Thursday, September 29, 2011

Earth @ What The Heck Fest?

I headed out to Anacortes, Wa. from the Rainbow Gathering this summer. I knew i was gonna be in Washington, where i had been longing to be for several years, so i thought to see what musicians were up to. I have been obsessed with Mt. Eerie for the past year and a half, so i thought i'd see what Phil and Friends were up to. Turns out that they were throwing the last What the Heck Fest? in misty, maritime Anacortes, Wa. It was only about 300 miles or so from Gifford Pinchot National Forest, so i figured i'd start there, and figure it out.

It was while volunteering at What the Heck Fest? that i got the notion to look into what other music festivals were happening, and put me on the path that has changed my life forever. All navigated by the North Stars of Earth, Mt. Eerie, Arington de Dionyso, and some other names i was familiar with.

Homeless in Olympia, Wa. Taking the busses through sheets of rain. Broke and hungry and begging in Anacortes. Walking around, reading tarot cards at street fairs, hanging out at public libraries... throughout all of this, i blasted Dylan Carlson's signature monolithic rock into my eardrums, listening to album after album, as i walked through the landscape that emanated the tunes. Logging roads, towering pine trees, blankets of ferns. Slugs and birds and berries. Fucking wild. Like un-civilized. Big, bigger than you and i.

Earth makes music to get lost in, to explore. Primordial world-builders, Dylan Carlson has been conjuring imaginary landscapes from dust, for people to get lost in and find themselves, for over 20 years. Evolving from mono-chromatic doom drone that sparked a genre and hordes of lackluster imitators, to spiritual spaghetti western soundtracks that could have scored the movie Dead Man, if Neil Young had been busy, at the 26 year mark, Earth sound tighter and more focused than ever before. Having come through the shadows of addiction and depression, the title of Earth's new album Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light is entirely appropriate. Earth make holy music, that is not afraid of the darkness.

The current line-up consists of long-time drummer Adrienne Davis, with Karl Blau on bass and Lori Goldston on cello, most infamous for her performance with Nirvana on the Mtv Unplugged performance. I can't honestly remember if Karl played bass on their set or not. I seem to remember the whole band being women, other than Dylan. This femininity is a refreshing contrast to the nominally bro-tastic world of drone/doom, allowed for a sensitivity and nuance and inspiration amongst all the players. Earth headlined the second, and my favorite, day of Heck Fest, playing at the Port Warehouse, which was a massive wooden building on the waterfront, with huge cargo doors open to the elements, spilling massive misty night-time air into the room, spilling cavernous guitars out to serenade the seals. 50 or so people huddled and shivered and listened to this legendary group, appreciatively silent and mesmerized. They played late at night, for a long long time. We were all sleepy and tranced out, and they played brilliantly! Like seeing yr favorite band in a friend's living room: intimate, nuanced, spellbinding. The communal aspect of the festival attendees mingled with the elemental air spilling off of Fidalgo Bay, was the perfect setting to see Earth live in, for the first time.

During the course of my homelessness, my drifting, my life has slowed down to a glacial pace. Things take time, when you don't have any money. When you have no place to go, anyplace is as good as anyplace else. As i was exploring the rusted-out decay of Washington for the first time, i repeatedly got lost in the many different incarnations of Dylan Carlson's vision, over the years. It is in this stillness, that Earth speaks, where they're coming from. This music is all about details. Listen to it loud, or forget about it. Because Earth 2 sounds shitty and ignorable through laptop speakers, but it will devour yr mind if you turn it up and let it dissolve you. This music is the soundtrack to my dissolution in the forest; getting lost amidst the stumps and the devil's club and the salmon berries. It is the soundtrack of being a stranger. Of watching, and being moved by the world around you; from the people in it to the clouds in the stratosphere to the lichen on the rocks.

It is this slowness, this gentility, that i was seeking when i hit the road, and what i hope to maintain, as i re-acclimate to society. It has been my goal to pay attention to life, to drink in the details and be moved. I love music so dearly, and was so fanatically driven to reproduce the sounds of my soul, that i had every motive to change and improve as a human, to invite Quality in, and live a Quality life. Living in my conceptions of reality, living in my head, rushing from one placebo to the next, quite assured that permanent mystical enlightenment lie over the next hill, under next dale. Living out doors, living without money, living without expectations, my life slowed down to near hallucinogenic attention, consumed by the passing moments.

Earth reminds us to slow down and pay attention. They advise us to get lost. They command us to open our eyes and ears, to never turn away; to stare unblinking into the void.

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