A Conversation with Luke Redfield: “I Think of the Land First” (Westword 4/3/2015)


Luke Redfield On Being An American Songwriter: “I Think of the Land First”
by Adam Perry for Westword, 4/3/2015

Delicate-voiced Minnesota singer-songwiter Luke Redfield, somewhat of a nomad, has spent a lot of time in Boulder and Denver over the years. January found him headlining Shine and the Walnut Room, with his sometime-backup singer Patrycja Humienik, a University of Colorado graduate who lives in Denver, opening both shows as kismet&dough, with help from local collaborators Shilpi Gupta and Irene Joyce.

Jack Kerouac once wrote, “I pictured myself in a Denver bar, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was ‘Wow!’” Redfield, who draws as much from Kerouac and other classic American writers as he does Bob Dylan and other legendary songwriters, had quite a few more words than “wow” in a Westword conversation earlier this week about his brief upcoming Colorado-only tour. Redfield plays the Walnut Room on April 7 with kismet&dough as support, and opens for Nora Jane Struthers at the Fox Theatre on April 9.

Adam Perry: Is it still winter in Minnesota?

Luke Redfield: The sunshine made me think today is maybe the first day of spring. Our local celebrity, Scott Seekins, this kind of cult hero everybody follows, wears all black in the winter and all white in the summertime, and it’s always a suit. I saw him today in all black, which means it’s technically winter.

How does the change from winter to spring affect you as a writer and performer?

It greatly affects my levels of spontaneity and happiness overall. Whenever it goes from below zero to thirty above and suddenly it’s warm [in Minnesota] I’ll pick up the guitar and write some happy songs; all winter I’ve been singing depressing shit. It’s like the song emerges from the cocoon on the first day of spring. I know as a writer and just a creative person, spring puts a jump in my step.

I just listened to your recent Daytrotter session. Do you think their images of you are getting more accurate or less accurate?

[Laughs] I think this is a pretty decent one. They’re all caricatures, so I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I’m glad the hat is on this one, because I’ve been wearing this one for a while.

Is Jack Kerouac a big reason you feel so connected to Colorado?

Yeah, definitely. I don’t know if that was always a conscious thing on my part. I read On the Roadforever ago, and Dharma Bums and all those other classics but, even though I remember him mentioning Denver a million times, I never even really thought about him. But in the past few months I’ve been kind of noticing that connection, that Kerouac really did enjoy hanging out in Denver. And then Townes Van Zandt, who I also admire, he spent part of his childhood in Boulder, and then he went to high school in Minnesota really close to where I grew up. I didn’t realize until recently that Townes and Kerouac and I have shared some of the same haunts.

You identify so much as an American songwriter; you identify so much with iconic American writers like Mark Twain. What’s it like to identify as an American songwriter right now?

I think of the land first. I kind of gave up on politics six or even years ago. In terms of the state of the country right now, at least socially and politically, I think we’re pretty lost in general. In terms of the natural splendor and diversity that America has in terms of the land and different types of people and ways of life, I think it’s like no place the planet has ever seen. We’re still in the process of seeing what the American experiment really is; it’s still a very young country. I like guys like Whitman because they tend to be microcosms of the greater country. Whitman said, “Because the poet lovingly absorbs virtually all of America’s tastes, he in turn will be absorbed by his country.” All of the great ones absorb all of the taste of the country and are absorbed.

Who’s an example of that right now?

There’s a lot of great ones; some of them we don’t even know who they are. Back in the day, if you were a poet or musician and you had a hot record or book, it got out there because there just weren’t that many. I still like the classic bards that are still living, like Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen or Neil Young, even though those [last two] are Canadian. I can’t think of any current guys that are in that tradition.

And it might be a girl, not a guy.

Absolutely. Can you think of one?

Well, Neko Case, I think…she might not go down in the pantheon of Dylan and Neil Young, but she has one foot in tradition and one being musically and socially progressive. She’s amazing.

Yeah, I love Neko Case. She’s cool. I agree.

Your last time through Colorado was your first time on tour with a backing band. What was that like?

