So here’s something I don’t talk about very often.
When the Current launched in the beginning of 2005, I was living a dramatically different life. I was a college drop-out, floundering around trying to figure out where I had left all my ambitions and dreams, and I spent my days pinning tiny paper numbers to the tags of people’s dress shirts and pants in the back room of a drycleaners where, to my own surprise, I had been promoted to be the store’s manager. I was also engaged to my first soon-to-be-husband and elbow-deep in planning my first wedding, which was scheduled to take place in August.
As you can probably guess by my belabored use of the word “first,” there’s really only one way that this story is going to turn out. But I certainly had no idea; the furthest that I could see out into my future was my quickly approaching nuptials and all of the little details that would add up to a very big day, and I was obsessively focused on the music that was going to play when I walked down the aisle.
I remember holding very still the moment the Current came on air. I was at the drycleaners, just catching my breath after the morning rush of customers, and I flipped on the Current just as Dale Connelly and Jim Ed Poole’s Morning Show was coming to an end over on MPR’s Classical station. (If I’m remembering correctly, Dale and Jim Ed were instructing everyone to turn the channel and go check out the new station, since their show would be moving over to it the next day.) I was already heavy into Atmosphere and Seven’s Travels, so hearing “Say Shh” come over the airwaves was a revelation, and just two songs later the DJ cued up “32 Flavors” by one of my musical heroes, Ani DiFranco. I was hooked.
My ex-husband and I were prototypical Current listeners. We lived in Uptown, spent all of our meager earnings on CDs and concert tickets, hungrily consumed all of the arts coverage in the local alt-weeklies, and drank a crapload of beer. When my ex made me a mixtape on one of our first dates, it was filled with songs by Current-friendly bands like Built to Spill, the Long Winters, and the Postal Service. And when we got married, we would walk down the aisle to Bright Eyes and Mason Jennings.
As soon as the Current launched we mailed in a check to become founding members, and my married name is still inscribed next to his on the station’s founding member wall. I never in a million years thought that I would get to see that wall in person, much less walk past it every single day on the way to and from my cubicle at Minnesota freaking Public Radio. I don’t know that I can say that the Current was the reason I would begin seriously pursuing a music journalism career in late 2005, but it definitely provided me with a gateway that had previously felt blocked. And it gave me a glimpse into not just the Twin Cities music scene but also the vast network of musicians, artists, DJs, audiophiles, and fans that coalesce to form a community. I knew I had to be a part of it; I just wasn’t quite sure how.
I’ve spent a lot of time this month thinking back on my life in 2005, and in many ways it’s quite painful for me to retrace all those missteps and mistakes and heartbreaks.
I can still vividly remember driving through Uptown one day with my soon-to-be-ex-husband, when we heard the opening strains of a song I’d been playing nonstop at home. “Here’s a new artist from Eau Claire that’s been getting a lot of buzz,” Mark Wheat said. “It’s Bon Iver with ‘Skinny Love.’”
“Don’t leave me,” my ex pled, turning to me as I drove ahead. “You can’t leave me. I won’t ever be able to listen to music again.”
Back in those early days the Current had a slogan that was plastered all over town: “Every day deserves a soundtrack.” For me, like for so many others, the soundtrack of the Current became so interwoven with the messy patchwork of my life that it wasn’t just the station that was playing quietly in the background as I fell in and out of love; it was the reason I discovered so many artists who would excite me and soothe me, and the lifeline that would lead me from those confusing, floundering days into a more certain future.
That whole transition period feels so hazy to me now, but I don’t know if I can spell it out much clearer than I did in my journal back in October 2005, where I scribbled this furiously after a night of loud music and meeting people I had previously only heard on the Current:
Lately I have been trying to figure out a way to focus my creative energy, which continues to brew inside of me. I went to a couple of Ike Reilly shows last weekend and ended up getting invited to go to a bar with Martin [Devaney] and Ike showed up and I got to meet a bunch of people involved in the local music community. It was one of the best weekends I have had in so long. It really got my gears turning about pursuing this whole music criticism thing.
I talked to Martin about it, and I had just read this article where Ike talks about being in it for the long haul, and how rock musicians can only be really great if they keep creating song after song, record after f***ing record. In other words, don’t get caught up in the f***ing circus of it all, don’t expect to be heralded as a genius, especially after your first or second creation. And Martin tied it all together for me and explained that you have to just keep going.
As we sat at the Hexagon bar and watched all of the hard-working musicians, some on the stage, some in the crowd, some with record contracts and booking agents, some still completely undiscovered, I realized that I can’t just expect greatness to fall out of my a** without giving it a good effort.
So I am here now to say that I am joining the fight. I am in it for the long haul. Whether it is totally worthless or something someone might care about, I pledge to create. Finally stop holding back. I want to write about everything. I want to tell people about the music I love so much that it pains me, to express the sheer innocent joy I get from seeing a great rock band in concert, and maybe even play a bit with my own musical creativity and see what I can make of it. It’s better than never trying, right?
And so I did.