First off, I had been planning to release a new post right after the St. Catharines show to share some quick thoughts, and tell you what was immediately ahead, but it just wasn’t meant to happen. Sounds simple, right? My intentions were definitely good, but I became completely sidetracked and lost on this overwhelming journey of personal and professional discovery. It is only now that I feel focused enough to string more than two words together for you. I make no guarantees that they will make any sense but nonetheless, here we go.
I start this not at the beginning, nor the end, but right in the middle… sitting in a fucking plane and breathing hard. A release of stress perhaps, or anticipation of what lies ahead. All I feel is this strange turbulence… it will more than likely be a tad worse when we leave the ground.
It is only a couple of days after the St. Catharines show and my mind and body are finally starting to adjust. The chaos leading up to any IME show now, and the anxiety of just wanting to be a good fucking band for our fans seems to take a toll. More now than ever. I am not delicate in most ways, but I admit that keeping my fingers crossed hoping that we have our collective shit in order keeps me up at night. Lack of sleep and lack of rehearsal makes Jag a dull boy. (I feel a need to apologize for that third person reference! Sorry.)
Looking back at the shows, I really can’t be anything but satisfied. We now know that the “I Is Us” concept can work. I would be lying if i said we were supremely confident at the moment of announcing these shows, but as they approached, we just knew it would be okay. The potential for strange things to happen during an event like this is always one comment or question away, and has scared many an artist away from allowing a direct connection to their own fans. We aren’t perfect and don’t care if you know, so we put ourselves on display, invited you all to “have at ‘er!” and basically keep our fingers crossed. I have to say that we were completely floored by all of you once again. The intelligent and meaningful questions posed and a willingness to listen intently to our sometimes rambling, nonsensical chatter shows music fans everywhere that we have a really unique and special relationship with our audience.
Moving forward with this, we have more ideas and will be opening the lines of communication a bit more with all of you to see how you would like us to shape this thing! A huge thanks really has to go out to all of the people who helped us accomplish this:
Chris and Zeke, thanks for putting the entire thing together which I know was a huge pain in the ass. You kept all of us informed enough to keep us excited, and sheltered us from all of the bullshit that goes with your thankless job. Huge thanks, but next time I need directions to the venue. Daniel, Fatty and Chuck for continually showing up to rehearsals even though you either live extremely far away or work way too much! Our awesome crew of Mike, Adrian and Joe for putting in the long hours and making the best of bad situations and making the good ones even better.
This brings us to: “Why the hell were you sitting on a plane and breathing really hard?” Good question. In one moment I have this answer perfectly clear, and in the next, I am asking myself the exact same question.
You see, I don’t travel well. It is strange to say out loud sometimes but the facts are as follows: I don’t like loud sounds, I am totally uncomfortable and anxious around large groups of people, I don’t feel good in strange places, and I hate to leave home! Man, I really picked a solid career path! Yet here I was, sitting on a plane, on my way to Spain. (I hope it doesn’t rain, that would be a pain). Spain!! How did this happen!? I will try to explain Spain, the plane, the rain and the pain… as clearly as possible but it deals more with a feeling than any solid reason I can offer.
I have never felt compelled to do anything in my life more than go to Spain. Notice I use the word “compelled”, and not “want”. I feel like I had no choice in this. My personal and professional life has been greatly affected, even compromised by this obsession. I had let so many things fall by the wayside in this attempt to address what I now know was very necessary, to go. Simply put, an old obsession with Flamenco came back and hit full force right in my core and has basically taken over my universe. At this very moment in my life, something has opened my soul wide open and permitted me to absorb and understand this extremely deep and meaningful information. I know now that I wasn’t prepared to handle this when I was younger, but now it won’t let me look away, or allow me to treat it as a passing fancy… it constantly calls out to me, and I don’t know why. In order for my life to move ahead, I seriously need to find answers and understanding, and I need this to happen now.
