Liner Notes

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

La Dispute // Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair

Recorded in July 2008
Double LP on Translucent Purple with Etched D-side
11th pressing
Favorite Track: "Last Lost Continent"

In late 2009, I was between moving to Washington state for a computer programming job, or to Chicago to study improv. One path started at 80k and the other involved me working part-time in the position I've held since I was 18.

I moved to Chicago.


I'd wouldn't be young, debt-free, and dumb enough to think people could make a career out of improv
for very long, so I moved. I am grateful to my dad not only for volunteering to help me lug all my heavy shit to Chicago, but for the encouragement. It would have been an easy Dad move to nudge me in the direction of a real job, security, and adulthood. But he said to me, "Take your shot. Most people never do."

And it would be poetic if the next part of the article was an excerpt from a GC cover article about the overwhelming success I've had in Chicago, regaling you with the fame and fortune I've amassed, but it isn't. Nearly seven years later, I still work part-time. I still write the same blog. And I still check my bank account before writing a big check. Success isn't binary. I think of my Dad's advice differently now. I used to imagine I'd either make my shot and get famous or I'd miss and get a real job. But a life spent chasing creative endeavors isn't measured that way. I spend the better part of my week writing, seeing shows, reading books, playing pinball, drinking coffee, listening to records, and playing my guitar. And every year I report "employed part-time" on my taxes, I count it as a win. But the specter of adulthood looms and I waiver frequently.

Music has never saved my life. I don't even know what that means. For me, music is a helpful stranger offering you a hand after you've fallen. In 2009, I didn't have a friend in 1000 miles. I watched a hundred Netflix documentaries. Read a fuck ton of big books. And I listened to a lot of music. Jeff, one of my oldest friends sent me an email telling me I had to check out this band, though I might hate the vocalist. He knows my musical taste better than anyone. I didn't hate the vocalist and ended up listening to Somewhere at the Bottom dozens of times in 2010.

They played a tiny basement in Chicago somewhere between 2010 and 2012. I don't remember how I heard about it, or what the place was called, but I climbed inside a clear fire code violation in the middle of summer and watched La Dispute. There is something special about a basement. I don't mean it nostalgically. I mean sonically. The drums aren't mic'd. The concrete and bodies are perfect insulation. Punk sounds like garbage in a stadium, but in a basement, you can hear the singer scream even when the PA goes out. Everything is immediate and palpable. Given a choice, I'd see every band in a basement. Sweat dripped from the ceiling, and I remember thinking I'd certainly die if a fire broke out. It was so packed, I couldn't even glimpse the band. But they played "Last Lost Continent" and I shit you not, I cried. I ugly cried. It remains one of the most powerful music experiences I've ever had.

I've seen them a dozen times since then, but like The Sandlot, nothing compared to that first summer. This song calls me back when I think about trading in my life for one where I have a down payment for a house. I took my shot, Dad. Or more accurately, I'm still shooting.

If you've never heard this sprawling epic, or needed to be stirred from a languid torpor, sit down the the lyric sheet and listen. I'm not going to cheapen it by telling you the parts that get me, but they do. I'm tempted to quote lyrics, but I won't.


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