A few years ago, I read the book Tiger Rag and I wondered how anyone could make the cornet a starring instrument. Then I saw Industrial Revelation play at Doe Bay Fest. Ahamefule Oluo’s trumpet solo cleared it up for me.
If you’re into music at all, the number of bands you’ve seen live really adds up over a few decades. From foot-staring technicians to sophisticated performance artists who happen to use music as their medium, there are a lot of ways to put on a good show. But every now and then, you see a true rock star. Some people have an innate ability to reach down and pick the crowd up.
I don’t even like the type of music he makes. But on the Bumbershoot stage in 2014, Otieno Terry was captivating. You would never have known that it was the biggest show the KEXP SoundOff winner had ever played. The boy was in his natural habitat. He even stopped the show to sing Happy Birthday to his mother in the audience and instead of destroying the effect, everyone in the audience felt part of a special moment.
I pulled out my phone right after his set, intending to buy his album, only to discover he didn’t have one yet. In the years since, I’ve occasionally remembered that show and looked him up, and never found anything. Then a couple weeks ago I found Otieno Terry’s debut album The Woods. It’s still not my kind of music. But I’m looking forward to seeing him perform again. Rock stars always make you feel lucky to be in their orbit.
Sometimes I take a bunch of concert photos and don’t have time to go back and tag them all with names. Especially at festivals. I think this is Aubrey Bramble (what a great name) performing in Golden Gardens at Bumbershoot 2014. Golden Gardens is a great name for a band, especially one that sounds as shimmery and ethereal as this Seattle band. Golden Gardens sounds like a metaphoric name for heaven.
But for me, Golden Gardens is the park with the largest off-leash area in part of town. There are few things more neurotic than an urban border collie, so for nearly ten years, I drove there literally every day to spend 30-45 minutes throwing a ball. That piss-soaked corral was my third place, rain or shine. I knew more local dogs by name than humans.
The heavenly music of Golden Gardens is hard to reconcile with my muddy memories of rambunctious canine joy. But if all dogs do go to heaven, I know mine is at Golden Gardens.
For several years, I took pictures at every show I attended. I usually blog about the concerts I go to, and I don’t always have access to press materials. Plus, pics or it didn’t happen, right? I’m not a very good photographer, but nowadays, even an amateur photographer with a recreational camera can get a great image sometimes.
But the trick is, I’m short. Unless I’m right up in front of the stage, my view at almost every concert (but metal shows, especially, I don’t know why big guys favor metal) looks like the back of some guy’s black hoodie, no matter where I stand. Most of my concert photos are hail mary shots, taken with my arms fully stretched above my head. Sometimes those shots are all I see of the show.
I love this image of Hobosexual drummer Jeff Silva at Bumbershoot in 2014, but nearly a quarter of the image is the back of someone’s head. If I crop out the bottom, I lose the drummer’s left hand. If I crop from the side – well, it’s not too bad, but I like having the cymbal up on the left. What I really need is to be a couple inches taller.
One summer, I was invited to go camping in the San Juans. My dog was so old that I worried about leaving him at home alone. So I brought him with me. It rained so hard for those two days the waterproofing on my tent gave out. I had to leash the dog to make him leave the tent to pee, and when he came back in, he coated the entire inside of the tent with mud and the scent of wet dog, a scent that also pervaded my car for at least a week afterward. His toe nails punctured my sleeping pad. It was the last time I ever took that dog camping. He died a few months later. I’m so glad I took him with me to the island.
The San Juan Islands hold a special place in Northwest hearts. Idyllic islands not too far from the comforts of home, they seem to exist with an Instagram filter that blends nostalgia and progressiveness. The first time I went camping on Lopez Island, I turned down a little dirt driveway onto a farm that had posted a “Fresh Produce” sign by the street. Pulling up in front of a big barn, I couldn’t see any sign of recent habitation. But just inside I found these refrigerators, a table with a scale, a chalkboard listing the prices of everything available that day, and a cash box with a piggy bank slot for payment.