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Okkervil River, Sara, and Me - Or Why It Pays To Put It Out There On Twitter

Every relationship has a soundtrack. Mine and Sara’s is made up of various bands, occasional screaming, kitchen clatter, Harmontown podcasts, and the relatively new sound of Jack Henry laughing and/or crying.

One of the bands that has been there since the beginning is Okkervil River.

Sara introduced me to the band. It was 2005 and we were circling each other cautiously; feeling each other out, both of us trying to determine if the other one was a safe place to land.

Sara stepped out on the limb first and asked me to go with her to an Okkervil River show in Louisville.

A few weeks later we drove to Louisville in a van we borrowed from my parents. My buddy Paul rode along. For some reason Sara’s ex boyfriend was at the show and decided to hang out with us.

I remember lots about that night. I remember the band counting off songs in unison. I remember the trumpet player playing weird ambient sounds into a mic through an old tape deck. I remember the entire band singing the final lines of the closing number acapella. I remember every song fighting it’s way out of lead singer Will Sheff like a death rattle (in a good way). It was one of my favorite shows ever.

On the ride home, Sara and I took turns playing each other songs on our respective iPods (To this day hearing Killian’s Red by Nada Surf takes me back to that night, rocketing down I64 in my parent’s minivan). Paul sat quitely in the back.

Later that night I kissed Sara for the first time in the hallway of her apartment, a foot away from her roommate’s door.

Fastforward almost nine years, a wedding, new jobs, a couple of houses and the arrival of a tiny, strong-willed Sesame Street enthusiast. Sara’s mom got us tickets to an Okkervil River show in Louisville for my birthday. I was excited. It would be a nice little trek down memory lane for Sara and me.

Last night, the night before the show, we got a phonecall from the venue saying the show was cancelled. “Construction delays.” The band was playing in Indianapolis that night, however, and sent a bus to Louisville to pick up any fans who wanted to come to that show - FREE OF CHARGE. How awesome is that? Sara and I couldn’t make it, though.

I was totally bummed. I lamented on Twitter:

Cue Will Sheff and the following conversation:

Pretty freaking awesome, huh?

So tonight, Sara and I got to sit in a little room with 30 or so public radio donors and listen to one of our foundational bands give it all they’ve got.

Nine years later, they are still one of our favorite bands. More polished. Not as raw. Excellent players. Heart felt. More than that, though, it was so nice of them to reach out to us and offer us this experience.

If you’re not familiar with the band, check ‘em out:

A lot of people will post a link to a video and tell you it’s the greatest thing on the internet, but this really is. Seriously.

March Reading

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story - Sean Howe

I love comics. Comics are my lifelong obsession. A lot of my earliest memories involve comics. So, reading Sean Howe’s behind the scenes history of Marvel Comics was kind of a no brainer for me. I’m always interested to see how sausage gets made - and when the sausages in question are stuff like the Secret Wars mini-series I read when I was in elementary school, or the Heroes Reborn stories that simultaneously excited and annoyed me in my twenties, it’s all the more engaging.

As an adult I’m not at all surprised to read about the editorial machinations, economic considerations, and disillusioned freelancers that are all a part of the process. But also not surprised at the fiercely independent, free-thinking writers and artists determined to turn disposable entertainment and trash culture into something meaningful and real. Comics, man!

Show Your Work - Austin Kleon

I loved Austin Kleon’s first book on creativity: Steal Like An Artist. It changed the way I think about the act of creation. I bought copies to give to co-workers and interns. I was obviously excited to see what his second offering was all about. Share Your Work is all about how to tell your stories to people; about how to get your work seen. Not just seen in the sense of galleries or published material - but seen in the sense of networking with other artists, sharing your process, and tapping into relational resources.

Steal Like An Artist had an immediate, easily applied effect on what I do. I’m still figuring out how to integrate the lessons of Share Your Work, but believe there’s definitely something to be learned. Also, the book has quotes from Dan Harmon and comic book writer, Brian Michael Bendis - and I kind of get off on confluence, so…

Present Schock - David Rushkoff

Months ago, comic writer, Warren Ellis, posted the cover of this book on Twitter or something. I was immediately taken with the cover design - so much so, that I tried to work some of it’s elements into a motion graphics project I was working on. A couple months later, Rushkoff was on WTF with Marc Maron talking about the book. I took these appearances from such different sources as a sign from the universe and checked out the book.

Rushkoff’s description of Present Shock, a state created by the inability to completely reconcile our digital lives with our physical lives seems at once obvious and revelatory. He takes the nebulous worries we all have about the effects of social media, economic decline, and twenty four hour news cycles and gives them form - and even suggests some ways to deal with them.

Saga: Volume Three - Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga is a critical darling and fan favorite - and deservedly so. It’s an unapologetically sci-fi story about family, and bounty hunters, and war, and the opposite of war (it’s not peace). This particular volume seems to deal a lot with letting go of the past. Vaughan has the ability to move seamlessly between moments of genuine-feeling familial warmth and frank portrayals of violence and sexuality. Despite their graphic nature, the scenes don’t come off as exploitive or simply there to titilate. They’re integral to the story. They’re grounded and inevitable. Kind of like in real life.

If it’s not obvious from the following paragraph, Saga isn’t for kids. At all. Not just because of the violence and sexual content - but also because it’s pretty heavy in places. That heaviness is nicely counterbalance, though, by snapshots of hope and redemption. Like this scene between a former slave girl and abuse victim and a cat that can detect lies:

Beautifully written, beautifully drawn. I cried after I read that. Not just cried. Wept. Seriously. Don’t tell anybody. Or do.

That’s what I read in March. What’d you read?