[Be sure to read Part 1 of Mike’s reflections on his time in The David Crowder Band.]
From the very beginning, a couple of us in the David Crowder Band have had a ritual whenever we would get on a plane. The flight attendant would have everyone turn off their various electronic devices. Then, after they would roam up and down the aisle looking for transgressors but before the plane actually took off, we would proceed to sneak our iPods out and pick the song we would like to die to.
When you say it out loud it’s revealed as the morbid practice it really is. But it’s also an exercise in facing an undeniable truth and making yourself comfortable with it. Everything comes to an end, and the way we have always justified our flagrant disregard for the rules was that the sooner you accepted that fact, the sooner you could start enjoying the moment. Because, let’s be honest, there is something majestic about taking flight in a hulking metal tube, watching the ground grow distant beneath you and finding that perfect song to send you into paradise.
When we decided the band would come to an end, that practice grew from a micro-moment to a macro one. What would be the soundtrack to this death? What song would help bring to mind forgotten memories, give comfort in the moment and look toward the future?
It’s a tall order. I can’t speak for the rest of the guys in the band, but I floundered a long time in my search. The song would need to have the appropriate amount of melancholy and longing; it would need to feel lived in. But something that reveled in its own sadness would never do, because if you make a song like that your anthem, you become that person whose mood is always black and downtrodden and no one wants to be your friend anymore. Nobody likes that guy, regardless of how reputable his taste in music might be.
No, my song needed some hopefulness to it. Not outright hopefulness, because, you know, the life we built was/is coming to an end, and I have to respect that. But some hope …
Memories are funny things, the way they come and go and pop up in the most random of places as if to say: “I know you forgot about me, but I just wanted to say ‘hey’ and go back to whatever it was I was doing while you were getting on with your life. Also, you should think about making better decisions.” At this very moment I can only think of two instances where one of us almost died, though I’m sure there have been a few more than that. The first was when a tour bus we were on broke down in the middle of the desert in Arizona. We were messing around on the side of the highway, joking around, using the restroom behind cactuses, streaking through the landscape and basically living up to the cliché of making lemonade out of proverbial lemons. Our namesake decided desert streaking and such wasn’t for him and broke from the group to walk along the train tracks that ran parallel to the road.
He claims to have never heard the train (or our screams for him to get out of the way), whether it was because he was wearing headphones or because of sonic physics, but the only reason he wasn’t flattened right before our eyes was that he lost his balance and fell. That freight train literally missed him by a matter of inches.
The other time was when our old guitar player (retired) managed to catch himself on fire in the front lounge of our bus. The candle that he brushed up against was nowhere near where he was standing, so it’s a bit of a mystery how it happened. But before we knew it his shirt was ablaze and he had dropped to the ground (which, in a bus, is a strip of floor exactly 28 inches wide) and was rolling side to side while muttering something about Dick Van Dyke. He got the fire out, though it was with no help from us because we were too busy laughing. His shirt never did look the same (on account of the giant hole in the back), but it didn’t stop him from wearing it. He was just that kind of guy.
The weird thing, though, is that once a band becomes a self-sustaining thing, those moments get pushed to the back of your mind. Like any other job, it becomes so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work and monotony of it all, and the bigger picture gets lost—alongside all those little moments that make it fun.
I don’t ever want to get to the point that I’m not constantly aware of how weird and not normal and awesome some of those stories are. And I especially don’t want to ever forget the bigger picture.
The song found me rather than the other way around. We were in the middle of some international travels, being unable to see the future was beginning to weigh heavily on me, a particularly nasty fight with cancer was being lost in my immediate family and more than anything I just wanted to be home.
"Holocene," off the new Bon Iver record, felt like a balm on my soul. I don’t know if it’s the chord changes, the layered falsetto vocals or the reverb that washes over everything, making it sound just out of reach. But something about it, maybe the most important thing for me, seems to put everything—past and future—into a framework that my open and raw nerves can process.
This is a good soundtrack to a death; a good soundtrack to a life.
Because I need all the help I can get to remember everything.
And because the future is veiled and uncertain and still full of hope.
I could see for miles and miles and miles …