It was interesting. It was a lot of fun and also challenging, because everyone’s on their own schedule. It was super fun to not travel alone, that’s for sure. You get to share some of the good stories with other people. I’ve had a lot of really hilarious things happen to me while I’ve been touring solo, but when someone’s there to experience it with you it’s a whole other story.

Was it easier or harder musically to play with other people?

Just different. I enjoy both for different reasons. Certainly I feed off of other musicians; when there are other musicians on stage and good synergy, then the energy is shared, so I prefer to play with a band for that reason.

What’s it like having Patrycja Humienik singing with you?

It’s cool, man. We actually had her work out some three-part harmonies with a couple other [band members] for some of the shows, so that got really fun. We had four people singing on some of the songs; I’m a big fan of harmonies.

What’s it like seeing a member of your band flowering on stage as the opening act?

I’m a big fan of her solo act [Denver-based kismet&dough] that’s being birthed. It’s really good. There’s a lot of potential there. I love it. I want everybody to flourish and to do the projects they’re compelled to,
that their hearts are telling them to do. I think every one of my bandmates has a solo project. I’m very supportive and encouraging them all.

What’s it like transitioning back to doing solo performances?

Like nothing had ever happened. Like back at home. I’m pretty versatile in that regard, I guess. I like to do both because I like variety, and I think other people do too.

Inspiration & Location: A Talk with Caitlin Buck (Boulder Weekly 4/2/2015)


Inspiration & Location: A Talk with Caitlin Buck 
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly 4/2/2015

The fascinating acrylic-on-wood paintings of Caitlin Buck, a Boulder native who graduated from Naropa University in 2012, will see their three-month appearance on the walls of The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse end later this month. Buck, 28, lately focuses on realistically rendering human faces while simultaneously striving for the creative, poignant and playful. The animated, curly-haired young artist – wearing her trademark nose ring and a white t-shirt with a screen-printed deer – sat down on The Laughing Goat’s front porch recently for a conversation with Boulder Weekly.

Adam Perry: I remember seeing some of your acrylic portraits in the student lounge at Naropa when I was there for an event years ago. How has your work changed since graduating?

Caitlin Buck: It’s always sort of been acrylic, the paintings anyway. Those portraits of Naropa students were the result of an independent study I did with Robert Spellman, who is amazing. He’s an old coyote of Naropa; he teaches The Contemplative Artist. He’s a huge influence; I hear his voice in my head just about every day, and I’m grateful for it. That independent study, we set out to loosen up my work, so I called it “Portraits In Space.” I was working on realistically portraying people I knew and still letting [the paintings] be spacious and ethereal and not outlined.

AP: You’re from Boulder? Meeting someone who was born and raised here seems pretty rare.

CB: It was good that I lived for a couple years in South Carolina when I graduated from high school, just to step outside the bubble. Once I felt really secure in my passion for art and desire to study art, Naropa was the best thing that ever happened to me. The more I looked into Naropa, it was unreal; it was, like, “This is like Hogwarts.”

AP: When did you get into painting?

CB: Probably when I was about 16 or 17.

AP: Did you get into painting through your parents?

CB: Not really, but my mom was always really supportive of anything creative and has influenced me a lot. We used to play drawing games when I was little; she would draw these squiggly shapes and I would turn it into something. I actually think back on that and am more and more grateful for it. It’s played a huge role in my creative inspiration.

AP: How did you transition from the student portraits I saw in 2011 to these paintings on wood?

CB: For a while I was painting portraits on patterned fabric, floral patterns. I really like painting on a surface that already has something going on, that already has a vibrational feel to it. It’s like it gives me room to surrender a little bit, because I have faith that the things already happening on the surface have something to say, something to offer. So when I started painting on wood, I was getting sort of tired of the fabric, those patterns. They already have colors and the wood is more neutral, yet it has something amazing going on. Sometimes I’ll even have a hard time painting on the wood, because I’ll look at it and say, “It’s already so beautiful. How can I do anything to this?” But eventually we work it out, the wood and I, and I end up being very minimal.

AP: Where do you get the wood?

CB: I go to Home Depot or wherever I can find wood that’s nice. I’d like to use more sustainably harvested wood, but that’s really difficult to find. But I’ll go and be looking at pieces of wood [for painting] while other people are, like, trying to make shelves.

