3/23/24 : Asheville, North Carolina

3/23 Asheville

Driving into Asheville I was listening to the Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan conversation-book called Faith, Hope and Carnage. No comment on that except there are some great moments on it.

This was an easy and familiar drive, from Knoxville to Asheville, though I followed a detour through some special places, and saw some beautiful sights of mountain scenery, crazy yards and off-kilter country businesses. The town of Newport, Tennessee seemed interesting. I went through without stopping, though I would have liked to have spent a minute there looking around. Later on I passed through Hot Springs, where Yuri and I stopped on our 2009-2010 tour, the last tour I did that was this long. We went to the hot springs there and camped nearby. I saw a vending machine advertising LIVE BAIT with such great fish art that I convinced myself to take a moment, walk around and notice some stuff. That’s the life I want to live, the one where walking around noticing stuff with a fairly empty mind is possible. So that was a good moment.

Everytime I come to play at Static Age there are new developments and improvements. Jesse, who owns the place, amazes me with his future visions, by which I mean the way he can imagine things evolving in his record store and venue and then make those visions into reality with his own hands. These days there’s a second venue next door to Static Age, where I played last night: the Static Age loft.
A beautiful little bar and restaurant.

A pair of double names were involved in the show this night: Adam (vibraphone) and Adam (some befuddlingly cool electronic gear with lots of patch cables) and Jesse (singer-songwriter) and Jesse (owns place). I loved hearing Devyn, Adam and Adam’s beautiful explorations of loud and wavy dreamscapes. Jesse & the Jinx sang extremely gorgeous country music. And there were records spinning the best music, from George Jones to Peter Stubb to crazy novelty songs I just couldn’t keep track of. There was a group of designers who made some psychedelic fried-egg backdrop that glowed under blacklights. If I find out what they’re called, I’ll add their name in later. They also made a nifty miniature skating rink that was on display in the entry.

The weather in Asheville turned horribly cold, with strong winds. I didn’t want that wind to touch me at all, especially my ailing throat. But there was no way around it, just had to plow right through the center of it. My voice is still gone, my throat still so tender. I’m just trying to stay OK and disciplined about talking as little as possible. It’s a taste of what it would feel like to be mute. Because in a noisy environment, there’s no way to make myself heard at all. So I have to mime like Harpo Marx and it feels embarrassing and fun. I can tell some people think I’m being rude at first, then I have to insist that I just can’t speak, write messages on paper, and they understand after that. On the whole, I feel much more comfortable being around people than I used to. That makes me feel good.

This show, I felt quite nervous about again. I guess that always happens, but I do feel differently about performing these days. I just want to give everything I have in the moment, and it’s not always clear how to do that. It’s similar to meditation I think, where there’s a struggle at attaining a blissful, autonomous center, which is a very finicky balance between effort and non-effort. But my performances also require memorization and planning, they’re only partially improvised. So in the lead-up to this concert I was trying to enter into the structures of what this performance would be, each element of it, and remember how to navigate all these twisted pathways of often nonsensical words.

Everything felt pretty great at this show. My voice is still horrible, just absolutely horrible, which is fantastic in a way, because it’s forcing me to do everything differently. I’ve never been a “quiet music” singer – always sang loud and I feel more comfortable that way. Now I’m forced to almost kiss the microphone and sing softly. I started off singing a falsetto tune, which I knew was a crazy idea, but the falsetto part of my voice seems somehow intact. This was pretty rough, but I hope in a nice way.

I also did a couple things I’d never done before, a new sort of poem and a story told to radio noise. The story seemed pretty long, but I feel people connected with it, because some people told me so afterwards. At one point, to break up the slow tempos and very relaxed energy, I just put my guitar down and did a wild, high-energy floor-slapping dance.

It was great seeing Joe Chang from Gold Light – we played a show together at Static Age about 6 or 7 years ago with Skyway Man and Josephine Foster. I loved meeting and talking to Joe and Josephine that night.

At the end of the night, around 2 or 3 AM in the intense cold, my car was blocked in by some people who were trying to get their Jeep jumped. I couldn’t help because I rented a hybrid car. I felt sorry for them out there in the cold. They said, “don’t worry, someone’s coming for us.” I managed to get out of the parking spot and Jesse led me to his house. Well the place where he put me up is practically a hotel room, separate from his house. I believe he rents it out on Airbnb. It was pretty luxurious to sleep in a king-size bed, though it’s hard to sleep with all these mixed-up times and worries about my voice coming back. Jesse gave me some really nice, very thick Chinese throat syrup that feels great on my throat. He’s so generous, so kind, and someone I always feel comfortable around even though we’ve seen each other just a few times.

That’s all for now. I’m about to head to Athens, Georgia to meet up with Chris Acker for a couple of shows.

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