Qais Essar: Tavern of Ruin

Tavern of Ruin is a collection of orphic sentiments formed throughout years of built-up personal documentation. Qais Essar unfurls the human ego and its delicate presence within a vast space while creating a sound that feels almost tangible—but not quite. It’s like cupping sunlight in the palm of your hands and wishing that the warmth would exist permanently.

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By Negine Jasmine

The new album is grounded in Essar’s Rabab and various instrumentation to orchestrate a Western sound yet has the power to completely encompass your mind, body and soul with its deeply rooted Eastern feeling. The Rabab, Afghanistan’s traditional instrument, is presented in its most daunting and compelling form in Tavern of Ruin. There is no coming back once you’ve been submerged into the vibrations of the plucked strings and melodies.

I had the chance to talk to Qais Essar and gain some insight on the intentions behind his album. Thematically, Tavern of Ruin arrived as the conceptual confluence of Sufi literature and the rebirth of oneself. Named after Mawlana’s (widely known as Rumi) journey to the Tavern where his ultimate goal was to detach himself from his ego in order to transcend into the best version of himself. Essar progresses through the album in such a way that you can spiritually witness his rebirth as he transforms to another cosmic dimension.

Tavern of Ruin begins cold, elevating to the beat of a rocking chair while giving you a sense of iciness trickling down your bones. The song is an ode to the years of built up hardness that accumulates around your heart—like little construction workers building a house around your beating vesicle with sultry wood, only for it to explode with the utmost fiery brightness.

The hardness begins to melt and drip through every pour of your skin, leading to his single The Thaw”—which also comes along with an eerie music video directed by Mexican filmmaker, César Orozco (You can watch it here). As the making of the album progressed, Essar made a conscious effort to collaborate with local artists of color on his project. His personal agenda correlating to the overall wholesome quality of Tavern of Ruin is both inspiring and necessary. It also becomes a parallel to the concept of melting away misconstrued societal expectations and empowers the idea of positive representation.

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by Negine Jasmine

As your insides continue to thaw and soften, so does the album with the track “Poppy Flowers Bloom in the Springtime of My Love“.  It’s sweet and real and almost feels like a romantic gesture imbued by Afghanistan’s love songs that still howl in Kabul’s mountains. The song will sink to the bottom of your heart effortlessly as you fall in love with the lullaby and the singing robot that is also featured in the track.

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by Negine Jasmine

One of the most pulsating pieces, “Night Flight With Singed Wings” is paralyzing. There are no pauses to catch your breath as the song seizes your vitality. Melodic variants accompanying a stellar Tabla beat played by Neelamjit Dhillon is one of the most addictive sounds you’ll encounter in this lifetime. The two of them together create an immense and boundless force that will keep your heart beating and your body panting and yearning for more.

Tavern of Ruin isn’t shaped like a halo; it doesn’t come full circle, it’s jagged and sharp and sometimes linear. It lives everywhere. It lives in between the spaces of your bookshelf, it lives in the golden hues that the sun so fervently bleeds, it lives in the silent moments and it lives twice as hard in the loud ones too. Qais Essar has created a space for a very special sound that will live on forever. His soul is a hidden orchestra and you do not want to miss out on the unique pieces that he is passing out.

Read more about Qais in an interview I had with him during the making of Tavern of Ruin.

Listen & purchase his album on: bandcamp, Amazon, or iTunes.

 

 

A Conversation About: Afghanistan, Intention and Life With Musician Qais Essar

The first time I heard about Qais Essar was when my cousin in San Francisco gave me a rare, once-in-a-blue-moon phone call. We talked about how we legitimately believe all moms are magical and about the frivolities in our lives when she remembered this talented, Afghan Rabab musician that played at her school that weekend. I was disinterested—but she was persistent that I’d like him. Out of curiosity, I Googled this Rabab musician my cousin was so seemingly drawn towards and found myself replaying his albums on Soundcloud for the next two hours. I could feel my nerves dancing and my heart stretching just a little bit bigger. I consider that the profound moment I was first captivated and enticed by music from my own culture, Afghan culture. Almost a year later from my own personal, soul-awaking tender moment, I saw that Qais Essar was going to be playing a show just a thirty-minute drive from me.

