It’s been almost two years and still I struggle to find the words. We lived in this little apartment in the South End of Boston and I had taken to a habit of inexorably long showers – showers so long that I felt we really were getting the most out of the water which was included in our rent. I was in the shower, Ryan came into the bathroom and told me that Jason Molina had died. I sat down in the shower and wept. I cried as hard as when I lost an ex to an overdose. I sobbed like I would, months later, when my sweet old dog died. And I think, I never really left that shower because I have felt dampened ever since the light which was Jason Molina was extinguished.
Right after he died I wanted to write something to honor Jason. I read beautiful accounts of experiences recording with him or vivid memories of conversations shows. My favorite parts of these stories were descriptions of his idiosyncratic superstitions or preferences for particular things, like Will Johnson’s mention of his love for “black warrior pencils.” But I didn’t have anything like that to write about. All I had were a handful of shows and a couple of conversations. Like the time I was talking to Jason Groth outside the Grey Eagle, Jason Molina walked by and I leaned over and said “Jason, you’re amazing!” and he looked right at Jason Groth and said “yeah, yes he is.” Damn it, I’m a photographer and I didn’t even really have any decent pictures of him. All I had were feelings, and I thought it self-indulgent to write about those.
So I just listened to his records and felt the feelings. So it goes.
Months later, I booked a flight to North Carolina, mid-January for some strange reason which I have since forgotten. Serendipitously, the night I arrived, one of the four memorial shows in honor of Jason had been scheduled at the Mothlight in Asheville. I drove to a city which sits heavy in my heart, and attended Songs: Molina, a Memorial Electric Company.
Just as much of my emotional response regarding Jason’s music, his death, or the time following, is blurry and non-specific, this night too was almost dreamlike. I hadn’t been back to Asheville in almost a year after living there for much of my salad days, I had just driven straight from Charlotte and flown in from Boston. I had had a few whiskeys. I realized a bit too late that this was the last time I would ever hear these songs live. The room felt heavy and bittersweet and full of love and solidarity. There was an elephant in the room and skeletons in the closet.
The set was everything I wanted to hear. There were a few moments when I closed my eyes and could’ve sworn I heard Jason. Melancholy, mournful notes steeped in the greys of that January night tore me to pieces and stitched me right back together again.
Years later, I’ve moved from the North East back down South. I’ve booked a flight to Boston for two weeks to get some writing done in preparation for a residency I have coming up. A few days into my trip I find out that, serendipitously, the night before I leave the “Through the Static and Distance” release show is scheduled in Portsmouth, a city which sits heavy in my heart, and friends I’ve known for 20 years are playing it and are on the record.
I am without armour at this juncture. And yet I feel protected, prepared, Jason’s music so prevalent every step of my journey, his spirit an apotropaic force in my life.. Every corner I turn, there he is. At 15, a stranger I met on the internet sent me “Axxess & Ace” (don’t worry, I later bought it) and everything in my sonic space changed. At 18, I drove to Virginia to see Jason play solo at a music festival at UVA, and had the first real road trip of my life. At 22, the artist who did the tattoo on my left arm noticed my Magnolia Electric Co. shirt and confessed that his son’s middle name is Ohia. At 23, I repeated the “Listen… listen…. listen… ” from the last 30 seconds of the demo for “Farewell Transmission” like a mantra (I still do). At 25 I fell in love with a crew of drunks in Portsmouth simply because we could harmonize on “Just be Simple” together after 3am.“Captain Badass” has ended up on every mixed CD I have ever made for anyone I was enamored with. What seems like hundreds of late nights were charged by his howl, barely creeping through the speakers into the darkness. I am thankful for to have had him on this earth in whatever capacity we did.
And still I weep like I’ve lost a lover.
Here are some pictures and a video from the show in Asheville last year.
If you’re in the North East, see you in Portsmouth at the Red Door tonight.