Gordotronic is comin’ to town
I’m planning to go up the I-5 corridor 90 minutes to see Gordon. (If that seems like a long time to you, I grew up on the west end of the Olympic Peninsula. Long travel times are normal out there.)
If you are a Washingtonian, you should come too. It’s at Fantagraphic Bookstore in the Georgetown neighborhood in south Seattle. (see map below)
(I already bugged him about Portland, but a certain well known bookstore needs at least 6 months notice…)
Has his life in England soften him up since leaving the wilds of the PNW? Will he be too proper to handle an ax or a chainsaw? Has he sworn allegiance to King Charles, neglecting the majesty of Mt. Rainier? Let’s find out, shall we?
There will be another gig the following Thursday in Los Angeles. I’ll try to send my bestie on over. If you see a huge smile and hear “Do you know Vangie?”, that’s her. (Love you, T).
Hmmm, maybe next time I’ll convince him to mess around on my church’s half busted pipe organ…Centralia might not be hip, but the grittiness can be intriguing.
On a personal note….
Well, dear reader, I’m full of intentions. I have much to write for this blog. However, my neurodivergence makes it take awhile to sit and write. I basically write essays every week and perform them as sermons. It’s hard to find energy after that.
I do have more to come. Don’t worry! I just ask for your patience.
I will be seeing the bands Vision Video and Urban Heat this Fall, which I am absolutely looking forward to. Stay tuned!
Spirituality, Music and Trauma: An Upcoming Public Lecture (not by me)
Actual title of lecture: WITH “SIGHS TOO DEEP FOR WORDS”: SILENCE, THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND MUSIC IN THE PROCESSING OF TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE
One of my most influential professors in seminary specializes in theology around Pneumatology (fancy word for study of the Holy Spirit), music and art. Her music of preference is Classical, so you likely won’t find any synthesizer or drum machines. You can check out Dr. Chelle Stearns bio here by clicking on this sentence.
This Lecture is livestreamed on YouTube on Monday, July 25, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. P.S.T.
Or you could probably catch it live if you happen to be in Vancouver, B.C. It’s held at Regent College on the UBC campus.
Watch the lecture here:
In the meantime, let’s consider what music has helped us process trauma.
Who doesn’t have trauma?
What songs or bands helped you process trauma or traumatic events? Let me know in the comments!
Let’s return to this space sometime after the lecture.
“The World is Going to Love This”…and This World is Small
A Reaction to Gordon Raphael’s new book. The World Is Going to Love This: Up from the Basement with the Strokes. London: Wordville, 2022
The following is not a proper review of the book. This is a Reaction.
The review will come. I just received this in the mail last week. I’m compelled to share my initial thoughts and reactions as the Spirit reveals these Cosmic Intersections.
Divine Intersections of geography, time, and homosapiens
I held his image in my hand as he rolled across my social media feed. Both mystic and personable, I realized this middle aged man, a bard with a mop of dark hair, wove stories about the 1980’s punk scene in Seattle. Those kinds of stories latch onto a deep part within my psyche. I love hearing these stories, not only out of nostalgia but also a concern and desire for working artists and musicians to be encouraged once again in that magical place known as the Emerald City. I’m deeply saddened that working class folk are being priced out, and therefore dampening future possible scenes to emerge.
In my hand, he shared a few other videos, revealing a bit of his wizardry with multiple keyboards and synthesizers. Synthesizer is my favorite instrument, and I found him increasingly intriguing.
My curiosity drove me to keep asking him questions about places and music from the ’80s and ’90s. I would respond where I was at that time, which bands I remember, hangouts or venues I knew of, likely 15 to 20 years after Gordan was there.
Perhaps I’m a bit naive to strike up a conversation with this wizard who’s experienced worlds I could only fathom. After all, I’m an awkward kid from an isolated small logging town far from the glamour of New York, London, or Berlin. Yet Seattle is the city where awkward small town kids, not quite fitting in, go to thrive. (My hometown isn’t much different or far from Kurt Cobain’s hometown.) Yet I have blood in the soil of Seattle and sweat washed off in the baptismal font of Puget Sound.
