Posts Tagged ‘ punk rock ’

ART ASKS GOOD QUESTIONS

I went to see some bands play this past week at Flint Local 432, the local  all ages art space in my city. I had been looking forward to seeing a band from Atlanta called The Wild. I’d been listening to their record, Set Ourselves Free, for the last year or so. The record is good but it didn’t really sink in all that deeply. Seeing them live really took their music to the next level for me. The energy and emotion came through in a big way even though there were only 30 other people in the room.

One song in particualr struck me in a powerful way. Here’s a snippet of some lyrics to their song “The Saddest Thing I Ever Saw”:

       on the corner there once stood a church full of sound, you could hear songs escape at night. they’d sing praise be to him for what we have built… a home, a community, a life. but it broke. now stands a high-rise. I can’t take back what I’ve done. so we danced around the room to an old familiar tune, and I looked deep in your eyes, and I thought about the fact that we are lucky for what we have, but I wonder what’s the price.

For me, good art asks good questions. It leads to reflection, about self and the world around us. The Wild helped me to ask some good questions the other night.

As I stood bobbing my head to the music, I wondered about the ways that our choices shape our world.How do our shopping habits impact our sense of community? How does the shape of the spaces we inhabit influence our thinking about things like security and safety? How often do we abandon something good for something quick and easy? Summing up the question that The Wild asks in the song; what’s the cost of what we’ve got?

Good art doesn’t always have to give you the answers. Sometimes just getting the conversation going is enough. It allows us the opportunity to search out the answers for ourselves. I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I’m grateful for the encouragement to wrestle with them. I’m grateful for art that asks good questions.

How has art encouraged reflection about your life or community? 

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THE IN-BETWEEN TIMES: JASON GUITARSTRING AND THE MOTH AND RUST BAND

Click on the album cover to listen and download!

So this here journey started sometime around 2003 when I found my life taking a major turn when I began my journey as a follower of Christ. I was playing in a band called South Bay Bessie at the time and really was having the time of my life. I was making fun punk rock music and playing lots of show with the band. I had just gotten married so that was an adventure in itself. I was apart of a church community, Wildwind Community Church. I was loving life.

As my faither journey continued, a batch of news song started springing up in me. The songs were focused on my new life with God and didn’t really fit with what we were doing in South Bay Bessie, a lighthearted band that took cues from the Ramones and AC/DC. These new songs became my own expression of worship. I still played and wrote like I was in a punk band but with an acoustic guitar. I used what I had to connect with God in a way that meant something to me.

Just for fun, I recorded some of the songs on my cassette 4-track recorder for posterity’s sake and never really planned to make them public. But this all changed shortly after I left South Bay Bessie. I still desired to play out and share my music with folks in my community but didn’t really want to put in the kind of time that being in a semi-full-time band called for. I figured lugging around my acoustic guitar and showing up at a few open mic nights on my own schedule sounded like the rhythm I was looking for.

I got involved in the open mic scene around Flint for a little while. It was a lot of fun. After a while, I had made friends with Ron Moore who was hosting a regular open mic night at the local Borders store. He asked me to fill-in as the host a few times when he was on the road playing gigs of his own. It was a neat scene and I decided to release my 4-track recording as a CDEP called “This Basement Sanctuary” as a way to connect with people at the shows and share a little bit of my story.

When I was getting more involved in this scene  and writing more songs my old friend Tom Wyatt approached me about recording in his new home studio. He offered me some free recording time if I’d be willing to be the guinea pig for his new equipment and space. So in January of 2006 or 2007 (time gets all mushy for me when I try to recall how these events unfolded) I went to Tom’s house to record a full-length album. If was free, so I figured, “what the heck?”

I laid down some basic tracks and vocals in a day and drove home late that night. I was exhausted but beaming as I thought about the prospects of giving shape to my new life as an acoustic musician. That night, at about two in the morning my home phone rang. The person on the other end of the line was a social worker from  Genysys Hospital in Grand Blanc, Michigan. She called to share the news that my mom, who had been on dialysis for a couple years, came into the hospital earlier in the evening not feeling well and had passed away. Talk about throwing a wrench in your plans. My life took a shift for a time and I couldn’t find the time to get back in to the studio to finish up.

Over the next year, I didn’t really play out much apart from a couple shows Tom was putting together for his church, The Salvation Army’s Flint Citadel. We thought it would be fun to put together a full band for these shows. Tom offered to play drums and I rounded up a few other folks. My friend Zac, who I worked with a Mott College Bookstore, with my played bass. My wife Lisa sang with me and we asked our friend, Tony, from church/high school to play tuba and bells for the shows. We rehearsed a couple times and played to a combined total of 15 people but it still was a lot of fun.

So the next January came and we decided to redo a few of the songs we recorded with a full-band so we booked a day and headed back in to give it a go. It took a little longer to get everything set up and recorded with all the extra musicians but  we still only spent about a day in the studio. We just did less songs this time around. On the way home from the studio that night, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous, remembering what had happened the year before. And fate would have it I was nervous for a good reason. I made a left turn just as another car was running through a red light and smashed up my car to the tune of $1300  and a hike in insurance rates for the next year. I continue to get nervous that tragedy is going to strike every January but keep pressing on anyway.

