Train Musings

I’ve had three recent encounters with trains.

The first was in the Mojave Desert. Blinding heat, socially very-distant. We spotted it from afar, way up ahead and miles away. In the expanse of the desert, we watched the train grow closer and larger as we, driving, continued along the open road. This went on for miles until unbelievably, our paths met at the same point. We rolled to a stop just as the rail crossings lowered. The train blasted in front of us. 

Train two was south of Shasta, by the campground, next to the river. It appeared in the early evening, and with horns blaring it rolled to a stop. We stood at its side, hopped up on some rungs, and marveled at the feat of construction. We were drinking wine. 

The third was near the Oregon–California border, along highway 97. Driving parallel alongside a moving train is trippy. I tried to keep my eyes on the road but the train demanded my attention. My perception of speed blurred. 

Trains. Sheer masses of iron and steel. The freight containers green, orange, brown, all of them rusted. Each one the same, each one different. One after the next, seemingly endless. What was behind those doors? Where were they headed? 

Under the strange cloud of quarantine, these days pass by like train cars – each one the same, each one different. Our only choice is to keep moving in the same direction. 

The beautiful new album from Mtbrd plays like a train. Smooth beats move one after another, without any notice one track has passed to the next.  Seamless.  Start at the beginning and in the blink of an eye you’re on track 10.  Each one the same, each one different. 

The season is near

This is one of the best times of the year. 

No, not because of the holidays. Not because of reunions with friends and family. Not because everyone starts feelin’ that warm, holiday cheer. Those things are all fantastic, of course, but not what I’m talking about. 

It’s ski hype season. 

We start looking at snow reports – acting like we know anything about deciphering storm patterns. Who’s getting in those early turns? Who’s gonna score big this year? 

The boys are talkin’ trips. Utah or Colorado – can we do both? Big Sky is a must. Anyone been to Revelstoke? Need to recruit more to Tahoe! 

We start watching this year’s ski films and edits, drooling over Japow face shots we can only dream about. 

The build up to ski season is fucking great. And with that, here’s the song of the winter. 

open land // open mind

Something I love about music is the beautiful pairings that exist between landscape and music. Creedence matches with an open highway,  Bon Iver is meant for a cozy cabin, Real Estate is best suited for a sunny, coastal cruise. These things just feel natural. 

For some time now, I’ve found that the desert and electronic music are a natural fit, and as I was driving around New Mexico recently, I pondered why

It could be that most highways in the desert have speed limits of 75 or more; electronic beats serve as a good backdrop to high speeds. 

It could be that Joshua Tree trip last year, of which the unofficial sponsor was cigarettes and EDM. Petey with the sticks, it felt like the only option. 

It could be the influence of Burning Man. Shit, whether you’ve been or not, perhaps the magnetic allure of the event has subconsciously instilled in us this alignment of electronic music and the desert. 

But ultimately, I think this happy marriage is explained quite simply: the desert is a fucking weird place. When you move through strange, barren and endless landscapes, there’s something that naturally broadens your thoughts, opens up the mind. And while the vast desert stimulates your senses, electronic music just feels right. 

Here are a few cruisers – some new, some old – that opened things up in New Mex. 

 

New York Part 3

Saying yes to the concert on night one set the stage for what was to come.  Long days followed by longer nights. Constant movement, coffee, alcohol, minimal sleep. Rinse and repeat. It was a bender. It was New York. There was no slowing down.

Another whiskey? Well of course. The stale bar began to blur; the darts landed further and further from their target. In hindsight, a brilliant metaphor.

Was that the same night we popped into the jazz club, or the night after? I don’t think they liked us there.

On night four we struck up conversation with some girls standing nearby. They seemed fun, but I quickly learned they were from Florida – which is to say, the only thing we had in common was our shameful presence at the bar. I was handed another Negroni, and focused my attention to a girl wearing stripes. She had blue eyes I could’ve stared into for eternity. Feeling more confident than usual, I approached her and gave it a go. I can’t recall what was said, but I remember thinking the conversation ended too quickly.

(revisit New York Part 2 – in which Jab searches for lust) 

Outside Lands

“They’re going up by the inflatable squid.”

It wasn’t until D-Man shouted this that I actually took stock of our surroundings. The squid? That tiny fucking squid way up there? It seemed a mile away, within the heart of chaos and excess. I figured we’d lose those two for the rest of the night. “Meet at the empanada stand if you get lost”, we had said earlier.

The scene was grander than I had imagined – more people, bigger stages. The only other time I was in a confluence of energy so giant was Munich, six years ago.

Odesza was impressive. It was what it needed to be. In a way, they delivered what I expected them to – positivity, movement, energy – and it was fulfilling. Seeing them was long overdue.

The shirtless guy, however? The nutcase chugging wine, doing brainless sketches with his bandmates between songs? Even with flowebrother’s insight, I wasn’t prepared for Mac DeMarco. He was a maniac. A carefree goon. An accidental superstar. I wasn’t witnessing a polished band play for a paycheck, I was watching a crew of pals – jokesters – simply making music and having fun. Bravo, Mac, bravo.


Day Two brought sunshine, and with it, steadily flowing beer. When we gathered the motivation to leave the backyard and head to the park, we arrived to the experimental sounds of Bon Iver. It wasn’t the vibe we desired – too calming. Give us something to move to.

We found it at Jamie xx. Mesmerizing, intense and unpredictable, he wasn’t there to cater to the casual fan; he was there to craft a genuine DJ set. He played songs I’d never heard; songs that made the crowd uncomfortable; songs that gave me flashbacks to warehouses in southern Spain.  He did not play two of his biggest hits. As daylight faded and darkness took over, he turned the crowd into a frenzy, and I loved it. Charley didn’t quite get it. Sam was a goner. Everybody was doing something.


It’s a surreal feeling to see a performer after they’ve only previously existed ever so frequently within your headphones.  Since I first learned about Tash Sultana, she has captivated me. Her energy, her spirit, her flare. I saw her come alive on that final afternoon, and she did not disappoint. As the sun set – physically on the evening, metaphorically on the festival – we tapped our feet to the vibes. It was tribal, passionate, authentic.

I never even saw the damn empanada stand.

The Case for Not Knowing

I’ve been wrestling with an idea for a while now and can’t shake it. Our lives have become detached from unbiased experiences.

Yelp tells us if we should expect a good meal, Rotten Tomatoes dictates our viewing choices, Airbnb photo galleries are the basis of lodging selection, dating apps remove any mystery around meeting someone, and Instagram gives us utopian expectations of vacation destinations long before we step on the plane. The list goes on.

Put simply, we actively avoid going into things blindly. And this is a problem. Our bodies and minds need elements of the unexpected and unprejudiced; of this I am certain. Without them, how do we stay sharp. How do we remain curious. How do we feel alive.

Think on this, and dive blindly into the sounds of Volta Jazz. Let it take you wherever it takes you.

Volta h/t Tommy