Confessions From A Loner

Last weekend I went to the beach as a part of my need to escape from the stress of day to day life. The beach is always a nice distraction; sometimes I'll get some good thinking/reading done. Other times I'll get caught up people watching and enjoying the weather and scenery. Sounds kind of creepy, but I get to see some interesting things.

For example, on my last excursion I sat on a bench and immediately noticed an elderly man directly in front of me setting up his beach paraphernalia in grand fashion. Clad in a sun hat, dark shades, and a striped tank top, I watched as he erected a massive umbrella in the sand. He set up two chairs and a small table, draping an elegant cloth over the latter. Teapots and an entire pie were set on the table. He then sat down in one of the chairs and watched the ocean. Another man passed by along the beach and amiably wished him a good day, to which the old man warmly reciprocated. He seemed to be the happiest person on the beach.

At first, I thought he was setting up one of those come-and-sit-and-I'll-listen sort of things, like in this Kleenex commercial:

Who is cutting onions in here?

Brilliant as that seemed, an equally elderly lady arrived on the scene after a short while and sat down in the other chair. The pie was sliced and the tea was poured over mirthful conversation. My secret illusion that the old man was there to welcome anyone and everyone to tea was shattered. 

Now, it may seem to some of you that that is a generally creepy story, what with my watching them the whole time. You have to admit, people watching is an amusing thing. You get to make up stories about complete strangers. What's better than imagining which one of them will be the next Unabomber:

I often take these forays alone. As an introvert (which doesn't really mean anything these days), I need to take time to myself to recharge my energy after spending time in close quarters with others, or after a particularly rough day. I suppose I've always been this way. As a kid, I used to stay inside all the time, drawing my own Where's Waldo? scenes or constructing a Lego metropolis. According to legend, as an infant I would methodically push a pile of Jenga blocks into the corner to sit and play with them by myself. Even today, two of my favorite passions are typically enjoyed best when alone - reading and writing.

Sometimes seclusion works against us introverts. It's completely acceptable for anyone to take a break from others for some alone time (unless you're married, I guess. How does that work?) but sometimes this breeds a habit of not reaching out to others for help. This has been my personal experience. For some reason, the frequent need to be alone convinces me that I can better handle my problems if I am alone. After all, who knows me better than myself?

This mindset gets me into trouble, and I recall one particular occasion where my natural response to the inability to deal with my struggles directly resulted in a need to run away and isolate myself from those that cared for me. I won't go into the details, because I've already blogged about it, but I will say that that was clearly the opposite of what I should have done. It was a reaction to shame and the realization that I was an extremely weak person who couldn't even deal with problems in a normal way. 

In the words of the many who are much better at writing than I am, I urge you not to run away.

Perhaps genetics has set itself against you, giving you the worst coping skills of what your family possesses - much like it has for me. Maybe you never had many friends growing up so you figure you will never find the need for any. Or it might be because someone took your heart and effectively broke it into pieces so your trust has naturally withered to take stock in no one but yourself.

When a good friend asked me why it was that I reacted the way I did when massive problems forced me into seclusion, I had no ready answer. I still don't. I possess loner tendencies - there's no doubt about that - but I do not brandish that banner proudly. True, sometimes I get my best thinking and spurts of creativity when alone. In the year since I've moved to Seattle, I would be hard pressed to find more occasions of happiness that occurred when alone as opposed to being with at least one other person. That's generally how life works. 

I am a loner. In fact, I specifically took all of today to be by myself so I could type up this post complaining about being a loner. In all seriousness, I've spent today reading/writing/listening to music/thinking/observing, etc. The sense of revitalization I feel afterwards is always refreshing. In fact, I have been known to attend concerts and movies by myself. Who went and saw the first showing of 300 on opening day all alone? This guy. There's a healthy way to do it.

But we were made for community. In fact, I yearn for it after being alone for so long. Put me in an empty apartment for a week, miles from anyone, and I'll undoubtedly enjoy the first few days of solitude. But my mind would soon start to unravel. Heck, I'd probably invite Jehovah's Witnesses inside or order a pizza not because I'm hungry, but because I need conversation.

We need people. I need people. It's the reason I go to to church, even though I struggle to stay awake during the sermons oftentimes. It's why I prefer someone to come with me when I go grocery shopping. Ice cream by yourself? That's cool I guess...but  it's also scientifically proven to be a sign of terminal lonerism. Don't believe me? You shouldn't. I made that word up just now.

As with most things in life, you can excel or fail at harnessing the need to be alone. Don't expect to only do one. Even though I'm sitting by myself in a coffee shop typing this up, the fact that I am surrounded by strangers makes me feel a lot better. I may be nothing but a cardboard cutout or  a passing shadow to the stories of their lives, but I'm still a person. 

Find people you love, even if it's only one person. Spend time with them. Don't do anything stupid so as to drive them away. You'll need them before the end.

Now excuse me while I sit in this corner alone and play with these Jenga blocks.

Cheers everyone.


*Words: Poor People - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Sound: Lights & Motion, Counterparts, Rising Fawn, Misery Signals, Scale The Summit, The Appleseed Cast, August Burns Red, Night Verses, Defeater, Golden Youth.
Lights: Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy VI


Concert Review: Eisley

Welcome to the third edition of my live music adventures in Seattle. Last time I was able to experience the high-energy atmosphere of New Found Glory. Dialing down the craziness this time around, last night I witnessed Eisley perform for the second time. Notice how I tried to get this review out as soon as possible rather than a few weeks later. That's got to count for something, right?

