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Tuesday October 5 2021
 8:00PM doors -- music at 8:30PM
•••  21 AND OVER
Josiah Johnson   [co-headlining]
 alternative indie folk
Bart Budwig   [co-headlining]
 americana cosmic country

 ----- Caitlin Gowdy & Jeremy Lyon, the opening act, now off the bill

Josiah Johnson
-from Oakland, CA
-On the cusp of releasing his first-ever solo album, Every Feeling on a Loop (ANTI-Records), songwriter Josiah Johnson is aware he wasn’t supposed to be here. Just five years ago when he took a leave of absence from the acclaimed indie-folk band, The Head and the Heart, the question was less where Johnson's star would take him and more whether his struggles with addiction would end his music career. But then, he wasn’t supposed to be there, either.

Prior to co-founding the band, Johnson studied math and computer science in graduate school. But the magic of song led him to an open mic that changed his life. At Seattle’s Conor Byrne Pub, Johnson sparked collaborations with fellow musicians who would eventually form The Head and the Heart. The group’s rise was rapid. They built a loyal fanbase and zigzagged the globe, with sold-out shows at historic venues from The Fillmore to Red Rocks and festival appearances at Coachella and Lollapalooza. Their 2011 self-titled debut went on to receive RIAA Gold certification, followed by 2013’s Let’s Be Still, which landed on Billboard’s Top 10 Albums Chart.

“Those early years were sacred,” Johnson says. “A crew of friends riding high, exploring the world, making our dreams come true.” But at some point, he realized things were happening too fast. “I was emptying myself out,” he says. “Trying to keep pace with life as a touring musician. It’s not a new story. I look back and have so much sympathy for young me.”

Like many musicians before him, Johnson turned to drugs to cope with the burnout and anxiety that came with his new life. Too many long nights and too few emotional tools - twin flames that burned at both ends. And Johnson collapsed into ash. He knew something was wrong, he knew his friends and family knew something was wrong, but from the outside, his life still looked pristine. In the midst of writing The Head and the Heart’s third album, Signs of Light, Johnson checked into a rehab facility. When he checked out, though, his work hadn’t properly been completed. He tried to get back into the studio with the band, but eventually was told, “We love you but we can’t have you here right now.”

“I had been making a good living, playing in a band I loved. I was engaged to a person I adored,” Johnson says. “Then everything was gone. Originally, I thought my goal was to get all of it back. But I quickly found out I was wrong - again!”

With time, though, came clarity. Johnson says he could be most honest with himself when writing songs that he promised himself he wouldn’t release. Although the music came regularly, Johnson still allowed himself to fantasize about a life never returning to professional music. He still contemplates earning a degree in social work. Yet, the songs kept bubbling up. So, Johnson tried new ways to document the batch of songs he now carries. He learned more about home recording. He experimented with producers. Then a private show in New York City led him to work with a group of musicians led by Peter Lalish (of the band, Lucius). After the performance, a close friend told Johnson, “That was the most Josiah Johnson I have ever seen you on stage.” Eventually, the group from that night went into the studio and recorded the bulk of what would become Johnson’s first solo album.

On Every Feeling on a Loop, lush musical arrangements and harmonies support Johnson’s baritone crooning. At times, the songs sound like prayers. At others, his exuberance feels like the euphoria he’d always sought, this time hard-earned and wiser. He says he feels like a new person making it, charting his journey out of the dark into the wide awake of the morning, using the magic that was his all along.

Standouts include the lead track, “False Alarms,” which sees Johnson moving optimistically through fears and growing pains toward what’s next, punctuated by ecstatic trumpets. On “Woman In A Man’s Life,” over a bed of hypnotic drums and swelling strings, Johnson celebrates his queer identity, kept hidden until recently. “For a long time,” he says, “I held onto a lot of shame around the softness and sensitivity - around the nurturing parts of myself.”

On “Nobody Knows,” Johnson sings for people to have courage in sharing and receiving the truths of their hearts. The messages, like the man himself, are a welcome breath of air. “A lot of the growth documented on this album is about taking responsibility for how I’m showing up in the world, and that song was about taking responsibility for how I care for myself,” Johnson says. “Part of my experience with addiction was that I was having a hard time, but I wasn’t raising my hand to get the help I needed.”

