“We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forgot.”
—G.K. Chesterton, “The Ethics of Elfland”
When I moved to Boston, I moved into a house with six musicians and two visual artists. My friend Chad had a lathe in the basement and a small sculptor’s studio. My friend Kate kept the top floor filled with sketches. My boyfriend had a small carpenter’s space in the basement beside Chad’s lathe that was always full of wood shavings.
All over the four-story house were guitars and keyboards and drum kits and sheet music and song-writing notes left lying around and a never-ending supply of cords and amps and unidentifiable (to me) percussion instruments, shakers, and tambourines.
Most of my first year in Boston was spent traveling across New England to see my friends play shows. I learned how to “load in” instruments through the alleys behind venues and learned how to survive on the communal complimentary nachos and bourbon my friends were given between their sets.
All of it, from start to finish, was an experience I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to live on the East Coast. I didn’t expect to spend so much time with musicians. I didn’t expect to fall so much in love with what they were doing that I would become a kind of evangelist for their songs.
Music has always been an enormous part of my life and my identity, but apart from a few random concerts growing up (Amy Grant, Tom Petty, Natalie Merchant) and the occasional and mostly unremarkable standard issue blues or rock bands at bars in Jackson, I’d never really spent a considerable amount of time around live music.
But Boston broke something open in me. Boston made me remember that I had forgotten some primordial joy in myself, and in that strange alchemy of live music so incredibly well done, there were moments when I suddenly felt as if I was both 28 and 16 all at the same time and that the only thing that mattered was the ecstasy and freedom of driving around with my friends, unfettered and wild and alive.
I felt as if I was returning to myself in all the pain of adolescence and in all the pain of all the years that followed and redeeming that pain and being redeemed all at once.
I am grateful for that time, even though it was often very difficult. So now when I am afforded the rare opportunity of getting to see my Boston friends play again, I do whatever it takes to get there.
As luck would have it, my friends Nathan Johnson and Katie Chastain (aka Faux Fix), along with the phenomenal Jonny Rodgers (who was just called “stunning” by the New York Times for his performance at the Ecstatic Music Festival at the Kaufman Center), came to play a show at my boyfriend’s nonprofit in Chicago two weeks ago.
So I bought a plane ticket, took a personal day, and made sure I got there, because when those three people get together to make something, it’s worth missing whatever you have to miss just to place yourself in a position to see and to hear it, not only because it transports you to a beautiful place, but because the beauty lingers and then becomes transformative.
After an hour-long show, I am somehow more fully myself than when the show began. And that kind of transformation doesn’t vanish when the show ends. It continues to bear fruit both in memory and into a future of more hopeful days.
Nathan, Katie, and Johnny have been on a month-long living room tour across the United States to launch Faux Fix’s new album, My Antagonist, which has been on a near-constant state of repeat in my car and at my office and in my home, pretty much anywhere I can listen to it for the last two weeks.
It repays every new listen with some new nuance or some new bit of beauty, and beyond that, it’s just so much fun to listen to. If you could see me right now happily dancing at my chair in my office at school, you would see ample evidence to support this claim. I like the CD so much I can’t decide which song is my favorite. Every next song is my favorite until the song after it begins.
I’ve written about Nathan and Katie in multiple blogs for Good Letters over the years, about how much they have inspired me personally as well as professionally. So that’s not news, and if you want cinematic evidence of their genius, check out Nathan’s scores on the films Brick and The Brothers Bloom, as well as September’s upcoming Looper.
Or check out their work with Son Lux on NPR’s All Songs Considered website. Or listen to Katie’s solo album Firecracker and pay special attention to the moment in the titular song when The Fray’s Isaac Slade begins playing the piano and Zach Johnson’s drums kick in (if you want further evidence of Zach’s genius check out the drums on Faux Fix’s song “Lamplighter”).
I’m neither a music critic nor an art critic, but I can tell you empirically that if you get the chance to see them, even if it’s a few hours away, you should just get in your car and start driving, because for one hour, you will be in a beautiful place and afterwards, you will be better and more alive for having been there.
And if all you need is a reason to dance happily at your desk, then My Antagonist will deliver.
But as Levar Burton once famously said, “No reason to take my word for it.”
Listen for yourself.