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Hey Colossus fit in with many of their hard rock contemporaries, but have been suspiciously absent from broader conversation for the duration of their nine album career. They don’t have a Wikipedia article. Their presence in their home UK has always greatly outsized it elsewhere. Their records In Black and Gold and Radio Static High, secretly two of the smartest and best records of 2015, made few end of year lists. Why the band aren’t brought up in the same conversation as Electric Wizard, Sleep, or even Ty Segall is beyond this writer.

There’s a chance I’m getting all of this wrong, that they’re more than just a secret go-to for when I need a heavy fix. This would be in keeping with their general pastiche of totally kicking ass. Metal fans of the brazen drug abuse of Amon Duul II or the sludge pioneers of eighties black metal could find a nice home in the amounts of attention and creativity Hey Colossus add to their tones.

On top of everything, the band have been experimenting with each new release. The Guillotine is no exception. These recordings are crisper and more lyric-driven then their feedback-heavy past. To the record’s simultaneous likeability and demise, the process has become a little transparent. There are amazing songs on The Guillotine, but much of the fire of the band’s earlier work is missing.

‘Experts Toll’ was an excellent first taste. Taking cues from Radio Static highlight ‘Hop the Railings’, the band found a vocal comfort zone in the creeping build of the tune. The only difference is that ‘Experts Toll’ is less occupied with atmospherics. It’s the fourth of eight tracks presented here on the album, but is the last notable one in the running order. Speaking of atmospherics, there’s little to be found on the back half, but in a conversely negative way when compared to ‘Experts Toll’. ‘Englishman’ is over-encumbered by its flimsy lyrics. “We’re gonna call the boys at Scotland Yard/ and drive around this town in black tile cars,” group-sings the band on the title track over a bass dirge that goes on several minutes too long. Where past iterations would have been more interested in the power of their instruments, this Hey Colossus wants us to hear the songwriting. Sadly, the songs on the back half would sound much better as instrumentals. I miss the incoherent wailing of their 00s output.

The Guillotine remains a somewhat worthy listen via its front four tracks. ‘Honest to God’ is as wonderful an intro as they’ve ever put out. ‘Back in the Room’, despite its similarly loose lyrical themes, is a 7-minute marathon. With a melody that’s Swans-like in repetition, it builds on itself and begs to be played loud. ‘Experts Toll’ is the same way, but in a much tighter package. The two songs are split by ‘Calenture Boy’ which sounds like a cleaned up version of the slower songs on 2011’s RRR. It’s the ideal four-song sequence.

And that’s really all there is to say about The Guillotine. If the title track wrapped things up nicely, I’d mention it. If there were other lyrics on ‘Englishman’ that clarified the one above, I’d mention them as well. If the band come to my town, I’d love to see them (the rhythm section slays, after all). Sadly, these ifs are just ifs, and these songs didn’t need the nice, crisp production they were given.


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A Google search of Ángel Jochi Hernandez-Camen (or Josh, as he prefers to be called) pulls up a small handful of sites. You’ll find a video of his masterful “Ancient Ruins,” a short bio from your esteemed Forum, and some scattered notes and performances. Go deeper down the rabbit hole, and you’ll end up learning about Mesoamerican cultures, Aztec gods, complex polyrhythm, and a litany of other musical and non-musical topics. Most artists with thrice the portfolio don’t provide so much backstory.

I’m lucky enough to have taken the next step into the wormhole of information surrounding Josh: I got to speak with him. Shortly into our conversation, I’d learned the names of not only composers, but of historians, academics, native languages, and of cultural censorship. You see, Josh’s music is about so much more than his roots. It’s about authenticity and voice. It’s about presenting a picture that’s not merely idiosyncratic, but massively dense. Sure, there are enough musical elements in a Bela Bartok piece to discuss for years, but how many of them detail such rich histories?

