An Open Letter to the President

2 June 2014 § Leave a comment

2 June 2014

Dear Barack,

Thank you for finally stepping up to play President. You’re doing great things. In this moment, the future of the human race may well be in your hands.

No pressure.

Today will be the easy part: your voice will carry us all through the shock of a government taking positive action. It’s a rare thing. Some people are going to be very upset. They’re going to throw temper tantrums, and throw money around, and try to keep things from changing. They may think the systems which pay them aren’t broken. They may think that you’re a fool, a Communist, a tyrant.

Show them compassion. They’re sleeping infants, whining when the teet pulls away to piss, when the sun shines too brightly through the window. Let’s wake them up, gently, and help them get ready for school. Let’s show up for them when the bell rings, and be ready for their questions. Let’s get through this together, trade ideas, and find new, healthy ways to grow.

Thank you for challenging those who have grown rich and powerful by facilitating the pollution of the Earth. They may be the same people who will see the rest of us through this great transition, and innovate brilliant new ways to thrive. Job loss must occur to create new jobs: no longer does society employ bourreaux – the men in masks who pulled the guillotine lever – and no longer must we employ resources which deteriorate the integrity of the planet. Our inventors and innovators have produced successful alternative energy sources for decades, many of which are in wide use today.

Historically, humans have survived through adaptation: when caves no longer served us, we built houses. We do not need coal. The mining companies know this best, which is why they will fight with tooth and claw and wallet. It is what we we do: we survive.

Stay strong, brother. Your strength today will empower us for generations, will help our great-great-grandchildren, whose fate we have thus far refused to acknowledge, in ways they may never know.

In Solidarity,

Sean Talbot

Digging Pebble’s Grave, part the next.

20 April 2014 § 1 Comment

In a widely-reported move, Rio Tinto, a major player in the development of Alaska’s Pebble Mine – long a threat to the Bristol Bay watershed and its fisheries – gifted its shares in the project to the Bristol Bay Native Corporation and Alaska Community Foundation. The decision was announced after the EPA said it would consider stopping the mine, citing the Clean Water Act. The White House supported the EPA’s announcement. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski suggested that the Obama Administration may have held more sway in the process.

Last September, Anglo American, a mining company which had invested in Pebble Mine from the start, pulled out of the project. Currently, Canadian-based firm Northern Dynasty Minerals retains shares in Pebble Mine.

Alaska’s government, hyperaware of both how much money Pebble Mine would produce for the state and how much it would devastate the region environmentally and economically, has remained steadfast in “letting science decide” the fate of Pebble.

I’m a Bristol Bay fisherman. The threat of Pebble Mine has loomed over every season I’ve fished like a dark banner under which ornery fisherman gather and complain. Movies have been made in protest. For half a decade, nearly every fishing boat, tender, skiff and processor vessel in Bristol Bay has flown the anti-Pebble flag, the corresponding stickers stuck ubiquitously throughout the region (one remained on my car as I sold it last year in Oregon).

No one in the fishery knows, really, what might have happened had Pebble gone through. It still may, though the chances are minimal. Would we have had four years of decent fishing left, or until the spawn of the last uncontaminated fish died off? Should we worry about other problems now, like Fukushima and radioactive fish, or the Fraser River’s anticipated heavy run, which this year may overtake Bristol Bay as the most abundant salmon run in the world, and plummet our price?

On a smaller scale, I’m fishing this year with Heather on her boat, the Silver Kris. We’ll be running it together. Will everything work correctly? Will we catch fish? Will we lose money on the venture to Alaska? We’re to drive to Seattle today to put gear and food on the barge.

It’s that time of the year. I’ve mostly forgotten or repressed what negative memories of last year’s grind on the Okuma remained, and I’m readying for the northern migration again. With worries and confidence and news of this disaster, or that gift.

Pebble Mine is now in the hands of BBNC, who are, by and large, fishermen. Imagine if the protestors in Egypt were handed Mubarak’s power; if Syria’s government forces suddenly handed its arms over to the families of civilians it has murdered; if Occupy Wall Street accomplished something tangible. We’ve won, gotten what we wanted; the protest of Alaska’s rural communities, fueled by environmental and cultural stewardship, worked. What now?

Now, we continue. We buy food and coffee, rain gear, engine parts; save receipts for next year’s taxes. We visit a friend at the airport who’s on layover toward the fishing grounds. We tend to the passing of the seasons, and adjust the anchor lines for the flooding tide.