Qais’ show was held in an eerie, dark church. I stood in the parking lot with my friend for a good ten minutes wondering if we had come to the wrong place—but then we heard it. We heard the soul of Afghanistan gravitating us towards two large wooden doors. We were welcomed by a priest who was wearing sandals, he whispered something as he handed each of us a program and then opened the portal to a cosmic dimension that felt so beautiful and familiar to me even though it was all intensely new. There on the stage sat Qais, strumming on his Rabab crafted by the finest wood and accompanied by two other musicians.

The Rabab is a national instrument of Afghanistan, once the strings are plucked you become submerged into a deep, dark cave that has saturated golden hues spilling through every hole and crack. Qais captivates his audience with his melodies that graze your skin like the wind—a prevailing lullaby.  He enchants you with a soft susurration but rooted deep into the chord lies a threat that his lullaby will metamorphose into a hurricane at any waking second. I was brimming with a tingly sensation until the end of his set, maybe that’s how it feels to step out of an exquisite wind storm. It felt so good to be overflowing with pride for music from my venerable culture, my curiosity and yearning for more Afghan music began with Qais’. I approached him after the set and asked if I could sit down with him sometime and learn more about him. So a few days later, we bonded over cold brew and the deplorable way that white people try to Westernize both of our names at one of the best coffee joints in downtown Phoenix.

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Where did your fascination for music stem from?

One of my earliest memories I think, I was around six and I had just gotten a violin and one night I flipped it up on its side and I kind of wanted to be Randy Travis and I started making up songs about farm animals and shit. Growing up I felt really—different. You know, granted we were different, because English was my second language so I had to go to ESL for a few years. And even though Virginia is more ethnically diverse still, when you’re a minority, you kind of want to belong to a group of people or a bigger minority so you feel like you have a community. I never really felt that way. I always felt lonely and at a point I discovered that with music you can connect with people. That’s where it started, this is my way of being a part of something bigger, a bigger community. I remember going to see music and I would just be floored, and I always wanted to make people feel like that. Music is beyond you, beyond us. You’re trying to communicate all these things, that’s where it began. It began as a way for me to express myself fully. To communicate something bigger than myself.

When were you exposed to the Rabab and how did you know you wanted to evolve with that instrument?

I was fortunate enough to where, even though we grew up in the United States, our household didn’t incorporate an American tradition. At home—we weren’t raised as Americans, we were raised as Afghans. We were raised with our music; we were raised with the culture and the language. Just because we live here doesn’t mean that we have to give up our identity and assimilate—I think assimilation is whack as shit. It’s diversity that helps us grow. It’s coming into contact with other cultures and learning from them. Doesn’t mean I have to become American just because we share the same neighborhood.

My dad always played Afghan music when we were younger; my dad was the one who gave me the tambour and my first Rabab. The last time he went to Kabul he brought me one, I remember he wrapped it around in a prayer rug and carried it on his back from Kabul all the way to Phoenix. I was exposed to the Rabab at a super young age, with just all of the music that was playing in the house. Early on, my parents kind of identified that I have a certain skill set so that I should probably go into music. I learned the guitar, the piano, I learned everything but it didn’t leave my satisfied. But with the Rabab—the first stroke, the first “Sa”,  the way it reverberated—it just kind of made me feel whole. It just felt right. That’s super rare, you know—to be moved. Growing up we were super nationalistic. One of my uncles said something that I’ve only heard once in my life: “Muslim, Jewish, Christian, whatever you want to be that’s fine. But never forget that you’re Afghan”.

This is the only thing that feels right, after playing everything else, this is it.

Artistically I’m satisfied and now this becomes a medium for me to promote my own socio economical agenda, with the Rabab and the platform that I have, I have an audience. It’s never an Afghan audience, which is fine. Afghans don’t see me perform—I do it for them even if they don’t care, it’s mostly other people. Most of these people have a pretty negative perspective on Afghanistan and it’s not because it’s their fault, this is what the media has fed them. When you say Afghanistan, people associate this country with: Taliban, stoning, terrorism and Bin Laden. This certain image has been designed and I want to introduce a different Afghanistan. This is a place of enormous wealth—in many different ways. It’s a place with a very old culture and heritage and a place of music and art and beauty. This is something that a lot of people don’t see and this is what I want to show people—there are so many kids that grow up who feel kind of ashamed of their identity. I would like to create an environment to where if someone says Afghanistan, they think good things, not bad, so someone doesn’t have to be embarrassed of their background.

 I want to introduce a different Afghanistan. This is a place of enormous wealth—in many different ways. It’s a place with a very old culture and heritage and a place of music and art and beauty.