AP: Where did such a distinct face come from, the face in most of these paintings?

CB: I heard [a Laughing Goat customer] say, “So is that what the artist looks like?” That’s a reasonable question. I was shifting from the fabric to the wood and there was a lot going on in me, a lot changing. I started working on the wood and letting that dance of receiving and telling happen, letting the accidents happen, letting these faces emerge on the wood. The first few just had these big noses. It was a remedy for feeling that everything being perfect was not something I want to represent.

AP: When you finished school at Naropa, what were your aspirations?

CB: Painting, as a practice, will always be there. I’ll never stop. It’s a deep biological necessity. How that’s gonna grow into a form of service, I’m still figuring out, but I know I want to teach. I want to teach contemplative art, and I know that’s a rare topic to study. I’ve tried to find anywhere else in the world [besides Naropa] that even uses those terms and I can’t. It’s looking at art as this practice between receiving and telling. It involves showing up, making a move and listening and responding. That is similar to life itself, so I feel like the practice of painting is therapy. It’s deeply fulfilling, but it also teaches one how to be human. I would love to be able to share that.

AP: Who has influenced you other than your Naropa teachers?

CB: Visionary art has affected me a lot. It really was my first teacher. When I went to Naropa some of the teachers were tired of so many art students coming in, like, “Oh my God, Alex Grey!” They’re really tactful about it, but they’d say, “Yes, and look at this other weird art.” It took me to the other side so I could draw from different sides of the spectrum. I’ve started to become more into art that is the human face, the human form realistic and also surreal. I want it to be real enough that it is lifelike and there is a creature and an entity looking back at you, yet maybe also it’s dreamlike. Most of them are making eye contact with the viewer.

AP: You can’t hide from them.

CB: Yeah, and sometimes I owe them things. Sometimes they’re really disappointed in me. Sometimes they’re so in love with me and we’re best friends. One seriously tormented me, like, “What are you going to do with me? You brought me into existence; what now?” It’s confrontational.

AP: Do you feel like you’ve found a good art community in Boulder?

CB: Yeah, but I’m a little bit unsatisfied with a lot of things about the art world in general that I think I’m gonna find anywhere.. I think it’s really unfortunate the way that art exists in society, that it’s either at a coffee shop or a gallery.  I’d honestly rather have my work in a coffee shop than in a gallery, because a gallery is cold and stale, and people go just to look at the art. This is more inviting.

AP: What does success as an artist mean to you?

CB: It’s not a financial success. I think that’s the conventional perspective of success. It’s more having a really positive effect on the world, or just a small group of people—anybody.

What’s “The Truest Grateful Dead Experience?” (Westword 4/1/2015)


What’s “The Truest Grateful Dead Experience”?
by Adam Perry for Westword, 4/1/2015

The Grateful Dead is still noteworthy, fifty years after the San Francisco band’s emergence amid the remnants of the Beats and the beginnings of the hippie generation. According to longtime Grateful Dead Hour producer David Gans (who also co-hosts the Grateful Dead channel on SiriusXM with Gary Lambert), “People are playing [Grateful Dead music] from coast to coast every day in tiny little clubs and big venues and in recording studios. The music is immortal, and it’s being kept alive by thousands of people.” The Dead is marking the twentieth anniversary of its final concert with a trio of performances in Chicago featuring the band’s four remaining core members — Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann — along with supporting musicians including Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, who’s essentially filling in for the band’s deceased leader, Jerry Garcia.

The choice of Anastasio, along with how Ticketmaster and Grateful Dead Ticket Sales (GDTS) have handled the sale of the approximately 200,000 tickets available for the shows, has come under intense scrutiny. Some fans are angry, including Boulder Weekly owner/publisher Stewart Sallo, who recently published a scathing editorial in the Huffington Post.

“The choices of Chicago and of Anastasio were not made in the spirit of providing the truest Grateful Dead experience for the fans,” Sallo wrote, “but, rather, to fulfill the highest possible financial gain.”

Sallo accused the Dead of selling “some of the tickets twice so Ticketmaster can receive its cut” and called Anastasio a “perplexing choice” because he hasn’t “studied Garcia’s music in a way that qualifies [him] to fill [Garcia’s] enormous empty shoes.”

