“There, in silence, at mid-day, in that dirty, disordered winter, those intense horses were the blood the rhythm, the inciting treasure of life. I looked. I looked and was reborn: for there, unknowing, was the fountain, the dance of gold, heaven and the fire that lives in beauty. I have forgotten that dark Berlin winter. […]
I am a reader of ghost stories.
I’ll read them while I clutch one hand over my eyes, peeking through my fingers like they were blinds over a forbidden window.
To be more accurate, I’m a reader of the ghosts inside stories. It’s the beauty of the prose, the very words that are used to tell the story, that are the ghosts that stay with me. Words are the tangible imprints of ghosts and can be embodied as characters that have been given life in paper and ink. Words can make a mark on someone else’s soul, can take someone to a place and a time they’ve never been. The stories that are created by those words take shape in my own life and make me homesick for places I once was, if only in my imagination.
Richard Llewellyn’s How Green Was My Valley is one of those books that has haunted me. The book was given to me by my mother, and it sat on my nightstand for weeks because I thought it didn’t fit my taste at the time. She assured me I would love it, if not for the story, but for the magic that was created by the poetry in Llewellyn’s pen. I finally cracked it open—and then I couldn’t put it down. His words were like a drug, laced with beauty and ache and joy and sadness. They took me to Wales and I didn’t want to leave. I could see the lush green valley, I could smell the taint of coal in the air, and I could feel the damp fog cloaked around me.
Llewellyn draws the reader into the story, and Wales itself, with his mastery of language. The Valley becomes a character as if it too were a living breathing entity that Huw Morgan, the main character, must leave behind. The Valley is personified like a lover, and Huw’s separation from it is just as painful as the loss of that love: “the Valley was a part of us and we were part of the Valley, never one without the other…and every blade of grass, and every stone, and every leaf of every tree, and every knob of coal or drop of water, or stick or branch or flower or grain of pollen, or creature living, or dust in ground, all were of me as my blood, my bones, or the notions of my mind” (231).
Llewellyn also gives the reader a taste of the Welsh language by placing verbs and nouns where they would structurally appear in Welsh: “Beautiful is the voice rising to the quiet of the night. Nobody, now, to cough, or rattle paper, or come in late and make the noise of the devil with a chair or a dropped umbrella, and put heavy feet on loose boards” (304). This is a Welsh novel written so that English is made to sound Welsh, crafted beautifully by a masterful writer, using the device of words and language to immerse the reader even deeper into the land and the story.
I emerge from the novel’s pages breathless but also armed with new insight, knowledge, and even courage. Perhaps it isn’t a bad thing to be haunted. I’m taken to worlds I might not ever see in the flesh, but can visualize so clearly because of a writer’s pen. These are ghosts that help me to see my own world with an eye for the beauty in everything that touches me.
Llewellyn, Richard. How Green was My Valley.1939. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1997. Print.
Elsie was sweltering in the Tennessee dusk. She rolled down her window to catch a breeze and the scent of deep-fried hot dogs and cotton-candy sweets were heavy on the air. She glanced over and saw the carnival was in town.
She could see the lights of the Ring of Fire circling the track.
A constant loop, put together by people who appeared less educated than her. The carts rolled to the top of the loop and then upside down, dangling the riders in an amusement park noose, their faces bright red and their hair hanging down like absurd monkeys in some freak zoo.
Elsie had ridden the Ring of Fire. Once.
She had stood under its twinkling lights, waiting in line with the boy in the backwards baseball cap. They got in the cart together and pulled the lap bar tight over their legs. The train began to move, up one side of the arc, back down, and roaring to the other side, until it met at the center point of the rickety circumference. They hung at the top and she clung to her safety bar until he reached over and made her let go.
The train flew back down the track and stopped. Elsie got out first and ran to the exit ramp, adrenaline giving her courage. She turned around to tell him, but her words caught in her throat. He’d exited on the other side and disappeared into the sea of people and twinkling lights.