I have a deep history with Seattle. My mother’s family settled in West Seattle as early as the 1890’s. As a kid in an isolated, small town I just loved visiting my Swedish grandpa, Grandpa Mauritz, in the city. It felt so alive! To this day, I gawk at buildings, signs, lights, and people in wonder. (I try not to gawk at people…I’m genuinely fascinated by others.) As a teenager, I fell more in love with the city as bands came pouring out and into my plastic, cream colored Radio Shack radio/tape player with pink buttons. When I turned 30, I finally fulfilled my dream and moved to the heart of the city in Belltown and spent a decade there. I do hope to move back someday.
While I was an awkward kid growing up in the wild rainforest near the ocean, Gordon Raphael was traversing the sonic frontiers of our beloved city, cultivating partners and conspirators in music scenes of Seattle. Back then, the city had a stronger sensibility of the working class, soon to be overshadowed by the yuppies of Microsoft, Starbucks, Frasier, and eventually Amazon.
A bit into the time I was listening to Gordon’s stories in the palm of my hand, he mentioned that he was in a little band called Sky Cries Mary in the ’90s.
Wait, what? *Memory in brain unlocked*
He said it as if he were looking at an old piece of art created in college, forgetting that it existed and considering whether to put it in the next garage sale or not.
I moved from the small town in the woods to go to The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA in the late ’90s. I remember seeing Sky Cries Mary at the Capitol Theatre. I didn’t know the band, at the time except that they had a big reputation. Coming out of a sheltered youth, I was thirsty for going to see bands, watching artsy films, and befriending all kinds of fascinating artists and weirdos. I remember being overwhelmed with the mystical sounds and psychedelic projections. Were there dancers? I think there were dancers. Was there a fog machine? Or was that just pot smoke?
Here we are, 25 or so years later, a Reverend and a Sonic Mystic sharing space in a digital dimension. I hadn’t thought about that band or that experience in years. Gordon Raphael went on to other bands and becoming an award winning (TM) big time music producer for artists like The Strokes and Regina Spektor. (I haven’t made it to that part in the book yet. This is not quire a review, remember?)
Near Misses and Collision
On the evening of June 27, 2022 I came home to this book I ordered from overseas. That same evening, I was sharing music stories with a social media friend in Texas who has an extensive record collection. Mentioning the band Skinny Puppy, I realized that I had one of my ex’s cd binder (very ’90s, I know). He loved Skinny Puppy, so I set out to find it. (I couldn’t find any Skinny Puppy.) I happened to be recording my search for my friend, addressing this Librarian of Vinyl from the palm of my hand…and at the very end was this.
Discovering that I have this album and receiving the book the same day cannot be coincidences. I know this means Spirit is up to something, so pay attention. Follow where She is leading.
The CD filled my living room with mystic voices and sounds. Receiving the waves, my body remembers in thoughts beyond words; emotions to be revisited but now with the ability to be met with greater care which 44 year old me is equipped to meet. My 20 year old self was definitely ill equipped.
But Wait…there’s more!
I already wrote a good chunk more of this….reaction.
Watch this space for part 2, coming before my birthday (July 14).
Check out Gordon Raphael’s website here. You could get lost for hours. Don’t worry, it’s a good thing! www.gordotronic.com
Losing Fletch and Unnecessary Massacre
The trauma reverberates.
Last week, I featured the band Urban Heat. This week, after the Texas school massacre, they shared their song that came out a couple years ago. They recently shared that they hate that this song is still relevant.
You wanna find your place, You wanna make your mark With that gun in your hand? You wanna shine a light, Shine a light in the dark With that gun in your hand ... There's no way you will mistake That awful sound Say Your Prayers. Hold your breath And put your guns on the ground Let's put our guns on the ground
Andy “Fletch” Fletcher (1961-2022)
Depeche Mode is my absolute favorite band.
I could go deep, but that will have to be another day, and be parceled out.
I would not be here if it weren’t for Depeche Mode. Music literally saves lives.
Here he is about 9 years ago letting loose.
As you probably know by now, the synth is my favorite instrument. Fletch was extremely influential with synthesizer in music since the 1980’s.
One good example is the following song from Music for the Masses (1987).
Rest in Peace, Fletch. I hope you know that you saved many lives. (Again, not an exaggeration.)
Music for an Apocalypse : Urban Heat
In my quest to discover new music, I didn’t expect to fall in love so quickly with this band from Austin, TX. This band has consistent, driving fat synth paired with Jonathan Horstmann’s deep, gorgeous baritone voice. Horstmann’s earnest expressions have a combination of grit and soul.
