We took the scenic route to avoid “traffic” or whatever other pretext we came up with and after several hours of stopping to moo at cows, waving to sheep, and a dozen corn fields later we found ourselves in Lafayette, Indiana. That was our first trip, 1 year ago last August. When we arrived we found a smokey pub with almost a speakeasy feeling, the firm but kind lady at the bar with silvery hair told us that the music usually got started “after the dinner hour”.
We let ourselves into the apartment upstairs, full of old Polaroids of townspeople strewn about the floor, a plastic unicorn statue, a mysterious bedroom that was locked where someone might be living or not. We set up, we soundchecked, and parked it at the bar until it was time to start. Just before our set, a wily tall clever looking man showed up with wild eyes and a beautiful mess of curly hair, he carried an egg crate full of wires and power adaptors, “Hey guys, I think I have the beginnings of the sound system in here…Oh, you’ve already setup, cool!” that was Paul Baldwin. I recall being extremely frightened (as I usually am when something really good is about to happen). We had so much fun that night, a great show and very enthusiastic crowd of locals. It seemed that everyone we met in that town (or the one street we knew of it: Main Street downtown) had this kind of magic surrounding them, great stories and warmth.
We’ve traveled across the country playing shows in lots of small towns, but this was different. Lafayette was like its own place in time. Marco was pleased to discover that Purdue University actually schooled the majority of NASA’s astronauts. It seems that the town of Lafayette lives somewhat in the shadow of this giant, prestigious university which we actually never saw until our artist residency this summer and had nothing to do with us falling in love with Lafayette – it was all about the people we met. Everyone seems to know each other, we were told that there could never really be a hit and run because people would just be like, “Where’s Johnny driving off to?”
Paul has this kind of endless mystique around him, he’s like the wizard of Lafayette that people with ideas seem to migrate towards. He is the great enabler and it seems to me that he wields all of this magic in such an organic and subtle way that some folks might not even notice it. Lucky for us, we did! When Paul showed us the beginnings of his new artist work and performance space, Foam City, and casually (perhaps after a few adult beverages) invited Marco to come back sometime and do some crazy drum experiment thing for a few weeks, I made a mental note of it and exactly one year later there we were!
Marco and I went to Lafayette to experiment with a few different things; recording sounds, composing under time restraints which forced us to make quicker decisions about arrangement and form. My personal goal was to experiment with reality/surrealism/absurdity. I wanted to spend the next few days in a purely creative mindset where I was like a child- playing and imagining all the time and anything make-believe could be made real.
THE PLAN: Found Sounds, objects, stories from Lafayette, Indiana. We asked folks in the town to submit their own found sounds, spent a few days roaming around collecting and meeting people. Then we would write music inspired by and using what we found and perform them in a concert on the last day of the residency joined by local artists who would share their sounds as well.
Much to our surprise and delight, the resident artists at Foam City: Aaron Zernack and Esteban Garcia were amazingly welcoming and supportive of our efforts. They made us feel at home and were hugely responsible for us having such a productive stay. Zernack, as they call him, is quiet and calm, working tirelessly all day in his printing shop. We’d find him there in the morning screen printing shirts, sweaty with paint fumes all around him. He made screen printing look like a meditative ritual, a dance almost.
Esteban, a resident visual artist, exudes joy and excitement. He’s one of those people who when you first meet you know to go for a hug instead of a handshake. He seemed to be everywhere doing everything, taking photos of our process, making pieces of his own, helping with the installation of our found sounds, coordinating the artists who would join us for the concert. I found myself wanting to put him in my pocket and take him back with me! It’s what every space needs: a brilliant organizer, full of positivity and creativity!
And then there’s Paul. There’s so much to say about him and our experiences together those couple of days that I’ll need to make a separate blog post about it (or several). For now, perhaps I’ll just say that he made the whole trip feel, well, like a TRIP in the best possible way! Every day felt like an EXPERIMENT IN DOING THINGS. You imagine, you have an idea, and then you do it. Practiced this many times, and it made me wish that I did this every day. When I told Paul this he replied, “That’s what life is!”. And that my friends, is why I need to write several separate posts to try to document all of what’s under there…
In the posts to come, I’ll hopefully be able to illustrate more of the characters we met and the stories we heard. For now, you can hear some of the result of our sound collection, submitted sounds from the people of Lafayette, and most of the concert (we’re still trying to salvage the audio from our own set) over at soundcloud.