Have you learned anything that has caused you to recontextualize your understanding of your world?

I think the last biggest revelation type thing that I had is the power of intention. That’s what I always tell people. It doesn’t matter what you do—what matters is the intention you have behind it. With these musician types, what is their intent? To make money or to gain popularity or is it to create something that can make a difference?

I think, as a musician you have to be so empty—by empty, I mean, not harbor any ill will or bad intentions or motives. It’s like a Rabab, right? How it’s structurally built—it’s got this big empty resonating chamber and if that was full, there would be no sound, the Rabab would be dead. The guitar is the same; if you stick a blanket in the hole, it’s not going to make a sound. Just like these instruments have to be hollow to receive all of this music, so does the musician. You’re transmitting something far greater than yourself, that’s why there should be no ego in music because its not about you—it’s not about you at all—and I look up because I don’t know what I’m looking at because I don’t even really understand myself. I just know that it’s far greater than anything that I could imagine. What you’re trying to do is…condense this, somehow and put it out, something. I think if it’s done with the right intention it has a profound impact.

 Just like these instruments have to be hollow to receive all of this music, so does the musician.

 I feel like people with different cultures who grow up in America feel conflicted or forced to only portray one side of their identity, how do you incorporate both of your cultural identities into your lifestyle and art?

Well, for people that have been raised here—to give them Eastern music in a very raw form—it’s kind of hard for them to swallow. It’s much like when you’re feeding a baby medicine, you put it in food. That’s what I’m doing, I’m putting it in food—I’m putting it in a corn dog. I think that if you package it in a way that’s accessible, that kind of acts as a gateway. If someone likes what I’m doing, I hope that they will go off and explore further. Having been raised here and having been educated in both Western and Eastern music, I try to create it in a way so that it brings the Rabab in 2015. I try to make it so that someone who doesn’t listen to this music, will—or could. Easily digestible. It’s a very hard thing to expect us to stay tribal people, in 2015, so I never call for assimilation but I would like for us to progress as a culture and as people

I mean, I’m wearing jeans and a shirt from H&M, so I guess aesthetically I’m not Afghan ‘cause I don’t wear traditional clothing from Afghanistan every day. Yet, there’s so much Afghanistan in what I write, stories about Afghanistan that I heard when I was younger. It’s like the ghost of my dad’s Kabul in the music, it’s because I want people to know that Afghanistan. I fuse it with Western elements so that it has a wider audience and becomes more digestible to those who aren’t exposed to Eastern music.

What’s the single best advice you’ve gotten from someone on how to be your full self?

You know, the best advice is often the most simple: Do you. You don’t imagine the weight behind that though, do you. That means, I’m not going to worry about what people think, I’m not going worry about this current situation—I’m going do what I feel is right. That means sometimes, going against cultural norms or butting heads with certain people. Do what you want to do, don’t let other people define you. I don’t remember who told me this but it was during my mid 20’s—and your mid 20’s are a very turbulent time of your life. There’s fear, it’s really scary not knowing, not knowing. That’s it. Not knowing where the next check is coming from or how much it’s going to be or if it’s going to be enough—but to do you is to have faith in yourself. I think that’s what it comes down to, it’s the faith that keeps you going and allows you to do things that you think is right.

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 What advice would you give to someone who’s unsure about whether or not to pursue in their passion?

Do it. Just do it. Life is so short, why would you want to live someone else’s life? Why not live your life happy? I could be very comfortable if I had a 9-5 but I would be miserable, so if anyone wants to follow their passion, you should do it, because odds are that’s what you’re supposed to do with your life. That’s what you’re here for. I don’t want to be dying and then be like “Oh shit—I really should have pursued in my dreams”. It’s very hard, but you should try, don’t expect a lot but you should try and go into it with the right intentions.

For me growing up as an Afghan Muslim in a post 9/11 world, it was difficult for me to embrace my roots and my culture for some period of time. Especially since I’d be shamed for it by people or the media. Do you feel like you had to overcome institutionalized shame in order to proudly pursue in the Rabab?