Gans, who has produced the Grateful Dead Hour since the ’80s and started seeing Dead shows in the ’70s, has never been an Anastasio or Phish fan, but loves the choice of Anastasio for the Dead reunion/finale, which is being dubbed Fare Thee Well.

“I think, musically, it’s going to be very cool,” says Gans. “I think the choice of Trey Anastasio is a good one. It’s a guy who knows how this music works [and] how to improvise. He has a strong voice of his own, so there’s no danger of him following the ‘Jerry Garcia clone’ model.”

Gans’s co-host Lambert, who is well known in Dead circles for starting the Grateful Dead Almanac in 1993, agrees. “Although I’m not the biggest Phish fan, I have incredible respect for [Anastasio]. Trey has never denied the influence [of Garcia] but had never sat down and learned Jerry’s parts like some of the more imitative players do. He has played Grateful Dead music and he loves Grateful Dead music, but he has approached it in his own way. Everything that I’ve read that he’s said shows that he’s so philosophically right for this.”

“This is not a museum piece,” says Gans. “This event is a ceremony of sorts, and I don’t think anyone on Earth has a right to declare what it needs to be. It is what the purveyors of the music have chosen to do with it, and as such, it’s valid on the face of it. It’s not our place to dictate the conditions of the celebration.”

Still, the question remains: What “qualifies” someone to play Grateful Dead music, or play lead guitar in a Grateful Dead reunion band? Sallo adamantly prefers someone like John Kadlecik, who faithfully played the part of Garcia — replicating him in both music and even appearance — in Dark Star Orchestra for over a decade.

To many, the “truest Grateful Dead experience” doesn’t involve copying the band’s music verbatim, but being influenced by it as well as improvising and evolving. Sonic Youth, for instance, included a guitarist (Lee Ranaldo) who took his time as a Deadhead and paid tribute by encouraging his band to improvise as a group, meld songs together in concert and generally take risks on stage. That might be a more fitting tribute to Jerry Garcia than studying and repeating his solos from Live/Dead.

“Some of my favorite Grateful Dead shows have been by Bill Frisell,” Lambert half jokes. “Anybody who’s playing music fearlessly and defying musical expectations, I’m happy calling a Grateful Dead tribute band.”

As for the accusations of GDTS engaging in shady business, Lambert was incredulous.

“That is spectacularly ill-informed. [Sallo] is completely talking out of his ass. The fact that [GDTS] gets tickets for events like this at all is the result of incredible vigilance on the band’s part. The Grateful Dead pioneered standing up to Ticketmaster and saying to the promoter, ‘GDTS is getting half the tickets.’ When the Grateful Dead ended, those arrangements ended. Now, the percentages have been smaller, but for this event, they took the hard line of getting GDTS as many tickets as they possibly could, [including] the overwhelming majority of the best seats.”

“So [Sallo] had the numbers wrong about what the percentages were, and there was not a bit of research done.”

Lambert says that Fare Thee Well excites him as a launchpad from which the remaining members of the Grateful Dead can, well, do new shit.

“My feeling about the Chicago thing,” he says, “is that once that’s over, it will free them from that burden of expectation — that ‘When’s the next tour?’ thing. They’re gonna diverge into really interesting things, with really interesting combinations of people. They’ve all got interesting projects that they’re really happy with. So this is not an occasion of mourning for me.”

And perhaps that’s “the truest Grateful Dead experience” — to keep evolving, as the band did so successfully and so rapidly in its first decade or so, before Garcia fell deep into narcotics and the band’s music fell deep into ossification. Maybe the point is that the surviving members of the Grateful Dead have the right to do whatever the heck they please, and that includes not only choosing who they want to play with, but also choosing to never play Grateful Dead music together again.

“Very Symbiotic”: A Conversation with Sylvan Esso (Boulder Weekly 3/19/2015)


Very Symbiotic: A Conversation with Sylvan Esso
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly

The lovable electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso, based in North Carolina and featuring talented young Mountain Man singer Amelia Meath, plays the Gothic Theatre in Denver on Saturday night. The show has been sold out for a while, as Sylvan Esso – which juxtaposes the sweet-voiced Meath’s playful sensuality and profound femininity with producer Nick Sanborn’s infectious, bouncy soundscapes – has been on a critical and commercial roll since its infectious self-titled 2014 debut.