Josh and I speak briefly about what got him to this point. He’s now 17, and has been composing on a grand scale for over five years. He’s classically trained, like so many other prodigies. But his interests are directed toward postmodernism more thoroughly than most composers entering their thirties. When I said how his pieces, most notably “Dreams of Coatlicue,” reminded me distinctly of twentieth century composers, he expanded: “A lot of my stuff is very Debussy and Ravel, but in the last couple of years, I’ve gone more experimental. I enjoy New Complexity, which is basically a style where the composers are experimenting with complexity in every layer of music.” I had planned to ask him to elaborate on how his music isn’t preoccupied with time or key signature later in the conversation, but he ended up answering my question before I even got to it. Even in conversation, Josh’s mind extends itself far beyond the present talking point.

Anyway, “Coatlicue” and the newer “Nawi Ollin” (loosely translated to “structure of learning”) both deal heavily in New Complexity, showing signs of atonality, arrhythmia, polyrhythm, and advanced technique. During string quartet performances of Josh’s pieces, the players will often utilize spiccato, where the bow is bounced off the string instead of traditional bowing or plucking (pizzicato). This is highly impressionistic, visceral music. As I watch the conductor and musicians attempt to piece together the pulse, I get even more lost in the transitive nature of the pieces. Naturally, many of the moments on “Nawi Ollin” are meant to represent the changing of seasons.

And here’s a crucial element of Josh’s pieces: they rely more on a surreal, fluid timing than a rigid, Western one. Where exactly do the embedded rhythms come from? Mostly from his time taking lessons on Aztec percussion. These are beats that are handed down in a cultural way, not a scientific one. Usually considered an Eastern style of learning, Josh utilizes these techniques early in the composition process. “There’s no written notation for it,” he says. “It is in a time signature, but it’s not conceptualized that way. To be honest, I had trouble notating them.” Coming from such an enormous and encyclopedic mind, I almost forgot about the difficulty and patience it must take to bring these pieces to life. His speaking voice is rapid, and I imagine his process shares this quality.

Many of these ideas are already behind Josh. His rough plans for future compositions are so conceptual and deep, he’s keeping them nameless at this juncture. Though his work has borrowed many elements from his mother and Mexican heritage, he’d like to take things a bit further. When asked about this, he started going on a tangent about the legitimacy of the accepted facts and history surrounding Mesoamerican culture and history. I sneak in a question about how his interest in music relates to his interest in social history and politics, but he’s already way ahead of me. For Josh, these are natural extensions of his work as a Mexican composer.

In essence, the research involved for composing is tenfold as dense as the music itself. In recent months, Josh has done considerable independent research on academics like James Maffie, who questions whether or not the Aztecs were the polytheistic people that the history books so often peg them as. “When the Spanish came to Mesoamerica, they didn’t come to learn the culture. A lot of what was written about it is Spanish, not native,” explains Josh. “They burned [many of] the actual Mesoamerican books. But it turns out that people still remembered the things in these books. There are still people today who practice it and know a lot about it.”

Josh plans to get to the frontlines of these cultures and peoples before composing his next pieces. “I don’t want an outsider’s perspective. I want to be there. I want to participate in the ceremonies. It’s less about the music and more about the people who do it.” He remains open-minded about the process right down to where exactly he might travel. He mentions some cultures that have been relatively well-preserved because of their geography. Islands off the Pacific coast of Mexico or communities at high altitudes are good candidates. His plan for the summer is to learn Nahuatl before making any big moves. Apart from that, Josh will continue to research at his usual breakneck pace.

To begin such a conquest for authenticity seems like overkill on the surface, but ask yourself instead where else a 17 year-old composer of Josh’s knowledge would be taking his next steps in music. With a classical background so firmly rooted in academic understanding, it’s natural for someone to want to subvert the textbooks and focus instead on the humanistic understanding of things. “I’m going from the ground up,” he explains. “I don’t want to say abandon, but it is kind of an abandonment of classical music and classical instruments. I’m probably going to have to spend a few years immersed totally.”