We go fishing, because that’s what we do.

Truth(s) about Travelers.

14 April 2014 § 5 Comments

Huffington Post recently posted a blog written by Stephanie Dandan addressed to the general public, written vicariously by the mysterious clan known as ‘travelers’ – though, apparently, we’d rather be called nomads, wanderers, modern gypsies. As if we gather under the flag willingly.

The piece romanticized dingy hotel rooms and the novelty of sleeper buses and the long, cold nights “we” sleep under a bridge (personally, those nights are usually quite lonely), as if the stay-on-the-road-at-any-cost maxim is our only compass reading, the only path to the education and evolution she talks about, the thing we as a ‘sect’ do and think about constantly.

As if nothing else could bring us the joy of an overnight train in India, chicken buses in Guatemala, exercising compassion for a bus ticket agent when a tourist gives him a hard time.

In Holy Cow, Sarah Macdonald’s acclaimed travel narrative about two pivotal years in India, she notices, while on a trip to Derradun, two Westerners who look “determined to believe they are the only westerners to have discovered the delights” of the town. To the observant wanderer, this is common fare in the far reaches of the world. Westerners tend to bring our ingrained individualism elsewhere, and project it outward; we insist on our own spatial boundaries and chronemics, often oblivious to local custom.

I’m annoyed not so much as what this woman said as what she presumed in order to say it. A traveler is not a traveler is not a traveler. There are tourists, and there are travelers. There are nomads, and there are gypsies. Different words for different lifestyles. I identify as one or more, less for poeticism than accuracy.

Perhaps I’m sensitive because I’m three days back from a trip, still jet lagged and wake up in the middle of the afternoon because my body thinks it’s tomorrow morning. My bank account is freshly low, a few payments are behind, and I’m grateful to the subletter that we’ve got a place to land post-travel. Feels like a first.

I want to touch on a couple things in response to Stephanie’s enthusiastic writing. Many travelers like to let “normal” people know that letting go of everything to tramp off into the wild blue will change their lives forever. But it isn’t always the best thing. It doesn’t work for, or serve, every potential traveler. Some aren’t ready for it. Some will never be. It’s not always a matter of excuses (i.e., travel is too expensive, dangerous, lonely, etc.) – some people thrive more in the bubbles they’ve created. We’re on on our own paths.

Stephanie is dead-on in that we sacrifice luxury and comfort for experience, that many travelers are able and willing to toss most things aside for the contents of a backpack. Traveling, in my experience, is a spartan lifestyle primarily because trinkets, gifts, souvenirs, and bullshit don’t fit in a backpack. They weigh too much. They’re not useful.

Money’s often tight, and there can be a perpetual, annoying desire to squeeze as little money into as much time as possible, and some travelers index parts of the world by how much one can live on per month: Europe costs $1,000 minimum, India half that; Central America, depends on how one does it. In order to stay longer – if that’s the priority – one might sleep on the beach, eat only the cheapest local food, or stop drinking (alcohol can account for extraordinary amounts of one’s budget). If those are sacrifices, “we” also sacrifice things like community, relationships, a sense of accountability (but to ourselves), and very often, purpose.

One thing that many travelers don’t mention, consider, or share is the part of the journey which begins at the end: re-entry. Integration. Finding home where we left it. Reconciling acceptance and criticism of our mother culture. Taking the lessons from a 6-month sojourn through East Africa, and applying them to West Coast US America. Or wherever. How do lessons from other parts of the world fit at home?

When one arrives in a new country, skin color and economical differences can become points of separation. We spend the beginning, perhaps the entire trip, adapting. Like children, we learn how to communicate verbally, non-verbally; we learn effective reactions to confrontations, beggars, offers, situations we’d not likely experience at home. Perhaps we learn to accept that we do not, and will not ever, fit in amongst the locals.

The process of re-entry often depends on how well we’ve adapted to another culture. How do I, for example, take a developed skill of bargaining with South Asian street merchants to a world of fixed-price capitalism? Is there any crossover? Does the me that learned those lessons deteriorate as I re-learn how to conduct myself in the States? Motorcycling the narrow chaotic streets of India, for example, seem to have seeped into my hatchback-driving habits on the orderly, polite roads of Oregon: they don’t mix well, so one must adapt further. In this we find that the traveler does not stop traveling once he reaches home: he continues the process, re-calibrates to a different currency exchange, ways of buying goods, driving.