Recently Meath, resting in Durham after the band’s first Australian tour, spoke with Boulder Weekly by phone about her deep songwriting partnerships and her musical evolution from mellow, poignant indie folk singer to energetic pop savant.

Adam Perry: I saw Mountain Man here at the Boulder Theater in 2010 and remember you saying you ate at Lucille’s.

Amelia Meath: Oh yeah. Like, all the time. (Laughs)

AP: And then a few weeks later I heard the live album and you said you’d eaten at Canter’s in Los Angeles. So I was wondering, “Does she tell the audience where she had dinner every night?”

AM: (Laughs) Sometimes I like to. I think it’s really important. It’s also a really good way of telling people that you appreciate their city.

AP: What’s it like to be on tour now with just one other person? Do you miss all the female energy from Mountain Man on the road?

AM: It’s just a totally different thing, you know? I miss that band. It’s not necessarily that I’m missing the female energy; I’m missing Molly and Alexandra. At the same time…that time was that time, and now I hang out with Nick [Sanborn] all the time, and our tour manager, Rusty.

AP: Is Mountain Man defunct?

AM: Oh, no. Imagine Mountain Man as a sleeping bear. A very cozy, sleeping bear.

AP: How did “Play It Right” evolve? I saw Mountain Man playing it in a video and it was a gentle thing; now it’s a dance anthem.

AM: I asked Nick to do a remix of it. In my mind, there was always music behind “Play It Right.” Mountain Man was just discussing it in a different way. Once Nick remixed it, it matched what was always in my brain. And it inspired our band.

AP: I remember meeting you when you played Boulder with Mountain Man, and you had what you called a “Tank Girl” haircut. You definitely stood out. Do you get to be more yourself with Sylvan Esso?

AM: No, not really. Whatever you make is who you are, if you’re making an artistic expression. It’s impossible, if you’re spending time trying to distill what you think into story, for it to not reflect some part of you.

AP: Mountain Man always had such a sense of place, musically. I remember first hearing the album when we were living in Maine…

AM: Oh yeah. Totally.

AP: …and feeling transported to a farmhouse in Vermont. How does place – maybe North Carolina – inform Sylvan Esso’s music?

AM: I am totally sure that [place] has informed it, but quite honestly I can’t necessarily pinpoint that for you. If that were true I would probably be singing the blues, you know? But I’m sure that it does influence some of the sound. I know that Mountain Man did sound like Vermont to me, and it did sound like what we sounded like when we were 18 to 26 years old.

AP: Being in a band with just one other person now, what’s the musical relationship like? Has it become almost symbiotic?

AM: Yes, that’s the truth. It’s very symbiotic. And it’s also quite organic in that we both switch back and forth roles regularly.

AP: I’ve seen Nick say in interviews what a great writer of melodies and lyrics you are. What’s it like to destroy stereotypes for people who wrongly think that male/female duo is just a Wizard of Oz guy and a fun frontwoman?

AM: It feels really nice; at the same time, Nick really is the Wizard of Oz in a lot of ways. (Laughs)  He’s able to take my lyrics and melodies and lend a new, different kind of emotional landscape under it that maybe I hadn’t detected, or expand on the things I’m talking about through sound. It does feel really good to be able to share the role of writing equally. I know that together we’re much better than the sum of our parts. And also part of being in a duo is constantly bending and changing and taking on different roles and giving other roles back. It’s wonderful that I’ve been able to find so many writing partners in my life. I mean, I’ve found three incredible writing partners already and I’m only 26. That’s wild. Most people don’t find one.

AP: My daughter is five and she’s been singing along with “Hey Mami,” probably thinking more along the lines of “Hey, mommy.” Do you think, when you’re writing and recording, that kids might be listening? And are you conscious that your lyrics, which sometimes have a feminist message, might make you a role model in some way?