Before I spoke with Josh, I wanted to ask him how he juggled his school life, his social media presence, and other errata of teenage living. After speaking with him, I realized that such subjects are beyond the point. Josh is the very definition of method-oriented composition. Very little in his world exists outside of his music. It’s true that he has some strides to make in terms of condensing his ideas into palatable language. However, this shortcoming remains in line with his general ethos. It’s a humbling and lovely experience to follow the logic he presents.

Josh’s methods and ideas behind those methods have a global feeling to them. Beneath the cracks of general, philharmonic composition lies an ocean of musical theory and academic explanation. Beneath the cracks of “Nawi Ollin” lies something deeper that not only connects the listener with Josh’s upbringing and philosophical interests, but with a broader sense of emotional affect that only the finest musical works conjure. If I can see falling leaves in my mind’s eye by just listening to the themes of nature in “Nawi Ollin,” I can’t imagine what I’ll be able to see when he begins putting his newer ideas to print. In Josh’s compositions, there’s a wormhole of emotions and wisdom that’s richer than looking up a dozen Wikipedia articles. There’s a connection to real people.


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Do Make Say Think ready their performances for situations outside the realm of normal listening. There are numerous songs over the ten minute mark. As such, most of their records offer a subtle, slow beckoning into the cabins, basements, and general cold-weather-avoidance locations that happen to double as a DMST studio. Their very first song with lyrics, ‘A With Living’, from their 2007 album You, You’re A History In Rust, squeaks by with quiet drums and scattered acoustic strums for several minutes before coalescing into anything resembling a head or chorus. Like a creepy, yet interesting childhood neighbor whose parents listened to Blue Oyster Cult, the band say “you’re welcome to come join us if you like.”

Ten years ago, You, You’re a History in Rust did exactly this with its production (not unlike many other Canadian mainstays like Stars, Arcade Fire and, most certainly, Godspeed You! Black Emperor). It was a record that extended Montreal’s penchant for churning out mesmerizing indie jazz performances over to Toronto. The drums and arrangements sound perfect. A huge list of friends show up to play horns and pianos. The dynamism in opening track ‘Bound to be That Way’ alone has more controlled fire than most bands put on a whole record. It’s not that DMST’s previous output didn’t share these qualities, it’s that it culminated here. The record has aged wonderfully.

DMST’s first new album since 2009, Stubborn Persistent Illusions, is excellent in a different way. Gone are the rustic looking, red wine-tasting moments of their 00s output. This is music for nature. No longer are DMST saying “Want to join us for something cool?” It’s now “Can you believe all the cool stuff out there!?”

A travel companion that mostly operates during the day (‘Horripilation’ is decidedly nocturnal), Illusions is a meditative journey. Its melodies are rapid fire, yet simple. Sibling tracks ‘Bound’ and ‘And Boundless’ represent an extending skyline you’d see in a nature film, whereas their climaxes are the part where there’s an epic chase between predator and prey. The 12 minutes that the tracks share repeatedly return to gleeful one and five chords strums that not only are produced wonderfully, but show how the band aren’t beyond modest compositions.

Since the guitars utilize such digestible melodies, the drums perform most of the musical dialogue. This is mostly done with multiple kits. The exception is ‘War on Torpor’, the grandest album opener in DMST’s catalogue, and the origin of the biting synths on ‘And Boundless’. It sets fire to the notion of the band putting out another sleepy record. Absent is the jazzy nuance of David Mitchell and James Payment’s usual dual performance; instead we get at 120bpm attack that could be found on a Sonic Youth release. It’s perfect fodder for the shimmering guitars that glow like a reef underneath it all.

Instead of worming their way into your ears, Illusions’ melodies are transparent. Sometimes this is unaffecting, like on the indulgent noodling of ‘As Far As the Eye Can See’, but usually it works wonders. The main riff of ‘Horripilation’ first arrives as a rhythmic exercise. Slowly but surely, other guitars and picking patterns absorb the idea, inviting the drums to join in the syncopation instead of the other way around. Usually a repetitious trick on a 10-minute song is played into a massive crescendo, but here DMST keep the pattern reeled in. With each passing section, there’s an expansion and option on the original melody. As much as I love long, drawn-out crescendos, ‘Horripilation’ magically holds attention without pandering to my love for Swans and Godspeed’s louder output. I feel like clapping whenever it ends.