Gen-Xers might compare it to Depeche Mode. Millennials may compare it to Bloc Party and maybe the Shins. This band honestly stands on it’s own with talent and integrity. I don’t know much about what makes a band big or not, but I wouldn’t be shocked if these guys made it big. (Whatever that means these days.)
In listening to their catalog on Spotify, I realize that the subject matter goes much deeper. The songs are profoundly relevant.
This is music for an apocalypse.
Apocalypse comes from Greek apokálypsis “uncovering,” a derivative of the verb apokalýptein “to take the cover off,”https://www.dictionary.com/browse/apocalypse
I’ve been calling the current era an era of Great Unveiling. A Spiritual Director reminded me that is the definition of an apocalypse.
Urban Heat cover topics like climate change, gun violence, and deconstruction of belief systems. They convey the ambivalence of what really matters in light of such grand endings. Do we panic at the end of the world? Or do we rebel with celebration?
And I asked you this: If you're dancing at the end of the world, Is the world really ending, Or is it just the beginning? From “A Simple Love Song”
In 2020, they produced this lovely short film with stunning views of our planet, both in decay and in life.
I was impressed with their description of this piece on YouTube. The spiritual insight reminiscent of ancient contemplative mystics.
We decided to stop for a moment and create something with intention, to clear our heads and offer our listener’s something more thoughtful for the time being. It is allowing us a much needed time to center ourselves before the long journey ahead. If 2020 has been any indication, the future will need us all to keep cool heads.Urban Heat, 2020
This reminds me of an article I read for fellow clergy during this great upheaval of an era, an apocalypse if you will.
We are in a liminal season: something has ended, but a new thing is not yet ready to begin. In liminal seasons, systems and processes break down because they are supposed to. We cannot discover a new beginning until something ends or dies. Much of our overwhelm comes from trying to preserve or adapt things that are meant to fail.Susan Beaumont, “Overwhelm: Not a Problem to be Solved”. October 12, 2021.
…Are You Even Alive?
This brings me to their fresh single release “Have You Ever?”
Have you ever seen the face of god till you turn around and wonder what it was? Or have you ever thought you've seen the light till you turned around and you felt the knife?
For those of us with religious trauma, we answer with wide eyes a simple “yes”. We know. Deeply. Some of us are still working this out. Some of us find the Divine to be completely different, but still feel the dull ache of that old knife wound.
With they posting of the lyrics on their YouTube, they share this hard earned insight:
We’re all raised with a certain belief set and at some point begin to question it. Some of us return to the fold, others form their own code of morality, but everyone at some point has to decide for themselves what they hold as truth. If you haven’t ever questioned the very nature of your existence, are you even alive?Urban Heat
This insight came from a deep wrestling, likely riddled with angst, disillusionment, and pain. I know many (myself included) who know exactly what they are talking about. “If you haven’t ever questioned the very nature of your existence, are you even alive?”
We choose to be alive.
New (old) [timeless] discovery: Chandra
A 12 year-old girl makes something remarkable….in 1980!
When I was 12, I was still listening to New Kids on the Block. (Don’t judge!)
Where were you in 1980? Were you alive yet? I was 3 years old, wore pigtails and plastic Goody barrettes, and loved my Winnie the Pooh dress.
In the meantime, my favorite music was emerging, though it would be some time before I discovered it.
I was just made aware of Chandra. 12 years old in 1980, the daughter of an artists, she wrote lyrics and fronted a postpunk band.
I listened to the EP on Youtube. This reminds me of some of the Riot Grrrl stuff from the ’90s.
It’s fun. It’s real. A 12 year old girl being allowed to fully express herself and who she is in 1980 was rare. I truly hope girls can discover stuff like this again, to claim their space unapologetically, and be encouraged in their creativity. What a difference that would make in the world.
You can read more of the story on the Dangerous Minds website.
Much thanks to Rickenbacker4001 on TikTok for bringing Chandra to our attention.
Now allow yourself 15 minutes of your time to listen to Chandra. (Her album on YouTube is above is right there waiting for you to click on it.)
So, what do you think?
Leaving the ’80s: New Music Coming Soon
It’s no secret that I get stuck in the ’80s.
Clearly, that’s not new music. (Listen carefully and you can figure out which Nirvana song took the riff from this song).
