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Friday, July 25, 2014

Dust in the Wind

There is an adaptability in live music.  It's not even an ability, it's a necessity.  Live music adapts to its surroundings by necessity, like water filling a differently shaped container.  On the road for long stretches of time, playing music more regularly than you do anything else, including eat and sleep... Your life starts to take on that adaptive tendency, and the points of reference you once used to demarkate by - Night, Day, Lunchtime, Bedtime, Thursday - start to mean less, whereas things that seemed before (and sometimes still) like arbitrary markers - Soundcheck, Load-In, Piss Break, State Line - become the chapter headings of your memory.

I'm talking to the band Dust From 1000 Years as they tear down their few pieces of gear on the patio outside O'Shaughnessy Performance Space at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.  The sun went down about an hour ago, and a warm breeze is blowing so perfectly through the weird little back lot that this duo realized it was better to set up their two amps and keyboard outside, where most of the smoking, gradually gathering crowd of youths seemed intent on staying.  It was a good call.  I've seen a lot of shows at O'Shaw, but this was one of the most intimate and beautifully pacific I've been to since I was a student at the College.

The duo has been on the road for 2 months, starting in Bloomington, Indiana, soon joining their Boston friend who performs under the moniker Bad History Month.  As he sets up his drum kit, we share a chuff and they tell me about the road that brought them.

"I don't wanna sound too artsy-fartsy about it, or sound full of myself... I feel like I'm not good enough to write a compelling happy song... Y'know?"  Ben Rector, the guitar player and singer, explains.  The candid comment elicits a simultaneous guffaw from me and the few other young freaks hanging about as the band clears the "stage".  "I've written happy songs, and they're not deep or anything.  I think I've heard happy songs that are deep, and I don't do that.  I really think it's just easier to be serious when you're talking about horrible shit."

Rector is the only remaining founding member of the band, which has seen 15 people come and go over its decade-long existence.  He and keyboardists, Jimmy Brown, quit their jobs to embark on yet another of the band's yearly tours.  "[The music] evolves based on how I'm feeling, how everyone else is feeling, what instruments people have when they join the band,"  Rector explains.  I comment on their sparse set up, and he points out, "It's kind of our 'easy' setup.  Really, it's just because we played like 10 electric shows in a row.  I guess we're kinda like two different bands on this tour.  It makes it really convenient, because if somebody's like, 'Hey you gotta be really quiet because my neighbors suck,' we can totally do it, and naturally do it, and try to gear the songs toward whatever sounds best."

Despite his insistence that it's all very sad music, and despite the fact that their often drone-like songs do have a very ominous, dark, blanket-like quality, there is a certain personal positivity that surrounds the duo that betrays their foreboding subject matter.  It's something about the dismissive tone with which Rector shrugs off my question regarding what happens after the tour: "Uuuhhm... Try to put my life back together again," he chuckles, trailing off, "Back to responsibility, rebuilding..."

The life of a traveling musician seems to a lot of folks like one step from homelessness, but the actual, experiential truth lies somewhere closer to a really awesome extended vacation.  A tour is primarily a road trip.  You just finance it by performing your art for other weird people in strange little places.  "It's the people you meet, the things you do, like... Hanging out on the beach for 6 hours...  If you don't have any kind of sensory input, then everything is fucking dull and you become depressed and you don't think..."

See the world.  One back lot stage at a time.