The Eternal Return

It’s been a while since I touched this blog, I’ll admit. Sometimes we make ambitious commitments that end up falling short of expectations. In this case, work travel and a trip down to Indio for a long weekend in April pushed this project to the wayside.

That said – we’re back.  Maybe a weekly post is too much commitment. Maybe I’ll just post whenever the mood strikes right from now now. Maybe these are signs of more deep-seeded flaws in your humble author. Regardless! I’m glad to be back.

Where to begin? In the past few weeks I’ve been without a music story to tell. This article will touch on a few things – a festival trip, creative pursuits, and how being true to our passions keeps us happy.

Firstly, yes I went to Coachella. Yes, I know it’s cliché. It’s seemingly become more of a cultural icon than a music and arts festival. I’m sure lots of people go for the gram rather than for the music. Maybe a little bit of both?

Despite it’s (perhaps ill-gotten) hype, I had to experience it for myself at least once, and I can honestly say that it was worth it 100%. I had my doubts going in, but it was fantastic in so many ways – the company, the food, the art and artists, even the very grounds we walked on. After adjusting to the punishing 100 degree heat, dust, and abundance of Chads, I had an amazing time. Could be the difference between Weekend 2 and Weekend 1, but I have only my own experience to draw upon.

  • Worth the price of admission:  Tame Impala, Polo & Pan, Childish Gambino, Weezer,  RÜFÜS DU SOL, Blood Orange, Bob Moses, Gesaffelstein, Dillon Francis, Aphex Twin
  • Wish I saw more: Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Nora En Pure, Diplo, Cirez D, Ariana Grande, Kacey Musgraves, The 1975, Four Tet, Bassnectar, Juice WRLD, Kid Cudi, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Khalid, Hot Since 82, Parcels
  • Bucket list – Content with not seeing again: Jauz, FISHER, BENZI, Zedd, NGHTMRE
  • Favorite Special Guests (and who brought them out): A$AP Rocky (Tame Impala), DMX (Murda Beatz), Chance the Rapper (Sunday Service), Ellie Goulding (Diplo)

Special shouts out to Polo & Pan for being my new obsession, and to RÜFÜS DU SOL for their borderline religious set under the full moon.

As you might notice, the “Wish I saw more” list is unfortunately the longest. Such is the true price of festival admission – the promise of all your favorite acts minus the reality of conflicting set times, distance between stages, and human obstacles like hunger, thirst, exhaustion, inebriation. Bummer.

Yet, overall it was a magical experience, and I will certainly be going again. The weekend overall was a good lesson for me in not letting the hype or popularity of something dissuade me from going and having a great time. I’m over the hipster wont that believes in the inverse relationship between popularity and artistic value or worthiness.

Rekindling Passions, For Our Own Sake

As we live in business (pronounced busy-ness, but also business. Double entendre.), it’s easy to lose sight of passion projects. After all, they often aren’t profitable. For so many, art and other hobbies don’t put food on the table. This is a sad reality, because it’s often those things that make us feel more alive than the very sustenance they’re unable to afford. As I neglected this blog and my own musical pursuits, I found the days a little emptier and more boring than they should have been. Not melancholic necessarily, but vacuous, like the difference between living and merely existing.

Thus the return to my old habits is ever so sweet. I found time to record one of my annual mixtapes as well – the “Spring Mix” as it’s called, no relation to bagged leafy greens. This is the third installment, and the theme always aims to be a soundtrack for the year’s progression out of the dark and cold, into the light and the warmth. I always include a variety of genres, new and old, skits and ad-libs, and make sure to highlight some of my favorite tracks from the last year or two. I really hope you enjoy it:

I’m very glad to be back at it all, and hope you find some joy in my return as well. Thank you for your patience, and you’ll be hearing again from me quite soon.

With love,

Max

Tumbling Rock Intro – Side B

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As my tastes evolved, so did my own attempts at playing music myself. Playing is in my blood — My dad never did, but my aunt and uncles on my mom’s side are all incredibly gifted. Watching them play annual family concerts at reunions, I grew up inspired, each of them skilled in their own right at blues guitar, harmonica, singing, songwriting, piano, drums, and composition. My late uncle Gene was one of the greatest fingerpicking blues guitarists I’ve ever seen, and could solo with the harmonica on top of it like he were Bob Dylan himself.

With this variety of influence, I began experimenting. Like lots of kids, I took piano lessons young but didn’t stick to it. With Squidward Tentacles and Kenny G as inspirations, I even tried my hand at clarinet in the middle school band, but that too was short lived. I mainly enjoyed being able to make a foghorn sort of noise with the thing.