EISLEY - 7/5/2014 @ Showbox at The Market
w/Say Anything, HRVRD, and I The Mighty.

It's just not fair.

Note: This is the first time I'll be reviewing a non-headliner. Eisley actually opened for Say Anything. Nothing against the headliner, but I was there solely for Eisley and left right after they played.

Before I say anything about the actual show, I'd like to speak on the issue of fairness.

My family has been blessed with some wonderful musical talent. I'm not boasting or anything, but setting up a point. My older brother was a fairly competent drummer, guitarist, and singer. My little brother has a better voice than I'll ever have and possesses great songwriting skills. I enjoy guitar, bass, singing, etc. Pretty cool right? Our problem is that we were never able to pull together to form a sibling supergroup. Mostly because I was too perfection driven. I honestly blame myself. So the Smith Experience was not to be.

Then you have a family like the Duprees (pictured above). They make up the band Eisley, sporting three sisters on guitars, keyboards, and vocals - and a cousin on drums as well as a brother on bass. This just isn't fair. How can one family possess such an overwhelming sense of musical talent? While my family's problem is that we were unable to pull it together, there are some families who don't possess a lick of talent in this particular department. And that's fine.

But it's still not fair.

All whining aside, Eisley won my heart long ago. I can't remember quite who introduced them to me years ago while living in California, but I bless them for doing so. In the early days, the Tyler, Texas-born band sported whimsical lyrics with vivid imagery. See exhibit A:

Video for "Telescope Eyes"

As the years went by, the lyrics transformed from a fanciful offering of woods, fireflies, and open fields to the troubled relationship sort. This metamorphosis was most noticeable from their 2007 album Combinations to their 2010 release, The Valley. I look at it as a natural maturation and progression. Hey, they're growing up, getting married, and having babies. It's bound to happen. Just think of how silly it will be when all of their kids grow up to be phenomenal musicians as well.

I was able to catch Eisley waayyy back in 2008 at the House of Blues in San Diego as they headlined a tour to support Combinations, with The Myriad and Vedera - which was one of the few shows I've been to where I actually listened to all three bands. I didn't think it would take me this long to see them again. Since then, they've released two albums and two EPs. I kept up with them but never got to see them live again, until last night.

A wonderful live experience.

I don't really mention the opening bands in these reviews, but I The Mighty put on a very solid and tight set. I'm not a fan, but I can't say they didn't perform well. HRVRD was beyond entertaining. Their frontman (next to Aaron Weiss of mewithoutyou) was the craziest/most hilarious vocalists I've ever seen. Bug-eyed and wild, he flapped his arms, donned a creepy old man mask, ventured through the crowd like no one else was there, etc. Again, I don't listen to them but they definitely were fun to watch.

Then up came the reason I was there.

The Dupree sisters didn't come on stage until it was time to perform, which I'd say was a wise thing so as to keep all the crazy fanboys (me included) from swooning and whatnot. The crowd erupted into cheers as Sherri (far right in the above pic) smiled and said "Oh, stop it." They then glided right into the title track off of their new album, Currents. I pretty much forgot to sing along because I was sort of in awe. I managed to get some crappy videos and pictures before their short setlist ended too soon. 

I'd categorize the three sisters this way. Sherri has the pipes. That woman can sing. Stacy has the elegant voice and flawless falsetto (middle above), while Chauntelle rips on guitar and offers up her lovely voice very rarely. Everyone cheered for her two lines in "I Could Be There For You." Check out her solo project:

A long track, but worth it.

Seeing as they weren't the headliner, they played about ten songs and then were done. I picked up a shirt and Chauntelle's EP which I managed to listen to three time on the ride home. I'm not weird.

Here are some highlights/lowlights and a link to the setlist. The link is to an earlier show in the tour as the Seattle one isn't up yet. They didn't played "Golly Sandra" and they added "I Could Be There For You" and "Many Funerals" for us.

Highlights: How do I explain an Eisley show without using the word lovely? Yes, it was lovely. That's the only word for it. As stated above, I enjoyed getting to hear Chauntelle in the spotlight for all of her twelve seconds in "I Could Be There For You." Hearing the new stuff live is great, as songs like "Drink The Water" and "Save My Soul" present a different atmosphere and power from their earlier efforts. It appeared that last night's setlist put Sherri in the fore, as most of the songs were led by her. As I said, she's got a powerful voice. Breathless, she said to the crowd after one of the songs that she didn't know what was up with the set that night, but she felt that her sisters made her sing all of the hard songs. Oh, and seeing the sisters gab while their brother Weston started the count on the drums on one of the songs before they were ready was great. His glare was awesome. Sibling love.

Lowlights: Annoying girls everywhere. Girls who couldn't dance and tall guys trying their best to stand right in front of me. The band can't help that. The setlist was a bit too short but they weren't the main act so it was understandable. Also, I would have liked to see much more/different songs from The Valley, given that it's probably my favorite album. Oh, and the girl throwing up in the trashcan as I left. Could have done without that imagery.

I have no doubt that Eisley will do a headlining tour to support Currents so they'll be back but not for awhile. In the meantime, I'll just be spinning my vinyl and playing the heck out of Chauntelle's EP. I'm not weird.

Until the next show,