MoonRunners II – 2014: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

MoonRunners2014The Outlaw Radio: The Compilation Vol. 1 (2009) hit like a sonic boom in this tiny genre of artists. The first riff you hear is Dad Horse Experience’sGates of Heaven”. It is song after song of the best of the best. Now, it’s a sold-out festival at Reggies in Chicago. I met Jashie P shortly after the comp release at Layla’s in Nashville at a Hank III show. I thought he was a celebrity with the online radio show, a band, and a mix tape that helped introduce us to a whole new world.

And the festival! It’s another family reunion with great music. It’s fan heaven, I love the feeling of star struck; watching Calamity Cubes walk by will always give me a shiver. The Godfather of the fest this year is Gary Lindsey. The fact that I was surrounded by people who also revere Gary Lindsey is just another cool part of this. If you’re a Tom Waits fan, ask him to tell you the story of how they met. It’s fantastic. 

A hilarious coincidence was a ComicCon event happening near us and you would occasionally see a fully costumed character walk by. My favorite was Barf (Barfholomue) from SpaceBalls. Dude nailed it. Watching the bouncers make sure the characters found the event upstairs was hilarious mix of two completely different crowds.

As Chris from Blue Ribbon Radio (another OG) said, “the Kings of MoonRunners are Last False Hope.” Intense! It was an honor to share the stage with friends and introduce them. Their set was powerful. Stevie B is in my list of favorite drummers. Toward the end of their set, Jashie P dedicated it to his recently passed step-father and to the strength of his mother. We were in the canopy above the stage weeping. Then he invited people on stage. I give them the Wu Tang award for best energy with the most people; it was Possessed by Paul James level. Goosebumps.

Blake Clayton, Podcasting God. Chris Miller, Wordsmith, Jashie P, Boss
Blake Clayton, Podcasting God. Chris Miller, Wordsmith, Jashie P, Boss

When the Calamity Cubes took the stage, they brought Possessed by Paul James with them. Zomg.

One of my favorite parts of a festival is the merch tables. Nothing beats a face-to-face hello next to all the music and t-shirts and homemade art on display. I like to show loyalty to the labels and the artists. The stack of new music I brought home will happily keep me busy this summer. Best merch goes to Milk Products Media for the Possessed by Paul James DVD that includes a strip of paper with pretty watercolor columns painted by Todd’s daughter.

The performances are the best part. Walking into the room with Lone Wolf One Man Band playing away having a great time, or singing along with Hellbound Glory in a room filled with people who all know the lyrics make the best moments. The find that blew my guitar shred doors off was Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy. Only Joe Huber could tear me away from that stage to see him for the first time since The .357 String Band opened for Joe Buck in 2009. The band I missed that everybody’s talking about is The Jailhouse Poets. I watched the video for The Worst Withdrawal and I’m in.

There was a terrible incident that I thankfully missed; a stabbing outside during the festival. I was upstairs on the balcony chatting it up with merch tablers and listening to live music. I’m sad that it happened and my thoughts go out to both people injured. Possessed by Paul James gave this statement on Facebook that I could not have said better myself:
“…Regarding the violence that from time to time shows its ugly head at such gatherings, I think it’s a beneficial thing to address. Number one we as a musical community made of listeners and pickers and writers and parents and children etc. must hold onto the foundation that MUSIC is always a tool which should encompass growth. And by growth I mean that specifically in the areas of emotional growth, joyous growth, growth in carrying our mutual burdens and growth in celebrating such gatherings. When we as both players and listeners glorify such acts of violent rage we utterly fail. We fail in providing a release to life’s struggles. We fail in opening up the doors to others that want to simply appreciate such music. More importantly we fail as a people, as a community.
Granted in our music community, our words become colorful, expressive, and even foul, BUT it should never breed such violence, nor should we as a musical community accept and celebrate such violence. As a school teacher it’s a foundation in every classroom; we tech our students to use their words, their minds, their compassion in dealing through conflict. Yes we fail and make mistakes of course, however, I sincerely feel that we as a community of music lovers must stand up against these acts of violence when they’re occurring. There is nothing unmanly or weak in sharing acts of compassion and love. I write that with great emotion. We cannot destroy these gatherings friends. These events bring us together for a sole purpose of BELONGING. We belong amigos, we are accountable to one another.
My hope and intent is not to focus on this unfortunate act but rather encourage us to be better; to be better than our rage and our impatience.
All the best.”

 We walked in to Reggies on Saturday afternoon just in time to see Matt Woods sing Deadman’s Blues. At the end of song, he moved away from the mic, stepped out into the audience and sang the last verse. We were eviscerated. He bared his soul and the rawest part in each of us bonded with his pain, it was powerful.

I can now confirm that, yes, the Green Room is the best room. And that canopy area above the stage is the best place to see and feel a performance. I got in some good hang out time with some of the best peeps. Aaron and Dev are married! I never put that together yet it totally makes sense. Just like me, one of Aaron’s favorite songs is “You are My Sunshine” and CW Ayon took it in a new direction that works well. I got to talk shop with the Stage Manager, Edgar. I like his vision; he understands the fan/artist point of view as well as the ins and outs of running a successful business.

All in all, MoonRunners was a huge success and I cannot wait to do it all again next year.

Sunday morning I lounged around the hotel lobby saying goodbye to nearest and dearests; then shared a cab with some ComicCon guys on my way to the Art Institute. It is as breathtaking as everyone says. One of my art heroes is Frank Lloyd Wright, and the first experience upon entering is you are engulfed in his lines. The museum’s collection is awe inspiring. There is also this room filled with his furnishings and I thought of Joe Huber’s set and how he’s crafted his art. Walking through the museum I was just as star-struck at the masterpieces on the wall. I had little time so I darted into the modern wing and discovered Kazou Shiraga’s Chikatsusei Maunkinshi (Golden Wings Brushing the Clouds Incarnated from Earthly Wide Star), 1960, whose practice was to swing himself from ropes over paper, later canvas, laid across the floor, sliding through pools of paint to disperse it. It’s red and dense yet filled with energy.

Of course they had a Rothko and it’s always nice to be with the art in person. I looked at it closely, I backed up, and from the side angles. It’s hard to put into words what art looks like. I like Rothko’s borders; the way he blends his colors to join or separate. I walked around to the new wing, lounging with Monet, and seeing Rodin’s very own signature on his sculpture. I could still smell the paint on the Pollock (awesome website!). They have a wonderful collection of Greek coins, artifacts, and statue. My favorite was Head of Bearded Man, Cypriot, Cyprus, 5th Century B.C. He’s beautiful with curly locks for a beard and quiet smile; he would have enjoyed the music and merriment of MoonRunners.

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