Heavy, Unplugged and Return to the Desert

Long night met by an early morning. I haven't written in a while as I haven't had much mental space to reflect truly and write it down. Getting an album out is a monster of a task and it's still mostly little 'ol me running the show. I'm leaving to go back to Burning Man in a matter of hours and just headlined a festival I came to as a stranger years ago, later an opener and now a headliner. I'm so full of joy and relief but mostly gratitude. I'm nothing without the people in my life and to the people who generously support my music. It happens to encompass me entirely as a person and I can't thank you deeply enough. Here are my thoughts at very least from the past month. 

So the release show for the CD I've worked on for over a year now has come and gone. The stress, the tears, the setbacks, the saves, the waves and the ultimate, clumsy success of getting there. Not only have I been overwhelmed by the support of the pre-CD Kickstarter funding but also the subsequent reviews and response by people showing up to support the shows. The big one having been the CD release show at Smith's Olde Bar. It was sold out. Completely. I always work hard to attain the highest possible goals but subtly brace myself for something to not go as a complete blowout of a success. It finally happened. 

I remember, and will never forget, as I was backstage reviewing my speech in a quiet place for the release show. I felt it was appropriate to write a speech for that night, considering the personal magnitude of the night and that many people there knew the story of Heavy and where it all came from and likely contributed to it somehow. Maybe it was just for me, but it had to be done. My beloved bass player David walked in to change his shirt where I was sitting going over my notes obsessively editing. We had about 30 min till showtime while the last opening act was playing and he said, "hey you know we sold out, right"? I've never heard that phrase uttered to me and I've never encountered such a situation. He said that and I felt my chin bounce up and down and little, a lump in my throat and my eyes get a little watery. My God. We did it. I kept it together but it was a deeply spiritual moment for me and I'm glad that one of my team mates was the one to tell me, since they work so hard with me in this unchartable land that is the music business. What I have chosen to pursue is so so hard. It's so demanding and leaves you open to a plethora of problems, pain and even ridicule being a lone wolf out there in a pack mentality world. It's lonely and demanding but we love it somehow and we get up every day to fight for her. The strength is in the passion. And part of our strength is the people who love what we work so hard for. You are essential. 

We sold out the venue. At that point, all of the weight of being the headliner, all of the weight of expectations for me from myself and others, all of the weight of the people on the business end, all of the weight of my belief in myself being in question with my ability to accomplish or not accomplish a goal simply melted away with a few subtle tears that never left the corner of my eye but met the sleeve of my shirt when David left the room. The night would have unbelievable significance to me regardless, but selling it out was a dream becoming a reality. As any artist slaves for vigilantly. I was able to not deal with anything anymore. I was able to let go. All I had to do was walk out on the stage with my dear band and do our job. I'll tell you, the feeling is something I will never forget as long as I live. If, and it's a long shot, I ever play stadiums or anything like that, I'll still never forget that feeling of that night. I owe it to a lot of people and if you were there, you're part of that living dream. You're one of the people I'm in awe of and you'll never fully understand my gratitude. It's too deep and I can't reach it but will always feel it and speak of it often as it's a source of warmth and strength in this sometimes ruthless pursuit of mine. 

The curtains opened and the people were there. Many faces I knew, many I didn't. The show was one of the best times I've ever had in my life. Then came the big tests for me. I didn't care if I cried on stage but I didn't know what was waiting for me so I was bracing myself to be a mess in front of everyone. Very possible at the time.  You still gotta put on a show though so I didn't want to be too out of control. You know?

"With A Little Love" and "Where We Want To Be". I made it through both of them but my voice was unusually rough. Not sure what that was about. The emotions were in check and later I'm surprised I made it through my speech leading up to "Where We Want To Be". THE song written to my brother about the experience of losing him and how I'll MAKE myself ok eventually and THE culminating song of the entire album. The speech was a clumsy way of trying to be eloquent to respect the night but mostly to give humble thanks to all the people who came and made Heavy possible at all. This little music career mission of mine is all in my head but it's nothing in the world without people in your corner, believing in you, opening doors and pushing you to be your best. I made it through alright and the joy and sadness were balanced such to where I COULD speak without losing it looking into the very faces I thanked then and still thank. I'm a little emotional, you see. Us artists are kinda like that sometimes.

That was Aug 3rd.

Last night (Aug 25), I played at Unplugged in the Park at Park Tavern which is put on by Rock 100.5. Great people run that station and they really make a difference for local music. It wasn't that long ago I was a total stranger in this town. I remember going to my first Unplugged in the Park not knowing single person and seeing the faces that are so familiar to me now but were total strangers at the time. I remember emailing them years ago and they were nice enough to respond. They mostly couldn't do anything for me as I was so new and who could blame them. They get a lot of those. I remember finally opening up for a band two years ago at that festival and being utterly thankful for it. This year, I headlined. I headlined, and I'm still not sure that's set in. Some faces at this show were the same gracious faces as the release show 3 weeks prior. Many were new faces too. The feeling this time was a little less dire, however. I needed to say something at the release show. For my family. For my friends who really know what's happened in my life. For those who knew Doug and loved him. For the people who believed in me either in close proximity or from a distance enough to give the time and money to my little cause. For anyone who would listen. For myself. But this time, I believed my songs deeply. I mean, I believe all of my songs as they're written as a part of who I am, but something different happened this time. 

