An Open Letter To My Morning Jacket

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Jim James at One Big Holiday. Photo by Kory Johnson

The Polar Vortex has hit Louisville hard, but I feel like it involves more than just the weather. I feel like I’ve been sucked into an alternate world with all these snow days and delayed openings. I love my kids, but I need them to be in school so that I can get stuff done!

However, for the first time since I became a Mom (11.5 years ago!), hubby and I got away from it all for  5 nights/6 days. It was incredible for so many reasons! I am pretty sure we wouldn’t have gone without the extra incentive from Louisville-based band, My Morning Jacket. They put together a music vacation named after one of their songs, One Big Holiday. They brought along their friends, The Flaming Lips, Mariachi El Bronx, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Rob Garza (of Thievery Corporation) and surprise guest, Bob Weir (of The Grateful Dead) to the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya in Mexico from Jan 26-30.

It goes without saying that it was an unforgettable time! And I felt compelled to let MMJ know how much I appreciated it. You can read my Open Letter To My Morning Jacket on the LEO Weekly right now! I just hope that MMJ hears this so they are encouraged to do it again next year…and if they do, I advise that you get yourself there!!

photo by Kory Johnson

it’s really gone.

It’s gone. And I am totally devastated. Is it weird to have that kind of reaction to a store closing? Maybe. But, ear X-tacy was so much more than a store in Louisville for the past 26 years. It was a community of music loving people and now I feel like our home has vanished without warning. No time to prepare our hearts or say one last goodbye. My head understand that it is a reflection on the changing times in the music industry, but my heart is aching.

I could go on for days about what ear X-tacy meant in my life.  But what hurts now more than anything is that my kids won’t get to grow up with the embracing, supportive, local music store. Our family has experienced some amazing moments there. One that stands out strongly in my mind was when Josh Ritter played an in-store  on May 17, 2010.  I had to sign my eldest, who was in 1st grade at the time, out of school early to make it to the show on-time. It was one of those ‘good Mom vs. music Mom’ moments and I am so glad to say that music Mom won out! My youngest and strongest rocker was just over 2 years old at the time and strapped in the front pack, so that he wouldn’t rush the stage and take Josh down with hugs! We played Josh Ritter’s music on a regular basis at the house (still do!), so the kids all knew it and my little guy just kept saying, “lala”. He was a very late talker and when he said “lala”, it meant he wanted to listen to Josh. So, to see him perform in the intimate setting of ear X-tacy was mind-blowing for my little 2 year old! But, there is more. We stayed after and got to meet Josh. He was gracious, patient and unbelievable. He got down on his knees to meet each of the kiddos and talked directly to them. He gave them guitar pics. And high fives. My little rocker still talks about the high five! He signed our CD: “to a rock n roll family”. It was an experience my family will never forget.

When you walked into ear X-tacy, there was always such a welcoming feel. I am sure I often looked like a spectacle bring my foursome in, but some days I just needed some music to make it through and ear X-tacy was the answer. I was always greeted with a friendly smile and hello. In fact, if I miraculously entered by myself, I was usually asked where my crew was. They provided such a special place that never made me second guess bringing my kids to in-stores. It is because of them that my kids have been exposed to so many very talented bands in a live setting. Usually, kids aren’t welcome in the concert setting, but ear X-tacy opened a whole new world. And I will never be able to repay my gratitude. It was at the Abigail Washburn in-store that my little guy became enthralled with her super-sized banjo! He had never seen anything like it before!  Another one of our favorite in-stores was when Daniel Martin Moore and Dan Dorff performed at the Loop and we got a very up-close view of some outstanding music when the Dans stepped off stage and right in front of where we were sitting…kids were hooked!! (the redheads briefly shown are mine!)

ear X-tacy was so supportive to the local music scene. Sure, they got some great national artists in. I loved seeing Matisyahu and Dawes perform there earlier this year! But ear X-tacy was always there to help the local artists. It was a great family event when we got to see our cousins’ band, Adventure, play there. And even more fun when we walked into the Loop store shortly after it opened and found our cousin, Alex Clark‘s CD on display, with Adventure in the background.

I had recently asked Ben Sollee what ear X-tacy meant to him…this was before the closing, but his elegant words sum up how many people thought of ear X-tacy and are too good not to share:

“As an independent musician I spend a tremendous amount of time working with social media, blogs, online magazines, and every other kind of virtual community you can imagine. But there’s a lonely quality to those adventures. There’s still nothing like walking in to my favorite record store and seeing what’s on the shelves… seeing handmade displays constructed lovingly for an employee’s favorite artist, getting advise on new music, finding old recordings that no one else cared to listen to… it’s all tangible. It’s personal. It’s a place we’re a physical community gathers to share ideas and passions. It may not always be profitable to sell recorded music, but there will always be a place for a record store that can curate and share essential art in the communtiy.” – Ben Sollee

It is a little hard to watch this movie trailer for Brick and Mortar and Love, knowing that ear X-tacy is no longer…it is exactly what they were trying to prevent.

I, too, wish it weren’t time for ear X-tacy to die. RIP. You will be missed more than anyone realizes. You have been an influential factor in the lives of so many and I wish Louisville didn’t have to let go. I am sure I will get to the point where I can look back and be happy about my time and experiences at ear X-tacy, but right now, I am just too sad to think of anything other than the hole ear X-tacy’s departure is leaving in the community and future. I was counting on my little rocker growing up with ear X-tacy and fulfilling his often talked about dream of performing on their stage. It was one of the first things he asked about when I told him it was closed…”what about the stage? I want to play there. Will bands still play?” No, my sweet boy, they will not.  I hope somehow that the Louisville music scene can come together and move that stage so that it doesn’t get lost forever.

I’ll let Jim James, of My Morning Jacket, have the last word since I agree with it all. Jim and the other members of MMJ have always been very vocal with their love and support of ear X-tacy and he says it so well.  This was posted on MMJ’s website earlier today:

“there is a tear in my eye right now as i hear about the closing of one of my favorite places on earth- ear-xtacy. i send thanks and healing vibes to john and everyone who has worked so hard at the store over the years…the presence of that sacred place will be sorely missed. people-let this be a big wake up call to us…we need these place to gather as a community and share ideas about music and art and love and life and…for the love of god…it cant all take place online…or i fear that one day we will all wake up bleary-eyed and hung over from our technology binge and find the real world long gone…let us be inspired by places like “please and thank you,” “carmichaels,” “pops retails and consignment,” “heine brothers” and all the great independent ma and pa stores around the globe- leading us into a new era of what a creative business can be…we need to support these places and help create more…the mp3 has killed the idea of what a traditional record store used to be, but that should only be cause for us to re-invent and support things the computer can never kill…we need these real place…where you can still buy a record from a local band or a hard to find label or root thru stacks of used vinyl…or get a cup of coffee…or buy an old stereo system or synthesizer or a pair of jeans…or learn a new skill…or teach a new skill…and love your fellow human in person and face to face to face and all in the same place. lets brainstorm. lets build more of these places. lets stick together. lets support each other. lets figure it out.” -jim james