Of course. I mean, post 9/11 America made it very hard to be who you are openly. The thing I realized very quickly with the Rabab is that, if your identity was ambiguous before, now it’s just right there in people’s faces. People didn’t know much about Afghanistan when all of a sudden we became almost naked. You’re in front of everybody as an Afghan. Personally, it got to a point where I had to get confident in that fact very fast. When I started performing with the Rabab professionally in front of large groups, I had to deal with any insecurities that I might have had beforehand. When you go to the festivals or concerts that’s what they introduce you as: “ Qais Essar…from Afghanistan” and everyone’s like: “Oh, it’s one of them”.

That’s the moment when you can seize control and flip it back on them. Be like, “Guess what, I am one of those guys,  but what you think is completely wrong and there is no reason for me to have to be ashamed—because I’m coming with all of this music and art that is a very real part of my culture.” I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed because of weird politics. When I was a sophomore in high school, everyone would look at me like I was supposed to make commentary. I was angry for a while. More bitter, more jaded towards everyone else. Because you’re systematically made to feel ashamed. I decided very early that I was not going to allow myself to be ashamed. I know how that feels and so with what I’m trying to do, I try to make it so that no one else will have to feel that way. No Abdullah should feel like they have to go by Abe. No one should have to lie or be ashamed about where they’re from. We should be proud. Be proud you’re from Afghanistan. We’re amazing people.

We have such a deep-rooted long history, ancient civilization. We are blessed in a way that we get to live a completely different type of American lifestyle as minorities, we get to see the other side of it. Racism and/or discrimination because of wherever you might be or whatever dogmatic thing you adhere to but I like to think that it makes us stronger.

What are your existing albums that people should look for/listen to?

The Green Language, which I released July 2014, it did super well. I’m super grateful.

What about I Am Afghan. Afghani is Currency?

That started off as a joke, there was a lull between gigs so the one thing that I got criticized for was: “Oh, he can’t play real Afghan music” and I was like, no I totally can so I’m just going to release an EP with just super traditional, classical music. I just did it for fun but people really liked it for some reason. So now I give it as Eid gifts. It’s like a ‘thank you’ to my supporters, it’s more folky and traditional but people should be exposed to more traditional Afghan music because it’s getting more rare these days.

Klasik is the EP I put out in March, that is more of the stuff that I want to explore in the album that I’m currently writing.

Are there any musical elements you’d like to experiment with?

If you listen to The Green Language, this is the first time the Rabab has been in such settings. So, with a lot of fusion stuff that started to happen after the 50s, even until now most of how it has been structured has been interdependent. What I wanted to do is make something that could not stand by itself but with a perfect fusion of Eastern and Western music, that’s what I did with the album. It’s kind of where I want to take the new one. I want to experiment more with all kinds of instruments, expand it more to where the demographic gets wider. The more you add the wider your demographic gets. I want to experiment as much as I can. I’m trying to redefine Afghan art. You can’t play it safe forever, that’s what The Green Language was, which is why I think it did so well.

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He left me with my first Afghan music on vinyl and a greater sense of how I want to incorporate my culture into my every breath. He transformed hard surfaces into Tablas (hand drums that are commonly used within the Indian subcontinent) and spoke in Dari at every chance he couldn’t find the right words in English. Some things just sound so much more right in our language. If you haven’t gotten the sense that Qais is one of the better humans out there from this conversation, then you’ll undoubtedly grasp it in his music.

Soundcloud | Facebook | Instagram 

 

 

Celebrate Riot Grrrl Day: A Playlist

Riot Grrrl is a feminist movement found in the 1990s in Olympia, Washington. A handful of punk and rocker ladies have been musically influenced by the Riot Grrrl’s core values, usually calling out on misogyny, racism, domestic violence, female empowerment and patriarchy. There is a DIY state of mind regarding the different art forms to spread their message, especially within zines, poetry and music.  Some  bands involved in the movement were: Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Sleater-Kinney, etc.

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Below is the official Riot Grrrl proclamation, it reads: “I, Martin J. Walsh, Mayor of the City of Boston, do hereby proclaim April 9th, 2015, to be Riot Grrrl Day in the City of Boston, to commemorate, celebrate and actively promote the cultural significance of Riot Grrrl culture, and to inspire grrrls everywhere to shake up the status quo and create.”

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Mayor Marty Walsh proclaims April 9, 2015, “Riot Grrrl Day” in the city of Boston. (City of Boston)

 

Happy Riot Grrrl day to all of my badass grrrlz out there! Listen to some of my favorite lady vocalist/bands all in one place. Always remember to support one another and to dance to what makes you feel good.

