Despair (v) – To give up as beyond hope or expectation.
Despair (n) – Loss of hope; utter hopelessness; complete despondency.
The verb as repetition of action until the noun is the realized end state of being. The vacillation between fear and apathy of the status quo, the only matter still to be determined is the length and depth of the long downward spiral. How deep are the depths? Indeed, how long is a piece of string?
The damning piece, though, is that none of this is really our fault. Blame the evolution of All That Is, All That Was. We inherited the plight, the fight was thrust upon us, not readily enjoined. It’s those that walked before us, those who have aged out of the fight, safely removed from blame or even deep examination of potential guilt by the ravages of time and chemicals, a pass granted to those no longer relevant enough to matter.
I was eight years old when Those That Came Before Me decided that the hope of generations future would hinge on smarter kids, and thus my Saturday Morning Cartoons were interrupted by the strains of Schoolhouse Rock ‘I’m Just a Bill’ screaming in my face, a largely failed experiment in sociology designed to make Young James a better citizen, ready to take up the cause and beat back The Red Menace via the introduction of bicameral legislation. Through a process. And a trust that every other Young James across the Great Plains of the Midwest was similarly communing with future responsibilities of citizenship, all presented in a neat animated three minute segment with Catchy Tunes. And now back to Scoopy Doo.
It was that and countless other Failed Experiments that leads us to where we are: The game was rigged in the first place, all of the sweet animation and cool jingles of our youth were just another diversion, just another excuse to make us look That Way while Bad Things were going on This Way. Sure, go ahead. March. Protest. Sign petitions. But while we busy ourselves with The Process of Being Incensed yet another atrocity is being perpetrated just out of the line of sight. An atrocity that will have Tomorrow’s Attention because it seems more egregious than today’s, but we need time to make new signs and do a quick cut/replace on the petitions.
It is no coincidence that the only three clear memories of my Saturday Morning Cartoon Childhood are:
1. Schoolhouse Rock (Three IS the Magic Number)
2. The commercial where the Indian (Native American) Chief is sitting on his horse surveying the trash and waste carelessly strewn about by the Ones that introduced gunpowder and whisky to his ancestors. He turns to display a solitary tear rolling down his cheek.
3. The ‘This Is Only a Test’ screwup where the TV announcement said that this WAS an actual emergency (The Communist Horde had launched the missiles aimed directly at my house). Other family members didn’t find it nearly as urgent when I roused them from their Saturday Morning Slumbers, it was highly suggested that I go back downstairs and watch more animations and listen to more catchy jingles.
So the despair. It’s real and to most of us, the despair has long since transitioned from verb to noun. It is now our life, our normal.
On March 12, 2019 the Beacon of Hope and Vibe (aka, TBA Productions) presented us with the soundtrack to our despair in a triple header of beautiful music. HotSpit (Richmond, VA), Static Collector (Norfolk, VA), and Brother Bird (Nashville, TN) each took a turn on the stage at Charlie’s American Cafe, each providing the sonic distraction and reminder that despair doesn’t have to be without vibe. To be clear, catching any one of these bands should be high on your List of Stuff You Need to Do. All three in one night is the stuff of legends. TBA has shown that they certainly know how to slam, rift, and grind with the best of them. Tonight was their Special Present to us, though: They gave us the space and accompaniment to look inward while listening outward, to commune with other sympathetic souls. To question without being questionable. To seek without being lost. To wander without being frantic. If I were to produce a movie that included some scenes of death and destruction, the soundtrack would certainly be a compilation of the soothing soaring sonic sustenance that was a perfect counterpoint to All that is Currently Wrong. An escape, even if only for a brief moment in time. On this night Charlie’s felt more like a land not to be encroached upon than dimly lit sonic play land (although the Revolution is still apparently not going to be well lit).
Ordinarily this space would be filled with musical comparisons and critiques of each group in turn, assuring the reader that Talent and Inspiration incarnate rained down on the venue and those therein contained; But tonight wasn’t about that. Tonight was about artists sharing their shimmering recipes for coping with what is. And for a brief moment, not looking towards what might be. Just be present, be here, be attentive, be introspective. Just be.