A few years ago, there was a period in my life in which a day did not go by where I didn’t listen to Life To Experience’s The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads at least once. It was, quite simply, one of those albums, a record that comes out of the blue and, for some reason, suddenly gives some sense or meaning to your life. It becomes a best friend, helping you through tough spots, inspiring you to better things, putting your entire existence in perspective.
And then, for whatever reason, the love died down and the CD got filed away. Every so often, a song would pop up on my iTunes playlist, but for some reason, I’d skip to the next track. It was almost as if I was afraid to listen to Lift again, lest their music somehow bring back the very darkness that it once helped me overcome. Which is odd because I’m a person who is normally quite prone to nostalgia and wistfulness.
However, this was different. Back in that difficult time period, Lift To Experience was more than just a band to me. They were more like prophets — whiskey-swilling, cigarette-smoking, foul-mouthed prophets — but prophets nonetheless. Or at least I completely bought into that particular vision. There was undeniably something about their music — sprawling, louder than loud, ethereal, sorrowful, sacred, profane, this huge cacophony that somehow made completely righteous sense.
As such, their music left a huge mark on me. Such that their music isn’t just music anymore. It is, pardon the pun, truly an experience for me. An experience that carries with it as much sorrow and heartache as it does joy and awesomeness. It reminds me of friends that I don’t know anymore; of mistakes I made; of driving alone at night with “Falling From Cloud Nine” or “Waiting To Hit” blasting from car’s speakers, singing along at the top of my lungs and weeping at the same time because my gut had just been kicked in by whatever shit life had dealt me.
And so I was afraid to even listen to a snippet of one of their songs, lest it all come rushing back. Or, even worse, lest the music had somehow lost its magic, if it’s time had come and gone and it would no longer hold me enthralled as it once did. All of which, as it turned out, was complete bollocks.
I had a shitty day this week, a day that left me tired and exhausted. And wouldn’t you know it, “With Crippled Wings” came drifting over the headphones. Rather than skip to the next track, I just listened. And sure enough, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I skipped to the last track on the album, the aptly-titled “Into The Storm”, and heard the words that should be carved on a monument somewhere — “Tell your mother you won’t home for Christmas this year/Say you’re headin’ south for The Promised Land/With gun in hand”.
Naturally, this newfound excitement got me to wondering whether or not we would ever hear from the mighty Lift To Experience ever again. Last I’d heard, vocalist/guitarist Josh Pearson had booted (literally) the drummer from the band, had left civilization for shack in the middle of nowhere, and had set down to write an acoustic album in order to exorcise a couple of demons. And that was at least a year ago.
I trawled the various discussion forums, did a little Googling, browsed around on Bella Union’s website… and found nothing. Until I came across this fantastic article that was published in the Summer 2004 issue of Loose Lips Sing Ships. It chronicles the author’s attempts to track down Pearson at last year’s SXSW festival. It’s a sprawling article, and it raises at least twice as many questions about Pearson and Lift To Experience as it answers.
If nothing else, the article (did I mention that it’s fantastic?) makes me all the more anxious and excited to hear something, anything, from the man. I don’t know if he realizes how much his music has affected people all over the world.
Sadly, I had a chance to tell him, when I booked them a few years ago to play at a crappy little dive in Omaha, but I didn’t. The band had stayed at my place that night, and I was up until 2 or 3 in the morning talking with Pearson about music, God, whiskey… you name it. I tried my hardest, but I probably came across like the biggest fanboy you could imagine.
Pearson was incredibly gracious, and it was one of those nights that, afterwards, my friends and I couldn’t believe had happened to us. I wish I would’ve taken just a few minutes to tell him how music his music had helped me, how much it’s still helping me, but I thought it might seem a little too fanboy-ish, and so I didn’t.
Looking back, my words probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference, but they might’ve been worth something.