So, as you know, I’ve been listening to this podcast called The Story and the Sound. It’s this podcast that takes albums, and dissects it song by song. It’s so beautifully written. The way the host speaks and describes each song…it is so beautiful. Luckily, he’s covered some of my most favorite albums of all time…so hearing it described by another person, it means a lot. Lol, and I must say, his description of Transatlanticism is on point. He goes on to say, “the rest of the world was introduced to Death Cab for Cutie by one man, and his name was…Seth Cohen.” So accurate.
Anyway, he went on a hiatus for awhile. He just released his latest episode and talks about why he took a break. He suffered from a massive depressive episode which he’s recovering from. And unfortunately, the show is ending indefinitely. He’s in the process of writing a novel, which of course, I completely can relate to. I’m so sad to see the show go but honestly, I’m so glad I found it when I did. And of course, his final episode will be dedicated to Brand New’s album, Science Fiction.
I wrote David a letter…just letting him know how much it really has meant to me. I’ve received a lot of letters from my readers in the past, all that have touched me tremendously. Being on the other side, and writing a letter to this guy…all I can say is thank you to you guys. I’m just now realizing that it does take a lot to write someone and describe what their work has meant.
I just listened to your latest episode from The Sound and the Story, and I really want to commend you for being so open and honest as to why you took a break. I started listening to your show about a month ago, and every episode has been so beautifully written. I love most of the music that you’ve featured, so I can really relate to the sentiment.
I’m a writer myself and have luckily gotten a few things published through some magazine sites. It’s lead me to beginning a manuscript on the topic I cover the most, which is mental illness and depression. I too deal with extreme depression and have suffered two breakdowns in the past which lead to a hospitalization two years ago. I’m still in the process of recovering which I must say, has gotten extremely better.
Your love for music has really gotten me through a depressive episode I was dealing with during the time I started listening to your show. Everything you described in the Brand New, Death Cab For Cutie, and Bon Iver episodes really touched me. Those albums have gotten me through a lot, so hearing it from another person feels extremely comforting.
I’m really sad to see the show go, but I wish the best for you, your recovery, and your writing process. I’m looking forward to the final episode. I saw Brand New a few days ago in New Orleans, and it was the first time I had seen them in 11 years. They were a band that was like a religion to me during their Deja days, and seeing them perform songs from that album and their new one -it was very cathartic. So, I’m glad your show is ending on that note.
I didn’t mean for this email to be so long, but as I said, I’m a bit of a writer. Again, all the best! I’m looking forward to reading your work and hopefully listening to any future seasons of your podcast. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and thoughts on music that a lot of us hold very dear to our hearts. It means more than you’ll probably ever know.
This is going to be the longest post I’ve written in a long time. So, bear with me. I left for New Orleans last Wednesday and honestly, didn’t expect to be this inspired. It really opened my eyes to things about myself, life, and California. I wish I never had to leave. I flew over there for Voodoo Fest, but it was so much more than that. I guess I’ll format that in the way I used to when this blog first started. So, here it goes…
All That Jazz
I knew NOLA was the jazz capital of the world, but God, it can easily be said to be the Music capital of the world. I’ve never experienced music the way I did there. Where it is just so pure. Where it’s a way of life…not just a hobby or something to enjoy. A literal way of life. Everyone I met plays some kind of instrument, is part of a band, or just lives for the music. It’s pretty incredible.
There’s never really a quiet moment when walking around the French Quarter. There is constant music playing…from the streets, to every single bar and restaurant. You will always hear some form of the sax playing. It’s amazing.
Dave Grohl even said it best the night we saw him…you will leave New Orleans sad…only because you wont want to go back home. He even said himself that he’s never been to a city that is so passionate about music. It’s such a beautiful thing.
The Lower Ninth Ward
If you know me, you know how affected I was by Hurricane Katrina. I was in college when it happened and to be honest, it was the first time I was introduced to systematic racism. I know, I was pretty naïve back then. I was born and raised in California, so, I basically lived in a bubble. But seriously, watching it all unfold on the news, watching Anderson Cooper on the field interviewing, yelling at politicians and dignitaries on live TV, riding around in a boat helping with rescues, to seeing the chaos unfold in the Superdome. It affected me so hard. I would watch the news and constantly think, “why is the government not doing anything?”
