This week rather than a standard staff pick I’m going to go per-zine on you. For the past few days I haven’t felt like listening to music. In retrospect, I realize I’ve had a lot going on inside my head and I haven’t given myself time to process it. I guess writing this piece is partly an attempt to make sense of it.
I don’t know if you can tell, but Sorry State has been busy. I try to talk to my mom on the phone at least once a week, and between phone calls she checks out Sorry State’s social media accounts to keep tabs on me. This week she told me she read between the lines of our posts that I was frazzled and had a lot going on. Maybe she’s sensitive to that because she’s my mom, but I wonder if anyone else gets that impression too. Sometimes I’m not even aware of how hard I’m working, but after several months of 60-70 hour work weeks I’m fatigued and stressed. Between the Rudimentary Peni LP, the Miss Veola collection, the whole saga with the Golpe and Zorn records, and everything else that happens here daily, I’ve been going pretty much non-stop.
Road trips have always been one of my favorite ways to clear my head, and last Friday I drove to our pressing plant in northwestern Virginia and back, spending over 9 hours alone in the car blasting music and listening to podcasts. I also stopped in Richmond and spent a little (too little) time with some friends like the Vinyl Conflict folks and Sam at Feel It. It was nice to have some solitary time and to listen to music on the drive, but it was such a long and busy day that I didn’t come home feeling refreshed.
The next morning I woke up and drove to Wilmington, North Carolina (about two-and-a-half hours from Raleigh) for an impromptu memorial for my friend Osamu. I wrote about Osamu’s passing last November, and aside from a Zoom memorial service, the people who loved him haven’t been able to get together and mourn his passing. Last Wednesday was his birthday, so most of No Love met in a park in Wilmington where there is a tree planted in his memory. Osamu’s parents joined us and invited us to eat Japanese food at their house afterward. We sat around, traded stories about Osamu, and felt his absence. Like the road trip, it was something that I needed to do, but it left me feeling drained rather than restored.
This week is also the anniversary of the protests that happened all over the country—including Raleigh—in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. There’s a locally famous photo of cops in riot gear lined up in front of a giant, colorful mural that says “Welcome to Raleigh,” and many people shared it on social media this week. I know my experience pales compared to the trauma experienced by people of color in our country, but in retrospect those protests fucked me up. I’ve always considered myself a leftist and a radical. I believe in equality and peace. However, before the protests those were abstractions to me… they were things to talk about in graduate seminars or over beers outside a show rather than anything born of personal experience. I realize now that my privilege allowed these concepts to be abstractions to me; as a straight, white, middle class man, the system was (ostensibly, at least) working in my interests, shielding me from the uncomfortable zones where my privilege rubs against someone else’s needs, wants, and rights.
As I wrote about a year ago, I was standing on the edge of a tense but peaceful protest when a line of cops in riot gear raced into the crowd with batons drawn and started beating people indiscriminately. A line of horse-mounted police joined them from another direction. Cans of teargas whistled by and then hissed acrid, blinding smoke. The scene was violent chaos, but it wasn’t a spontaneous eruption. It was a coordinated attack by the police on unarmed, peaceful citizens. Before that moment, “State Violence, State Control” was just a catchy chorus, but it rings differently to me now, particularly when I reflect on that fact that what was, for me, a unique experience, is a condition of everyday life for people who weren’t born into my social conditions.
After overdosing on music and media on Friday and having an emotionally tiring weekend, I entered a busy week feeling drained. Eventually I realized that what I needed was space. This statement is an uncomfortable fit for a newsletter whose existence is largely based on selling you products, but I didn’t need to find the right music or the right pill or the right anything to make me feel better. I needed stillness. I needed to sit with myself, my humanity, silently, letting these thoughts and emotions swirl around until they ran out of momentum. That process is far from complete, but I’m working on it. I’m sorry that it means you have less hyperbolic jibber jabber about punk rock to read this week, but hopefully it means I can find my way back to that more pleasurable headspace in time for next week’s newsletter.