Part II - The Departure
The weariness that greets my head after all to brief a rest is epic on Saturday, but the damp and humid gray skies have given way to a rare late September day of warm sun in Seattle on Saturday. Day three is a travel day for me, down the road about 45 minutes to my sister's house in the suburbs. I pack up, say my good byes to my bro and leave downtown Seattle. The trip to Auburn is sublime - little traffic, warm temps, and an epic view of Mt. Rainier the whole way. Sure we have big volcanoes back home in Cali, but even Shasta has lost all of her glacial snow at this late a date in the season, and there is Rainier grinning at my like a giant white fang. Today is going to be a good day, I can feel it.
Shifting gears between the go-go-go mentality of a music conference to the suburban tranquility of my sister's house was even easier than expected. There I caught up with her and my brother-in-law with those kinds of moments that only come when being around family. My adorable nieces, seven and three respectively, are a bittersweet reminder of the parallel life I live at this point in my life, our dreams for a family deferred so many times in pursuit of other gains (and losses) that it's now a not-so-unreal reminder that this may be a dream died for us. This hot tub and home cooked meal time is the calm before the storm, and although it passes in a heartbeat it is still a resetting of priorities and a time to reflect on where I am at in my life, a moment of clarity. As if to extend that moment as long at it can possibly exist I reconnected with an old friend before a night of celebration that will not soon be forgotten. After fifteen years, time both stands still and has advanced so far forward the narrative begins reading like a strange and foreign text. The encounter is extremely brief but a reminder of the great chasms in time one must cross in order to exist, often I wonder if these become bundles of great burden the longer we live and pass near each other in time? Regardless of my own philosophical musings, and I have them frequently, I wish my friend well in her own quest to find happiness in this life, it is elusive.
My actual night begins at the D25 Showcase, not unusual that you'd find me at the gig with Kevin Saunderson and Carl Craig. I get there earlier enough to see Monty Luke playing a great opening set, a real treat. But it is Saunderson who owns the crowd, putting on a clinic with real vinyl. He played many great tracks - both old and new - but "Good Life" is the one everyone came for and he did not disappoint. At this point I am missing my wife as well as my friend Stephen, the two people in Chico I share the clubbing experience with on a semi-regular basis, wishing they were there. I text them to let them know the DJ is on fire, I get an envious text in return as they are stuck back at home getting assaulted by the usual onslaught of 8 bit noises and farting bass primitive-ism that leaves so much to be desired. "Thank God I am at Decibel Fest", I think to myself. I bail on Craig, whom I've seen many times, and walk across the street to catch the end of Tim Green's set at Fwd Thinking Organisms. The deep funky bass he was selecting kept his tech leanings at bay and gave his rather standard electro house tastes some real flare, it something worth taking note of but just I was starting to feel his steez it was time to give way to Tanner Ross - one half of Mothership's Voodeux - his tastes much more archival and zany than Green's. Mainly, Ross looks like he's having a great time behind the decks putting on a show for the intimate crowd. It's a nice moment, but that's about all these festivals are worth, there is never enough time to feel anything too deeply before it's time to rush off or risk missing something important. It is at this point - (after 1AM) a time I call the "witching hour" as it is a time when strange and unusual things can happen and definitely the time to be alert - that I begin to make my way over to the Hotflush Label Showcase, unfortunately I made a mistake as to the location and then spent my time wading through drunken pedestrian and auto traffic courtesy of the nearby University of Washington, talk about a big, ugly reminder of home. It was quite annoying and prevented me from catching any of Scuba or Sepulcure's sets, a huge disappointment considering the UK imprint's showcase was one of the reasons for making the trip - but these are the breaks when attending a conference of this scale.
I cut my losses and make way back to Motor for Late Night Soul Kitchen. If last night's gathering was low-key and mellow, tonight is an opportunity for every semi-young person in Seattle off their face to see and be seen - the place is packed. Couple that with a long wait outside waiting for the venue to get it's act together and it's the perfect length of time to allow the rain to start falling, one of the only constants year-round in Seattle. This, plus ample second-hand cigarette smoke to the face, sets the stage for me to get a bug that's proven hard to shake even a week after the festival. Luckily, the waiting turns out to be a minor setback for a great night of music from Seattle's Pezzner, playing most of his set to an audience still out on the street waiting to get in. His entire set is comprised of tracks from his recent album on Freerange, an excellent album but one so popular here in the office this Spring that I can't bear to listen to much more of it. Not really Pezzner's fault just a case of a guy doing his job too well, note to Pezzner, make less catchy tracks - j/k - don't ever stop doing what you're doing. Bostonians turned Berliners, Soul Clap take mid-tempo late night house to a new level, if you liked what Garth, Jeno, and the Wicked Crew were doing in SF in the early to mid Nineties these guys are your heroes. Since I was a devoted Wicked follower, I could instantly connect the duo's DJ set of trippy, late night mushroom house. As the crowd begins to thin out and the real exhaustion of my years starts to set in, the vibe feels just right, I wanted to leave but was transfixed by Theo Parrish's old school Detroit set. It's a crate diggers' classic filled with funk, soul, house, and techno that is instantly uplifting and memorable. The old dog steals the show from the new dogs and tricks, it's quite a moment, one of many passing in time.
Thus ends the festival portion, as I get on the I-5 South heading from my sister's home, my thoughts shift to the return home. I don't think my sister and brother-in-law were necessarily prepared for my returning home at 5AM, even after adequate warning, a reminder of the interesting career path I've chosen. A quick, but restful sleep and a hearty breakfast and good company prepares me for a travel day. Next year I plan to attend the Sunday portion of the conference and grab the late flight but to placate my wife, already miffed about the driving to and fro Sacramento and Cohasset, I chose the mid-afternoon flight home. The stress of returning rental cars, baggage checks, security checkpoints, and making the gate on time always weigh heavily on me. The quick and uneventful flight home gave me time to reflect on the trip, my career, and my life that made me feel rested despite the extreme fatigue. Flying over Mt. Lassen, Mill and Deer Creek canyons, and eventually even my own house made me feel satisfied about the trip with just a twinge of longing as it is rare for me to see this much live music and family on the regular, but as the plane touched down on the tarmac in Sacramento and I left behind wet lawns and alders for yellow fields of grass and 100 degree temperatures I felt as I never left my home. Can't wait for next year!