Filling the Void

January 27, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

    WaitingThe Moontricky boys overlook the serene waters of the Norther Arrow Lake while waiting for the ferry.


    There is a craving that we, as a culture dominated by the electronic, have created and carry with us. A void in which personal connection once lived a full and vibrant life. I experience it as a country bumpkin visiting a bustling city. I experience it as an artist trying to come to terms with social media marketing. I experience it in the strange magic that occurs in a packed club when a pair of fellow country bumpkins pick up instruments and play live music for a crowd who all carry the same void within them. We are a culture whose own technological advances have parched our connection with the divine and, in my humble, rural-dwelling opinion, eye-to-eye contact and tangible art forms are the waters needed to flood the void and regrow our divinity.

     The effect of live music on people is incredible as is the effect of bass music. With bass music a primal need is satiated. The thump of the speakers echoing the beating of our mothers heart while we float in the beautiful blackness of utero. I remember the feeling of 50,000 watts of sound rattling my ribcage at my first Shambhala Music Festival. With no earplugs and a body alive with artificially released serotonin, I spent what seemed to be hours lost in a universe of noise. At that moment music didn't matter. There was no melody, no treble and no thought to the damage my poor ears were undertaking. I was 17 and high on the deadly combination of ecstasy and bass. 
     Now, seven years later, my taste has changed. I no longer do ecstasy and rarely listen to bass music outside of festivals. Instead it is the live music that has taken over my daily life. In this world of the future, where even songs on the radio ride blurred lines between instrumentation and electronic sound, witnessing live anything being played on a stage carries a weight that a DJ behind a laptop can never hold, at least for me. But, if you combine the two sides of the spectrum, as is becoming more and more popular in our festival culture, then you have something that carries both the primal heartbeat and the engagement of a live performance. 
     Driving between Revelstoke and Vancouver the morning after Moontricks' first show of 2015 with the group's new guitarist, Sean Rodman, asleep in the back of the van and NOG — the man behind the harmonica, bass and production — sitting next to me, we began to speak about this crossing of musical worlds. 
     "Old people like it, young people like it, kids enjoy it," he said, speaking of Moontricks' music. "I mean, my dad likes it."
     The conversation arose from our discussion of the previous night's show and my remark that all you have to do is touch an instrument and the crowd begins to scream and jump up and down. During the opening set by Kelowna's Metaphoracle he experimented with his new addition of trumpet to his heavy, hip-hop-inspired music. He was no Miles Davis but the crowd didn't care. It seemed as though you could have done anything with that magical piece of brass and people would have loved it. The void was being filled. 
     The same can be said for Moontricks' set. From the moment Sean picked up the banjo to start it, the crowd was hooked. The only explanation I have for this phenomena are examples of our current affinity for reclaiming the fundamentals of life. It can be seen in the urban gardens where people are beginning to realize the value of growing their own food. It can be seen in the intrigue for all things vintage. It can be seen in the appreciation for anything handmade in a culture of plastic disposability.
     "I remember when we played Loki (a small, electronic music festival in Kaslo, B.C.) for the first time and all those young kids just lost it," NOG said during the same conversation. "It was as if they'd never seen a guitar before."
     And in some ways they haven't. It is hard to imagine the polished radio singles we hear in grocery stores everyday being played by real musicians. There is a robot-like perfection to those cookie-cutter jingles which is difficult to associate with human creation. That's why the live performance is so tantalizing. It is there, vibrantly in front of you, with the possibility of error and perfection behind every turn. We love the human element and we love mistakes. They make us feel like it's okay to experiment and try new things. So what if the banjo dropped on the wrong bar, the show must go on and the crowd's memory is fickle. 
     In Vancouver Sean and I take a walk down Commercial Drive before dinner. As two country bumpkins the sights, smells and sounds of the city intrigue us beyond explanation. Gone is the stillness and silence of Argenta. Gone are the familiar faces you rarely see. As a photographer the stimulation is overwhelming. Everywhere I look I see pictures. People, each dripping with uniqueness, stream by. Who are they? Where are they going? What led them here? A million stories simultaneously being told in a concrete jungle of constant light. 
     Outside a restaurant we stop to hear a blues singer unleashing on a packed house. We both look at each other and smile. The lure of the big city is tangible. The action, the contact, the possibility. Yet, we are rural dwellers and the novelty of the action would soon fade into a feeling of claustrophobia. There is no escape from the incessant bustle. No place with no one. In one of Sean's acoustic songs he tells of a journey to San Francisco saying:
"They can tell I'm from the country.
This city doesn't know my name.
If you're still waiting for me honey.
Maybe I don't feel quite the same. 
About this fortune and fame."
   It is a division in myself I feel often. The pull of a career and the potential of living in a metropolis along with the anchor of the homesteading way of life. Deep down I know that growing my own food and hunting my own meat is the right way to live and yet the lure of the urban is always present. 
     But maybe there is no need to choose. As the crowd dances and the Down Home Moontricky Boys play their country infused base music I realize that both dreams are possible. To visit the city and revel in its audacity and alarming speed of life and then to return to the quiet and the calm. To walk the illuminated streets of Commercial Drive and eat every ethnic food possible with NOG and then to walk the moonlit streets of Argenta without meeting a soul. There can be a balance of these worlds and I find comfort in that. 
     In fact it is in this balance that life comes alive. It takes engaging with the noise to appreciate the silence. Listening to dubstep to appreciate Enya. Being lost in the electronic to hunger for the beautiful, piercing melody of Sean's electric guitar. In order to fill a void the void must first be created.


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