I didn’t spend much time before May 10th thinking about what my life would be like after May 10th, the day that I graduated college. My move from southwest to southeast Portland and the fact that I was starting a full-time job on May 12th completely eclipsed any mental or emotional space for fretting about the things I was about to lose. With one swift walk across a stage, I was no longer the editor of the student newspaper; no longer bound to spending my time reading books, writing papers, or taking tests–the two things that had defined my existence for four years.
In the months following, I didn’t try to learn much about the way I should live my life. I stayed up and out late on work nights, blew through my paychecks, did things that I’d been wanting to do for years but never got around to, told myself I’d get back in touch with my creative side–the part of me that I’d seemingly left behind when I decided to study communications instead of creative writing–and find people to spend time with that nurtured these interests instead of classmates or study buddies.
It’s been weird, and I don’t think I’m doing it right.
However mediocre of a student I was, or how lazy I believe myself to be, or how bad I am at taking tests, I am built well for being in school. I’m a perfectionist. I like to make and complete lists. I’m interested in process. I like to get things down to a science. I love to know how to do things, and to complete tasks, and to do things right. I get stuff done.
I’m finding that this work ethic doesn’t lend itself to the work I want to be doing, somehow.
At my job, which I love and am lucky to have, I write, design, edit, and create every day. Some days I’m in my stride–I’ll write five stories for our company newsletter no sweat; I’ll cut a video four, five, six times until it’s perfect; I’ll take on other people’s work and tie up their loose ends because I am fast and skilled. Other days, I feel in a slump. Today, for example, I’ve been staring at the same Photoshop document for hours (and honestly all week) because I feel completely incapable of creating a decent final product. The most monumental thing I’ve done today is teach someone how to print an image four times on the same piece of paper.
Creative work is hard. After a summer of pushing myself to be creative in my personal life (this blog included) in addition to managing a pretty heavy workload at work for the better part of the last four months, I’m burnt out. I feel like I can’t do it anymore. I feel like it isn’t good enough. Like I’m not good enough to be doing the work that I set out to do. And at the end of the day, that I’m just lazy.
The thing that I want more than anything to do and to do well is write about music, to theorize about it, and to be part of the conversation I follow every day on Twitter and various blogs. That’s why I started this blog. That’s why I started a blog back in 2010 when I first got to college. It’s why I wrote one of my college essays about music journalism and why it was so important to me even though I wasn’t even doing it in high school. It’s really why I moved to Portland.
When I went to Pickathon in August, it dawned on me that this is what I should be spending my time doing. That festival was a much needed refresh on my life–I missed going to shows, being in the thick of it, talking to musicians, and being a part of something that I cared about. I hadn’t felt that way since TreeFort Festival, where I interviewed Modern Kin and felt like a Real Music Journalist for a hot second, or since I was Arts Editor at the paper and made it my mission to go see and talk to all my favorite bands.
So I pushed myself. I pushed myself hard. And I think that the inertia I’m feeling now is a product of that. I started comparing myself to people that have been doing this for way longer than I have; people who are established; people whose job it is to write about music, not people who have a job and ALSO write about music.
And besides, I’m 22. I work really hard at my job. I love my job. And I still have so much to learn about everything–about the music I love and how to write about it; about freelancing; about networking; about plenty of other things that have nothing to do with work (relationships, keeping my apartment clean, and budgeting myself). Not to mention that all my concert tickets in college were free through the newspaper.
I have this blog and I keep this blog despite long bursts of not writing because this is what I love to do, and this is what I want to do. I need to be more patient with myself. I need to make an effort to cultivate my talents, my passions, and nurture them. I need to seek out people that can help me and mentor me. I need to forgive myself for lacking in follow-through, to a certain extent, all while continuing to push myself.
Whiskey Kiss is an experiment on myself–my abilities, my writing, my taste, and my “brand.” The way I wrote for this blog two years ago is much different than how I write today, and that makes me happy. This is not so much an apology for not keeping up with posting, but a resolution to myself to stop beating myself up. I’m not lazy, I’m trying too hard. I need to take a step back, regroup, and try to learn more about what I’m doing.
Life since graduating is thrilling and terrifying all at the same time. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance those two things without losing myself in the mix.
After nearly four years of living in Portland, I finally bit the bullet and overdrew my bank account to attend Pickathon. The weekend-long festival showcases indie and roots musicians from Portland and far beyond, plus a buttload of craft beer, food carts, and a commitment to sustainability.
Before heading out to Happy Valley on Friday, my anxiety about camping alone, feeding myself (all I brought was four bananas and a bag of Kroger spice drops), and making the most out of the event as possible was high. But three hours into my Pickathon—tent set up, stainless steel Kleen Kanteen cup purchased—I sat, watching Jolie Holland, sure that coming to this festival was the best decision I’ve made all year.
Fests for me are as much about discovery as they are about appreciating bands you’ve already come to love. Here are my picks for best shows of the weekend, the biggest misses, and my favorite discoveries:
Diarrhea Planet (Friday, Galaxy Barn and Saturday, Woods Stage): The six piece band from Nashville, Tennessee was one of my must-sees of the weekend, and they did not disappoint. Their show at Galaxy Barn was a sweaty, bruise-inducing mess in the best way possible. Even with four guitars Diarrhea Planet is tight—and as you might expect, unrelenting. I wasn’t planning to see them twice but I couldn’t pass them up. Their second show at Woods Stage had the same great energy, but felt a bit more laid back. Maybe it was all the twelve-year-olds.