A couple weeks passed and Tom sent me some rough mixes. He had done some “producing” jazzing up the songs with ambient guitar sounds and added drums to some of the songs from the session we did the previous year. Some of the “producing” was a little much for me but it was cool to have someone to collaborate with in this way. I noted songs that I wanted to redo vocals on, or at least clean up my mistakes and big-ideas-gone-wrong a bit. We talked about when we could get together to finish the record. We had both invested so much time that we just wanted to be done with it.

The next round of studio time never happened though. Tom’s computer that we used for the recording crashed and he lost the original track files that could be edited and remixed. He was at least able to salvage some of the rough mix files from another hard drive but several of the songs were still missing. Luckily, I had uploaded the missing songs to my MySpace (What’s that?) page and was recently able to retrieve them by using third party software to (ahem) borrow them from myself since Myspace will let you upload your songs but they won’t let you have them back.

So here we are five year later and I’m releasing The In-Between Times. I was originally planning to dump the whole project since I couldn’t fix the imperfections or do a final mix. I reconsidered recently as I’ve begun thinking about my next musical project. I just didn’t want to leave this undone before moving on to the next thing.

The In-Betwwen Times was recorded during bits and pieces of stolen time in 2007, 2008, and 2009. It was never officially finished. While the sounds and performances are not perfect, this album gives you a picture of a particular time and a particular group of people having fun with creativity and collaboration.

I’m giving it away on a “pay what you want” basis. You can even download it for free if you want to. If you do decide to buy the album in the next two weeks (until March 9th, 2012) I’ll be giving all of the proceeds to an organization called SEED and My Brother’s Keeper. SEED is a ministry that faciliatates sustainable business development for groups of people needing opportunities. Check out their website to get a glimpse of the awesome work they are doing.  My Brother’s Keeper is a shelter that provides a meal, a bed, and hope for homeless men  in Flint. I hope you will consider supporting these important organizations.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my project. I hope you’ll share it with a friend over the next couple of week.

 

IN THE PRESS: FLINT LOCAL 432 INTERVIEW

I spent a few minutes talking with Scott Atkinson of the Flint Journal about the re-opening of the Flint Local 432. Flint Local 432 is the all ages concert space where I have spent nearly a third of all of my weekends on this earth. This place is important for our city and I’m so glad I had the chance to be a part of the conversation surrounding the club’s re-opening this year. Here’s what I had to say:

Jason Kotarski, 32, is an associate pastor for Wildwind Community Church in Flint Township and said when he was younger, the Local gave him a place to fit in.

“I didn’t really feel like I had a place, and the local gave me that. They were just normal guys playing guitars making music of their own and that was really compelling to me,” he said.

Kotarski now volunteers on Saturdays, cleaning the place to help Whitcomb and other workers keep making progress.

“It just really made a difference in my life and I think it’s affected me in such a huge way that I wanted to make sure that other kids like me have a place to go in their spare time,” he said.

You can read the rest of the article and learn more about Flint Local 432 here.

A FEW THOUGHTS ON CREATIVITY

Do you love ideas? I do. Almost to a fault.

When I hear a good idea, see a good film, play a good game, or watch daring dreamers bring something new into existence, I’m in awe. I’m kind of an ideas junkie. I love watching people explore their passion and make something out of it. There are so many ideas out there we don’t even have to think for ourselves if we don’t want to.

At different times in my life, I’ve been a collector. I’ve collected comic books, punk rock records, Star Wars junk, and I currently have a couple cabinets filled with obscure board games. If you’ve ever collected anything, you know that there is so much stuff out there to get into that it could consume your life.

Just out of high school, I worked in a record store. Every two weeks, when I received my paycheck, I would go through the same ritual. Set aside $50 for gas. Set aside $50 for going to shows at the local punk rock club. Spend the rest on the music I’d been saving under the counter at the store, utilizing my employee discount, of course.

Some would say I wasted a lot of money. I’m probably one of those people to some extent. But what I gained was inspiration. I connected with music.  A lot of the times I was just a consumer of others’ ideas. But at some point, inspiration moved me to action. It made me want to create something so that I could express my own ideas and even try on some different identities for a while. Being creative, I learned a little bit about who I was, about what made me feel alive.

I’ve played in bands and released some records (even  sold a few copies, too).  I cared so much about my music that it became the focus of my life.  If I’m honest, I know that the world would have been fine without my contribution but there was something special about putting an idea into action. It made a difference in me. It stretched me outside of the limits of what was comfortable for me. Writing this blog has done the same thing. Other creative endeavors have pushed my limits as well.

My latest creation. A strategy card game.

Creativity is exciting. When ideas come to life it can change the world, even if it is just a little corner of it.  Sometimes, maybe the only change that happens is in the one who is being creative. Other times that inspiration lies dormant and good ideas remain in the realm of the abstract. I think this is where the line is drawn between consumers and creators.

Ideas have to come to life in order to make a difference. Will you be a consumer or a creator (maybe “co-creator” would be a better word)? What’s your idea and what difference will it make?

I don’t want to simply soak up the ideas of others’ in this life. I want to be swept up into movement that brings life.

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