AM: I am conscious that I’m a female role model. It’s such an honor in general. And I also really like that a lot of kids seem to have attached to “Hey Mami” as a song for their moms. It’s so great. And so not what I intended when I was writing the song. (Laughs). But I love it. And the Sylvan Esso album begins and ends on a note about moms. There’s “Come Down,” which is also about saying goodbye to your mother.

AP: When you played “Coffee” with Questlove on The Tonight Show it looked like a blast, but I was also wondering what goes into that, what kind of rehearsal.

AM: 15 minutes of rehearsal went into that. (Laughs)

AP: He’s a genius.

AM: Yeah, he really is. He’s such a wizard, and we were so honored when he asked. He asked to play on it, which I think was a really generous bid on it, because it made sure that people would watch. Or it might have been, in part, the Fallon team. But I don’t know; I mean, he seemed to know the album. It was great to meet him, if just for such a short period of time. Also, when Questlove asks if he can play with you, there’s only one answer. You can’t say, “Thanks anyway.” I’m so happy we got to play with him. It’s also really scary to play with another musician for the first time, on live television.

AP: He’s like a drum machine, though, so there was nothing to worry about.

AM: Oh yeah, and his concept of swing is insane. Wow. What a wizard.

AP: Will you have any new songs for the show in Denver?

AM: I think so.

AP: You’ve been writing together on the road?

AM: We’ve been working, but we can’t write on the road. We had three weeks off, the first three weeks since the album cycle started, and we’ve been able to get a couple of new ideas out. So hopefully some of those will take shape and we’ll be able to play them when we’re in Denver.




by Adam Perry for Westword, 3/6/2015

“There was a time when there was a thriving music scene in Boulder. At least [there were] a lot of record stores and shows, places with interesting music,” says filmmaker Dan Schneidkraut, whose feature-length documentary Old Man — about his father, Andy Schneidkraut, and his iconic record shop, Albums on the Hill — makes its Colorado debut this weekend at the Dairy Center’s Boedecker Theater.

“People my parents’ age might miss the soda fountain or whatever,” says Dan, “but I think there’s huge value in record stores. This stuff is super important to me, and it ought to be in a place like Boulder, which obviously has the wealth to support it. It blows my mind that it’s not sustainable in a community like that.”

It’s true: There were once small and mid-sized rock venues in Boulder, as well as record shops all over town. Today, there are no small venues committed to developing bands. As for record stores, although Bart’s has popped up repeatedly in different incarnations and Absolute Vinyl excels at selling both stereos and records, the 62-year-old Andy represents a sort of last man standing.

Dan, who is 35, has lived in Minneapolis for over a decade; he visited Boulder in 2010 to immerse himself in his father’s life for three weeks. Dan sold Old Man to his father chiefly as a film about Albums on the Hill and the death of American record stores, but it quickly became what Dan calls a documentary about “someone who’s valuable to a lot of people…the kind of person who maybe doesn’t quite exist anymore.”

Andy, who has owned Albums on the Hill since 1987, was born in Brooklyn, and lost his father in a tragic accident when he was just five years old. He saw a clear path to Fordham University derailed late in high school by an arrest for — go figure — stealing albums. He now calls that incident “the lynchpin for the direction that my life went. It meant so much.”

What really affected him wasn’t so much the trouble he got into that night, which included a beating from his adoptive father. “It may have been my mom throwing out all the records I had at that point,” he says, “and the garbage man going through the records and pulling them out of the trash.” He became a hopeless music fanatic.

Andy still made it to law school, but he quit after a year. He wound up in Colorado in 1976, where he owned an Italian restaurant in Estes Park and was, for a time, the executive director of the chamber of commerce there. He moved to Boulder in the early ’80s, where selling records and spreading musical knowledge and appreciation became his life’s work.

“He’s sort of stuck underneath his dream,” says Dan. Andy claims it’s been since 2005 that he didn’t have back rent. Recently, he’s been watching virtually every business around him fold so that the latest sandwich shop or Starbucks can feed college kids on the Hill while community keystones like Espresso Roma disappear.

“If he backed out he would be fucked,” says Dan, “but if he’s there, he’s screwed. Maybe it’s a metaphor for modern life in America. You can’t win if you’re not just doing something to make tons of money. People have trouble finding value in something that’s a place to exchange ideas.”

