I’ve spent the last two summers in southeast Alaska, in a town called Sitka, situated on a series of islands in the Pacific. There are about 9,000 people who live here - worlds away from my life in New York City (I’m fond of saying that there are more bands in Brooklyn than there are people here). I’ve come to Alaska through the Sitka Fellows Program - a new residency program. Essentially it means that I’m here to live simply and to play the guitar and to sing into the ocean.
In no particular order, here are the things I’ve learned to cherish here:
-the long, lazy arc of the sun as it rises and sets, staying up in the sky past well past 10pm
-the ever-uncanny, screaming calls of ravens in the woods and in parking lots
-the deep, happy, living smell of wet spruce trees
-swimming in cold ocean water with the silhouette of a volcano in the distance
-swimming near the airport runway and under planes as they take off
-the quiet persistence of thousands of fish making their way upstream
-the constant movement of water, in the waves and in the tides and in the sky
-a small, icy waterfall nestled deep in the woods - I’ve stood under it and hollered for joy
It’s very beautiful here, laughably so at times. But what’s more is that there is time and space to do things. Time to walk miles and miles into the woods and up mountains. Big, empty rooms that I fill with sound. Time to talk on the phone with my friends. An abundance of space in which to consider my tiny body against the sea, the mountains, the starry veil of heaven.
Writing and playing music here is so easy. It just flows. In New York, I do my work in spite of the world - in spite of rent, in spite of student loans, in spite of the loud fun of bars gently calling me out into the night. Here, in Alaska, due to some potent combo of well being and natural awe, the words and tones just are. My voice and my guitar astonish me with their clarity. And when I sing,
“This woman, who has never held a job for any time, doesn’t get up In the mornings, is routinely three or four hours late to appointments, who walks out of studios because she doesn’t feel like singing that day, and has a knack for both tantrum and wonder, achieves a childlike intensity of emotion in her songs because on some level she isn’t, even at the age of forty-seven, quite an adult. And I am probably not the only one who isn’t in a hurry to see her to grow up.”—Bill Buford on Lucinda Williams: http://nyr.kr/1uPZ4Ac (via newyorker)
Phish - Tweezer (segment), Randall’s Island 7/13/14
You go see dozens, hundreds of shows from hundreds of artists and bands and you love them all.
Sometimes, however, you catch something extraordinary. Something you didn’t know you were chasing until you heard it.
I had one of those moments during this 4 minute segment a few weeks ago on Randall’s (this segment came at the end of a continuous 50 minute flowing extraordinary segment of music - this was the denouement, if you will). A band totally locked in, each instrument cruising, beautiful soaring music in a outdoor setting with friends, while looking up at the sky. I was high - on the setting: I was away that weekend and had to travel back for the show, which was effort; a friend at a late moment decided to join me; we ran into another friend there at the show; we ran into someone else who invited us to the beer tent; it didnt rain and it was supposed to; etc.
I was out too late last night (for me), though I went to a gig in a living room, had one too many glasses of wine that came in a box (that would be 2 of them), couldn’t sleep when I got home (head buzzing), then up early (worrying about a busy day). Cascading series of events.
Made a cup of coffee from George Howell Coffee (their mission: “to seek out the best coffees on Earth” I am down with that) and tried to find something to clear the head.
I recalled seeing on twitter yesterday that a music journalist I follow said that the new Shabazz Palaces’ record may be the best record of the year. It’s damn good.