twice.

-David Glickman (The Daily Texan)

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Navigating Adulthood in 2014 (via Lyric)

Being a grown up is hard. You don’t realize how hard until adulthood slaps you in the face. I suffered several of these brutal attacks in 2014, my 25th year of existence. Quarter-life crisis? That’s a thing, I guess. This year, I was bruised and battered like never before, sometimes at my own hand. But while many of life’s punches left their mark- and in some cases, the pain still stings- I survived, and that’s probably worth something. Isn’t it?

“How easily we forget in order to live.” – Priests, “Design Within Reach

For the purposes of this essay, let’s go with a resounding, “Yes!” But when you’re 25, every day feels like a question. Am I doing the right thing? Am I going to be happy? Is this person I’m spending time with going to make me happy? Should I even bother letting him try?

Of course, 2014 wasn’t all doom and gloom, although it’s always easier to harp on the darker moments. This year brought several triumphs, both personal and professional, and an abundance of good times with good people. As usual, music functioned at the epicenter: going to shows, hearing new records, meeting musicians I admire, and even making my own music (however poorly) for the first time.

All in all, nothing new. And yet, in the overall scheme of things, 2014 has been noticeably different. I’ve always allowed music to soundtrack the important, and also not-so important, moments of my life: every change, every milestone, and every achievement. Still, this year, it was uncanny how my favorite songs and albums seemed to align with whatever was happening, as it was happening, in my life. Suddenly, lyrics rang true like never before; melodies haunted my brain for hours on end; I worried that musicians I had never even met might be invading my dreams, engineering them without my knowledge or consent.

“Do I bother to define myself beyond what they allow? Have I already forgotten how?” – Parquet Courts, “Black & White

If nothing else, 2014 was eventful. My first trip to SXSW was an endless blaze of bands, booze, and (literal) body surfing. Death By Audio closed, taking a tiny piece of my soul along with it. I (probably) saw Guy Picciotto on the subway. I was hired, I was fired. I started a band. I fell in love. Now I’ve reached the end, and to be quite frank, I’m fucking exhausted. So where do we go from here?

“I often get the feeling I don’t have any sensation/ It isn’t much of a feeling.” – Viet Cong, “Unconscious Melody

I guess we rewind, right back to the beginning. Some people are just inherently good at life. I’ve never considered myself one of them. Raised by a badass single mom from Brooklyn, I’ve always believed that my strong will is mainly what’s gotten me this far; that, plus my affinity for foul language (you can’t trust anyone whose parents never taught them to curse). I’ve never shied away from anything, really, but I’ve still never been jazzed by the idea of taking on the “Real World.” In 2014, I was thrust straight into its clutches, mostly against my will.

We all know that writing– like any creative endeavor– simply isn’t lucrative. There’s no set career path to follow, and especially with music writing, there aren’t any rules. After graduating college with a butt-load of student debt and not much else, I quickly realized that the occupation of “writer” was mostly reserved for the fictional realm of movies and television. In order to survive, I would need a job to support my ambitions.

Just before turning 25, I was hired at my first real job, and before the year was through, I was let go. At the time, the thought of returning to a life of freelancing- mainly, a life of financial uncertainty- was utterly terrifying. Then, I had a breakthrough: hadn’t writing been really, really good to me this year? Sometimes, it’s easy to feel like you haven’t accomplished anything at all, because being a writer means second-guessing your every move, whether it be the placement of a comma or a meaningful life decision. Most of the time, that isn’t the case at all. Usually, you’re far better off than you think.

“As it breaks, the summer will wake/ But the winter will wash what’s left of the taste.” – Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting On You)

This past spring, I was lucky to find a home at Impose and I’m so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had because of it. Last year, when I was working mostly for no pay at small, local blogs, becoming a staff writer at my favorite site was nothing short of a Les Mis-style impossible dream. Now, as the year comes to a close, I’m taking on new assignments from new outlets and collaborating with like-minded people like never before (and have the free time to do so). By no means is it easy, but for the first time in my life, I feel like a real-life music writer. I’m not so numb with terror anymore. In fact, it feels pretty good.

“Finally I know what love is/ It’s the feeling that you’re being pulled apart by horses.” – Flagland, “Superlove

Alas, we’ve finally reached the fun stuff. At 25, after years of fancying myself an emotionless humanoid shell, I discovered that I, too, am susceptible to feelings. If you prick me, I do bleed, and unfortunately that blood is the same color as every other broken-hearted girl in Brooklyn. It was a hard realization, but once the damage had been done, there was no turning back. Fuck!

It’s okay, though. I mean, it’s not okay- getting dicked around by someone is never okay, and allowing it to happen more than once is even less okay- but still, there’s something to be gained in losing at love. Knowing that the struggle is, indeed, all too real. Knowing that you gave it your all. Knowing that you’ve said all there is to say, even when saying it hurts more than you ever thought possible. Knowing that time really does make everything better, and that good friends (and alcohol) definitely help speed up the process.

“I wish someone would swallow me.” – Krill, “Turd

Are you not supposed to write so candidly about these things? I don’t know, because like I said, in writing there are no rules. This year, I’ve interviewed some of my favorite bands on the planet and struggled with this very concept. Objectivity in music journalism is something I’ve never been able to fully wrap my head around. How can music writing be objective when music itself is anything but? If a song or a record or a band is able to move you, and in turn you’re able to share with others how you’ve been moved, isn’t that the whole point? Isn’t that why you do it?

I’ve always imagined myself an outsider. That’s why working so closely with music has always appealed to me. Music makes it okay to feel whatever you want, because as long as someone else feels the same, you’re not alone. This is how bonds are formed; they’re most definitely the truest bonds I’ve ever experienced. Obviously, it’s best that some lines don’t become blurred- I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, a couple times over now- but isn’t the messier stuff always the best stuff? At least sometimes?

“We’re all the fucking same.” – Ought, “Today More Than Any Other Day

Early this year, I sat down for an interview with my friend Joe, whose band Big Ups released one of my favorite records of 2014. Something he said during our talk really stuck with me, and has stuck with me ever since. Regarding his band’s debut, Eighteen Hours of Static, he said, “the record asks a lot of questions, because I don’t know what the answers are.” We were discussing what it’s like to be our age, and to see the things we see every day, and to feel the things we feel all the time. I don’t believe I’ve ever had the answers, and even at 25, I still don’t. I also don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Maybe don’t listen to anything I say. Maybe I’m drinking white wine straight from the bottle right now, and maybe my judgment is a bit clouded (hint: it is). Regardless, I can’t shake the feeling that everything will be okay in 2015, or maybe even better than okay. This year presented itself with a lot of problems, but starting now, I plan to live each day with the blind faith that they’ll soon be solved. Is that what being grown up means? 2014 wasn’t the year I grew up, exactly, but it was the year I started to get there.

-Loren DiBlasi (Impose, DIY)