Growing up curious and bright in an insular, conservative community, Johnson says he learned early on to discern which parts of himself were welcome and which were not. Though he felt love in that community, it was a smaller love than what he needed. Now, though, after years of self-study and self-healing, bolstered both by music and the love from friends and family, Johnson is ready to pen the next chapter of his life. First, it starts with Every Feeling on a Loop.

“I’ve learned to love my process,” Johnson says. “I’ve learned to love when I’ve taken the long way and where I get to admit mistakes. Humility and uncertainty are welcome. Being seen for who I am and where I’m at is my priority. And I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The result of that new courage bears out in how I’m able to be a better friend to the people I love. That’s the gift.”

Bart Budwig
-from Idaho/Portland, OR
-Bart Budwig is a son of Idaho, a cosmic country crooner, a rousing trumpet player, and cryin’-style soul singer. His music is made up of seemingly incongruous parts; thrum & strum country rhythms, jazz guitar melodies, R&B vocals. When Bart sings he draws out words into meditative mantras, whole note neologisms that keep you hanging on until his raspy voice trails off in a ragged edge. His forthcoming album, Another Burn On The AstroTurf (January 24, 2020, Fluff and Gravy Records) was recorded over five days by a seven-piece band inside the OK Theater. It’s a melancholy rhapsody that recalls the uncorked rock n’ roll spirituality of king mystic Van Morrison, the gloomy nostalgia of dark prince Nick Drake and the songcraft sans self-seriousness of 70s Muscle Shoals.

Like those psycho-spiritual song crafters, his power comes from vocal idiosyncrasies – intonations of love, impermanence, hope, humor. The album opens with Budwig originals “Time For Two”, “First To Go”, and “Strong Coffee”– originally presented with just solo guitar (and crackling wood stove) on the album Sabai. The songs are recorded here live, full band, in medley, with hot electric guitar, woody double bass, and drums. The band electrifies and scourges the flesh of the songs into fully formed folk rock stunners. 

There is what the Romans called a “divine lustre” about Bart Budwig. His blonde hair and beard wrap around his collar,and frame his smile in a nimbus of gold. His radiance belies the loyalty he commands of an army of talent. He’d sooner tell you a joke than reveal to you he’s recorded dozens of albums and hundreds of songs in the last few years.

Budwig’s close attention to the work of other artists has resulted in impressive covers over the years. Continuing this folk process Budwig has covered two songs on Another Burn On The AstroTurf; “Oh Mother”, a despondent recollection of an alcoholic father, by independent artist Allison Olender, and Nick Drake’s classic “Northern Sky”. Budwig is a natural trumpet player and adds a solo to open the song that the dark prince himself would enjoy. “Northern Sky” comes from Drake and John Cale’s late 60s masterpiece Bryter Layter, but Budwig makes it his own here, demonstrating the album as part of a continuing creation of a new American sound, for which Budwig is at the helm.

For all the intensity in Bart’s music he never loses his sense of humor. The brightest moments on the album come from a transcendent Rolling Stones “Beast Of Burden” homage, “Rolling Stoned”, in which he ponders if he is, in fact, bad enough, rich enough, good enough. The answer is, of course, not, but he also humorously notes that if any of us were that good, then aren’t we better off with…something better? On “Sock Song” the dynamics of intimate relationships boil down to one sock’s tendency to wander from its destined partner as soon as it hits the dryer. His musical similarities to spiritual seekers Van Morrison and Nick Drake are undeniable now, but he’s not lost on the path as them, he’s grounded, infectiously grateful. Bart’s mastery of dramatic irony turns his work with complex emotional states of being into comforting, uplifting, relatable music.

It’s this ability to combine tragedy and comedy in his humanist hallelujahs that makes Budwig a gravitational force and industry chimera. The studio general, the clown prince, the sensitive songwriter with a rugged voice. The soul singer with a cosmic country band. The creator of a folk universe drawing musicians from everywhere to the middle of nowhere. It’s this juxtaposition that makes Another Burn On The AstroTurf another success for Bart Budwig, and a must listen for you.

Caitlin Gowdy & Jeremy Lyon
  (Caitlin is from Rainbow Girls, Jeremy is from King Dream)
  americana folk, indie psychedelia
-frm Bodge/Oakland, CA