That time I rode in a van for seven hours with As I Lay Dying.

Fifteen years ago, I attended the Cornerstone Music Festival. My girlfriend (now wife) lived ten hours away, so we saw the festival as an opportunity to meet halfway and see our favorite bands.

JonAndDerri

The Choir’s guitarist, Derri Daugherty, and me at Cornerstone 2002

Looking back, this was a great idea. It would also be the only time Katy and I saw one another that summer. I saw longtime favorites Daniel Amos, The 77’s, The Choir, Rosie Thomas, Ester Drang, Embodyment, The Violet Burning, Luxury (twice), Fine China (also twice), Mars Ill, Rosie Thomas, Roadside Monument, Terry Taylor, and Mike Knott. I also talked to David Bazan about his new record, Control, while we watched Sixpence None the Richer.

For some reason, I decided to forgo the usual camping experience and sleep in my friend’s van. But then, as fate would have it, I saw some friends from Topeka on the dirt road near the entrance of the festival. (With 30,000 people funneling into the grounds of the festival, what were the odds???) My friends had a tent, and somehow I convinced them to let me sleep in it.

But, you see, my wife has always been smarter than me. She and a friend rented a dorm room a half-hour away at the Western Illinois University for the week of Cornerstone. Sure, they didn’t get the full Cornerstone experience. You know, the sulfur showers and really terrible hardcore bands playing makeshift stages in the middle of the night. But what they got was plumbing and beds and not being awaken by ants in their ears and in their underwear. Like I said, my wife is smart.

Now, I forget what all was going on, but my friend had to leave the festival a couple days early. Since he’s the one who drove, that meant I had to choose to cut short my only visit of the summer with Katy or find a ride home. I figured I could find somebody to ride with, so I told him that I would stay. I asked everyone from I knew from Kansas City or Lawrence, no one had room for me. So I was stuck.

On the final day of the festival, I was visiting Katy and her roommate in the dorm. The adjacent room housed like six or seven guys from a band for the week. Most of them were gathered a circle in the hallway, showing one another some yo-yo tricks. Because I needed to kill some time and wanted to do anything but walk out into the 100+ degree heat, I showed them a few of my own tricks. They seemed impressed, so we started talking about how their next show was in Kansas City. In exchange for a ride back to Raytown, I offered to buy their gas.

Once in the van, I learned these guys were in a band called As I Lay Dying. Their vocalist, Tim Lambesis, was excited to play me their music, but quickly moved on to all his favorite Jimmy Eat World songs. Then he played “Love Song” by The Cure for his girlfriend and announced it was their song. This started an exchange where the two of them went back-and-forth, dedicating songs from Disintegration to one another. It was cute and fun and killed lots of time. Seven hours flew by, and we were at my house. They couldn’t linger, as they needed to get to a house show that night.

In the years that followed, I occasionally got curious and googled the band. The vocalist married his girlfriend, and there were a few lineup changes. It was interesting to watch them grow into a popular metal band. The guys quickly got so popular that they could all command their own giant hotel rooms when touring Japan, instead of sharing one, dinky dorm room in Macomb, Illinois.

Then, in 2013, Tim was arrested after trying to hire an undercover officer to murder his wife. You know, the girl to whom he had dedicated “Love Song” while we were driving through northeast Missouri. After his arrest, he quickly became a laughing stock for his crime and as stories of his bodybuilding and steroid use surfaced. Yes, Tim he had made himself an easy target with his outrageous story that seemed straight out of a movie. He made tons of money in a metal band and was living up to some cartoonish, #merica tough guy caricature, so it was difficult to muster up any empathy for the dude.

But it seemed that Tim really liked his girlfriend and enjoyed his bandmates’ company. I’m guessing that, in 2002, he could have never envisioned treating them so poorly. I assume he didn’t decide overnight to kill his wife. His behavior was most likely the result of at least a decade of devastating choices. I doubt that he just woke up one morning with an extra $20,000 in his pocket to hire a hitman to end his marriage. And maybe I’m wrong; maybe he was a jerk all along. But one thing I do know is that I’ve watched well-intended friends ruin their lives, and I have done some pretty boneheaded things myself.

So I guess I could laugh at him, but that doesn’t feel right. When I see injustice and families being ripped apart, I have to choose to cherish my own family. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll never listen to the album, Disintegration, the same way again.

