Editor’s note: When I requested responses for music-based memories, I was fortunate to receive a thoughtful, well-written response from my friend Jason Winters. Like me, he’s categorized and marked the highs and lows of much of his life by what music he was listening to at the time. He also associates certain music with the friends and family that introduced him to it. It’s a beautiful thing, and I knew there was a reason I liked this guy so much. Happy listening!
In the Beginning
I’ve been a music lover all of my life. It is my drug of choice. When I was very young, I listened to my parents’ records (The Beatles, John Denver, and Jim Croce are the ones I remember most). I had older brothers so I got a taste of the teenage/college music at a young age too. It was Bowie, Kiss, Van Halen, etc. In middle school, rap hit, and I was enthralled. RUN-DMC, Nucleus, and LL Cool J were the favorites then. Eventually, Eric B. & Rakim became my favorites.
Then, out of nowhere, I was introduced to The Cure. This was around the time the Disintegration album came out. But what got me hooked were the B sides of the Staring at the Sea album. Hip-Hop took a back seat to my new obsession, these magic weirdos from across the pond. I thought it would be the greatest thing in the word to go see them. I thought it very unlikely that I ever would (living in North Carolina). Then the album Wish was released, and they toured with it. To my excitement, there was a date in Chapel Hill. We lined up at the Ticketmaster outlet (Record Bar) on the morning of the sale. They held a lottery for line spots. All of my friends drew a number and we used the lowest one. We ended up with tenth-row seats FOR THE FREAKING WISH TOUR!!!! It was as amazing as I had anticipated it to be.
Adventures in the Grunge
A few years later, I was helping DJ a dance for middle school kids when the guy I was assisting asked if I’d heard this Nirvana song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” We played it at the dance, the middle school kids freaked out, and my mind was blown. We played it again later because it got such a reaction. So down the Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Screaming Trees, Soundgarden rabbit hole I went. Lollapalooza concerts now took the number one spot on my yearly “to do” list.
Having grown up in the Midwest and moving to a (shall we say?) redneck area of the south these concerts were eye-opening in many ways. At the first one I attended, there was a guy in a cage smashing TVs with a lead pipe. At the Jim Rose Circus Side Show, a man was picking up cinder blocks with a chain attached to the hole in his tongue. Jim’s wife threw darts in his back. They poured Ajax, beer, and all kinds of disgusting junk into a giant syringe; pumped it into a guys stomach; sucked it back out; poured the contents into Solo cups; and served it to three other people who drank it.
Oh yeah, and there were Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Ministry. I had never heard of Ministry, so I was in for a shock. When they started playing, everyone picked up the trash from the ground and started throwing it in the air. It was like a rain of trash. There were pizza boxes, shoes, clothing and later people began being thrown in the air. Fires started popping up all over the lawn. I had never in my life seen music bring such a wild response. I instantly became a fan.
Musical Dry Spell
A few years later I got married. And a few years after, the kids started coming. I didn’t have as much time for music anymore. Eventually, in 2008 I became depressed. Nothing made me happy. I had a young family and lots to be happy about. But my mind was dark. I would come home from work every day, sit down in a chair and wait to die. I’m not saying it’s solely because of the lack of music in my life. But that is probably part of it. What I had once passionately obsessed over had become stale to me. Nothing coming out at that time was of any interest at all.
Then one day my cousin and friend showed up and wanted me to go to the mountains for a drive and some BBQ. As it turned out, this day changed my life. My cousin was working at UNC-TV at the time and was talking about this incredible band that had recently performed in their studio.
It was The Avett Brothers.
Meet the Bros
He and our friend had stopped at a record store earlier that day to grab one of their albums (Emotionalism). They played it all day as we drove. I didn’t notice it much at first. But as it continued to play over and over, my interest was piqued, then it was caught up, and finally, it was “just get me home so I can find more of this music online”. After returning home and downloading all that I could get, I began to listen obsessively. Eventually, my mind started thinking about something other than the dark stuff. I was becoming happy again.
People who have never heard of them will ask me to describe their music. It’s challenging question. As I’ve considered the answer over the years, it eventually occurred to me that their music has elements of all of the types of music I had listened to all my life. My answer usually goes something like this: It’s folk/bluegrass/rock/poetry sometimes sand with an attitude of The Clash and sometimes with the attitude of Air Supply.
Upon becoming an obsessed fan from listening to their records, I was hoping to one day see the Avetts live. Fortunately for me, I soon discovered that they tour non-stop and that I would have plenty of chances to see them. And see them I have! I’ve seen them over thirty times now and will not miss them whenever there is a reasonable opportunity. I am never disappointed and the same songs still make me feel something each time I hear them. Their music has had a profound effect on my life. Their lyrics admit to shortcomings and inspire to resolve and do better. It has changed my feelings, the way I act, and the type of person I want to be. I am grateful for that day my buds picked me up and took me from a dark place to where I am now.
My wife and kids are now Avett fans. So I guess it has come full circle as they are now listening to my music, as I once listened to the music of my parents.