A carnival ghost.
She always imagined him still on that ride, his hat turned around, his grin illuminated by the rush of blood to his head. And Elsie was the antagonist of every Taylor Swift song, where Romeo was riding the Ring of Fire with Juliet and Elsie was the poison Romeo would take.
Elsie looked away from the Ring of Fire, turned up the music, and took the exit to Nashville.
She’d sworn off country music years ago, anyway.
With the exception of Johnny Cash.
Last week I posted about my lads from Oxford, England–A Silent Film. Today I’m sharing a post I wrote on my old blog about The Gaslight Anthem. Gaslight unexpectedly stormed into my music world two years ago and their music has been on my daily soundtrack ever since. Last summer, the band announced they were going on hiatus, which broke my music heart. However, shortly after, lead singer and songwriter Brian Fallon announced he’d be releasing a solo album. Music heart mended, although the piece that had Gaslight written on it still hurts.
Brian Fallon is one of those true-to-life American songwriters whose lyrics are universal and resonate long after the music has faded. His storytelling songs seem to paint a picture of small-town America, or maybe that’s because I grew up in a town that is a dot on the map and I feel as though his songs could be about my life.
As a writer, one of my goals is to have my words be a spark of inspiration in the pen of others. Brian Fallon’s lyrics have done that for me, and on September 20 of this year, I got to meet him and tell him how much his words and music have inspired me to expand my own talent.
But that’s another post.
Tonight, we’re going back to March 23, 2015, when I first saw Brian Fallon and his Gaslight Anthem mates.
You know that feeling you get when music just “gets” you? When you could swear the lyrics are written specifically for you? I have had those moments over and over again with The Gaslight Anthem. I first discovered them when I was at the American Authors concert at The Depot in Salt Lake City last October. AA had a huge screen on the stage that displayed music videos of other artists in between sets. Gaslight’s video for their [then] new single “Get Hurt” was playing and my music heart dropped when I heard the chorus. The music, the lyrics, the haunting scene of the video–it all came together and it only took a moment for me to fall hard for Gaslight. Over the next few weeks I took my time watching You Tube videos, reading articles, and purchasing their albums (this is a very fancy way of saying I Internet stalked them). I like a lot of bands but it’s hard to say that I love everything an artist does. In this case, the truth is I do love everything they do.
I realize I am a latecomer to the group. They formed in 2006 and I only discovered them in October, 2014. However, I think I can say that doesn’t make me any less of a fan. I can’t imagine my musical life without them now. Not a day has gone by where I haven’t listened to them since I discovered them.
I was beyond ecstatic when I found out they were coming to Salt Lake. I bought my tickets in December and counted down the days until March 23rd. And it slowly…finally…came.
The show was a 21+, which I have to secretly admit I prefer. There was no need to queue early, no need to fight any crowds…all the adults just sauntered in, perused the merch tables, got drinks, and relaxed on a Monday night. However, after the opener, Northcote, closed their set, I made sure I was up front against the barrier. Stage left, but able to see well anyway. I think my heart was pounding as loud as the crowd was yelling. They took the stage – the first chords of “Howl” started – and I was in that first moment: I was seeing these musical idols whose songs had become thread to my soul, stitching themselves permanently in my life.
The highlights of the evening for me were when they performed “1,000 Years,” “’59 Sound,” “45,” “Blue Dahlia,” “Film Noir,” “Sweet Morphine,” and “American Slang.” Matt from Northcote–a self-admitted huge Gaslight fan as well–joined the band on “American Slang,” and the joy on his face as he sang with his favorite band was matched by the grin on mine as I watched him.