Some travelers, the hardcore nomads who actually claim the term ‘world traveler’ from a place of often traumatized clarity, intend to never return home. These adventurers become mythic to those of us who feel like three or six months is a long trip – these nomads are wisps of Himalayan air, leatherbacks at Goan markets, low-profile Westerners who no longer qualify for the so-called White Tax. They’re the ones who go to Antarctica for US$50, burn their passports to avoid the consequences of an overstayed visa, know the classical connotation of the word ‘gypsy’ and want nothing to do with it. These guys and girls are admirable to the point of exhaustion; incomplete, in a forever-spiral, wanting, searching, running forever.

And that is what the road is for. To be away. For some, to facilitate change. Because we do. Not just “we”, but anyone who claims the road as home for any length of time. While we’re journeying, we see how people of other cultures pursue happiness; in the mountains, with no money at all; in city streets, offering copycat goods for exorbitant prices. We gain a sense, perhaps, for what they value, and how or if they accomplish it. Then to ask oneself, is that true for me? In this way, we can distinguish adaptation from appropriation, integration from theft.

There is no right or wrong sort of travel (though one could distinguish responsible from irresponsible), in fact, there are as many ways as there are travelers: our paths, I believe, are determined more by what we’re open to accepting, rather than a specific itinerary or place. But an odyssey is not an odyssey if one never makes it home.

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

3 January 2014 § 1 Comment

In Holy Cow, Sarah MacDonald’s acclaimed travel narrative about two pivotal years living in India, she notices, while on a trip to Derradun, two white people who seem “determined to believe they are the only westerners to have discovered the delights” of the town.

Sarah arrived in India in 1999, just before the turn of the century, and the last BIG Kumbh Mela (which occurs once every 144 years). MacDonald was the quintessential “spiritual tourist”; many chapters of ‘Holy Cow’ narrate her trips to visit gurus Amma in Kerala, and Sai Baba near Bangalore (modern buddhas, both with millions of followers); a venture to the Pakistan border to get the low-down on the Sikh faith, and to wash away her bad karma at Kumbh Mela on the Ganges River. On a trip to Dharamsala, MacDonald was audience to hear the Dalai Lama speak, and left the town a couple of days later having adopted both Buddhism and Jewish faith. Perhaps the most enlightening side-trip was a ten-day Vipassana meditation retreat, which served as the gateway to a softer narrative tone in the book, and noted her increased compassion for even sleazy Indian men who stare at her relentlessly wherever she goes.

That was all nigh 14 years ago – years before I started traveling, and a few years after Leo DiCaprio in The Beach (a film adaptation of Alex Garland’s bestseller) was accused of revealing certain traveler secrets to the masses. Inspired American kids newly introduced to the concept of ‘gap year’ headed off for Koh Phangnan, Costa Rica, and an armful of other destinations the 90’s “ruined” by ever-cheaper plane tickets, an influx of international travel magazines hitting the market, and other privileged white kids needing to go find themselves (disclosure: the author is also of a Caucasian, male, middle-class, US-American-with-identity-issues heritage).

It could be said that narratives like MacDonald’s ‘Holy Cow’ and Garland’s ‘The Beach’ paved a path riddled with backpackers and dreadlocks from Western Civilization to the exotic world. By the time I was born in the mid-80’s, Thailand and Bali and South America were already popular backpacker routes. I cannot speak to what Costa Rica was like before I lived there in 2011; it was probably cheaper, a little more “third-world” (a label many ticos cling to, despite the saturation of universities in the capital, abundance of IT jobs, and a bursting tourism industry), and certainly less gringo.

I write this from Pokhara, Nepal, on my first journey to the Eastern Hemisphere, though not my first time in a darker-skinned country where most light-skinned people donning The North Face and Arc’Terex (when a t-shirt would do fine), seem oblivious to, or deliberately avoid, other white people. Travelers. Tourists. People whom, at home, they might connect with because Travel, for us, is an essential ingredient to Life. The very act of exploring other cultures can open the heart and mind in ways life without a passport cannot.

So, we (my wife, who definitely has a passport) are in Pokhara, a primary tourist town of Nepal, at the base of famed Mount Annapurna, and base camp to some of the best trekking routes in the world (at least, the old guys said it used to be that way). There are other travelers here. Germans, Indians, Israelis, Americans, Canadians, Argentinians, French, English, Chinese. The list goes on. That doesn’t need to be said, but evidence suggests otherwise. We tend to not acknowledge each other while walking about the town. I am as guilty as any. I narrow my focus in search of “authentic cultural experiences,” in search of a long-lost place to which I am the first explorer. Maybe colonialism is genetic, and I carry the virus.