People more or less know that i have a very obsessive personality but those close to me know that this is somehow different; the feeling is relentless, and in turn has made me relentless. I feel like I am on a strange quest, but one that my mind isn’t allowed to participate in. My body is just going where it is compelled to go, and my mind is really only along for the ride, and to deal with potential consequences. So off to Spain I go. Not Barcelona or Madrid mind you… there is only Sevilla for me, and hopefully there lies my truth.
So sitting on a plane and breathing hard seems pretty tame compared to what might happen when I get there… I really had no idea.
Sevilla, in the end, was all of the things I imagined it would be, yet my path to discovering this was absolutely different than I had imagined. I went into this feeling awkward and unsure as I have never done anything like this before, because it is totally outside of my comfort zone. Almost immediately though upon landing in Madrid and hopping on the train to Sevilla, (and completely stuffing my face full of Conguitos at the same time… fucking evil things!) I had an extremely strange sense of calm. Excited like a child yes, but surprisingly free of any of my usual anxieties. This is abnormal for me as I’m anxious just shopping for groceries at the local supermarket! It seemed to be the start of something good and an overall theme to the trip. I started feeling, well… normal!
My time there was probably the most interesting and enlightening time of my life. I had all of these plans to do this and to do that like a typical tourist, but soon realized that Spain had other plans for me. I lived very simply, controlled nothing and knew that other forces would now dictate my movements. Once I gave up this control and let things happen as they may, I felt relaxed and at ease with just about everything. I am learning that control isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be… as long as you have confidence and trust in the people around you (a foreign concept to me as of late, but hey, maybe in Spain! Go Team!!!). So a more authentic experience was offered and given to me via some truly awesome people, and I thank them all for this, even the ones I hated! (It meant more to me than you can imagine… en serio!) I had said many times on this trip that “I feel like I have been here before”. Never in my life have I experienced this sensation in all of my travels and even now I can’t explain it, but it had me by the balls and I couldn’t shake it. And even though I tried very hard NOT to be a tourist, unfortunately i’m cursed with the face of one! Thank god there were fucking Germans everywhere to distract the locals from my obvious whiteness!! I would have traded my baby blues in for browns in a heartbeat!
The search for Flamenco was of course, always in my mind throughout my trip, but I think I discovered fairly quickly that I was missing the point entirely. I needed to stop looking and just let Flamenco find it’s way to me. I don’t think it is a “thing” as much as it is a “feeling” floating in the air alongside you with every step. I believe that something inside of you must be willing to let Flamenco find it’s place alongside your deepest thoughts, and reach beyond the superficial of sight and sound. Now, the obvious thing to do is to just open your ears and hear it in every store, every passing car, see it in every image, etc., but I found the most meaning by just living alongside the people. Flamenco mimics the dynamic of their society: it resembles their conversation, their anger and frustration, the way they love, the easy way they treat each other, and in the way they move. (ok, and maybe in the way I screamed “Jodér!!!” every single time I ate fucking Salmorejo and Tostadas at Cinco Jotas!!)
Flamenco is the heartbeat of the Andalusian people, and it definitely reaches way beyond any single piece of music I could ever discover or performance I could witness. This is music with lineage, and one that gives great respect and admiration to past and present Masters. They are rockstars not for being “popular”, but for being the brilliantly gifted musicians that they are. There is a definite line drawn, and you are either a Master, or you are not. Mediocrity is not celebrated, it is scorned. Even the younger generation that was force fed the music of their parents and now only listen to other forms of music, still respect the music of their people. The same guy that worships Metallica would still stop and tip his hat to Paco De Lucia or Manolo Sanlúcar. Not because they are popular, but because they represent perfection. I truly love this. Even if this style of music isn’t a part of their lives, they are still humble and aware enough to recognize that it is in their blood, part of their identities, and there is no escaping it. Now, knowing this, how can I ever truly connect with this music unless I understand where it comes from? This music is so rich in history, and forged with the deepest of emotions that I truly believe it must be ‘experienced’ vs. ‘listened to’. You either get it, or you don’t. But be prepared if you do… trust me.
