I started this site eight years ago today. And while JOVM is essentially an eight year-old about to graduate into the fourth grade, I’m aware of the fact that in the blogosphere, eight years is an eternity — especially when so many sites come and go. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of its history, you’d know that I’ve run this thing as a (mostly) solo, labor of love while maintaining day jobs that have been at times not very satisfying in comparison. And as result, there’s been a lot of very hard work, a lot of juggling of responsibilities and demands to cover what I think is some of the best and newest indie music from across the globe, without concern for genre, style or anything of that other nonsense. Of course, it’s easy to fall into a sort of insulated vacuum in which you have no idea what the response is to your work and to your efforts. There’s always this sense that you’re speaking into an unceasing and uncertain void — and from what I understand, that’s pretty normal. But without you dear readers, I don’t know where I’d be. So thank you for the past 8 years. May the next 8 years and then some be as amazing as the first!
Politically, this year has been difficult, knowing that many dear friends, associates and colleagues will be deeply harmed by many of the vicious and downright racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic policies of this current administration. And yet, this year personally has been a life-alltering one for me. In January, I spent 6 days — 3 in Dordrecht for business, 3 in Amsterdam — and while it was the second time I had been in Europe, it was arguably one of the more profound experiences I’ve ever known. (Of course, Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express and Kraftwerk’s Minimum Maximum were major parts of the trip’s overall soundtrack.)
My flight was delayed by weather — it had started to snow as I was on the tarmac — and I had landed at Amsterdam Schiphol International at 7am, initially confused as to how dark it was at that time, before remembering that I was much further North that I had thought. But there are several things I’ll always remember from that trip: a waitress at the Kaffe Haus De Hoek with a kind and warm smile, who let a cold and tired traveler into her establishment a few minutes early and offered some hot (and extremely necessary) Dutch coffee, before a traditional Dutch breakfast of fried eggs with ham, toast and salad. The train rides through the Dutch countryside, passing towns like Abcoude, Haarlem, The Hague, Rotterdam, etc. On my first day, the train between Rotterdam and Dordrecht wasn’t running because of repairs. Unfortunately, I spent 40 minutes that I didn’t need to spend in Rotterdam, waiting for a train that wasn’t going to come because I didn’t understand Dutch; however, Google Translate came to my rescue. I later found out that I needed to take a train back in the direction of The Hague and Amsterdam, get on a bus for about half an hour and then get on another train just to get to Dordrecht. But I mention this because at the last train station, the public transit service offered cold and weary commuters hot soup. Sadly, I never got any because I was lugging a suitcase I had borrowed from Catherine Horath and just didn’t have free hand for it; but i would have enjoyed it.
One night, I walked down a section of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, and there were scantily clad prostitutes in the windows, summoning lonely and uncertain men like sirens. “Come, come, come here,” they’d say in wildly accented English, and the men would shyly follow.
And there was the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House; long walks down the gorgeous canals, lost in the smells, sights and feelings of being a man from very far away.
I never got a chance to truly craft a post around those experiences but I did take pictures — and if you’d like, check those out below.
I also spent some time on the road with lengthy stints in Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia, and I managed to see my cousin Lisa Smith for the first time in over 15 years, and that was a wonderful bonus.
Musically, this year was amazing as I saw Erykah Badu, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, LL Cool J, Gorillaz, Roy Ayers, PJ Harvey, Elvis Costello, KRS One, Digable Planets, Screaming Females, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Gary Numan, U2, Nick Hakim, Tinariwen and Lee Fields among a very busy year of live music. And with that in mind, I wanted to show you some of my favorite photos of the year to officially close out 2017.
This morning I woke up to hear the news about some crazed and hateful fool shooting innocent concertgoers at a music festival in Las Vegas, just did me in. If you’ve been frequenting this site or following me through social media, you’d know that besides the Guinness drinking, the Romeo Y Julieta cigars, and the ridiculous exploits here and aboard, that I’ve probably spent close to half my adult life in darkened clubs, DIY spaces, music venues, arenas, stadiums and music festivals either covering music for various publications or this blog — or attending as a fan. And I can tell you that I’ve met some of the smartest, most talented, most passionate, funniest and kindest people in the entire world that I’ve met through music but perhaps more important, catching live music in all of its forms — whether it was a band, a DJ, a singer/songwriter and no matter the genre — has always been one of the safest, most welcoming places I’ve ever known. God, “the warm thrill of confusion/that space cadet glow . . . ” as a song says, and I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.
Now, like a lot of people, who are involved in music in some way or another, what happened in Vegas feels like a deeply personal affront because we love music so much to make a large portion of our lives. I can’t speak for my colleagues and friends but I can never forget that at every show, concert and festival I attend that for my fellow concertgoers that it may very well be the highlight of their year, if not their entire lives to see their heroes perform their favorite songs live. Ah, the joy and camaraderie of the live music experience; there are few things in this world that can top that. And to have that be destroyed in such a horrible fashion is heartbreaking. Of course, my thoughts are with everyone at the festival from fans, support crew and performers. It should have been a joyous, wondrous night for those catching their heroes.
Then while at my day job, finding out that Tom Petty was in dire shape? What the flying fuck is going on? Full Moon Fever and Damn the Torpedoes are arguably two of the greatest rock records ever. Don’t believe me? Listen to them and tell me how “Free Falling,” “Won’t Back Down,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” “Refugee” or “Don’t Do Me Lke That” aren’t classic songs that don’t fit into the “rock canon”? If you do, you’re bullshitting me. Now, I can say that I was very lucky to see Petty and the Heartbreakers many years ago at the Garden with a woman, who later turned out to be one of the worst things that ever happened to me; however, Steve Winwood (!!) opened for him, and Petty came out to do a song with him. Petty did two hours of the hits and even pulled out Winwood for a song –and every one of those songs were songs I had heard throughout my life and have loved immensely. Plain and simple, Petty is a national fucking treasure and while the news reports are conflicting, my thoughts go out to his family, his bandmates, his touring crew and friends at what clearly is a very difficult time. Tom Petty forever, everyone!
I usually don’t spend a ton of time thinking about these things, because I typically have 456 different things on my mind at any given time — and I’m not particularly nostalgic; but today is a big occasion for me and for JOVM. You see, I started the site 7 years ago today. And when I started this thing I thought maybe I’d have a handful of friends and immediate family read it on occasion but to see that readers across several different countries including Canada, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Australia, France reading on a regular basis and knowing that so many people have decided to spend a few moments of their lives with me has been a profound honor — and a source of great pride for me personally, especially since JOVM is a (mostly) one-man operation. But perhaps more important, this site has been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. Some of my earliest and most powerful memories are tied into music and as long as I could remember, music has been one of the centers of my intellectual and emotional life as a child and as an adult. And to be able to focus on a childhood obsession on a daily basis makes me one of the luckiest bastards in the entire world.
Of course, there’s an obvious question that should come up — namely this: well, what’s next? There’ll be more of the things you’ve come to love throughout the years but I’ve been thinking of some new features here and there, including possibly a podcast. Of course, that involves figuring out how to squeeze a 40 hour day into a 24 hour day; but I’ve done well with that so far. There’s much work to do and there’s so much music out there to cover, love and bring to your attention — with the hopes that you too will love it. So let’s get to it!