“Still I found myself glancing at the paintings and then looking at them. “The Potato Eaters.” “The Cornfield with a Lark.” “The Ploughed Field at Auvers.” “The Pear Tree.” Within two minutes—and for the first time in three weeks—I was calm, reassured. Reality had been confirmed.”
John Berger, “The Production of the World,” The Sense of Sight
The first time I read that essay, I was in my 20s. I didn’t know it then, but Berger’s words about how in a moment of profound existential dread, looking at van Gogh’s paintings had helped him find his place in the world again, would resonate for the rest of my life. I too have found solace in art in countless moments in my life, but more than that, Berger’s words have guided me and comforted me when life felt like it had stopped making sense. They tell me that the emotions we experience when confronted with art are real and worth thinking about and living for.
If I were to make a video of what it feels to listen to Phillip Phillips’ new album Collateral, it would start with a needle touching the black groves of a vinyl disc. Deeper and deeper, round and round we would go as the music would start to slowly unfold, revealing its promises and much awaited secrets.
Last summer, after five years of following his music and career, I finally met Phillip Phillips. The meeting was set up by his tour manager, and took place during a meet and greet session after a show. Phillip’s generosity with his fans is well-known, and during the very early years it was common for him to come out and informally meet fans by his tour bus to take photos and talk. Last year, Phillip and his team started to build the meet and greet experience into most of his shows, which finally gave me the chance to meet him.
The doors of the BART open at the Coliseum station. Hundreds of people get off and start to walk in the direction of the twin stadiums in the distance. The typical pre-show excitement from the fans making their way to the venue is palpable. Still, the smell of hot dogs from the vendors in the elevated walkways connecting the venues is a surprise. It’s 8:00 pm on a Saturday, and there is no sporting event scheduled. Rather, the occasion is Sia’s second show of her Nostalgic for the Present Tour in Oakland, California. The venue is the Oracle Arena, the home of the Golden State Warriors. Despite the festive ambience around me, I am only barely able to talk for fear that my voice will betray me; I am overwhelmed. As I enter the Oracle, a 18,000 plus seat arena, I keep thinking that this cannot be the venue where Sia will be playing. But the sights (men, women, girls and boys everywhere are dressed up in wigs, bows, and nude leotards) and sounds (there is already a roaring crowd enjoying the opener Miguel) are real – All these people are here to see Sia.
Some loves are too big. These are the kind that affect you so completely, so profoundly, that to talk about them becomes daunting, almost embarrassingly difficult. So it is with me and Rush, the Canadian prog-rock trio, my most constant and enduring musical love. But recently, in the context of what may be Rush’s last big tour (or tour, period), I was given the chance to talk about them on the radio. It was a gift, and the person who so kindly gave this gift to me probably only has a small idea how special this was for me.
When I was 18 years old, I quit university to dedicate myself to music exclusively. I had been studying piano and cello since I was 8 or 9, but had only gotten more seriously interested, if not confident, as I got older. I studied at the Conservatory of Music in Maracaibo (Venezuela), a revered institution among all musicians in the city. Apart from some serious heartbreak that I was going through at the time, those months of intense focus and dedication to my instruments were some of the most satisfying of my life. I gave myself a rigorous practice schedule and I took to it almost immediately. Discipline can give you great pleasure, in particular through the feeling of mental and physical control it gives you. Every day, the slowly won victories–mastering a difficult exercise, moving from painfully learning a piece to being able to play it with feeling–gave me hope and kept me going.
We waited, we listened to the snippets, we counted down the days, and finally, it is here. To the sheer joy of Phillip Phillips fans everywhere,Behind The Light was released at midnight on Monday; within an hour it had reached number 1 on the Pop Charts on iTunes, a testament to the huge anticipation and the incredible support from Phillips’ ever growing fan base. It’s only been a few hours and a few listens, but I feel I can say without hesitation that Behind The Light has exceeded all my expectations and hopes, and keeps proving that Phillip Phillips has arrived and is here to stay.
It took 20 years or so, but last week I finally got to see Pearl Jam in concert for the first time. The experience was so beautiful and powerful that it has stayed with me for many days. It also made me realize one thing: even though I love many, many things, and I enjoy and love many types of music, I remain a rocker at heart.
If you are a music fan living in the Pacific Northwest, chances are you have seen a show at the Gorge Amphitheatre. And if you are lucky enough to have experienced a show at the Gorge, you know the trip there is absolutely worth it. Indeed, this venue is such a special and beautiful place, people travel hundred of miles just to go see shows there. The Gorge has also become a sort of gathering place for Dave Matthews Band fans for their annual labour day weekend shows and it’s also where the Sasquatch Festival is held every Memorial Day weekend.