My first real love was the guitar. I picked it up around age 10, took a few lessons from a great guy at a local music shop, then taught myself once I knew a few chords and basic music theory. The first song I ever learned to play was “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” from Van Halen’s eponymous debut album (1978), and begged my teacher to show me “Master of Puppets” from the Metallica album of the same name (1986), but he thought it would be too difficult. I went home and learned it anyway.

Through the years after I dabbled in piano, drums when and where I could, and a bit of singing. Currently I’m learning Ableton and producing mostly house music in my spare time. Even if nothing I do ever makes it out, the creative release of writing and performing is what drives me to keep at it. I’m almost constantly listening to, critiquing, and playing music, and I’d spend even more time on it if I weren’t working full-time. It gives me a purpose like other things just don’t.

Okay, but what’s so great about music, anyway?

Music has the power to heal, to drive us insane, to transport us back into our memories or to places unimagined before. It inspires the full range of emotion, the variety of it a perfect complement to the various scenarios, moods, and places we are bound to find ourselves in throughout life.

And that’s just for listening. The ability of people, animals, and even natural phenomena to create pleasing, musical sounds is almost universally celebrated. It’s hard to deny how amazing it is to witness beautiful music flow from somebody, and you can see when musicians really lose themselves in it and let the expression happen as if they’re in some trance state. Watch this footage of a young Carlos Santana, maybe 16 years old, at Woodstock and tell me that doesn’t resemble a spiritual experience (he was also on acid at the time, but do with that what you will).

As such, music seems otherworldly, come from a higher plane to grace us here on Earth with its majesty. This is what inspires such fascination with musical origin stories — we can’t believe where it’s come from and we want to know more about it, as if its natural occurrence were unbelievable. That’s the feeling I have, and the same one I hope to inspire.

I hope you’ll tune in each Friday at 12:00 PM Pacific, plus special editions where I’ll explore new music that I’ve been feeling, older tracks that deserve some love, album reviews, concert and festival previews/recaps, playlists, mixes, original tracks and more but most importantly — telling the stories of all this music that deserve to be told.

(Image Credit: Miguel Á. Pedriñán)

Tumbling Rock Intro - Side A

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First thing’s first…

You might be wondering a few things. “Am I really going to have the time or patience to read this?” or “What’s the point of another music blog?” … “Where am I?”

In order; I‘m not sure, research suggests people barely read a lot of what they see online. I do hope you stick around, though.

The point is to shed light on the less-exposed features of music — what inspired the artists creating it, what might have been going through their head, and other interesting facts that contribute, holistically, to the whole atmosphere around a track that can become the stuff of legend. To have a central outlet for these stories, music recommendations, discussions, and celebration to call home.

Finally, you are here! Think about that for a second. Thank you for taking the time to read, and welcome to the blog.

So, why me? Why now?

I’ve always been fascinated with the backstories of music I enjoy, and I credit my father for a lot of this. From a young age, I remember sharing his appreciation for this sort of music trivia, and began to revel in it. Like him, I wanted to be that guy who could play a song for someone and be able to back it up with a story; something about where the band was when they recorded it, or why the singer’s voice sounded that way, etc. Music is storytelling, and understanding the context is crucial to a full appreciation of all stories.

Our bookshelves growing up were filled with old rock n’ roll biographies, which my dad read voraciously (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I promise to limit big, pompous words in this blog. Honest.) From “Exile on Main Street” about the Rolling Stones, or “No One Here Gets Out Alive” about Jim Morrison and The Doors, to the straight-to-the-point “Led Zeppelin Uncut”, there was no shortage of backstories to the music that shaped my father’s youth just as they did mine. This was part of my ‘rock n’ roll education’, in his words.

From this classic rock foundation — The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and others — my curriculum expanded. Tastes evolved as I grew up to include harder rock, metal, punk, grunge, alternative and more experimental stuff — Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, ELO, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Radiohead, Linkin Park, System of a Down, Metallica, David Bowie, Third Eye Blind, Rise Against, Avenged Sevenfold, and so many others.

Throughout my teen years and time in college, I grew to appreciate all kinds of other music; a brief screamo phase in High School, then pop-punk, discovering hip-hop, finding my love for electronic music through Daft Punk’s ‘Alive 2007’ record, listening to Mozart while studying in school because I thought it might give me an edge, even learning to tolerate country.

(Continued on Side B)