Why am I just now writing about this? The Roadside Monument reunion probably had something to do with it. I couldn’t attend their reunion show, but I started thinking about their “final” show at Cornerstone in 2002. Then I googled Tim Lambesis and discovered that he’s now out of prison and married the girl with whom he was having an affair. I guess the story doesn’t end well, and his family lives in fear. I can’t laugh at the guy, but I do pray for him.

-Jonathon

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An uneasy empathy.

I spent a little over a year making my newest album, An Uneasy Empathy.  At times, the process was maddening:  repeatedly throwing out entire sessions for songs, re-working arrangements based on feedback from my wife and endlessly tweaking mixes so they sounded good on something besides my studio monitors.

Art can be made in isolation, but I don’t know that isolation always makes good art.  I hope this album reflects where I have been the past two years.  I’ve embraced friends, struggled with identity, ignored my wife, battled misperceptions and tore into the New Order catalog.  I feel like this may be my strongest batch of lyrics, but they certainly don’t make me look good.  When I hear myself sing,  “How quickly I rely on emotions when I forget just who I am,” I am floored and question how I ever got to a place where I would make such an admission.

I probably should not pull back the proverbial curtain too much.  You will understand the album; it’s not so cerebral that it’s not enjoyable.  I hope you enjoy it.  (And hopefully, if you enjoy it, you will buy a copy.  All proceeds go to support our cloth diaper fund.)

-Jonathon

July exploded like a firecracker (or How Is It August So Soon?!).

So we started this web site thing, but haven’t really updated it much. Jon’s been concentrating more on job hunting (anyone need a school administrator?) and posting content for the other site he started, Radio Free Raytown. Speaking of which, he and the site were recently featured in the local paper, The Raytown Post, and you can read the article online. I’ve been working and in summer classes, and in the past six weeks we’ve been to concerts, at the lake, celebrating birthdays and a wedding … the days have filled up rather quickly.

The highlights:

View from Millers' lake house at sunsetWe spent July 4th at Truman Lake with a couple of families from church. We enjoyed a short visit with Rick and Rachel Sams who were back visiting from Ecuador and popped in. The day was beautiful, and that night Jon and Richard got to shoot off lots of things and that made loud noises and almost temporarily blinded everyone. We went down a few weeks later for a very relaxing day on the water. As you can see in the photo, the Millers’ lake house has an amazing view that is always nice to go back for.Jonathan about to devour the meatballs

My birthday was July 9, but it lasted for several days this year. The night before my birthday, Jon took me to see Low, a favorite of ours, who were playing with In The Pines, a fairly cool local band, at the Record Bar. The night of my birthday we had dinner at Houlihan’s (sign up for their e-mail list and get a free birthday meal every year!), which was lovely and quiet and just the two of us. The following night we had the opposite atmosphere – a lively dinner at Buca di Beppo (free birthday dessert!) with friends Jonathan and Lena Andrews who were celebrating Jon’s birthday. Jon was in awe of the one pound meatballs, as anyone should be.

Mid-month, we went with friends to see Sonic Youth, which was very cool. And at the end of the month, Jon and I were part of a concert venture that brought Michael Miller, Mike Roe and Terry Taylor to Kansas City. The time leading up to the event was stressful, but the show was awesome. Jon has posts up about both shows on Radio Free Raytown with some pictures linked from his new Flickr page.

I recently went to a volunteer orientation at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. For those who don’t know, the Nelson is pretty much my favorite place in Kansas City. I’ve been wanting to get involved somewhere, and had been trying to volunteer for a smaller local arts organization for about six months, but they could never seem to figure out what to have me do – it kept changing and then wouldn’t actually happen. I had thought going there would be more helpful than going to the obvious place for art, but decided that perhaps going bigger would be better, and it turns out they plugged me in right away at the Nelson. I’ll start working with the Events and Outreach committee in September.

And our friend HopJon and I with Hope and Paul at their weddinge got married yesterday, and Jon played guitar at the wedding. The day was lovely and we all enjoyed it very much. Hope and Paul are great, and we wish them a long, happy marriage!

That’s been our summer. Jon and I are trying to hold out hope that he’ll get hired by a school in the area sometime very soon, and I’m going to enjoy a few weeks off before fall classes start up. That’s all for now!

~ Kate