The curtain of nature’s boundlessness is peeled back for ‘Her Eyes on the Horizon’. Like sunlight coming in a thrown-open window, the track juxtaposes a blast beat with a harmonious arrangement that has enough guitar and violin overdubs at the end to constitute an orchestra. And that’s really what this band feels like. They’re a well-insulated arsenal of sound.

With no lyrical content to distract from the themes, it’s just as hard to throw shade on Stubborn Persistent llusions as it is any other DMST record. So we’ll just skip it. This record reduces you to an infantile perception of the world around you. As a baby will be distracted if you keep its eyes absorbing new information, this record operates on ears. Just like there’s a music to the way certain visuals come together in a piece of art, there’s a visual component to the intricacies of the production on this record. Even if you can’t picture a landscape as complex as the arrangement of ‘War on Torpor’, you can at least catch a glimpse of some of the things in the foreground. The artwork functions this way as well, with its animal subjects moving about in a purgatory of crisp imagery. If you find yourself not seeing the whole picture, there’s plenty the band do to help you along the way.


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There’s a high degree of bias that comes to mind when people think of the trumpet. From that overly macho guy you knew who played it in high school to players of distinction, it’s generally received as an instrument that will not only play the melody, but will physically shove it down your ear drum. Just think for a second of all the dynamic trumpeters you know who aren’t Miles Davis. Do many others come to mind?

If you’re a bit lost on the question, it’s time you tuned your ears to the talents of Brandon Ridenour. At the age of 20, he joined The Canadian Brass, a hallmark group of modern players with exceptional abilities. With them, he tackled another unfortunate trope of the trumpet the idea that one can only be a great trumpeter if they can play “Flight of the Bumble Bee” at the proper tempo. Speaking with Ridenour last month, I asked him if he had any other benchmarks for quality trumpet playing besides “Bumble Bee.” “What would really impress me is if a trumpeter could play it in any key,” he says after a laugh. Although hearing the piece in a major key would be exceptional, Ridenour has aspirations beyond subduing outdated standards.

This brings us to another essential function of the wonderful work that Ridenour does for the classical genre. He wants to show audiences that the high brass sound can be more transitory than the blinding scales of “Bumble Bee.” “It’s gotten a bad rap,” explains Ridenour. “People are never expecting what I’d like them to receive. They always think they’re going to be getting a loud performance with the trumpet.” Take one listen to Ridenour’s game-changing album Fantasies and Fairy Tales, and you’ll see how he battles the stigma. The record is a calming conversation between trumpet and piano. Throughout, Ridenour and pianist Naomi Kudo engage in a musical dialogue well worth its title. “I wanted to do something big and daring like Robert Schumann’s Fairy Tale Pictures for violin and piano. I thought, ‘Why can’t trumpet players do it?’”

I felt a little bad fixating on an album that had been released in 2014, but it’s too beautiful a work for me to not want to discuss with its composer. Not only is the music affecting, but it has a boundlessness to it as the songs blend seamlessly into one another, which Ridenour and I both agree is a phenomenal way to perform given that life itself acts in this way. In the dreamlike state that Fantasies conjures, the thoughts and melodies of dreams stretch out to near infinity.

Such is a concept that drove our conversation: the through-composition that Ridenour fell for in the jazz and rock world and his goal to apply the same principles to classical. I tell him that I find comfort in old sets from The Grateful Dead or even modern acts like Animal Collective where there is a sonic bridge between songs and sections much like the ones found on Kind of Blue or Pharaoh Sanders’ Karma. Ridenour takes his time expanding on this style: “I used to be a big Radiohead fan, and Kid A is such a through-composed, complete work,” says Brandon. I ask where else he found inspiration. “[The HBO series] Mr. Show does that, too. Before you knew it, you were going through the whole show seamlessly. Sometimes this one character would be the transition into each new sketch.” Ridenour is among the few musicians who are able to replicate these transitions with sound alone. Fantasies clocks a whopping 28 tracks, but you can hear a consistent call-and-response between the piano and trumpet, as if one is literally saying to the other, “Would you like to expand on the melody I just performed?”

