Monday, January 17, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
"On the page it looked like nothing. The beginning - simple, almost comic. Just a pulse - bassoons and basset horns - like a rusty squeezebox. Then suddenly - high above it - an oboe, a single note, hanging there unwavering, 'til a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight. This was no composition by a performing monkey; this was a music I'd never heard, filled with such longing - such unfulfillable longing. It had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing the very voice of God."
When I was in high school, I remember collecting 7" records, making necklaces out of Barbie heads, using my class presentation time to portray Aristotle as a stoner, and concocting lewd jokes about the Commedia dell'arte stock characters (also during class time). Pulcinella. Scaramouche. Arlecchino. Use your imagination.
Class clown? Socially contentious? Pain in the butt kid? Absolutely. I wore that badge with pride too. In the end though, I was still a dork. I opted out of AP Calculus my senior year because, well, it was my senior year. I also once told the assistant principal that he was "violating my 1st Amendment rights" by making me turn my t-shirt inside out, and was of the conviction that not handing in a bibliography page on time was an act of justifiable rebellion. I cut class one single, solitary time because a teacher had given me permission to do so. Apparently, I was not only a dork, but also a wuss.
Jamison Murphy is a kid. He's 14-years-old. Aside from possessing an intellectual and creative aptitude well beyond that of the average 9th grader, he is also unbelievably disciplined - something that I was, evidently, not when I was his age. His Facebook Bio reads as such:
I am 14-year-old poet, songwriter, and musician. I play a multitude of wonderful and weird instruments, many of which I incorporate into my songs. In 2008, I won the Savannah Youth Folk Songwriting Competition and was featured in an article in Savannah Magazine. I often play shows around Savannah, and I have performed at the Savannah Market Bazaar, The Sentient Bean, and many other venues. I have released two albums, and I am always making new music.
It is obvious that Murphy has a natural passion and propensity for music. I have seen him perform on a 6-string guitar, dulcimer and harmonica. I have heard him mention practicing on piano and 12-string guitar. His lyricism echoes the philosophical content of giants such as Goethe and Nietzsche. He is too young to get into bars and clubs. The first time I saw him play was at a house shown arranged by General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers. I was, well, completely floored. I had to leave the room. I stepped out onto the expansive porch of 121 W. Jones St., and said, "I can't handle him." Devin Smith, General O's singer/guitarist replied in shock, "What? You don't like him?" My answer was simply, "No. It's not that. That kid is freakin' Mozart." It was a rather humbling experience.
Last month, a few of us threw a surprise house show party for a friend's birthday. Venice is Sinking was gracious enough to trek all the way from Athens to Savannah for the event, and our good fortune also gave us the awesome performances of Anna Chandler and Duncan Iaria (General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers), and Murphy as well. Jamison played an ample set of originals, all of which he affectionately introduced to our intimate audience. He attributed the influence of one of his tunes to jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, whose offbeat style of playing my ear could barely comprehend until I'd hit the ripe old age of 22.
It turns out that Mr. Murphy is quite the jazz fan, and feels that Monk's music is the color green. I told him I thought that Charles Mingus' is burgundy. We shared a few notions pertaining to the color orange, or jazz trumpetist Dizzy Gillespie. That brief exchange with Jamison was quite possibly the best conversation I'd ever had about jazz. The time has come for me to find a note on which to end this story. In addition to being precocious, humble, enthusiastic and eager to learn, Jamison Murphy is also . . . a really nice kid.
In Latin, the word "terminus" is literally defined as "boundary stone." I would like to thank Google for providing me with that direct information, as I immediately translated it as "an end." Terminus--like a railroad or airport terminal. It's the end of one pathway, yet the beginning of another. The more obvious definition is valid as well. This I also learned from Google. Toss in the phrasing of Merriam-Webster, and you have "an extreme point or element." All of these, when lumped together, essentially create the same characterization of the same word. Step to the extreme point, or the boundary of border, and you've simultaneously reached the end of one road, and the beginning of another. With all that rambling out of the way, I will now attempt to drift to my point.