I became so passionate about injustice, so passionate about human rights, so angry at the government. I wrote a million papers on it highlighting the role of media, the lack of government assistance, and the inequality and racism that was so obvious. It was heartbreaking. I ended up falling in love with the city, its people, and its culture without even stepping foot there. So, this trip was a big deal. If I didn’t become so invested in what happened there, I don’t know if I would have ever majored in Human Rights and Politics or made it a life mission to alleviate poverty. I probably would not be in the nonprofit sector at all. It really changed the course of my life.
With that said, it was really intense visiting the Lower Ninth Ward. Seeing the “upgraded levee’s” the abandoned homes and trailers, weeds and rust growing from what used to be a lively community. There was a lump in my throat the whole time…and all I could listen to on my headphones was, “River” by Leon Bridges. I know this sounds stupid for most, but it felt like visiting this sacred place. It’s hard to even explain.
In a way, I felt a bit depressed over what the course of my life has been since graduating college. I’ve really settled. I used to be on this mission to change the world. I used to have all this passion and conviction, but it’s really fallen flat lately. It was definitely a reminder of what I used to be like. It’s sad, but reaffirming in a way. I need to figure out how to get back to that place. Visiting that area and walking around…it was a very special moment for me.
Which brings me to number three…its people. When you walk along the streets, you feel nothing but this passion and beauty that these people have for life. Despite what this city has gone through, they have this resiliency and endurance. It’s awe inspiring. All the locals I’ve met, the artists, the musicians, the festival goers…they’re all similar in the way they view life.
The city doesn’t seem to have gone through gentrification. Everyone I’ve met seems so genuine. It really is eye opening. It kind of makes me see California in a different light. I love this state, but I’m just now seeing how superficial it can be…how serious people are…how unopen. For instance, there was this one gentleman in his 70’s who came up to me at The Spotted Cat…a local jazz bar on Frenchman Street. He walked toward me, shook my hand without saying a word, and kissed it. He then smiled, tipped his hat, and walked away. If this happened in CA, I would be so creeped out lol. But for some reason, it felt okay there. Things like that feel genuine.
I don’t know if it’s the Southern hospitality, the openness and kindness people have there, but it feels alright. I’ve never been called beautiful by strangers as much as I did there, in such a short period of time. When people do say things like that to me here, I get all annoyed and automatically label that person as having ulterior motives. In New Orleans, it is absolutely different. I get all these fuzzy feelings and genuinely smile. It is such a different vibe there.
Even at the festival. I’ve been to a lot in my lifetime, but this specific one, it felt like one big family coming together. And I was completely welcomed with open arms. Lol, I was so sad that I didn’t have a “person/connection” to “something” there (I’m sure you can figure out what I’m talking about lol), but it worked out…because people were all for sharing. I had people that I had just met a few minutes before a band came on…already passing me “stuff.” It was pretty amazing.
Just all singing together from the top of our lungs, dancing, feeling the music…it’s indescribable. Unlike Outside Lands or Coachella…Voodoo Fest doesn’t feel like a scene. People are actually there for the music. I vibed so well with people to the point where I now have friends I need to call if I’m ever there again, and people who have to call me if they’re ever in California. I love all of you!
Voodoo, hauntings, and black clothing
Yes, 99% of my wardrobe is black. I get made fun of it a lot for it here. I feel comfortable in it. This is going to sound so stupid, but I feel like I can be myself there. So many people are dressed in head to toe black. I don’t know if it’s the voodoo/witchcraft vibe…but I love it. I love the black, I love the leather and lace, I love all of it.
It’s such a cool vibe. I absolutely love London…and it’s a place I’ve always felt I belonged. But NOLA, it feels a bit different. A different feeling of belonging I guess I should say. It’s London and NOLA…the two only places I’ve felt this way toward.
Of course, this is the main reason that brought me to New Orleans. Like I said, this festival is so different from other ones I’ve attended. It feels so authentic, so genuine, and so much more me. It’s not as corporate or grandiose as other ones, but it is amazing. Even the bands and artists made similar comments…just how music is so ingrained in NOLA. How the people here are so passionate and genuine. It is on another level when it comes to music. So, below…I give you my top five moments of Voodoo Fest (not in any particular order)…
- The Foo Fighters –I don’t have to really explain this. You guys know how I feel about the band. They played for an hour and a half and it was pure intensity. Dave Grohl is so unique when it comes to performing. He’s one of the few big rock stars that does is purely for the music. That loves his fans and makes every moment worth it. Of course, there set is at the top of my list. And Everlong…it’s safe to say that I took this song back. That alone, is worth the trip to NOLA in itself.
