Saturday, February 9, 2013

Burning the Old Year

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye writes "Where there was something and suddenly isn't,/ an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space./ I begin again with the smallest of numbers" ("Burning the Old Year," from her collection Words Under the Words: Selected Poems). A month into 2013, and I can feel the difference in this new year; the things that seemed so stressful or incredibly demanding of my attention-- now barely an afterthought, like old papers burned in a heap. I don't often feel that January need to cast off the old in a grand spring cleaning or start climbing the mountain of resolution; but I turned thirty on the fall; I did a little dating in the fall, too; I had a few encounters that led to a release of some major expectations I've had for life, for people. And this winter the image of paper sticks with me; Nye writes: "so much of any year is flammable." Much of the physical part of my life exists in piles of paper: student essays; bills; angry demands left by my angry-basement tenant; letters; reminders; lists; half-finished projects; programs; old scripts. Sitting firmly in February 2013, the paper of 2012 seems far away, as well as the events each piece represents. But in this E-LAND of ours, there's something lovely in a stack of actual paper; lately I've found myself in the midst of a few editing projects for writer friends, and there's something precious in the stack of paper, bound, and folded between piles of 10th grade essays and textbooks in my bag.

All this to say, I think I'm having a NEW YEAR, and burning the old. I was editing a friend's memoir this week, and in it he talks about "reframing;" when life looks different than expected, when things disappoint-- "reframing" is a reshaping of convictions or certainties when they no longer correspond with the reality you might be experiencing for some reason or another; but there's something brave in not rejecting those certainties outright, but maybe just considering that you've encased them in the wrong framework.

There's a lot to consider reframing right now:  what I always thought the future would hold; thoughts on faith and God; who I want to be when I grow up; what relationships of all varieties can and do mean to me.

I came across this C.S. Lewis quote today: "Thirty was so strange for me. I've really had to come to terms with the fact that I am now a walking and talking adult." Weird to think of the Old Professor at thirty... I think I've been walking and talking as an adult for a while now, but I could use a new place to go, some new words to say.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nathan Stiteler and Friends: Summer Tour 2012

Hello all!
Tom requested a travel log like last summer, so here goes!

This morning we're packing up the Stiteler's big old van and trailer to head to Cornerstone, which will be bittersweet for a few reasons: we'll only be there for a couple days, AND this is the final summer for this amazing music festival. 

But before I launch too far forward into the shows we haven't played and places we haven't seen yet, a brief run-down of the last couple days. Jon (from Butler, PA's Bare Branches) met Ben and me in Virginia and we headed down to Nashville on Tuesday. We've been staying in Nate and Chloe's lovely newly-wed home, and along with Kevin (originally from Staunton, but now lives here in Nashville too) have had a fun day or so before heading out on tour. Experiences include:
  • 3rth (pronounced "thirth") of July: a neighborhood here in East Nashville blocks off their main street every July 3rd for a big block party. $15 to get in for all the beer and music you could want in the swampy humidity:) The beer was excellent, from a local brewery, and the music was... entertaining? The opening act was a black Neil Diamond impersonator, self-titled "Black Diamond." Not kidding. He was great in so many ways he never intended to be. Next was an OK country band, but they had an awesome lap steel guitar player Jon fell in love with (he's brought one along this summer which adds some amazing stuff to our set).
  • Hot Chicken: this is a thing here apparently, and though I've not tasted any, we spent a lot of time walking around in 105 degree weather at a festival dedicated to it! It's one of Nate and Kevin's favorite things. Jon said just smelling it made his nose hair burn, so I'll pass.
  • Band practice: the boys crammed everything down in the tiny hobbit-hovel of a basement at Nate's place where we practiced our set all afternoon.
  • 4th of July: Nate and Chloe had friends over to celebrate the 4th and I got to see dear friends Michael (our guitarist from last summer) and Leslie, also newly married. I met Chloe's friends from college, Tyler and Elizabeth, newly relocated here to Nashville. We discovered our mutual love for Neil Gaiman novels so meshed really well. We ended our night with nearby fireworks, and then I crashed since we needed to be up early this morning.