We have things in common, we white people. Not as much as the average Nepali might assume, but Pokhara is not where one goes to avoid other tourists. So be kind. Say hello. Maybe pick up some garbage from the lakeshore. If you’re really intent on straying from the backpacker/trekker route, it’s not difficult. Pick a random town on a map of rural Nepal, and take the local bus. Eat dal bhat, stop complaining about the daily power cuts, and learn useful phrases in the dialects. You’ll still stand out (some of us are “too tall for Nepal,” as our friend Josh says), and locals will probably still charge Westerner prices, but maybe they’ll cut a deal for a friend.

My wife decided to call on Ghandi’s wise cliché of being the change she wished to see. We walked along the shore trail, and she said hello to every westerner we passed. Virtually all of them replied with a smile and hello. Some with ‘Namaste.’ It doesn’t take much, I think, to change the world, no matter who you are, what color, or where you stand. Maybe that’s naïve.

computer performers, and the art of being on stage.

30 September 2013 § Leave a comment

Okay. I could have titled this better. Don’t worry about that.

I’m concerned for your future live music experiences: they are in grave danger of becoming tedious and wearisome affairs whose facilitators’ bad posture and lack of communication with the audience threaten to forsake you, the paying attendee, the party-goer, the dancer, the let-looser.

Somewhere between the era of LP-addled radio stations where disc jockeys sold us on their favorite music (or that which record companies wanted us to buy), and the evolution of the MacBook Pro as a musical instrument, the attention of the audience wandered, listened to whatever happened to be on the station or stage. We the audience, lacking direction, sought pints of beer and electronic cigarettes to complement our inhibitions around dancing our asses off.

Luckily, this was not entirely our fault: massive collections of sheep-like humans who are corralled by electronic sound waves into the fenced and walled barriers around stages designed to keep our attention (bright, moving lights; BIG sound; pretty people) have been deprived recently of an important element left to rock, metal, and hip-hop.

The vital element of conversation as it pertains to musical performance determines the connection between musician and audience. 

When I had a narrower taste in music, and attended death, black, or doom metal shows every week (a wide diversification, I know – but listen to Burzum, then Cattle Decapitation, and you’ll know, too) – to keep in line with elitist opinions, add to my arsenal of black t-shirts, save money on import fees on CDs which at the time were not distributed in the US, and – most importantly – to spend as many sets as physically possible rocking out in the mosh pit, I learned how to converse with my favorite musicians, whether they were on stage, or smoking pot behind the venue.

They wanted chaos in the audience, and if we were still, they would ask for it. Demand, at times. We’d form circle pits and walls of death (where the crowd divided, each half moving toward a side of the floor, then, at the drop, ran toward each other at full speed), ecstatic for the opportunity to release whatever angst, anger, sadness, or joy we’d been carrying. Sometimes, it was like Fight Club, except with a better soundtrack.

The models of character musicians to me were invaluable: grown men – and some women – dressed in black leather with metal spikes jutting from their wrists, necks, and shins, who wore masks and face paint and whose vocal cords were formed more like steel cables than organic tissue – intertwined examples of owning their musicianship and theatrical performance. The blast beat or drone of the music was but one element of the shows, and so inspired by that madness and musical alchemy was the 17-year-old Sean that I decided that, while I had only a smattering of desire to someday partake in being on stage, I wanted to be a part of it by way of wanting the sound to befit the grandiosity of the performance. In the midst of my love affair with all musical things heavy, dark, and metallic, I went to school for audio engineering to learn how to polish the monolithic shows that had so enraptured me.

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Fast forward ten years.

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Needless to say, sound engineering and manipulation gained me an appreciation for music and performance that I had never before been open to. Interning at recording studios and running live sound squashed every cultural attachment I had to the correlation of my personal identity and the genres of music I listened to. Riding my bike around the playa of Black Rock City, as one example, caught me loving punk and metal again, and by night partner blues fusion dancing to Random Rab, or Kyrstyn Pixton.

What confuses me now is that when I attend shows by electronic musicians in Portland, the audience demographic transmogrifies into a beer-drinking, bearded man who does not move his body under any circumstances whatever. At a downtempo set on the playa, it is guaranteed that most people dance. The same set at a club in Portland will see a dance floor of still humans with pints in one hand, the other hand in a pocket. Talking amongst themselves.

