Touring friends are usually transient friends. Odd little combinations that don’t always make sense. I remember when this crust showed up at a funny little acoustic show to see me in Leipzig one night. Awkward. Then not. Same with the twenty-something thinkers or arty design kids that hung out by the merch table over the years. It didn’t matter why I was in town—it was almost beside the point—as we could always chat about whatever was happening in their world. And it was always their world. Sometimes, I just didn’t want to talk about the very thing that brought me to Prague or Iowa on a Monday night in December.
Looking back, I needed those moments as I spun off the grid around 2010. As an informal network of agents, producers, musicians and authors connected around me in bizarre and often spontaneous ways, most of us came together on the road, as adults, balancing these nomadic experiences with our lives back home. Some came for the party, some for the politics. I was unapologetically driven by these characters every night, in every town. It all kept me from growing cynical as the mechanics of this industry changed throughout the aughts. Whatever band, wherever I went, it never failed: The best stuff was personally delivered, by someone in this orbit.
In talking with friends about this whole LL concept, I kept coming back to the same response: yes, every label says it’s a community. Yes, most are “independent” these days. Yes, zines can be a little cloying when it’s all content marketing anyway. And absolutely, calling this thing anything else (platform, portal, social whatever, etc) sounds like it was created by some dude in a fleece. As I said, this whole LL thing is basically a manifestation of backstage beers or walks around the block. What are you listening to lately? What are you reading?
I finally unpacked a few older boxes of records in my new place. I absolutely cannot remember what any of this stuff sounds like, but the memories are there. The wine or cigarette stains adding more reminders. I can remember these characters, many like myself, and I wonder if they’re doing the same thing with some shitty record I begrudgingly traded late one night. Objects, fonts, packaging from another time. I know plenty of guys who ditch this stuff. I know some who preserve like baby pictures. I’m still trying to decide where I land.
Somehow, I keep thinking these artifacts are lifelines, sign posts. Some end here. Some include names that would morph into other projects that you’d certainly recognize today. That’s the most fascinating part. It’s all one trip.