Photograph by Megan Manowitz
A few years ago I started noticing a lot of the bylines for Stereogum pieces on bands, songs, and videos I loved were consistently attributed to Gabriela June Tully Claymore. We started following each other on twitter, occasionally trading thoughts about bands or some of the other small things more enjoyable. She turned in a massive piece for this series last year on Bad History Month’s “Staring At My Hand”, demonstrating an intense care for the music she loves in the process. Last year, we met for the first time and then ran into each other on a startlingly regular basis, taking in countless shows in the process. Whether we were getting rained on at a pier in Manhattan and bolting for a Times Square diner or just winding down on the roof of DBTS, there was usually an underlying sense of adventure- something that informs Claymore’s personality. Here, she fondly recounts a moment at the Heptagames and celebrates some quiet adventuring in the process. Read it below and remember that the biggest rewards are usually reaped from taking risks.
Summer softens me. Something about humidity and sweat and sticky hands makes me feel like I’m crawling out of some great big New York City womb every morning and into a very different kind of urban space. People slow down in the summer, they take their time, they hang out more. Summer makes me feel nostalgic for places I’ve never been to, for oceans I have yet to swim in. This is corny as hell to say, but it makes me feel like literally anything is possible. It’s a needed reminder that I am actively living a life and not just existing in one that someone created for me.
This particular summer, I joined the eclectic group of artists-in-residence at the Silent Barn, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time. One weekend in July, a huge group of people traipsed upstate to a retreat in Franklin, NY called the Heptagames. There we spent two days swimming, hiking, meeting new people, and eating. Ironically, it felt very freeing to go hang out in the woods with a bunch of people I didn’t know well with no means of escape. On the last day, everyone hiked up a trail to the top of a little hill, following my friend Noah as he played the flute.
He was the pied piper. We sat at the top of the hill in silence as Noah performed some of the music he makes as Cuddle Formation. At the end of the short set, he pulled out a telephone receiver connected to a looping pedal, and cooed into it quietly before passing the receiver on to the nearest person in our fairly large group. They passed the phone on to the next person, then the next, as Noah recorded each of our individual songs. Together, as a group of familiars but not necessarily friends, we made a song out of “oohs” and “aahs” and “hellos” and “ribbits.” It became a noisy, joyful chorus, and people around me giggled as it played throughout the shallow valley.
It was a simple, participatory moment that reminded me of something that I shouldn’t really have to be reminded of: Being present is important. Sharing never-going-to-happen-again experiences with people and recognizing that they are special as they are happening is important. Letting your guard down, all the way down, is important. Giving a little bit of yourself to the Bigger Picture is important. Watching a stranger’s back as closely as you watch your own is important. Staying playful, no matter your age, isn’t just important; it’s necessary. Because sometimes, even though the state of the country, the world, breaks my heart every morning when I scroll through the news on my way to work, I need to cling to my truth: That it really is just small interactions that hold us — you and me and everyone we know or don’t know, or may never meet — together.
-Gabriela June Tully Claymore