More recently, Ridenour has focused on his project Useful Chamber. I ask him if he took the name from the 2009 Dirty Projectors song of the same name. “Yeah, very good. I was listening to [their album Bitte Orca] a lot at the time the group was conceived. To me the band was very focused on collaborating in a cross-genre way, just making each instrument useful.”

Ridenour expanded upon how Useful Chamber works considering how many instruments and talents appear on a single song. You’ll find full string sections, multiple drummers, and a cabal of background singers and classically trained performers, all performing pop songs as arranged by Ridenour. “On paper, it might sound totally weird and self-absorbed, working with these composers that have nothing to do with one another. It shouldn’t work. In all honesty, it’s a terrible idea!” His humble laughter is one of his best qualities, but the project puts out material that is definitely worth bragging about.

For example, A Dream Within A Dream is the most fully-realized work the project has produced. Ridenour and some two dozen other players put pop songs through a filter of noble, acoustic instruments. “The pop world is getting more electronic-based, and we’re losing the sound of natural instruments.” Here, Ridenour is giving back to classical music, whose modern appeal might lie in the glamorous Mozart in the Jungle instead of Mozart the original. “It’s more about the drama than the actual music,” laments Ridenour.

That all being said, Ridenour is far from the kind of person who’s resolved to complain. Through projects like Useful Chamber, he strives to reconcile the antiquated notion that an opera or recital is going to be too boring to stay awake for. He takes from the jazz and pop world only the elements that are needed to place orchestral music on a higher plane: “Whether you’re conscious of it or not, things just flow from one thing to the next. You’re never really in one place then just immediately in another… Life has more connecting flow from one event to another.” With such a worldview, it’s easy to see how his compositions are so good.

To bring up Miles again, who seamlessly dovetailed modal jazz and blues, Ridenour is taking a dialogue about classical music and moving it into a room where Sketches of Spain and Yes’ Close to the Edge are playing simultaneously. It seems an awkward transition at first, but looking through the cracks provides a lot of creative common ground for any arrangement. “There are people that ask me ‘Do you really go to classical music concerts?’ They’re worried they’re going to get bored.” With the creative juxtapositions Ridenour has spent the better part of a decade constructing, both musically and affectionately, it becomes easy to see more of classical music’s lasting power than your perfunctory holiday pops concert. His compositions prove that the trumpet, and classical music at large, have a greater place outside their stereotypes. These are instruments of nobility. They make contributions solely in service of artistic expression, no matter what genre is at play.


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[This took a bit too long to post here. The original publication can be found here:]

Focus. In Marfa, Texas, you can get lost in the sheer volume of culture. During Mexican Summer and Ballroom Marfa’s 4th annual Marfa Myths festival, no art form is overlooked. You’re free to spend hours at the Chinati Foundation, wander 30 minutes north to this lovely place, see the bands (with no schedule conflicts!), or bask in the minimal landscapes that made artist Donald Judd abandon his life in New York in 1971 to live in the husbandry of southwest Texas full-time.

Indeed, Judd’s work reflects focus even if you haven’t got tendencies toward visual art. Right down to the perfect box shape of his preserved property in Northwest Marfa, everything has an angular simplicity to it. Looking between the huge rock collection that makes up the yard and the soft skyline just above, it becomes difficult to tell which side is which. Around the corner is a line of Cottonwood trees running parallel to the ten foot concrete boundaries. I look at the symmetry here for some time, and realize that Judd’s work is the foundation for everything I’ll be seeing this weekend. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any other exhibits. I don’t feel anxious about the trip back home or making sure I get a good meal in before Saturday night’s enormous showcase. I don’t feel lost.

