2009

Running. Out. Of. Steam. This project is brutal, especially when I'm behind. I should have given myself a week for each year. 

Our first night sleeping in our new house was Jan. 1, 2009. We technically had it a few days prior, but as it turned out the water didn't work and we had to fix a lot of stuff. The first month or two I was just working on the house, working at the restaurant, and simultaneously picking up some website work from Tim. In February, I saw the Appleseed Cast live for the first time with some co-workers. I wasn't as familiar with their new tracks, but they played maybe my favorite song by them, Fishing the Sky. 

In April, we went to Disneyland with some friends. No music story here, but a great time. Likewise, in March, Nathan and Matt and I drove up to visit our friend Jeanie in Moscow, Idaho. We probably listened to music in the car, but I don't know what. My guess is a fair amount of Wilco. Wilco (the Album) wasn't out yet, but I was listening to a lot of fan favorite Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, as well as maybe my favorite, A Ghost Is Born. 

I was kind of in the middle of a pseudo alt-country phase, that included the Replacements as well as semi-unrelated but kind of related music from Billy Bragg. In college I listened to (obviously) the Mermaid Avenue albums, and really got into "Back To Basics", which is sort of a collection of all of his early releases. It's my favorite of his albums, but at this point in time I was listening to a lot of "Talking With The Taxman about Poetry", especially this song:

The biggest event of 2009, musical or otherwise, was my engagement to Emily. We had a weekend trip at a cottage booked in May, and a few months prior I ordered the ring and had it kept at Noah's house until I could make it all happen. I made two playlists for the trip, one for the drive over:

And another to listen to walking around on the beach before I proposed:

Basically they are both just sort of highlight reels from our musical history together, with a couple newer songs I just wanted to hear thrown in. 

Short story short, it worked! We were engaged. 

As summer neared, it became readily apparent that even half time work doing web development would be more financially beneficial than continuing to work in the restaurant, so I gave ample notice and started to phase that out. Sometimes I still miss the simplicity of the kitchen, and the ability to just leave everything there at the end of the day, but I can't argue that I'd be happier there or that it would be better for me. As sort of a going away present, some co-workers bought me a ticket to see weird piano dude Hauschka. He basically modifies his piano heavily so that different things happen when he hits the keys, and adds a lot of weird other organic effects and instrumentation in. You might like this video.

So I had quit my job, and summer was upon me. There wasn't quite a full time load of work for me to do, which meant I got to have a lot of fun. We went to Bend for the fourth of July, and at the last second I decided to stick around and go on a 4 day rafting trip with Nathan and his new girlfriend (JESS) and some other folks. There was no music, lets move on.

In early August, Emily and I got to see the Flaming Lips for the first (and only, to date) time out at Edgefield. They were on the cusp or releasing their heavy noise-fest "Embryonic", but the live show was captivating and they played a wide variety of songs from their storied history. The great thing about this show is that a free download of the show's audio came packaged with the ticket, so I can forever re-live the best moments. My favorite part was a semi-unreleased song (I think it's just on the soundtrack to their documentary) called "Enthusiasm For Life Defeats Existential Fear: Part 1". The song is great, but lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about the title alone.

I feel like all of my favorite things- my favorite music, films, comedy, friends, etc all share this same "enthusiasm for life". It's probably the only categorization where you can clearly put (for example) Andrew WK, Joe Vs. The Volcano, Sigur Ros, and Futurama. Looking at it through that lens, I feel like I can sort of start to make sense of what actually draws me to anything. Especially when confronted with "existential fear", which gives me some trouble from time to time. I'm still processing this idea a bit, but at least at this point it's sort of the running theory on how to approach 30 and beyond. Watch the video.

"Enthusiasm For Life Defeats Existential Fear" The Flaming Lips HD 09/18/2009 from Jeremy Sewell on Vimeo.

A few weeks later, I got to go to another big outdoor ampitheater show when Ween came to the Les Schwab in Bend, the day before Kim and Griffin's wedding. Emily had a lot of rehearsal duties that day, so it was a perfect opportunity to catch a show that I otherwise probably wouldn't have made a huge effort to make it to. The show was entertaining, noisy, and the crowd was on drugs and intense. I don't know if I can categorize the show as "great", and it's sort of part of the hesitation I have with Ween in general. There are songs I love, songs I tolerate, and songs (and whole albums) that I don't "get" or enjoy. Sometimes it's funny and interesting to be weird for the sake of being weird, but you're never going to completely win over my heart that way. 

Not even a full week later, we all shipped down for another glorious Strawberry. This is maybe my favorite music year we had there. We had heard a few Avett Brothers songs at this point, and though their live show didn't entirely win us over, it was the beginning of getting into them. We also got to see Greensky Bluegrass for the first time, and their covers of Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson songs. But most importantly, this was the first time we ever had the pleasure of listening to Joe Pug.

When you're at Strawberry and an unknown artist is playing in the early evening, the safest thing to do is to just hang out at camp and listen to it on the radio. It's pretty lazy, but the odds are it's going to be pleasant enough to be nice background music and not quite good enough to wish you were down sitting in a lawn chair watching it. But a few songs into Joe Pug's set, we were sensing something more. By the time it was nearly over, we were in full regret mode and ran down to catch the end of it. 

Joe Pug is a young singer songwriter dude out of Chicago, who writes lyrically dense and moving folk songs and early on kind of reminded us of Bob Dylan. I don't mean to say that he was borrowing or emulating Dylan in any way, I think mostly I just got the same sense of urgency from his lyrics (and guitar and harmonica playing), but I hadn't been moved by folk music like this in a long time. Hymn 101 is still one of my favorite songs ever written.

That October we got a new album from The Mountain Goats, as well as a somewhat surprise second release from Appleseed Cast offshoot folk band "The Old Canes". I loved their first album in college, and this one is every bit as good. We made the trek down to Eugene to see them live at Sam Bonds Garage. This video isn't from our show, but it looked a lot like this. 

That fall we also saw the Mountain Goats (again, like we do every year essentially), as well as the Swell Season (the touring act of the two musicians from the film Once). I almost wrote about seeing that movie in 2007 before going to Europe, but couldn't find a good way to work it in. They were fantastic live, despite my distaste for the Crystal Ballroom, and my absolute highlight was Glen Hansard's solo performance of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. This video is from the show I was at.

Two other things briefly- in October, we went to New York to visit Becky and Jason again. Walking around some art museum we came across a music installation where I heard this song for the first time, which is always super captivating.

Finally, I think this was the last year of the iPod I got in 2006. I just booted it up again and it had a playlist from the party that we hosted for the future members of our Wedding party in October, which helps me place a few things I was listening to. The playlist for this year includes a lot of that, as well as a ton of random things that I happened to be listening to this year that I was not able to mention. 

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