This sounds like judgment; in truth it is curiosity laden with my annoyance with having not the space to dance, and wondering, who pays $14 to stand there and stare at a plain-dressed kid hunched over his laptop? Because I do that at home, but the lights on my stereo are equally entertaining. 

Every concert and show I’ve attended and performed (which together number in hundreds) has taught me one succinct lesson: the energy on stage and the energy in the audience mirror one another. Presenting one’s music can be a performance (done internally, for the self), or a conversation for and with those whom support your art. If you want the audience to dance, say so. Into the mic, Say more than Thank You, Do You Want One More?

This is an open request to performers, particularly those who employ computers as their instruments: pay attention to your presentation, and to your audience. Music is but one element of the performance. I will enjoy the show so much more if I experience your soul interwoven with it. Set your computer higher; stand up straight. Keep a mic nearby. It is your responsibility as performer to source only 50% of the set’s energy –  the rest belongs to the crowd.

If you’re not feeling it, be assured that neither are we; and if we’re not, then for whom are you performing, and with whom are you conversing? 

wondering around the pantry

14 February 2013 § Leave a comment

A wet afternoon breeze swirls through the fluorescent room. Cools the face of the man standing in the pantry. He leans over the half-door out of his box office and offers food to whomever walks through the heavy glass doors. We are in the foyer of a church in downtown Portland. The rough brick walls, tile floor, and industrial door handles recall the interior design of a prison. Across from the food closet, backpacks and sleeping bags and coffee-stained paper cups sit on the floor. The breeze carries aromas of body odor and patchouli through the room.

“Hey, you got any free food?”

The inquirer jams his foot in the door and pokes his face through the crack. Neither in or out, he looks expectantly at Tom, the curly-haired man in the closet. “Come on in,” Tom replies.

“We’ve got food bags,” he says, “and there’s more under the counter. Help yourself to one. How are you today?”

The man rustles through the paper bags. He doesn’t reply. Sniffs the food. “This all you got,” he says.

It’s not a question.

Type ‘food pantry portland’ into Google, and more than sixty resources come up. Churches, shelters, state-funded soup kitchens, volunteer-run sandwich lines. Some provide food all day, every day; others for two hours once every other week. Saint André Bessette  in downtown Portland (601 W Burnside) provides a food pantry Monday through Thursday, 1:00 to 2:30 pm, and a variety of other services throughout the week, such as prescription vouchers, art classes, foot care, haircuts, and clothes. They provide things that keep hope alive – community, phones, vision assistance.

“We get more than 180 people coming in every day for morning services,” says Tom Nass, a volunteer for Jesuit Volunteer Corps. He works in the Saint André pantry, a closet sized-room packed with paper bags full of donated food. He’s built like a football player, and his smile reaches either side of the door frame. Above his head, a colorful stained glass light fixture depicts Peace and Charity as tenets of lives well lived. Nass committed to a year of volunteering with the Corps. Four months in, he says he loves it.

Nass says his hometown, Milwaukee, Wisconsin – a city of similar size to Portland – has “way fewer” resources available to the homeless. And midwest winters make Oregon a welcome vacation: on a rainy Tuesday afternoon, Tom is wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The startling contrast between the volunteer and those coming in parkas and raincoats looking for food boxes makes me wonder if they understand each other.

The abundance of resources can be counterproductive, according to Nass. “It enables the mentality of complacency in the homeless. They have everything they need – food, shelter in some senses, and many just stay in the same spot for weeks.” Some store their stuff in the Saint Andre Bessette foyer, others in more creative places. Portland fenced off the undersides of bridges years ago, popular sleeping spots worldwide for protection from the elements.

From one perspective, prohibiting under-the-bridge living closed up the holes and encouraged those in hiding to live out in the open, in the streets, parks, and squares. Equal opportunity for all.

With copious resource support from the community, I wonder what motivation is there to “clean up” and get “back on one’s feet”? At first glance, the tanked job economy barely allows for those already with jobs to get by. And the tried and failed tactic of yelling “get a job” to everyone with a cardboard sign has not only long been a source of shame, but creates an increasingly negative association with an already malignant stereotype.

As the man walks out empty handed with a scowl and Tom Nass closes up shop, I wonder if this could all be done better. If the food handed out at pantries and food banks was higher quality. If there were more semi-permanent-to-temporary housing situations available, like Transition Projects. If police, journalists, health care providers, the rich, the homeless, the overprivileged white people of the world – everyone – were kinder and more compassionate.

