The year was 2006. I was a naive kid. I had never used the internet. I had never used a cell phone. I didn’t know much. but I was always looking. I went with a girl to a “show” at the House of Blues (I had never been to shows and knew nothing of real music. I saw a band, and just for the hell of it bought a copy of their album. The opening band.
This would be a turning point in my life.
I sort of enjoyed this strange music no one had ever heard of (and that clear channel radio had not shown me) so I made a life altering decision to go and see the band at a small venue in Ybor, Fl called the New World Brewery.
The band was called Okkervil River. They were some shabby, eccentric, thrown together outfit from Austin ,Texas, led by a BRILLIANT and extremely literate front man named Will Sheff.
This was the moment, and the band, that changed my life.
The stage wasn’t a stage. it was just an area of the floor out on the porch tucked back into a corner. it may have been an inch high, if even. but to me, these guys were ten feet up. GIANTS among men. directly in front of me, but completely untouchable. As they poured through song after song only the way a well rehearsed well traveled pack of road dogs can, I danced and threw myself as hard as I possibly could. I took in every note. Every lyric. every shot of feedback,, every howl and yelp, I watched a tiny guy named heinrich swagger about with a cigarette in the headstock of his guitar , and stand on a stool and bash away at a piano. I saw a trumpet PLAYER in real life. a drummer thumping away. I watched a band use dynamics to tell stories. to be completely honest in everything that they did. I FELT EVERYTHING that they did. I was starstruck, and completely overwhelmed by something I couldn’t even get my head around at that point. No one was pretending. This was the real deal. I had had to fight to get into the show. I was 20, and the brewery was 21+.
After the show I was deaf. exhausted. buzzing with excitement and covered in sweat. I bought another cd, and approached each band member to ask for a signature, the signature of the heroes who had conquered the enemy and saved everyone I knew and loved from certain death. These men were Gods. and I was humbled. I knew two things at that point. One: that this was the most amzing thing I had EVER been a part of, and Two: That I could NEVER EVER, even in my WILDEST dreams come close to doing ANYTHING remotely close to what these guys did. I was a mere mortal. and these were the Gods on Olympus. Humble and kind Gods, with a drummer who gave me his email, and promised to get me into any show in the area so I would never be hassled again.
I learned all the words to all their songs, and traveled 6 hours to gigs at the very top of the state. I didn’t even know how to play a guitar.
Four years ago I started trying to write songs. I sort of learned to play a guitar. and last year I started to put together a record. and not just any record. not some bootleg shit I did with my friends in the living room. I put together a REAL album. Of the best songs I had at the time. and I went to a PRO studio. With PRO engineers. and when it came time to flesh out my songs, I didn’t just pick people who could play. I hand picked my Heroes. I went after the players who had influenced me and made me who I was. and on the Top of that list was Okkervil River.
The walls came down. The ceiling was shattered. and I was now standing level with the Gods amongst men. and Scotty Brackett. of this INCREDIBLE Okkervil River band. was introducing me to Sparklehorse, telling me about playing with Roky Erickson and playing keys, the SAME keys he had played for YEARS with Okkervil River, the same keys he was playing THAT NIGHT, years ago, when I knew, deep down in my soul that I would NEVER be able to do what they were doing, when I knew it was impossible, that it could never happen. He was playing them on MY songs. That I had written, and sung and played.
and in that moment. rain fell up. and pigs flew. and I had arrived.
and that it was all up to me.