Music

John Davis

Of musical mavericks

Attend

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Who: John Davis
When: 5pm Fri., April 6
Where: The Business, 216 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Cost: $5-$10 suggested donation
Info: http://www.thebusinessanacortes.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

When it comes to music careers and their trajectories, a few general narratives prevail: 1. Toil in obscurity, get a big break and then attain fame, fortune and all the attendant blessings and curses that go along with those things. 2. Toil in obscurity, get a big break and then fade back into obscurity without ever becoming the next big thing. 3. Toil in obscurity.

Needless to say, the vast majority of musicians aim for the first scenario, but nearly all of them are forced to settle for the last one.

Then there are the outliers, the ones we never hear about, the musicians who toil in obscurity, get a break—and then walk away, from their bands, their opportunities and sometimes even from music itself.

I’m not sure why these musical mavericks don’t loom larger in lore, but it might have something to do with our need to believe all serious musicians are born with insatiable ambition and musical myopia to match. The notion that, in the cold light of life, risks can outweigh rewards and some investments can cost too much and return too little, doesn’t sync with our long-held ideas about the life of an artist. Truth is, these conscientious objectors are probably greater in number than we realize, and such dissent more common than we know.

John Davis is one such musical expat.

If you’re searching your memory trying to place him, you’re going to have to go back to the mid-1990s and the veritable cottage industry of lo-fi music that Lou Barlow created. By the time Barlow began trading cassette tapes and creating music with Davis as the Folk Implosion, he’d already been through an ugly—and now legendary—public breakup with J Mascis, his Dinosaur Jr. cofounder, and had gone on to form beloved indie band Sebadoh, which would suffer its own Barlow-based personnel changes.

The Folk Implosion was supposed to be yet another of the endlessly prolific Barlow’s side projects, but as so often happens, it took on a life of its own, thanks to an unlikely assist from an even unlikelier source that brought with it both acclaim and controversy: Harmony Korine’s 1995 film Kids. The movie, which is now hailed as groundbreaking, was raw, rough—and somehow a perfect fit for the songs Barlow and Davis provided for its soundtrack. Even more improbable was the Folk Implosion scored a bona fide hit with “Natural One”—the fact that the song appeared only on the Kids soundtrack and not in the film itself was irrelevant given how few people actually saw the movie during its theatrical run because of its NC-17 rating.

What comes next suits the music-career narrative as we have come to understand it: The Folk Implosion scored a major label record deal—with the most major label in the land at the time, Interscope—and made an album, One Part Lullaby, that was critically polarizing and commercially ignored.

Not long after, Davis, taking in the lay of a land only he could see and understand, decided he was done. And not just done with Barlow and the Folk Implosion and Interscope and all the opportunities and obligations that were part and parcel of those things. Davis was pretty much done with music altogether, at least the parts that entailed playing live or touring or being artistically beholden to anyone but himself.

But stepping away from his hard-won piece of the spotlight was not the end of anything for Davis. Instead, it allowed him to begin again, to use the skills of his former, pre-musician life as a librarian in his new start as an educator and activist, a role at which he has excelled and one that has brought him satisfaction and success. He’s also chronicled his life and interests in a lively blog that ranges from introspective to downright geeky depending on the subject matter.

After a more than decade-long hiatus that was broken occasionally by sporadic solo recordings, Davis made a more concerted, considered return to music, and he has yet to retreat again. He sometimes plays solo, sometimes with a band, but in this part of the plot, the songs are all his and everything happens on his terms and in his own time. While previous efforts dealt with the age-old musical fodder of love and relationships, more recently he’s melded his music with the social conscience and political beliefs that have come from time spent in his classroom and the greater Durham, N.C. community he inhabits, and this amalgam of his disparate vocations makes for music that is sharp, smart and unsparingly literate.

In a world of musical narratives that are stubbornly resistant to change or revision, Davis is writing his own story—and this outlier continues to make it up as he goes along.

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11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Origins and Evolutions Exhibit

11:00am

“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Great Skagit Scavenger Hunt

12:00pm

Individuals and teams can participate in COVID-safe activities and challenges during the Great Skagit Scavenger Hunt taking place April 16-18. Participants will have the opportunity to earn…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Tiptoe Through the Treasures

9:00am

Peruse collectibles, vintage treasures, furniture,  dishes, crystal, home decor and housewares the Skagit County Historical Museum has been collecting when you reserve a spot to attend the…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

Spring Into Art

11:00am

View works by Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild members from 11am-5pm Wed.-Sat. in Stanwood at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW. A “Spring Into Art” regional juried art show can be seen through…

The Work of Jesus Guillén

11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

Rock, Paper, Paint

11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

Origins and Evolutions Exhibit

11:00am

“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

Recycled Art & Resource Expo

11:00am

A “Recycled Art & Resource Expo” can be visited from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through April 30 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. In addition to providing a platform for…

Spring Juried Exhibit and More

12:00pm

A “Spring Juried Exhibit,” “Winter Textile Explorations,” Lisa McShane’s “A Decade of Landscapes,” and Ron Pattern’s “The Seasonal Forest” can be viewed from 12pm-4:30pm Thursdays through…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Green Home Tours and Talks

10:00am

Sustainable Connections’ first virtual Green Home Tours & Talks takes place Saturday and Sunday on Zoom. Attendees at the online event can take virtual tours of six green homes in Bellingham…

Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Rock, Paper, Paint

11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

Spring Into Art

11:00am

View works by Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild members from 11am-5pm Wed.-Sat. in Stanwood at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW. A “Spring Into Art” regional juried art show can be seen through…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

The Work of Jesus Guillén

11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Recycled Art & Resource Expo

11:00am

A “Recycled Art & Resource Expo” can be visited from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through April 30 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. In addition to providing a platform for…

Origins and Evolutions Exhibit

11:00am

“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Spring Juried Exhibit and More

12:00pm

A “Spring Juried Exhibit,” “Winter Textile Explorations,” Lisa McShane’s “A Decade of Landscapes,” and Ron Pattern’s “The Seasonal Forest” can be viewed from 12pm-4:30pm Thursdays through…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Tulip Pedal Bike Ride

7:00am

Choose from 20-, 40-, and 60-mile routes to ride on your own as part of a modified Tulip Pedal Bike Ride taking place from 7am-4pm near the tulip fields between Mount Vernon and La Conner…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

The Work of Jesus Guillén

11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Rock, Paper, Paint

11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Commemorative Group Reading

4:00pm

Red Wheelbarrow Writers and Writers on the Wall will join Village Books for a Commemorative Group Reading at 4pm on Zoom. The virtual event will commemorate loss in the year of COVID. Those…

Kitchen Table Tunes with Robert Blake

5:00pm

Bellingham-based singer and songwriter Robert Sarazin Blake hosts a “From the Kitchen Table” concert from 5pm-7pm on Facebook Live. Tonight, he’ll be joined by Willie Carlisle. The livestream…