Thursday, April 19, 2012


Levon Helm was simply one of the greatest drummers ever. But he was also one of the most influential musicians and important artists of our time. Levon had a depth of feel that does not exist anymore. His brilliantly economic parts, lyrical phrasing and incredible touch and tone on the drums were as unique as his song writing and timeless voice. His impact on me cannot be overstated. Getting the privilege to double drum with him last year at our Solid Sound festival was one of the greatest thrills I could ever imagine. He was a passionate man with an extremely gracious, warm and giving personality. That he made some of his best music in the final years of his life, is a testament to his greatness and historical significance. He will be dearly missed.
-Glenn Kotche
If you ever saw Levon Helm perform live, you saw  a man who truly loved music with his every cell. The first time I ever saw Levon perform was at Bonnaroo in 2008. Sitting right up front, I witnessed a man who not only is one of the best Americana / Rock drummers, but someone who embodied what music really should be: an experience. You could see how much he enjoyed playing, but how much he truly appreciated and loved to see other artists perform with him.
On this day of his passing, a friend hit home with the following statement: He was able to do what he loved most until the very end. So very true. Levon was always true to his craft and when he needed help to pay medical bills, he used that love and the memory of old travelling medicine shows to create the Midnight Ramble. I thought seeing him perform at Bonnaroo was special but only until I went to Woodstock. The Ramble takes place in Levon's home in Woodstock. Maybe 200 people are lucky enough to get a ticket for a seat in the studio. The people that attend are all there for the same reason: the pure and simple love of music (and Levon). All ages, from all places with different beliefs and politics sing, dance and share company with a music legend. Could he have played several nights at clubs to make the money -sure, but he wanted it to be done HIS WAY. Levon loved The Band, but he also had his own music and wanted to bring in friends to play as well. He spent years singing with his daughter, Amy, watching Larry Campbell grow into a natural band leader and nurtured the natural talent of Larry's wife and muse, Theresa. Sitting with them at dinner in Bonnaroo, you could see the love and family that was built solely around music.
Levon, both as a solo artist and as the drummer/singer for The Band, will continue to inspire artists who desire the purity of his music. It will be hard to imagine a Ramble without him, but I truly think that would only be the most fitting tribute to man who lived music.
I'm just an honest American human being ~Levon Helm

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Went Back to Titanic

Many of you have no clue that I have been fascinated by the story of Titanic since I was eight. The way it was portrayed in the media was so romanticised but also shrouded in so much mystery since they had not discovered it. I created my own theory in second grade how it really sank (mine stayed in one piece) and was in Nova Scotia when Robert Ballard discovered it in 1985. I believe I embarrassed my parents in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant yelling like I discovered the Holy Grail. This was HUGE! I memorized the National Geographic special and yes I saw the movie a gajillion times.

The movie - ok, yes, it makes it romantic BUT you have to give credit to James Cameron for wanting to capture what happened. Perfect, no - there were flaws and filming oopsies. The story to me isn't necessarily isn't the cross class romance, it's the people treated as second and even third class citizens. People who probably saved for years to take their families to America. It was also filled with names that were making America - the Astors, the Guggenheim's. But - yes, you probably saw it coming a million miles away: it's about the band.

Wallace Hartley and his seven other band members played until the very end. It wasn't Hollywood theatrics, that is true fact. The final song they play in the film, Nearer My God to Thee, Hartley himself introduced to his congregation at home in England. The captain asked and he played to soothe those on the ship. Who really knows if anyone ever recalled if they played or even what they played. The simple act of going down with the ship while trying to help in anyway is an act of valour alone.  Outside of the greed and machismo that ultimately led to the demise of the ship, there were many stories of selflessness and courage in a time where class prejudice was not argued.

I watched the film today 15 years having gone by. When I first saw Titanic, I watched for historical accuracy and to see the Titanic come to life. Today, I watched with 15 more years of life experience. In those 15 years since, I lived in Belfast and had a chance to see where the Titanic was built. I now understand what it is like to fall head over heels in love in a very short time - and at a loss for words if I had to say goodbye so quickly.

It is a period we will never revisit -- a time where class injustice was rampant and enough to sacrifice safety in the name of headlines. Today, if it were to happen, we'd have enough life boats, the Coast Guard would be there immediately -- and the band playing would be on youtube in seconds.
Wallace Hartley
Titanic Memorial at Belfast City Hall
Harland and Wolff Shipyard Belfast
Titanic Life Jacket - Smithsonian