Only 2000 people live in Marfa, and none of the locals seem too bothered by the festival droves. The dive bars still host a small handful of locals, and don’t get overcrowded with commerce. On the street, I hear people talking about how the restaurants in town will likely run out of food by the end of the weekend. Most cities would implode from advertisements, heavy crowds, and a cacophony that hardly suffices as vacation. Marfa shrugs off these tropes and remains majestically unmoved.

There are no events on Thursday before Roky Erickson’s evening set, so I’ve ample time to focus. I jog the easy four miles around the city limits, making sure to stop and take in a handful of sights. There’s rhythmic bird sounds I’ve never heard. I notice that most of the intersections lack signage. Dogs bark at me, and are seldom alone. Since it’s so calming, there’s a chance I’ll end up running way too far. But, there’s a festival to experience, and I’ve now given myself license to let it overwhelm me.

I exchange words with Mexican Summer staff and the multidisciplinary artists opening up all manner of shops and installations around town. I don’t pay for a drink all day, but I don’t get drunk because that’s not the goal of this event. There’s too much to appreciate. Before I know it, I’m watching Erickson, one of psychedelic music’s forefathers perform with a voice that seems hardly as aged as his appearance would suggest. Julia Holter and the boys from Dungen and Woods are casually engaged with fans in the lobby. Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood is seen running from the lobby into the venue as Erickson begins ‘I Walked with a Zombie’, singing along because she’s a fan of music just like everyone that’s come here to see her and others.

Dungen and Woods by Zackery Michael

The more you think about it, the more it makes sense that intimacy is an obvious outgrowth for America’s somewhat stagnant festival culture. Even the word “festival” is an inadequate description of what goes on during Marfa Myths. 2017 has seen Coachella and SXSW wrapped in controversy, thus detracting from something that is supposed to be an inherent source of joy. In the shadow of something as harmonious as Marfa Myths, the excess of Coachella loses its flair. My favorite artists are in the crowd with me, and are perfectly willing to exchange words as well as music.

Friday is a little busier. I put up another 3 miles and severely underestimate the Texan sun. This is fatigue that my Minnesotan body hasn’t felt since the summer. Zomes’ set at 5pm sounds a lot like this feeling. Theirs is a hazy vibe, playing songs that generally contain between just two or three chords. Their keyboards sound like they’re coming out of a Leslie speaker which enhances the kaleidoscopic passages. The songs each end somewhat abruptly, and several minutes have gone by in the blink of an eye. Afterward, I tell the duo about the pairing of their music and the landscapes around us. They’re flattered, and inform me that they’re actually from Baltimore. Even sounds and feelings that gestate in cities nestle themselves into the ethos of Marfa. The drones are two-way highways between nature and art.

Lonnie Holley is no exception to Marfa’s easy grasp. He croons and howls into the open air during his performance outside Ballroom Marfa. This is a man that cares little for standard song structure. He spits a line or two about “the beautiful people of Marfa,” and the crowd reacts warmly. He details a dreamscape where America is changing for the better, but still “wakes up in a fucked up America.” Both iterations of the word “up” have a particular bite to them, though his voice gives off more wisdom than anger. As his words echo in the desert, I think of how towns and events like Marfa Myths reinvigorate my sense of wanderlust and calm. This pocket of culture has no corporate sponsorship, nor does it reflect anything that doesn’t promote its art and surroundings.

Tonstartssbandht by Zackery Michael

The long form song structures of Tonstartssbandht observe every inch of the exploratory live sets of early Animal Collective or even The Grateful Dead. Brothers Andy and Edwin White come from Orlando, and have a hugely impressive improvisational connection. As their consciousnesses connect to each other, mine reaches out. I’m moving through my time in Marfa as they would an extended solo section or vocal break. Once again, it’s hard for me to believe that their music could be at all separated from Marfa, but then I remember just how huge this country is, and how many other cities are being represented here in the desert. Sorcerer will easily be one of the finest records of the year.