So, now it's time to head out. We get to Cornerstone tonight and play our first show on Gallery Stage (the main stage at C-stone this year!!!) on Friday right before the Wiitala Brothers. Then Saturday we head out to play a show every day in a different city until we're back in Nashville Tuesday or Wednesday. Since we're not camped out all week at C-stone like last year, I think I'll have more internet access, so hope to stay on top of the tour journal this year and not fade out like last summer:)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October Snow

Nothing like my annual "snow-day post" to break the blog-silence. Typical Pensieve... never finished the Cornerstone posts, but oh well... too much time has passed to go back.

I actually got on the blogger system to see if my buddy Stina had updated anything on hers, but no, she hasn't written in months. I was about to berate her on Facebook but then my last post from the summer convicted me... and the snow outside: "remember how hot and sunny it was the last time you signed off, swearing to return...?!"

So here's my post on the first snow of the season... in OCTOBER. I vaguely remember a snowy Halloween in my childhood, but never since. The sad thing is, as charming an occurrence as this is, it only means I'll end up resenting the stuff sooner than usual. And the thing about working in retail... no snow days.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cornerstone 2011: the Impact Stage Show

Today’s soundtrack: Church of the Cross’s “Hymns.”

I’ve tried to be consistent in keeping up with my recording of the Nathan Stiteler Tour of 2011, but the last couple weeks I’ve petered out in the pursuit of online job applications and much-needed coffee dates with friends I’ve neglected this past school-year of crazy!!

So, to be faithful to my determination to archive these memories, but also accept the reality that three weeks have gone by since the trip, the next few posts contain just the highlights of Cornerstone 2011.

Impact Stage show: our first show was at one of the minor stages on Wednesday, June 29th at 3:45. Of course it was blazing hot, but that’s Cornerstone, so I got as dolled up as possible in the sweltering furnace, and we went on. The band before us was some sort of screaming rock band with lots of eyeliner, and the leader singer was so caught up in his screaming that he hit his face with the mic and got a nosebleed… which I later stepped in and tracked all over the stage. The sound was pretty good inside the tent, and after such an awesome show at Mama Linda’s I was really excited to play our stuff. Then, about a song in, Nate’s guitar leaped from his arms and crashed “face”-down on his pedal-board, which started shrieking all kinds of god-awful distortion. I stood there, paralyzed, watching while Nate ran around readjusting pedals. The whole affair probably lasted 35 seconds, but from my perspective stretched on in slow motion. That and needing to cut the set-list short kind of killed the mood, but the crowd we had, though small, seemed to like Nate’s stuff as folks all throughout this trip continue to do, so that’s great. We looked at the small goofs as “dress rehearsal” for the big gallery stage!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cornerstone is coming...

In the midst of filling out a billion online applications (ugh, don't get me started), I have yet to write my final "Nathan Stiteler Tour 2011" posts about Cornerstone. It's coming, I swear...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Normal... are we in Normal?

The morning after our shows at Mama Linda’s was lovely. I don’t mind sleeping in tents what with my air mattress and earplugs, and other than an awkward stumbling over a body in front of the tent door for a porta-john visit at 3 a.m. (sorry, K.B., but I just couldn’t hold it any longer!!!!), waking up was lovely and exciting because today we were finally going to be at CornerstoneJ

A brief side note about my history with Cornerstone. I first went the summer before college with a crew of about 12 boys. I’d never before done anything close to the amount of camping out, pseudo showering, watching hardcore bands scream all day. Screaming hardcore aside, I did get to know a lot of new music that I still love today (Ester Drang, David Bazan, to name a couple). I’d also never experienced anything like the crowds of people who are Christians but so different from the typical church-folk one expects. Cornerstone was full of Mohawks, tattoos, the presence of all kinds of social justice organizations. A non-religious friend was with us that week, and commented on how the place had a different spirit than shows he normally attends. Here when someone gets trampled in a mosh pit, folks stop, pick him up and brush him off. My second time attending Cornerstone was when Nathan won a contest in which 12 bands got to play a new band showcase (that’s where we met Bare Branches two years ago, also winners). I’d always wanted to go back after that first summer, so this was my chance.

I don’t consider myself someone who really likes to “rough it,” but there’s something special about sleeping in a tent for a week, walking around gross and sweaty all day while you meet new people and hear new music. And there’s something even MORE special about actually performing there!