Okay, first off, let me clarify that this is by no means a declaration of my intent to take a huge left turn and go “Flamenco”! The last thing the world needs is another white guy trying to learn Flamenco, striving for mediocrity… there is nothing worse than bad emotionless flamenco, or bad Blues for that matter. These are styles best left to the masters unless you are blessed and have tapped into something special. The Blues is another pure form of emotion that people trivialized by attempting to play it having not lived it. These forms of music are sacred so just… well… don-do-dat!!!! However, that being said there is always something to be gained in absorbing the spirit of music from around the world vs. the notes. Inspiration never has to be so literal. If the Masters of Flamenco give me hope, faith and pride in being a musician, then so be it, i’m going with it! It is inspiration in it’s purest form. Joy.
I think that perhaps I have been extremely affected by rejoining the ranks as a “professional musician” in some of the best ways imaginable, but in some of the most horrific ways as well. Quizás, quizás, quizás! Not horrific in the classic sense, and I certainly apologize for potentially trivializing true ‘horrific-ness’, but to a musician, it does indeed ring true. This simple thought haunts me every day …Why do we do what we do? I should clarify, as this isn’t a commentary about all musicians (I already know this answer in a lot of instances), but more specifically, why do I do what I do? I always seem to be on this crazy search for this 14 year old kid-in-the-basement version of myself that played music just for the sake of music. Yes, he was an asshole too but looking back, it’s probably the happiest I think I have ever been as a musician. Think about it: I had no idea what success was, no concept of creative rights or wrongs, and could really give two shits about what people thought. It was nothing but dedication, inspiration, self innovation… and lots and lots of boners! Nothing has really changed actually, except the circumstances. I like to believe that I have had a career that was still based in these innocent concepts in many ways, but I am not sure I have entirely convinced myself yet. There is much more to learn, and so much more to do in order to make me a believer.
Please don’t think this is some “whoa is me”, or an “I’m such a fucking tortured artist” kind of story, it really isn’t. As humorous as I find some of those stories, like I said before; I’m not that delicate. (maybe a bit of a princess but hey, who isn’t!?) I can either drive a tractor, work in a factory or play music and still be a believer that life does indeed have meaning. I just wanted to share some things with you that I deal with everyday when I get out of bed in the morning, and hopefully you can relate in some way. My only real problem is the aforementioned “relentlessness” of my mind and how I need to cope sometimes. Maybe sometimes you feel the same.
Since the Re-Onion, I can honestly say it’s been fantastic playing guitar again. It has taken me 8 years of not touching a guitar to understand how big a part of me it is, and to fall in love once more. Internal and external horseshit aside, I’m feeling extremely connected to my guitar. It has become religious once again, and very similar to when I was a kid discovering new things everyday. Every single time I “step up to the plate” now when we play live, I feel I might finally be able to say something poignant and meaningful to you, or maybe even speak on your behalf. Maybe I am trying to convey an emotion you are having or perhaps one we share, or just massaging your musical souls… yes, happy ending included. Even if I fail, I’m always grateful for the opportunity to speak!
So where does this leave me? I have no idea. The future is of course yet to be written. I started to believe that this trip was a life changing event, but really it isn’t. It is only becomes life changing at the moment I decide to do something with the information and the inspiration obtained. Time will tell. For now, let’s just call it a game changer. Definitely a musical and personal game changer. Yep, that feels right! (is that a Judas Priest song? How come everytime I type it I sing it like Rob Halford?)
So for now, I leave for home packed to the gills with new ideas, new friends, and a new perspective… sitting on another plane and breathing hard, headed for home. This time, zero turbulence.
Andalucía, we will meet again… maybe… probably… later… soon.
love to all