Many people who’ve come through Boulder over the years — whether on vacation, during their college years, or to build a life — have found value in walking into Albums on the Hill and entering Andy’s world.

“That’s certainly something in the movie I wanted to express — that he wasn’t just my dad,” says Dan. “He functions as a surrogate father to a lot of people — not just at the record store, but as a guy in the community. He’s always been such a sweet, warm, generous person to a lot of kids who, I imagine, don’t have dads or miss their parents because they’re in college. He takes people under his wing.
“This movie is really me starting to realize the value of a person like him — and imagining the world without a person like him is very difficult. If I can express anything with the movie, it’s that guys like my dad are very valuable people.”

Dan hasn’t always seen his dad that way. He was frequently arrested as a kid on the streets of Boulder, and the resulting confrontations with Andy weren’t easy.

“The fact that it came to violent interactions speaks to the difficulty of our relationship when I was a kid,” Dan explains. “He’s not naturally an aggressive person. He’s naturally a very kind and gentle person. An important part of the story is that this is who he is, and I was so terrible that I was able to provoke him out of his natural state. Whenever he’s been angry or gotten violent or punched a hole in a wall, it’s always been justified. His violence always seemed righteous.”

Andy’s passion for exposing the Boulder community to great music, and also film and poetry, has certainly been righteous. He took Dan to see the Ramones at the Glenn Miller Ballroom, took him to pick up George Clinton at the airport, took him to see Mojo Nixon “when it was inappropriate,” says Andy, and sat through hundreds of films with his son, effectively creating what University of Colorado film-studies professor Phil Solomon calls “The film school of Andy.”

Still, like anyone, Dan rebelled.

“He’s cool, so I had to work a lot harder to rebel than most kids did,” Dan says. “Most kids just have to not go to church or something like that, and you have to get into grindcore and death metal just to psych [Andy] out. But he was cool about that; he would do special orders for stuff like that. He’s pretty hard to piss off with any cultural stuff, so I pretty much just had to end up in jail.”

Dan, whose films have been showing all over the world and garnering serious acclaim, calls Boulder both “a weird place to grow up” and “full of shit.” A lot of Old Man is a stunning, and in some ways chilling, description of the town.

“It just seems more and more like Boulder the brand rather than the actual culture that built the community way before I was there,” Dan says. “I feel like Boulder likes to talk about how it embraces culture and things like that, but it seems very fickle about what it actually values, if it values anything at all in that regard.”

Andy says it’s hard to disagree.

“The interesting thing about the movie,” he says, “is there are a lot of things that people don’t want to hear about Boulder, don’t want to believe about Boulder, but that doesn’t keep them from being true. Maybe the most painful thing about that truth is how much of a blind eye many of the folks of Boulder cast upon that.”

Still, what is most remarkable about Old Man is the simple, clear love between two very complex individuals who endured uniquely troubled childhoods. At one point in the film, as footage of Dan and Andy having lunch at a hot-dog shop in Boulder rolls, Dan expresses that relationship:

“I’m not scared of anything, except losing this guy. If I had one wish it would be that I was gone before him. This might be the sole reason I do reckless things.”

Asked about that scene, Andy has to pause as he fights back tears.

“I have a son who is a person who doesn’t easily show his emotions,” Andy says. “but this film is very emotional, and I think he reveals his feelings about me, and I think it’s a love song.

“All of us are out there searching for that father figure or that mother figure. And the real ones that we have are all going to be imperfect.”

Interview with Dale Bridges: A Walk On the Dark Side (Boulder Weekly 3/12/2015)


A Walk On the Dark Side
A Conversation with Dale Bridges
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly, 3/12/2015

Justice, Inc. is the debut short-story collection by former Boulder Weekly A&E editor Dale Bridges, who left the paper in 2009 to rent a tiny room on the Hill and write stories about, among other things, zombies, InstaBabies, clones made for the purpose of public executions and recreational killing sparked by conversations at Denny’s.

Bridges, who grew up in Colorado and now lives in Austin, writes about the black hearts of both men and women with both levity and vitriol. The up-and-coming satirist currently works the nightshift at a bookstore in Austin; he says the “weird customers” inspire his writing. Recently, Bridges called Boulder Weekly to talk about Justice, Inc.