- Prophets of Rage –For those of you who aren’t familiar with them…they’re basically a super group of members from Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello being the guitarist, members from Cyprus Hill…and none other then Chuck D. from Public Enemy. This is the super group to end all super groups. The atmosphere was pretty insane.
Anytime they would come sing a Rage song…the crowd went nuts. Yes, I suffered from bruises and mayhem, but it was worth it. I’ve seen Rage Against the Machine before…in London, but seeing them in the U.S. was completely different. Of course, it was all political, with Tom Morello playing on a guitar emblazed with the words, “Fuck Trump.” They spoke real talk about the political climate and resisting. Fists were raised the whole time. I wouldnt expect anything less of this. They played in all their glory and even had a dedication to Chris Cornell.
It was pretty sad. Tom Morello spoke about his dear friend and former band member of Audioslave…then said, “if you know the lyrics to this song, sing along. If you don’t, say a prayer for peace.” They put a spotlight on an empty mic stand and the band began playing “Like a Stone,” without a singer. The whole park began to sing. I started to tear up because of how beautiful it was. So touching and extremely emotional. It’s like Chris never left. Sigh…it was a moment I’ll probably never forget.
- Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness –This guy is pretty frickin talented. I’ve been a fan of his since Something Corporate, Jacks Mannequin, and of course his current band. Something Corporate was the first rock show I’d ever been to (I was 16 at the time). They were the first band we saw there, and it was the best way to open up the festival. He spoke about Hurricane Katrina and the resilience of the city in between songs. And of course, he said the line that captured my trip there so perfectly…”Leave all of the troubles of the world outside of that gate. Right now, at this moment, we’re all together and nothing else matters…” I took those words to heart…because for those few days of being in NOLA, California was the last thing on my mind.
- The Killers –Honesty, as amazing as they were in NOLA, I don’t think anything can ever top seeing them in Vegas a few years ago. They closed the festival out which was perfect. The thing that got me the most…is that they played a song that they rarely ever play live. They played their cover of “Shadowplay” by Joy Division. I freaked out so hard when the first few chords started playing. You know how much Joy Division and Ian Curtis mean to me…hence why I freak out over this song. It was pretty perfect…and the light show they put on for it…so appropriate. Ian Curis forever!
- And the last highlight of course, goes out to none other than, BRAND NEW! –I’ve seen this band a total of five times now…with the last time being in 2006. It’s been over 10 years since then. If you knew me at 17, you know how obsessed and crazed I was about them and Jesse Lacey. This band was EVERYTHING to me and that is a major understatement. Deja Entendu really did have a big impact on me when I was younger. They were the soundtrack to all of those nights driving around with my friends with no destination. Sneaking out, drinking, and being horrible teenagers.
‘The Quiet Things’ was the first song I ever really learned to play on the drums. That album defined me during my late teens. Seeing Jesse up there, with Kevin Devine on the drums, such an intense moment. And God, when they sung Sic Transit Gloria, and the crowd screaming “Die young and save yourself,” such a moment. Brand New is a religion to their fans. So, yeah, I met some pretty hardcore people around me. Who are my new best friends lol. Just talking about Deja and what those songs mean to us…it has been awhile. Sigh, I miss those guys already!
So, this is what my trip to NOLA was in a nutshell. So many other amazing moments, but honestly, writing about it wont do it justice. I’m pretty sad to be back home, but I’m trying so hard not to lose the inspiration I felt there. I haven’t been that happy in a very long time. I keep wondering to myself…if I took a trip like this right after my breakdown…I’m sure it wouldn’t have lasted two years. It was so extremely necessary.
To the city and the beautiful people I’ve met there –thank you so much for showing me how amazing life can be. How music really is a way of life…and that my passion for it isn’t ridiculous or overboard (something I always thought was). Thanks for reaffirming my love for art, for writing, and for people in general. And most importantly, thanks for helping me fall in love with myself again. Thanks for making me feel beautiful, alive, and worth it…you really have opened up my eyes. And for that NOLA, I’m leaving my heart with you.
Last full day here in New Orleans and I’m feeling so sad right now. How do you leave a city that feels more like home than your actual one? Where you feel like you belong more than you do in California? I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to this place and all of the beautiful people I’ve met…
My heart hurts.