During the songs that take me to a deeper, sadder place, entreating the light to stay and wishing I have the strength to both find it and keep it. I could never be immune to what they say or the guy who wrote the words, but I see his pain from somewhere else now. It happened at some point during the show. I felt a weight roll off of my shoulders and crack on the ground beside me, letting me sing freely and triumphantly. I felt the universe telling me that I will, in fact, be alright. During "Where We Want To Be" I even smiled once. It wasn't that the song made me happy but it was more that I finally felt my own words in a different place inside of me. It wasn't just wishful thinking and a long, melodic mantra anymore. It had finally become a part of my life. The catharsis of hope has roots now. I felt them dig deep into my marrow during this performance with my band and many people I love in front of me. It took the songs, the time and the people in my life and the audience to slowly, over time, place the seed of light meticulously, cover it with soil with the utmost care and keep it near the light. I felt that. I let go of something last night and held tightly to something else at the same time. What exactly, I don't know. But I feel lighter. I feel like I can be happy again. I feel like I'm ok. 

So In a few hours I'll be boarding a plane to Reno, Nevada then driving a car to Black Rock Desert and Burning Man. The place where you are confronted with yourself and let go all at the same time, in one beautiful flow of air after another. If you'll go back to the blog I wrote last year about the Temple experience, you'll have a better idea of the man who is writing these words now FYI. Thanks for reading as much as you have and do keep going to get the full feeling of the story, if you like. 

I want to go there and shed my burden and talk to spirits in the temple again. Remembering the place where I heaved any air left in my lungs in a lost, crumbling mess of a human. Despair. Despair. I want to see them again as who I have become. My brother is always with me. I know that. I talk to him all the time. But I also know that that sacred, quiet place has many other spirits. Full of life, forgiveness, understanding and all things that make our humanity special. People lay down objects to burn up in the temple and before I went last year I couldn't fathom leaving anything behind that reminded me of Doug. I couldn't do it. It's still a shaky idea for me but I've grown enough to understand and to have the feelings far enough along to be able to feel the beauty of doing that. It's just an object but anything of his I have is precious to me. Priceless art and a part of who I am. But I created something that's all in my head and now in my hand. The album dedicated to him. 

I will walk to the temple. Alone. I will feel the wind in my hair, see the mountains in the distance, feel the warmth of the sun. I will walk to the temple with a copy of Heavy in both hands as though I feel the weight of the metaphor with my physical person.

I will carry it to that place. I will walk inside. I will walk to the altar in the center where pain, beauty and forgiveness meet for, what I feel is, all the Universe. I will step over people sleeping, crying, sitting, absorbing and I will write a note on the cover of the album to Doug. Words that only he would understand. Again. I will do that. I will set it among the flowers and objects that have no value but carry a full life of meaning to the presenter. It will join that altar, that place, that sun, that air. I will sit there and reflect. I will probably leave some tears on the desert floor. They won't last long in the heat yet they will last forever. I will do that and he will be there and we will see each other again some day. I will celebrate my life and his and ours. I will run back to camp in the sun, joyously and deliberately. It's the only way to live. It's a choice, you see. I will sweat and breathe and live completely. 

I don't know much other than what I feel. But the Universe and the powers that move you that we cannot understand yet we cannot live without, will talk to me and it will tell me where to go next. I feel it deeply and I want to thank them for guiding me. Just as much as I do for my pillars in my life. For giving me courage. If I can still feel that, then I'm already on the right track. It's a dialogue with the Universe but you must speak to be heard. You must rise and meet what you think you were put here to do. It does take courage. You can do it. Fight. Feel. Listen. Love. Let go. Live. It's your time, don't waste it. 

3 comments

  • Amy

    Amy

    Beautiful. Simply, beautiful. You made me cry a little since I am still grieving my mom. But, thanks. :)

    Beautiful. Simply, beautiful. You made me cry a little since I am still grieving my mom. But, thanks. smile

  • Donna Nasoff

    Donna Nasoff

    That is one of the most moving writings about the Burning Man experience I have ever read. I have a few writer friends that are regular attendees, and have read every word they've written about their experiences. I have yet to be able to go...although it is a certainty that I will go next year if I am still here! You never know.... Your brother will feel every single emotion that you direct his way, as he does on a daily basis...but it will be incredible during your moments of grace and giving to him. I can not wait to read your blog about it! Thank you for going to your deepest soul..and sharing.... Donna :)

    That is one of the most moving writings about the Burning Man experience I have ever read. I have a few writer friends that are regular attendees, and have read every word they've written about their experiences. I have yet to be able to go...although it is a certainty that I will go next year if I am still here! You never know.... Your brother will feel every single emotion that you direct his way, as he does on a daily basis...but it will be incredible during your moments of grace and giving to him. I can not wait to read your blog about it! Thank you for going to your deepest soul..and sharing.... Donna smile

  • Cathy Hickis

    Cathy Hickis

    SImply beautiful, you have a gift Wesley, I have heard and seen you sing here in Atlanta and love your music but most of all love your infectious smile and your spirit, which I can now see is yours and Doug's intertwined. His spirit lives on through you, so keep smiling :) Your words were beautiful and thank you for sharing that experience.

    SImply beautiful, you have a gift Wesley, I have heard and seen you sing here in Atlanta and love your music but most of all love your infectious smile and your spirit, which I can now see is yours and Doug's intertwined. His spirit lives on through you, so keep smiling smile Your words were beautiful and thank you for sharing that experience.

Add comment