Cornerstone didn’t technically start until Wednesday, but people start showing up and setting up their tent spaces the day before. Marcia’s husband Travis brought youth from their church, and they staked out a spot for all three of our groups to camp together. Once there we got our pink wristbands (signaling that we’re in a band) and set up camp. Bare Branches had a show scheduled in another town (Normal, Illinoi, ha!) with Homeless Gospel Choir, Listener, and Hushpad; so after setting up our camping gear for the week, we walked around exploring the location of the different stages and merch tent, and then hopped back in the van for the 2 hour trip to Normal for the show. (Not only is the name Normal funny, Ben Folds references it in a song, which makes fans Nate and myself giggle…)

We got there a couple hours before the show started (at a pizza place/bar called Firehouse Pizza), and were joined by Nathan’s parents, his brother Ryan, and his fiancée Chloe. They drove up to meet us for the week of Cornerstone shows. While Nate and Chloe spent some quality time, I found a great café with Wi-Fi where I spent some quality time with my laptop. Love was in the air, friends…

Once again Bare Branches played a great show (see video upload a little later), and I enjoyed my second Listener experience, this time seeing Nate (from Bare Branches) on drums. It was a great show (and a really cool venue), but a horribly late night. Once we finally got out of there and took a Walmart pit-stop, we headed back to Bushnell, getting home around 3:30… yikes!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mama Linda's pig-roast

Today’s playlist: Pixies Doolittle; Brooke Waggoner’s Heal for the Honey

The day after our Peoria show, we headed to Mama Linda’s house for a pre-Cornerstone tradition I’ve never heard of but loved being a part of. Mama Linda lives in this beautiful, huge, OLD brick house on a farm in Illinois about an hour from Bushnell (where Cornerstone happens). I don’t know how long this has been going on, but for years she has invited some of the bands who will play at the festival to a huge pig-roast the day before Cornerstone starts. These bands are also invited to cram onto her porch and play a set, so all morning and afternoon people arrive and set up tents in her huge yard, and while the BBQ is cooking, bands play. Mama Linda also is known for setting a food tent to feed musicians and people in ministries for a fractional cost throughout the festival. It’s a great thing she does, supporting these artists with food and a place to play their music and then crash for the night.

When we arrived, Bare Branches was already there cleaning up the damage done to their tents during the storm the night before. This was our first chance to pull out all the tents we brought and camp out, which meant Cornerstone was right around the corner—so exciting! Once we got out tents set up and arranged for our evening there, I took some time by myself, reading a bit by this huge soybean field along one side of Mama Linda’s property. I could hear different acoustic acts playing on the porch, but didn’t see much of them from behind a line of trees and shrubs where I hid for a bit with my book.

Later that afternoon they brought out the BBQ picnic, which was delicious, and a lot more people had arrived and gathered around with their plates to listen to more of the bands. Bare Branches played a great set, and then Hushpad played and again asked Richard to jam with them on the song they’d done the night before. We were the 3rd to last band to go, which is a sweet spot. When it was our turn, it was finally night, and as we stood on the porch playing, the field in behind the audience was filled with fireflies. It was so beautiful. Now that we’re finished with all our shows, I can say with certainly this was our best show—we sounded great, our energy was fantastic, and everything was really tight and cohesive. A lot of people had great things to say afterwards.

After we played, it was time for Listener. This is a band I’d heard of for a long time, but never actually listened to any of their stuff. Bare Branches has been touring with them and another guy (Derek—his act is called Homeless Gospel Choir), so this was my first of many shows seeing what they do. Dan Smith is the lead “singer” and Chris Nelson plays guitar and beats on things (no joke—they used to carry around a washing machine that Chris would beat on with a baseball bat for percussion). Dan essentially performs spoken word poetry, with a lot of shouting and sweating, and it’s fascinating!! For a taste of one of my favorite pieces they do, check out this video:

Dan and Chris are serious looking dudes, with serious black t-shirts, serious tattoos, and REALLY serious beards and mustaches. After seeing others interacting with them, and then briefly chatting with both, I know they’re unusual, funny, but kind guys. They’ve been touring and playing shows for about nine years straight. They smoke pipes that smell amazing. I’ve bought two CDs and two shirts. I want them to come through Staunton and play a house show so I can cook them up a giant pot of spaghetti.

(The picture at the top of the post is of everyone on Mama Linda's porch)