Post-Punk and Goth music and subculture emerged in the late 1970s and the 80s. Popular, and dare I say, important music and bands came from this era: Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, the Cure, Siouxie and the Banshees…so often contemporary goths return to these songs and bands. They mean so much to us. Frankly, it kept a lot of us alive.
However, there is new music out there. I must admit, I don’t know a lot about the new stuff… but I intend to find out!
I will start sharing some of the new stuff every other week. This will keep me accountable to explore new stuff, support current bands that deserve some love, and maybe not be too stuck in the ’80s.
You can join me and tell me what you think of these newer bands. Who do you think I should start with? Let me know!
Wash off your brother’s blood
In older church traditions, Easter is a season. This year it goes until the end of May. Intentionally living in seasons allow us to be more in tune with the flow of the earth, the stars, and the moon.
One of my seminary colleagues shared this. The Way of Jesus is about liberation. Christianity has a lot of problems ever since Constantine legalized it. Ever since, those who colonize use “Christianity” as a tool of suppression, not liberation.
In our country, Christian Nationalism emerges to show a “Jesus” that looks nothing like Jesus in the New Testament. Their morality is skewed toward maintaining power instead of giving away power to the “least of these”.
And so, we who occupy places of power and claim to follow Jesus must decide which Jesus to follow.
I’ll follow the brown skinned Mediterranean Jew who would like be seen as a communist today.
Wandering Through a Cemetery: Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday isn’t observed much in any of the churches I’ve belonged to, and I don’t know many of my Methodist tribe who do. Holy Saturday is a day in which “nothing” happens, though Jesus is still dead
Rev. Anna Blaedel from enfleshed brought this to my attention:
Earlier today, the D.J. Awfully Sinister shared some songs under the title: “Goth songs for wandering through a cemetery”. How appropriate. People who love goth music find beauty and wonder in places of the dead. Many of us are very familiar with “deep, complicated and messy” as Blaedel mentions. Our music, and for some the goth aesthetic, allows space to be authentic and acknowledge the dark things. In this space, we are encouraged to commiserate, create, even dance and laugh. After all, cemeteries are places of beauty and dignity.
One of the songs on the list is from the band “Dead can Dance”. They are one of the classic ’80s goth bands, known for being haunting, lovely and ethereal. Here is “I am stretched out on your grave”. https://youtu.be/PflchjMxLoo
Allow the Discordance: Holy Week
In the Christian tradition, Holy Week is an intentional journey into the multiple dark facets of the execution of Jesus by the state. It includes many players allowing to either let the oppression of Empire to have it’s way, or the few to choose humanity. Jesus is the Divine in solidarity with humanity enfleshed; incarnate. Jesus experiences first hand deep betrayal by his best friends. Tough soldiers bully Jesus to the point of being mocked and demeaned. Officials use Jesus as a political pawn to try to keep people satiated enough to ignore that they, too, are pawns in a system. It culminates in the physical: how much can one human body take?
This space allows us to face darkness. In a culture rife with toxic positivity, obsessed with preventing the life cycles of aging, and varied ways of maintaining oppressive systems, I find this space refreshing. We are allowed to feel the hard feelings. We are encouraged to pay attention to our own pain and the collective pain of marginalized peoples.
Music and art gives opportunity for contemplation. It takes the viewer, the listener, or the participant on pilgrimage of contextualizing, making it “real”, and move towards this thing called “feeling”. It moves from head to heart to body.
Goth (and goth adjacent) subculture know this. The music becomes a communal space to commiserate on pain, depression, grief, and sadness.
It is through that process that Beauty emerges. It may not look like conventional beauty, but it’s there. Humour can be found; even purpose.
As the Crow said, “It can’t rain all the time”. Resurrection will come. It might not look like what you expect. Yet there can be no resurrection without death. Growth is stunted if death and darkness are ignored. “Beauty” becomes something shallow and manipulated without this process.
There’s more than one classical piece on the seven last words of Christ. Also from the early 1990s, composer James MacMillan released “Seven Last Words from the Cross”. It’s highly discordant. It’s both aurally beautiful and disturbing. It’s haunting, and seems to reach into the subconscious.
I remember one of my seminary professors expressing some of her personal distaste for discordant music; she’s a musician. I, on the other hand, find it liberating.
If you have the space within yourself to hear, this would be a great time to give it a listen.