Raise Awareness, Don’t Be Silent: Chapel Hill Tragedy

I am a Muslim woman of Afghan descent. Last night, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were brutality murdered by Craig Stephen Hicks, a 46 year old white male because of their faith and their religion.

Islam has relentlessly been bashed over and over again. It seems like no matter how many times I remind people that an individual terrorist act does not define an entire religion, it will never truly get across to them. Even if I bring up the fact that 2,976 people died on 9/11 and 2,500,000 people died in wars justified by 9/11, it is never enough.

This is to all of you who believe everything you hear on the news. This is to those who think that all Muslims are terrorists. This is to those who want the entire religion of Islam abolished.

You don’t know what it is like to see the look of fear in your mother’s eyes every time you leave the house. When she holds on to you tightly and blows prayers towards you for protection; always with an ounce of dread that she’ll never hold you again.

You don’t know what it is like having best friends and family members who wear head scarves and worrying about their safety against hate crimes, especially after something like this happens.

You don’t know what it is like to be spit on for years after 9/11 because of your name, your skin, the color of your hair or the scarf around your head.

You don’t know what it is like to have your little brothers ask if people at school are going to hate them because they’re Muslim.

You don’t know what it is like to have to justify yourself or defend your religion over and over again to people who refuse to see the good in it.

You don’t know what it is like to be forced into a stereotype you have absolutely no contribution in, such as: terrorism, violence and hate.

You will never know what it is like to be living in constant fear that some 46 year old, white man will come knocking on your door to greet you and your loved ones with a bullet.

I am a Muslim woman of Afghan descent, but I’m also a student and a feminist. I love photography, music, film and literature. I am my own singular person who believes in Islam. Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were all just regular people, indulging in life’s beauty and doing amazing things. Deah and Yusor had gotten married 6 weeks ago. They were all students who had just began to accomplish their goals and start new chapters.

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Don’t you dare stereotype  Deah, Yusor, Razan, or  any other Muslim into the horrific category the media has built around hate and fear.  Don’t you dare try to ignore this tragic situation, don’t you dare belittle what has happened.

My heart is so incredibly heavy for the parents and family of these beautiful people. My prayers and love go out to all of you.

Be kind to one another and spread nothing but love and acceptance. Protect your friends of color, friends of different backgrounds and religions, stand up for them and fight for justice. I am disgusted over the cruelties people offer in this world,  it is up to us to make it a more bearable and safe place.

Self Love: In Lingerie

My friend Sam approached me with an idea she has always wanted to do:  take photos in lingerie. She shares, “I have spent so much time hating my body as a child and throughout my teen years, and I finally feel comfortable in it. Loving your body and the skin you were suited in is the most rewarding decision that will change the remainder of your time on this beautiful planet.”  To celebrate her self love, I set up a small studio in my room and photographed her in lingerie with the usage of natural light. The result was was beautiful and I can only admire Sam for growing into a strong and amazing lady.

So, for this Valentines day, bath in flowers while wearing lingerie or do whatever makes you feel good. Life is too short to not enjoy  your own skin. Do something for yourself that will make you feel spectacular. You deserve it and  you should shine.

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The Sweet Sounds Of 2014

For me, 2014 was a marvelous year of live music. I attended so many magnificent shows and festivals, I even saw a few of my all-time favorites.  Some of the best:

St. Vincent: When I went to see St. Vincent, the fancy theater setting felt foreign as everyone remained in their seats when the almighty Annie Clark came onto the stage. Finally, someone in the audience shouted “WHY THE HELL ARE WE SITTING?” Annie responded with “I don’t fucking know!” and the entire crowd jumped up and no longer withheld any dance moves. St. Vincent was so magnificent- Annie, alongside her other bandmates were completely mind blowing. If you haven’t yet lost yourself in her newest self entitled album, St. Vincent then you are missing out.

It was, without a doubt, the best show I attended in 2014.

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Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

 

Angel Olsen: Angel Olsen’s music is nostalgic and meaningful. From her lyrics to her voice quality, everything about Olsen is so fitting for those sad or beautiful occasions. I saw her at the FYF music festival, tears streamed down my face as I silently sang along with her and it felt so damn good. My favorite album is one of her older ones Strange Cacti, her newest album Burn Your Fire For No Witness was probably the soundtrack to my year. It’s different but in the dreamiest way.

http://www.grimygoods.com/2014/11/28/win-tickets-to-angel-olsen-at-the-el-rey-theatre/
http://www.grimygoods.com/2014/11/28/win-tickets-to-angel-olsen-at-the-el-rey-theatre/

 

The Growlers: I was lucky enough to see The Growlers twice this year. I’ve listened to The Growlers for  almost three years, but it wasn’t until this year I fell in love with them, especially with the babely vocalist Brooke Nielsen. The Growlers were my morning jam for most of the year. I greatly consider them to be my “feel good” music. It’s really all about their 2013 album, Hung at Heart but I am pleased with their newest album Chinese Fountain.