After some hearty bean and potato tacos from the Boyz to Men food truck, the droves move slightly outside of town to El Cosmico campground for Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids. This is a more standard “music festival” event, where people are paying for drinks and dancing in an outdoor sound tent. That being said, the performing artists are still just as much a part of the event as us lowly concertgoers. I speak at length with Zomes’ Asa Osborne about this. I’m quite sensitive to any sense of disconnect between performer and audience, and share with him a Jeff Tweedy quote concerning this. He gives a mirthful laugh, and agrees that music can lose its healing components as artist separates from observer.

A friend and I whip up some bean and egg tacos before hitting the streets on Saturday. We walk by a surprise Idris Ackamoor show outside of Marfa Public Radio. We buy some trinkets and errata at Pure Joy. We see Julia Holter’s trademark smirk as she sings minimalist versions of some of her songs on a grand piano. She’s kind and flattered to be playing before Pharaoh Sanders, and the lilt of her gait makes something as mournful as ‘Betsy on the Roof’ sound hymnal.

Her grace is exchanged by that of Sanders, who exudes his legendary status with each passing moment. Though he spends the first 10 minutes of his set trying to adjust his monitor mix with the engineer, it doesn’t take away from the experience. Sanders spends much of his time on stage without playing, but observing the sounds like the rest of us in the crowd. He starts a clap several times. This is the free jazz of the sixties happening in 2017. If music had a physical body, we’d have seen it come out of Sanders’ band and enter our generation’s psyche. Then again, the “if” in that sentence isn’t necessary.

Jenny Hval by Mexican Summer

A few hours later is the largest showcase of the weekend. From 7 to 11:30pm, Cate Le Bon, Allah Lahs, Jenny Hval, Perfume Genius and Weyes Blood all play wonderful sets. Although a stacked bill, there aren’t many ways to describe the music without the context of the venue. An Italian restaurant by day, The Capri houses a large garage where the sound gets better with each song. Just beyond is about a dozen campfires where people talk through the evening. I speak with attendees from Austin, New York, Denver, and Bloomington, Illinois. Each of these conversations has a similar context to them: no one can quite wrap their heads around the trailblazing qualities of the festival. There are almost zero VIP areas. There are just as many conversations going on with fans of the music as there are with performers. We get right up close for Hval’s moving set of experimental pop, and she proves that last year’s Blood Bitch is a record that will stand the test of time.

The wind picks up something fierce, but the crowd remains resilient. Here lies another testament to how unmoved Marfa is in the eyes of all these sounds and feelings. Nature isn’t holding back for any of us, and working through it to see Perfume Genius perform songs off Too Bright pays dividends to all of us out here; bracing against the rapid temperature drop and our own tired bodies.

The next and final day, I’m almost all out of room to absorb more shows. I jog two miles down highway 2810, and open my lungs to the vastness around me. The sun screams down, but the wind fights back. It’s not that my usual tree-filled surroundings react whenever I walk by, but rather that these landscapes react so little. Even as I yell out the words to the music coming through my headphones, nothing changes. Out here where there seems to be so much nothingness, I found humility and surroundings well worth imitating.

I turn back and head toward Marfa. Myths is officially over, but we hear about an unofficial closing party at a large house on the northwest side of town. The people at the party are one third Mexican Summer employees, one third performers and artists from the festival, and one third regular attendees. We blare some Sensations’ Fix, Blue Oyster Cult, and even Rick James into the evening. Most of the party is dancing, and the rest are at least tapping their feet. Even at night can you see the vastness of the country, and I take the opportunity to step out and observe the stars one last time.

Such is the first Sunday night of a music festival where I haven’t felt remorseful about its end. I no longer think of Marfa as unmoved as much as sagacious. In a testament to the resilience of nature that Donald Judd once found so striking, our surroundings have only changed by a handful of extra tourists and beer cans. Even if Texas’ focused and meditative qualities weren’t at the front of our minds, we at least had the reverie of music’s transitive powers to chaperone us through what modern festivals should be lining up to imitate. It’s as if the town not only shrugged, but laughed as we arrived four days ago. We were left with no choice but to laugh back.


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