Atlanta, GA is definitely a hot spot for powerful, creative, driven, intelligent music. New Terminus, a rock outfit derived from the gritty 1990s style of song writing and performance, is one piece of this colorful puzzle. If you were to dissect the technical meaning of their name, perhaps they could be considered a new beginning resulting from an end. The band played a show at Savannah's The Wormhole back in November, where I had the chance to witness their energy, as well as spend some time getting acquainted with the members themselves. What I saw was unpretentious rock n' roll. In a pre-show write-up for website NewYorkisBoring.com, I offered Savannah residents the opportunity to come out and experience the "spirit of garage rock," which is exactly what New Terminus brought to The Wormhole that night. Friends were there as a show of support, and in between sets, the speakers resounded with the sounds of alt-rock favorites such as Sunny Day Real Estate.
Yes, I Digress
A rock show isn't just about a stage and its performers. It is also about those who contribute to its execution--the physical venue; the venue's proprietors; the bar stool dwellers who wandered in for a beer; the dialogues, exchanges and movements. That night, New Terminus' drummer Dallas Peavy did double duty, performing as a duo with impromptu set-up Fuzzy Dunlop. New Terminus also offered up the headlining slot to Nirvana aficionados Pure Ed, whose 3 chord grunge tributes conjured up memories of the Northwest musical revolution of yesteryear.
There were Mad Libs books out on the bar for patrons to enjoy. One such attendee was a white-haired man, whose words and demeanor distinctly reminded me of Ernest Hemingway. After the show, the members of New Terminus and I went for some late night breakfast at the Pankake Palace, and discussed such things as day jobs, higher education and pets.
What I love about rock n' roll is its innate simplicity. Beyond the shiny images and elaborate wording is a very basic human-to-human exchange--a certain degree of companionship and generosity--that is far removed from the glamor often ascribed to it. It truly involves groups of people who work beyond their songs, simply as a means of sustaining themselves; yet who take on the extra load of travel and arrangement because they genuinely enjoy the process itself.
-New Terminus will be playing at Atlanta's Highland Ballroom on Saturday, January 15th at 9PM. They will be joined by The Color and Little Horn.
-Drummer Dallas Peavy also plays with Atlanta-based Ricer, who can be seen at The Jinx in Savannah, GA on Friday, January 21st at 10PM. They will be joined by Indian Giver, as well as local post-punk favorites Howler.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Picture yourself walking down Broadway in Nashville, TN at about 7PM on a Friday. You're on a road trip, and you decide to stop in the country music capital to see what the beer tastes like. A door to one of the strip's many bars is ajar, so you step inside. The door guy charges you $2, and tells you that they're serving Bud on draft for $3 a pint this evening. Inside, the walls are adorned with giant photographs of country music legends-Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline. In here the beer tastes like Bud, and the air smells of cigarettes; however something from the speakers sounds like bluegrass blown south to a big city; infused with a twang of nostalgia, and seeking anyone else who might be a friend of the devil. Picture Brandon Nelson McCoy, and you've successfully pictured Georgia's own succession to the history of country music sensibility.
Originally, from Calhoun, GA, McCoy moved to Savannah to study English at Armstrong University. Many literature aficionados also prove themselves to be great songwriters, something that McCoy, who's been writing lyrics since he was 9-years-old, clearly understands. About a year ago, Brandon made his live debut when he played 5 songs as an opener at Tantra, in what he describes as a "...very nerve-wracking experience." Despite the stage fright, something clicked, and in July he launched Brandon Nelson McCoy & the Sad Bastards.Show Support
Fronted by McCoy, the Sad Bastards are Thomas Worley (drums), Andrew Plymire (bass) and is cemented by McCoy's childhood friend Kyle Martin on lead guitar. Though Martin will soon depart from the troupe to tend to academic obligations, the Sad Bastards will continue expanding their sound, and are hoping to add pedal steel to the mix. States McCoy, "I couldn't imagine NOT playing music. It seems like I'm stuck with it, and it's stuck with me."
-McCoy will be showcasing his new endeavor, The Sad Bastard Stringband at The Wormhole in Savannah on Friday, February 4th at 9PM. He will be joined by local favorite Dare Dukes, as well as west coast troupe The Red River.