This is Axiom
- 1. A self-evident truth that requires no proof.
- 2. A universally accepted principle or rule.
- 3. Logic, Mathematics. A proposition that is assumed without proof for the sake of studying the consequences that follow from it.
Between photography and music, these last few weeks have shifted something inside of me. For well over a year I've been saying that songs have been growing inside of me, shaping themselves, finding the essence of some needed expression. But I hadn't written anything yet... I'd let them begin to form as I finally found my footing: These last 6 years have been an upheaval, between losing a significant portion of my family through a bitter lawsuit, the passing of close friends, the passing of family members, and the ending of relationships and the consequences from that. There have been periods I've allowed myself the indulgence to produce, to create from this grief; there have been periods where I've silenced any emotional connection to it.
Within the last 2 weeks I wrote a string of songs; only lyrics at this point, but lyrics are what I find most difficult to tap into. I've written dozens of half-songs that I didn't believe, that felt false in some way or another. Maybe it's because I wasn't able to see clearly, because I was presently living within the song I was writing about (I think of it like trying to photograph the entire Milky Way from our vantage point here on Earth, which is near impossible (and yes, I have a bit of a geeky obsession with space documentaries... thank you Netflix)). So in the last week or two, I've written the lyrics to a handful of songs which -standing alone - feel right, honest, honing in on something true that I haven't been able to grasp before.
And of course, this is so blatantly connected to me finding myself telling people over the last few months, "It's so strange, I'm genuinely happy right now, really freaking happy. Like 'smiling' happy. I don't think I've ever, even as a kid, felt like this." That's not to say that I don't still feel or grieve or experience sorrow, but there's a respite right now that I've never experienced before. And so to be in this place - writing poetry and music again, shooting photos a lot - has also in the last few weeks had two timely bookends:
In mid-April I went to shoot a show at The Echoplex here in LA; it was a show promoting a few bands on the labels Neon Gold and Hit City: Koko, Wildcat! Wildcat!, and Haim. Earlier in the day I had heard that Ryan Adams would be performing with Haim (I will be posting a photoblog from this show later this week)... (please take a second and think about what musician has most directly affected you throughout your life). He's that for me, from the death of my close friend 6 years ago, different crises, relationships & breakups, whatever, he has always spoken to me.
So after the show, as I was leaving, my cousin and my friend wouldn't let me leave without saying something to Adams... "You'll never get this opportunity again, cous..." But what stupid shit am I going to say to someone who's music has so consistently affected me, drawn me through loss, and inspired me to examine myself, sit with myself in grief and hope? So as they were walking ahead of me to make some small-talk conversation/ introduction, I did the only thing I could, I walked passed them, interrupted him and told him that his music has literally saved my life (1. I was NOT being overly dramatic; that was true and 2. Yes, this is like your middle school friends making you say something to the girl you like). I walked away before I heard more than, "Whoa... thank you... that's amazing" (or something to that effect). So that's the first bookend.
I ended the week at Coachella, weekend 1. I had dreaded it, expecting to not really enjoy myself, expecting to hate that 75,000 drunk kids rolling on Molly and penned into an area maybe 3 sq miles would be my idea of hell. But something in me shifted, something I haven't felt in years. I spent a lot of the 3 days going to different shows by myself so that I could let go of something in my ego, whatever it is that I so desperately hold onto that keeps me from feeling music the way I used to, that keeps me from dancing my face off sober the way I did when I was 18 at whatever random Phish show. And between the amazing performances by electronic musicians I had never heard before like Alesso, Madeon, Avicci, Swedish House Mafia or performances by bands I'd really wanted to see like Radiohead, M-83, The Shins, Black Keys, Beirut, Gotye, and Jeff Mangum, the moment that I have little memory of and intense emotion from was Bon Iver's set.
When I first arrived in LA last September, my cousin Jesse bought me tickets to see Bon Iver for my help as best man in his upcoming wedding. That show had been incredible, save the break-down of Vernon's vocals in "Beth/Rest, " which Justin Vernon quickly interrupted and moved to the next song. So seeing them again at Coachella was exciting, but I wasn't anticipating how it would affect me. I was first introduced to Bon Iver almost three years ago to the day before this show at Coachella, by my cousins Jesse and Ashley; that weekend three years ago in Arkansas was the last time I'd see Ashley before her death. So the album "For Emma, Forever Ago" played a significant role for me in how I began to (and continue to) grieve her loss. Bon Iver's 2011 album was released exactly on the 2-year anniversary of her death; I was mourning the loss of a 7-year relationship at the time, and this album began a healing for me, for the loss of both women in my life.
By the third song they played ("Holocene") I was weeping (sidenote: I seldom cry or express emotions; I'm much better at encouraging other people to express themselves... this is an effective therapeutic-deflection tactic).. I was transfixed, absorbed in both healing and grief, in what I've gained and (to quote the song "Wolves (Act I & II) "what might have been lost." For me, it was a revisiting, a re-telling, and a re-visualizing of these last number of years: screaming with 30,000 people "Who will love you? Who will fight? Who will fall far behind?" on "Skinny Love;" or "And I said: I know it well, I know it well..." on "Blood Bank," which live feels more like a rock anthem than the EP's ambiance of a cold winter morning. I barely registered when Jesse turned to me excited as hell that the intro to "Beth/Rest" was starting. All I could do was weep, let the music wash over me, and let the visions of a past life surface. I have only experienced a handful of moments brought on by sober musical intoxication that have led to visual out-of-body experiences. It is a baptism.
These images and videos do no justice for the experiences. They are simply a record, a record that I don't need necessarily, because whatever the experiences are, whatever they mean, they are simply a truth of the place and the metamorphosis. And yet I am grateful to have them.