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Blonde Redhead: I don’t know if I can technically say I saw Blonde Redhead, considering my friend and I were exhausted from pitching a tent, dancing hard to previous bands, and meeting cool people at the Desert Daze music festival. We almost fell asleep under the stars and on a curb while the great trio of Blonde Redhead rocked on stage.  I listened to their album Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons and 23 a lot this past year–it was even better live.

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http://www.stereogum.com/1344252/blonde-redhead-albums-from-worst-to-best/list/

 

Mac DeMarco: My heart has much tenderness for Mac and his music. I saw him twice this year and he had such a great, fun energetic set each time.  It is always nice to listen to “My Kind of Woman” and feel a sense of familiarity. His newest album Salad Days has a more serious reputation as opposed to his other “fun” albums. It is still very Mac and very good but I’m forever a fan of Rock and Roll Night Club and 2.

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http://exclaim.ca/Music/article/mac_demarco-sonic_stage_manchester_tn_june_16

 

Playboy Manbaby:  Let me introduce you to my favorite live band from Arizona. Their shows are the most  fun I’ve probably ever had in my life, each one getting better than the last. I’ve gone to many of their shows, from house shows,  to Flagstaff shows, shows in tiny venues and in larger ones, outside, you name it and each have managed to exude so much happiness and sweat. Do yourself a favor and give them a listen http://playboymanbaby.bandcamp.com. My favorite albums are Obsessive Repulsive and Bummeritaville, while their newest album Electric Babyman guarantees head banging and butt shaking.

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http://music.downtowndevil.com/2012/10/18/second-annual-showbot-a-success/

 

Slowdive: I’m still in awe about the show. Their set was extraordinary and beautiful and genuine.  If you have yet to treat your ears, start off with their 1993 album Souvlaki and then listen to all of their albums over and over again forever.

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http://forum.funkysouls.com/index.php?f=37&t=15132&client=printer&act=Print

 

Neutral Milk Hotel: I saw NMH this year and was dripping with emotion for weeks after. They were my middle school anthem and I am eternally grateful to my emo-skater chemistry partner for jamming his earbuds into my ears and playing In The Aeroplane Over The Sea in the 8th grade.  The live sounds of the accordion, banjo, and horns used to make the tremendous music will play with me forever. After seeing them this year, I wanted to spend all of my time in Jeff Mangum’s mind.

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http://postnothing.org.uk/blog/5-place-wed-rather-see-neutral-milk-hotel-corn-exchange/

 

Future Islands: I danced so much! Samuel T. Herring is the dude of the year! Listen to their album Singles!  

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http://www.earbuddy.net/50397/future-islands-la-82014-live.html/reviews

 

Some of my other favorite live performances this year were: The Coathangers, Perfect Pussy, Grimes, Little Dragon, Slint, HAIM, Mr. Elevator and The Brain Hotel, Black Lips, Shannon and The Clams, Atlas Sound, Los Puchos, Cosmonauts and Fear of Music. Thanks, 2014 for the sweetness and magnificence of the live music that came along with you. I’m sentimental and slightly sad to see you go, but I am so ready to embrace the sound of 2015.

Space Neighborhood: A Playlist

During this time, life on earth can become stressful and grueling. Whether it be the constant all-nighters you’re pulling for finals or the holiday madness around you, sometimes you just have to step back and take a trip to Mars. Your voyage awaits you; have a listen, sit back, drink a glass of lemonade and enjoy your time in the coolest neighborhood in outer space.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space – Spiritualized