Angel Olsen (Saturday, Lucky Barn and Sunday, Woods Stage): Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness is a haunting record that I’ve listened to regularly since it came out a few months back. Her voice is absolutely mesmerizing on record and her live show made no concession. Both performances were humble and stunning. Sunday’s show at Woods Stage was packed, and many musicians lingered backstage to take it in. Though she’d never admit it, Angel’s set herself up for a quick and lasting climb.
Warpaint (Sunday, Woods Stage): I’ve had a slow start with Warpaint. Some days, their album is great to me and others I’m a bit bored. Their performance, however, made me more than a fairweather fan. The four talented women share stage time, alternate who takes the lead, and present themselves so honestly. The final song of the set, “Baby,” was flawless.
Foxygen (Friday, Galaxy Barn): A big draw to the fest for me was Foxygen, whose album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic was one of my favorites of 2013. The group’s live show left a lot to be desired. They hardly played any of the big songs off of 21st Century and overall the performance seemed over the top yet lackluster. The energy was all over the place—one of the backup singers was so much more enthusiastic than all the others; the sound wasn’t great; overall I was left disappointed.
Shakey Graves (Friday, Fir Meadows and Sunday, Woods Stage): I got into Shakey Graves just before I left for Pickathon and was particularly excited by his performances at last year’s festival. And he’s a good performer—he’s talented, his songs are catchy, and everyone loves him, but I was bored. His first set had me hooked, but by the time I saw him again on Sunday, I realized that all of his songs rely on the same Johnny Cash rhythm, and though playing drums with your feet while also playing guitar is impressive on a surface level, it gets old fast. I’ll still check out his new album in October, but I won’t have to see him live again.
Destroyer (Friday, Woods Stage and Treeline Stage): I’ve been well aware of Destroyer for some time, but never invested that much in him (I’ve always just been a diehard New Porn fan). But Dan Bejar’s performances Friday were spectacular, shimmering, intimate, and unique. I’ll have his stuff on repeat until further notice.
EDJ (Friday, Treeline Stage): When Fruit Bats played their last show ever this past fall, I didn’t feel terribly sad—because I knew that frontman Eric D. Johnson would go on to create projects just as exciting. EDJ is his debut, and a strong one at that. If you haven’t already, listen to “For The Boy Who Moved Away.”
Parquet Courts (Sunday, Woods Stage): I knew absolutely zero about Parquet Courts going into Pickathon. Now I know that they are energetic, loud, and fabulous.
Courtney Barnett (Sunday, Fir Meadows): Australian-based DIY rocker Courtney Barnett took the cake Sunday afternoon with her high-energy main stage performance. Unapologetic, straight-up, finely-tuned grit.
I learned a whole bunch about music this weekend. And if there’s one thing I’m taking with me it’s that I should never miss a Pickathon again. A weekend of partying with music lovers in Portland’s backyard? Why did it take me so long to come around? I’ll see you next year, Pickathon! I just hope someone will come with me.
Hello all! After painstaking negotiation with Spotify, Bandcamp, etc, I am finally ready to present this playlist I’ve made entitled, “Summer @ Whiskey Kiss.” Is it the first of many? Maybe!
I tried to stack this list with new/current music that will put you and keep you in the mood for summer fun. I threw in one summer standby that I’ve had ringing around in my head. Enjoy the YouTube playlist I’ve created, and let me know in the comments if you’d like me to share the Spotify playlist with you! I’ll be posting that on Facebook and Twitter shortly.
1.) The Way It Is – Denver (Denver, 2012)
2.) Unbelievers – Vampire Weekend (Modern Vampires of the City, 2013)
3.) Steady Rollin’ – Two Gallants (What the Toll Tells, 2006)
4.) Sand Talk – Akron/Family (Sub Verses, 2013)
5.) City – Thao & The Get Down Stay Down (We the Common, 2013)
6.) plamreader – Sonny & The Sunsets (Antenna To The Afterworld, 2013) [Note: This is the live at Pickathon version from KEXP. The album JUST came out, so I couldn’t find a video. The version here is really good, but be warned that the album version sounds a bit different!]
7.) Am I Wrong – Mikal Cronin (MCII, 2013)
8.) Dream Captain – Deerhunter (Monomania, 2013)
9.) Helicopter – Wooden Indian Burial Ground (Wooden Indian Burial Ground, 2012)
10.) In The Darkness – Foxygen (We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, 2012)
11.) Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster – Thee Oh Sees (Floating Coffin, 2013)
12.) Demon to Lean On – Wavves (Afraid of Heights, 2013)
13.) Where I Stand – The Thermals (Desperate Ground, 2013)
14.) Mayonnaise – The Woolen Men (The Woolen Men, 2013)
15.) It All Feels Right – Washed Out (Paracosm, 2013)
16.) Plastic Cup – Low (The Invisibile Way, 2013)
Coming up on Whiskey Kiss: This week, I want to review some albums that’ve just come out. Get ready for that and maybe a show calendar… oh, and some tips and tricks for being a music fan in the summer in Portland. Until then–cheers!
Here’s the latest video from Blitzen Trapper for “Girl in a Coat,” which is one of my favorite’s off of American Goldwing! The video stars Brian Koch, drummer, and was directed by Daniel Elkayam, who’s directed several Blitzen Trapper videos. The boys are wrapping up a tour before coming home to Oregon to play Pickathon