Music

John Davis

Of musical mavericks

Attend

More:

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.

More Music...
Sounds of the Season
The sequel

Like it or not, the holiday season is happening

Personally speaking, I like it. But then again, everyone already knew that. Per usual, no physical evidence of my seasonal spirit exists anywhere in my life—no stockings have been hung, no presents procured, my tiny artificial tree remains…

more »
Holiday Happenings
Celebrate in song

Even though I live a life dictated by deadlines, I am not as proficient as I should be when it comes to planning ahead.

That said, I’ve known for months what story I’d be writing for this issue of the Cascadia Weekly. Since the day it was announced that Wayne Newton would be coming to…

more »
Christmas Creep
Get thee to the Shakedown

I can feel it overtaking me.

It must be said that I’m not trying all that hard to resist the Christmas creep that had me considering digging out my cat’s Santa suit the other day. I’ve taken inventory of my Christmas sweaters already. I’ve watched a Hallmark holiday movie or two.…

more »
Events
Today
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

The Naughty List Market and Cabaret

2:00pm|Broadway Hall

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Connelly Creek Nature Area

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Holiday Craft Bazaar

3:30pm|Lynden Library

Drayton Harbor Shellebration

4:00pm|G Street Plaza

Gingerbread House Making

4:30pm|Ferndale Library

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Photos and Stories with James K. Papp

5:00pm|Gallery Pegasus

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Kids Night Out @ Western

6:00pm|Western Washington University

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Lost Feast

7:00pm|Village Books

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Christmastime is Here with Skagit Symphony

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Tomorrow
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

NSEA Work Party

9:00am

Breakfast with Santa

9:00am|Sedro-Woolley Community Center

Winter Faire

10:00am|Whatcom Hills Waldorf School

Sumas Book Club

10:00am|Sumas Library

Fairhaven Winterfest

10:00am|Historic Fairhaven

Old-Fashioned Christmas Market

10:00am|Friday Harbor Brickworks

Winter Arts & Crafts Festival

10:00am|Pioneer Park Pavilion

Mastering Wisteria

10:30am|Full Bloom Farm

Award-Winning Book Club

10:30am|Lynden Library

Your Life is a Story Writers Group

10:30am| South Whatcom Library

Snow Geese of Skagit

10:30am|Christianson's Nursery

Saltadena Celebration

11:00am|Saltadena Bakery

Winter Wonderland Gift Gala

11:00am|Carnation Building

Holiday Craft Bazaars

11:30am

Holiday Maker's Market

12:00pm|Terramar Brewing and Distilling

Holiday Tea and Crafts

1:00pm|North Fork Library

Festive Feasting Reception

1:00pm|Good Earth Pottery

Holiday Joy with Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Shrinking the Worry Monster

2:00pm|Village Books

Teen Art Fair

2:00pm|Blaine Library

Big Holiday reds tasting

2:00pm|eifert & Jones Wine Merchants

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

Bowman Bay Holiday

3:00pm|Bowman Bay

A Deep Dive Into Eve Deisher's Psyche

3:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Noel Ensemble

3:00pm|Jansen Art Center

One Meditation

4:00pm| Boulevard Park

The Nativity

6:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Early Railroads of Whatcom County

7:00pm|Village Books

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Holiday History Hi-Jinks

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Center Into Solstice

7:00pm|Cafe Blue

Heralding Christmas with Skagit Valley Chorale

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Cidertails with Alexine Langdon

7:30pm|housand Acre Cider House

Winter Solstice Concert with SeaMuse

7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

The Kelley World Tour

7:30pm|Lummi Island Library

Sunday
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Winter Wonderland Gift Gala

11:00am|Carnation Building

The Nativity

6:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Heralding Christmas with Skagit Valley Chorale

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Celtic Yuletide

3:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Scarlett and Dicey

4:00pm|Village Books

Vaudevillingham

7:00pm|Cirque Lab

see our complete calendar »