Life On Mars – David Bowie

One Who Love You – Alvvays

Motorway To Roswell – Pixies

Black Hills – Gardens & Villa

Follow – Diiv

I Follow You – Melody’s Echo Chamber

Marquee Moon – Television

Could I Be – Sylvan Esso

My Moon, My Man – Feist

Fog – Nosaj Thing

Basement Scene – Deerhunter

Space Moth – Stereolab

Neutral Milk Notel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

Avant Gardener – Courtney Barnett

Space Boy Dream – Belle & Sebastian

Heroes – David Bowie

Felt – Primitive Painters

The Sinking Feeling – The The

Space Oddity – David Bowie

Rude Boy – Mr Twin Sister

Whole Wide World – Wreckless Eric

Here She Comes Now – The Velvet Underground

Lord Can You Hear Me – Spacemen 3

Planet Queen – T. Rex

Moon Rocks – Talking Heads

Beach Goth III: The Biggest Party + Playlist

Every so often, California holds a music festival such as Burgerama or FYF worth making the 7 hour drive from Arizona  to attend for the weekend. This time, it was for Beach Goth. It’s held during Halloween, one of best times of year giving the crowd a great excuse to dress up as one of their favorite movie characters or put on their most outrageous outfits. Pauly Shore hosted the $40 festival but The Growlers founded it, aiming to build a relaxed atmosphere where a great variety of artists can share their music. Now in its third year, the one day Beach Goth party is getting bigger than ever with more than a thousand attendees and will continue to grow because of the positive feedback its receiving. I left the night wondering if I hallucinated the tattooed psychedelic Oompa Loompa or if it really was there just smokin’ a cigarette by the food truck.

Other than the common festival complaints; too many people, long lines, overpriced food, and annoying couples who make out during entire sets while practically leaning on you, it was still the best way I could have spent the weekend. The lineup was well put together and I was impressed with the set list, some of my favorite artists even appeared on it. The whole thing has a very DIY state of mind.  It’s cool to attend a festival that is not completely commercialized and still has a natural vibe where local bands can showcase music they’ve worked hard on.

The festival was held at The Observatory located in Santa Ana, CA. It’s a sweet galactic spot that has a few stages, a couple indoors and a parking lot big enough to set up a  stage outside.  It’s a decently sized spot, but it surely won’t be able to hold Beach Goth parties in the future at the rate BG is going. There was parking at The Observatory but avoiding the $25 filled parking lot for a farther spot and a sweet bus ride to the venue was a good idea.   It reminded me of my morning bus rides back in high school, except this one had cool blue mermaids and goth girls on it.  

When we were dropped off, an overwhelming number of Mia Wallace look-a-like’s and masked people were running towards the entry. Piñatas and inflated flamigos were hoisted amongst the trees and the place was totally embellished for the party. I heard a familiar beat from afar and was able to catch the last bit of The Garden who seemed to have a very fun, energetic set, as usual. Though I found Wyatt Fletcher’s choice of a black painted face to be tasteless and offensive.

Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams dressed like James Hetfield- sportin’ a blondish mustache and wig while playing punk-like covers of Metallica but  still maintaing the 60’s girl-group rockabilly esque sound that Shannon & the Clams embodies. Guitarist, Cody Blanchard dressed like Cliff Burton and the two were shining on stage. It was so easy to get into though I was eagerly looking forward to hearing their own original music.

Shannon and The Clams
Shannon and The Clams

After their set came Atlas Sound, a solo project by Bradford Cox. I had to get as close as possible to the stage for this one, after all, he is one of my musical heroes. I think it was during the song Shelia, a drunken girl pushed her way to the front and wouldn’t stop screeching by my ear.  I’m surprised I managed to have a spiritual experience even with her trying to shove vodka down my throat for the entirety of the show. Bradford’s music does have the capability to make everything else seem insignificant and at some point I stopped listening to her and enjoyed the rest of his set.

Bradford Cox-Atlas Sound
Atlas Sound

 

Already feeling drained, my friend and I decided to fill our bellies. It’s crazy how delicious a five dollar, American style grilled cheese sandwich can taste. It was probably my second spiritual experience of the day, and we weren’t even half way through yet.

At this point, Foxygen took over the main stage outside. I’ll admit, “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic” was probably my favorite album of 2013.  But after seeing them live and hearing their new stuff, I just got over them, to be honest.

I lost my friend in the hyped crowd, so I decided to go and check out who was playing inside. There was no point in looking at my set list because all of the bands had unexpected push backs and time changes, so I didn’t really know who was going to be playing. I was pulled into the Constellation room and was so excited when I heard the familiar psychedelic pop songs played by Mr. Elevator and The Brain Hotel. I danced so hard and probably had the most fun in that sweaty, crowded party room. I remember choosing Mac DeMarco over them at Burgerama, and missed them another time too, so I was very pleased for the non-intentional alien-like party I was abducted into.