If, or when?

OnStage: The Goblin Cellist Extraordinare

23 January 2013 § Leave a comment

As the bluegrass cradled and rocked the living room for her friends, Sophia sat on her heels, building a fire behind the stage. The sparks escaped the fireplace and embers popped like drumbeats to the strings – silky violin lines, the high tension beauty of a fast mandolin and guitar, cellos and vocal cords singing similar frequencies. The sweet pine smoke wafted through the orange Moroccan-designed room, and we listened to Rushad the eccentric cellist sing about his mini-love in striped pants and gypsy hat. His microphones were our ears; the PA his fingers and throat.

Rushad Eggleston, the self-proclaimed Proprietor of Igwarfnees, introduced himself and thanked the Three Intergalactic Lesbian Wise Women for hosting the Lily Henley band and himself. Two of the 3ILWWs were my good friends Sophia and Kirsten, and though I wasn’t previously aware of their stellar status, Sophia – perhaps in jest (or perhaps not) – quipped that the title was “not entirely untrue.”

The super secret house concert was twenty-five people strong, including the five-piece band. We’d been lit up by three lamps, a few candles, laughter, and now a campfire in the brick hearth. A giant dreamcatcher hung from the ceiling in the middle of the living room. Sometimes Lily would sing through its strings, and, true to its nature, we heard only beauty from the other side. For the night, we resided for the evening in the world of Sneff, a farm in the sky whose animals are songs that escape instruments and throats sometimes by accident, and other times from envy. Sneff is Eggleston’s creation, his home on stage, where he speaks his own language, one that lacks clear meaning. He compares many of his lyrics, which sound very much like Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘Jabberwocky’, to musical notes: it’s not about the definition, he says, it’s about the sounds that the syllables make; that’s where the meaning is.

Eggleston, veteran cellist and co-founder of popular alt-bluegrass outfit Crooked Still – and these days his new band Tornado Rider – is on tour with Lily Henley and her band, a bluegrass-ish outfit made up of New Yorkers, Southerners, and herself, an international nomad.

Mid-show, he, who claims to be half-goblin, but looks more like Johnny Depp caught somewhere between Pirates of the Caribbean and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, staged a gargoyle-pose contest between band members to kick off a song about, well, gargoyles. His comical antics on stage seem to display his blatant, innocently vulgar genius on his instrument. At times he hopped on one foot, do the can-can, or hide behind a chair to emulate the monsters of Sneff, or the goat god Pan in his storybook songs – all while playing, and quite proficiently so, his cello, which was wrapped around his shoulder with a furry pink strap.

Though his eccentric nature might seem to keep him from the “beacons by which music is measured these days – Rolling Stone, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Coca Cola commercials, and that shit.”, Rushad has no problem with said beacons, or recognition for his talent. He was the first ever string player to be offered a full-scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music. In 2002, while still in school and playing with the Fiddlers 4, he was nominated for a Grammy. Recently, when Mazda wanted to commission two cellists for the commercial revealing of the new Mazda6, they found none other than the Tornado Rider himself.

Despite contagious reassurance from the public, Eggleston is transparent around his “facade” of confidence. “I’m kind of a self-deprecating guy,” he said on stage, idly playing. “Sometimes I hate myself, so if I call myself a fuck-up at any point, you could let me know, so I can stop.” And we did.

Watching him play reminded me of the semi-trance people enter when they truly listen – with all their senses – to music. When I looked around the room and witnessed the audience in varying states of bliss, the Intergalactic Wise Women included, I realized once again that music, for many, is a foreign language. We can listen to notes and syllables that at once seem to make no sense at all, like Eggleston’s lyrics, but only once we stop trying to make sense of it can we allow the notes to unfold into phrases and songs, the words into paragraphs and stories, and extract what meanings we will.

As the night quieted and tired bohemians trickled from the house awash with songs written in airplane lavatories, heavy discussions about breakups with young chilren in the backseat, or rolling down the hills of Big Sur, the band took compliments humbly and with gratitude. They sat on the floor for a late-night jam session with smiles and laughter. Said Lily, the angel-voice herself, says touring with Rushad is a blast. “It’s always like this. We go bowling, take nothing seriously, eat tasty food, and get up when we want. I love it.” The violin and mandolins accompany Rushad’s percussive cello melody with cricket sounds, and left us with what was left of the night: ice cream, and a 2 a.m. run to Voodoo Doughnuts.

Music should always be like this.

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