There was only one low point of the evening, and that was when an attendee (I refuse to call him a fan) began shouting to Brian Fallon (singer/ songwriter/ guitarist) while Fallon was talking on stage. Although I can’t remember exactly what this attendee said – at first, something about stop talking and start playing; next, there’s nothing good from New Jersey (where Gaslight is from) – all I know is that I was angry, other fans were angry, and it made for an uncomfortable situation. Fallon handled it well, though, or at least he did in my opinion. He said what he wanted to say and he started playing when he wanted to play.
The best part of the show for me was when they performed “Great Expectations,” slowed down a bit from its original version, but quite possibly giving it a closer resemblance in aura to the novel of its namesake. I watched them playing, and I was suddenly overcome with this feeling that even now I can’t describe.
It was on that very stage that I discovered them, although it was when they were on screen. It was as if I had come full circle, and they had simply walked out of the screen and become flesh and blood, incredible musicians I admired but human beings whose talent but mostly hard work had brought them there. To say I was in awe is an understatement. I’m not usually at a loss for words, especially when I write, but I’m unable to accurately describe what I felt, other than amazement and inspiration.
Perhaps one of their own lyrics can describe it the best: “Look at you saving my life.” In so many ways, music has. So thank you, Gaslight, for sharing your music and your talent. I hope to repay you someday.
I’ll give you fair warning: I’m going to be writing a lot about A Silent Film, an indie band from Oxford, England. So it’s only fitting that my first blog post is about them. I’m going to bring you up to speed here since the reviews I have done in the past were housed on another blog.
I’ll let my own stories about them speak for how incredible A Silent Film is and then maybe you’ll understand why I’ve seen them 13 times in 6 states and every time a show ends, I can’t wait to see them take the stage again.
A Silent Film; Portland, OR 22 Nov 2014
After a year hiatus, my favorite band A Silent Film was finally playing a show again–one show only, and it was in Grande Ronde, Oregon. Well, I’d traveled for them before so rather than getting a Christmas present from my husband, I asked for plane tickets. It may seem crazy that I spent a fair amount of money to fly to Oregon (which, by the way, is so beautiful it made my heart ache), just to see a band.
Well, this is not just any band.
This is my A Silent Film.
From the first time I saw them, I was in love with their music. I discovered them quite by accident. In July 2011, I was in desperate need for a girls’ night out at a concert, but I almost didn’t go, because my beloved grandmother had just passed away. However, with the urging of my family, saying that she would have wanted me to go, I took my sister and we went to see Thriving Ivory at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. I adore TI …but I left with another band in my mind. This band, whose passion was clear from the first note, who I had never heard of before, had slipped into my heart and I have completely taken over my music heart.
With their songs in the background, I laugh. I cry. I dance. I sing loudly in the car, and my girls. I clean the house, fold laundry, put away dishes, work, kiss owies, cook dinner…and I write. I write stories and poetry about my life, and the lives of characters I dream up.This can’t be said enough: Their songs are the soundtrack to the stories in my head, and they have become sewn into the patchwork of my life.
Not only does their music inspire me on a daily basis, I found other fans who love their music just as much as I do. We are called the Lamplighters, and many of these people have become a huge part of my life, and it’s completely unexpected. I didn’t think that because I had a common love for a band that these people would come to mean so much to me.
My life would not be the same without my Lamplighters, fellow fans who have become close friends, who have laughed with me, cried with me, sung at the top of their lungs with me. I wouldn’t have met these amazing people without ASF.
All of this is crowned by the fact that the “lads”–Robert Stevenson and Spencer Walker– are some of the most genuinely kind and gracious people I have ever met.
Sand and Snow, ASF’s second record, became an album of anthems that held me together through an extremely difficult year. Many of the other Lamplighters have told me that ASF’s music has gotten them through hard times, too, and has also been the background for some of their happiest moments.
All of this, because of a band.
So yes, it might be crazy to some to jump on a plane and fly hundreds of miles to see a band, but this band means more to me than just their music. They are a symbol of the dreams I am pursuing, the love that I am giving, the friends I am making, the family I am raising.
They are sparks.