The rest of the sets that night were amazing, with a super talented Smiths tribute band, Sweet and Tender Hooligans,  great dreamy sounds from Diiv, and The Drums who filled the air with nostalgia getting ready to close the night. I danced while thinking about road trips with my closest friends when we would listen to all of Portamento on repeat.

Diiv
Diiv

 

The Growlers had the show by the end of the night and the whole crowd came out to celebrate with them. Clown-faced drag queens were overlooking the party and zebra shaped piñatas were being ripped apart by the celebrators. You never quite knew when a cardboard zebra limb would hit you in the face or when a tattooed Oompa Loompa would be dancing right next to you. Babely frontman, Brooks Nielsen had psychedelic mime makeup painted on his face and was setting off virtual fireworks and making dragons appear onto the stage with his enchanting voice and his way-too-chill-n-cool bandmates. The Growlers never fail to make me feel the best feelings,  and it was the perfect way to end Beach Goth.

Brooks Nielsen by Samuel Perez
Brooks Nielsen by Samuel Perez

 

When the night was over, everyone was tired but still smiling and probably still high.  We waited for our buses and filled them up like ghosts ready to wash the sweat away and sleep for a thousand years. Beach Goth III was unlike any other festival I’ve gone to, it’s a one of a kind party that everyone needs to attend. Until next year.

Lemonade: A Photo Collection

I set up a mini studio in my room and took pink and yellow lemonade themed portraits of my beautiful friend Johnisha Shepard when the golden hour struck. I’m interested in the power that color has and have really been having a good time with it. There is something entrancing in a vivid scene that exposes so many of the bright colors that the world has to offer. Playing with colors have  been something new that I’ve been trying and  it sometimes is out of my comfort zone because I fear the results. Thus far, I’ve been pretty satisfied with the end product. My goal was to create juxtaposition between striking hue’s with mostly the usage of natural light.

ISIS Does Not Define Islam

ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq); a terrorist group whose ultimate goals are to 1). Establish a new Islamic caliphate across the Middle East 2.) Force Muslims to submit to Al-Baghdadi’s radical Islamic perspective, while implementing  a high-stakes  mentality. Al-Baghdadi asks that one either “join the Islamic caliphate, or to be killed”. Muslims have observed the dark misconstructions of Islamic law that ISIS has globally relegated. Indeed, non-ISIS Muslims have seriously condemned ISIS’ actions and strongly agree that ISIS cannot even begin to consider themselves to be Muslims. Think for yourselves, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in this world while thirteen thousand of them live under the name ISIS. The thought that a group of orthodox lunatics are ruining the interpretation of a whole religion is beyond me, Muslims cannot continuously be categorized into a clump of barbaric, inhumane people who are told that their religion is like cancer in the United States that needs to be removed (low one John Bennett).

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“Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or the oppressed. People asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)

As an American-Muslim, I feel like it is my responsibility to speak out against ISIS, and to also absolve the name of the religion that I grew up with. Why absolve? Because Islam is seen as a sin in Modern America, and I am here to iterate the fact that no, Islam is no regret, is not something for which you may hold regret. It is a religion that taught me the importance of peace and justice for all of humanity. ISIS’ gruesome violence and oppression of Yazidis, Assyrians, Shias, and Christians do not adhere to the teachings of Islam, for Islam promotes continuity of humanistic relationships. ISIS repulses me. The beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff–and the deaths of the countless souls which we forget about in our day to day life–absolutely disgust me because it is under my name, my tenets, that these terrorists act.

muslims-against-isis_s877x658

“Islam doesn’t promote violence or peace. Islam is just a religion and like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it. If you’re a violent person, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism is going to be violent. There are marauding Buddhist monks in Myanmar slaughtering women and children. Does Buddhism promote violence? Of course not. People are violent or peaceful, and that depends on their politics their social world, the way that they see their communities, the way they see themselves.” Reza Aslan

People all over the world are experiencing tremendously difficult times and the best I can do is to look into and research the things I hear in the media and by spreading the right word.  It is so important for all of us to remember to not condemn an entire religion due to a group of radical extremists, because they exist in all religions. A person is a representative of the self, nothing more and nothing less; a person is not a byproduct of their religion. I hope you remember this well.