My first experiences with music are documented on VHS tapes at my parent’s house. My younger sisters like to pop them into the VCR we somehow still own and force my brother and I to sit and watch them when I’m home for the holidays. They date back to ‘96. One of the earliest bits of footage looks like this:
My dad is sitting at the piano in my childhood home and he’s wearing an eyepatch. Not because he’s a pirate enthusiast, but because he’d had a massive stroke just months prior and he had to wear it for some post-stroke-vision-repair reason. He also has a beard. Neither of these things are on his face in present day, which my mom is really stoked about. He’s ripping through Chopin, or Bach, something out of one of the big books with portraiture covers that I’m never going to be good enough to play.
And then there’s me. I’m like, one and a half, or two, something like that. And I’m climbing all over the bench and my dad and the piano and doing everything in my power to stop him from playing. I’m trying to get my dad to stop with the music and give me some attention. But he soldiers on, and I eventually give up and climb back down onto the carpet, and start dancing. Eventually there’s a cut and the camera is resting on the coffee table, and you can see that my dad did eventually give into my demands and he’s right there on the floor playing with me, and the house is filled with mine and my mom’s laughter.
Sometimes when I’m on stage and I realize I’m flailing my legs around like some kind of tweaked-out toy soldier, I think about baby me dancing to Chopin. It’s my natural inclination to suddenly become aware of my body and get shy and retreat, but in a lot of ways, I want to always be that kid who’s so moved by the event of music happening in such close vicinity, that even if it’s broody 19th century classical music, still can’t help but be physically moved.
I also think about my dad, and how grateful I am for his being there, at the piano during all those early years. Those constant performances, whether one- or two-eyed, allowed me to grow up in an environment where music had every right to occupy the same air as everything else. During every piano recital, awkward-tuba-phase school band concert, my first times performing songs I’d written to strangers, and now every night that I’m on stage with my best friends – I’m just grateful to be in the same room as the music, and I’ll be damned if I can’t dance about it.
FAVORITE RECORD STORE
Have to shout out Block Street Records in Fayetteville. Wade is a cool dude and I’m too scared to talk to him so I always Shazam’d the music he plays in the store in the back corner.
FAVORITE CONCERT VENUE
We played Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco and it was a really good time. They have show calendars all over the walls from 20 years ago that proudly display all of the incredible people who played there when they were not super famous, which is one part them bragging but also one part doing you a favor and making you feel important for playing there. I don’t know if he still works there, but the sound engineer the night we played there was such a special and lovely guy. If it’s ok to say two venues I want to also mention Bear’s Den Pizza in Conway, AR, which is one of my favorite venues for reasons involving a lot of nostalgia and a band bar tab that we sometimes use to buy tacos.