Boulder Weekly: Did you start writing short stories as a kid?

Dale Bridges: Not really, no. I was really into reading but I did not grow up in an artistic family at all, so [writing] was not something that you would consider or take very seriously. So, I didn’t even really start writing until I was about ready to graduate [from the University of Northern Colorado]. I was, like, 23. They don’t even have a writing program. I was there because, honestly, it was the college I could afford. Nobody in my family had gone to a secular college, either. My dad had gone to Bible college. I didn’t really know what I was doing; I just knew I wanted to leave Yuma [Colo.], and I didn’t want to go to the Army. But that’s when I started writing, toward the end of my undergrad. Really, really terrible stories, but I started writing and knew that’s what I wanted to do.

What does your fascination with violence stem from?

I’m not sure it’s a fascination so much as it’s maybe a writing tool. Some of it is a way to grab the reader’s attention, and then some of it is just an attempt to grab a reader that’s been desensitized to violence. I do think I use [violence] as a tool to grab the reader’s attention, but I hope I do more with it than just sort of lean on it as a crutch.

You do. The story that affected me the most was “The Girlfriend.” It seemed like the only way the man who ordered the robot girlfriend knew how to commu nicate his emotions was through violence.

That one was an exploration of fantasy and control, how that can be wrong, even though there’s nothing wrong with people having fantasies. And he gets an object. It’s not a person. He doesn’t have to control his fantasies with her. And I didn’t know it was going to go that dark until I was at least halfway through the story and I realized where it was headed. That’s when I knew it was good, when I was writing and was, like, “I don’t even want to have these thoughts in my head.”

One of the big questions I had after reading just half of the book was, “Are we all inherently hateful, terrible people, or are we all just weak, confused people who aren’t in control at all?” 

I think we’re all definitely capable of the worst possible behavior, and that’s an important thing to realize. As Americans, especially white Americans, most of us live a pretty cushy existence. I think that’s why shows likeBreaking Bad are popular, sort of reminding us where we’re all at. I don’t think we’re all evil; I just think we’re animals with all the instincts that come along with being animals. The harm comes when we try to elevate ourselves into something higher. You’re not going to transcend your natural, animal nature. We’re not going to become pure spirit.

A lot of the book is really funny, and a lot is really shocking, but there’s so much hate. Even in the futur istic story [“Time Warp Café”] things still suck. After finishing the book I just had to ask, “What things make Dale Bridges happy?” 

[Laughs]. Pretty simple things make me happy. I’m an introvert, so nothing’s better than reading a good book. I like people one on one; it’s when they group up into like-minded groups that I get nervous. That’s when they scare me. People seem to be obsessed with happiness, and I’m such an asshole; that’s just my normal state. I was born a grumpy 70-year-old man who’s constantly telling people to stay off his lawn. And when I’m making these observations about the world I can’t understand why everybody else isn’t seeing the things I’m seeing, why they’re trying to be happy about it. At the very least we should get angry, because we know the horrible things going on in the world.

What’s an example? 

We live in a perfectly nice neighborhood in Austin, and walking around I see this guy all the time. He’s standing outside of one of those “Cash for Gold” things holding a sign that says “Cash for Gold.” He just reeks of alcohol and he’s wearing a clown, rainbow wig for no apparent reason, and female breasts beneath his shirt, and an American flag wrapped around his neck as a cape. And he’s dancing there, and someone has made this poor man, who obviously doesn’t have any other options, do this thing. And this is somebody in my neighborhood who I see every day. So that’s the anger, the shocking and the dark humor and all of that. It’s right outside my door. People are like, “Where do you get these ideas?” and I say, “It’s right there, all the time.”

What effect did Boulder have on you? 

I don’t think the environment is the big thing. The writer needs to find [his or her] pace and a little room to write in. And Boulder provided me with that. It was definitely a turning point in my writing. It was a really important time. Boulder provided me with the room to write in and the means to get published, and I met a lot of great writers and artists who were supportive and talked me down from a ledge when I need it. It was the place that helped me get started.