Friday, May 29, Eagle Rock: BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT (all ages welcome)

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Friday, May 29th
Brightblack Morning Light
Rio En Medio
William Fowler Collins
@ the Center for Arts, Eagle Rock
2225 Colorado Blvd
LA, CA 90041
$12 / 8:00pm / All Ages
Advance ticket link: http://bit.ly/HghCW

Brightblack Morning Light were interviewed by Trinie Dalton in Arthur No. 31 (Oct 2008), with photographs by Lisa Law. The magazine is available for $10 from the Arthur store. The article is available online here.

Brightblack were also interviewed by Daniel Chamberlin in Arthur No. 23 (July 2006), with photography by Eden Batki. Were almost out of copies of that issue, so it’s going for $100 from the Arthur store.

Uncle Skullfucker’s Band: Daniel Chamberlin explains the discreet charm of the Grateful Dead

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Daniel Chamberlin explains the discreet charm of the Grateful Dead. Illustrations by D.C. Berman.

Originally published in the July 2004 issue of Arthur, which is currently available for purchase in our online store. Click here to check it out.

I’M NOT ALLOWED TO WEAR TIE-DYED CLOTHING. My girlfriend and those friends of mine who truly have my best interests at heart forbid it. For most people this is an obvious and easy style rule to adhere to. But during certain times of the year I am overwhelmed by the Grateful Dead. I listen to nothing but live recordings of Dead concerts while immersing myself in books detailing the minutiae of their 30-year career. I search through David Dodd’s “Annotated Grateful Dead Lyric Archive,” reading up on the roots of “Fennario,” a made-up world of timber forests and treacherous marshland mentioned in two of my favorite songs, “Dire Wolf” and “Peggy-O.” Judging from the number of Dead recordings in my collection one can draw an easy conclusion that I am a certifiable Deadhead.

This is a problem because alongside New Age or contemporary country, “Grateful Dead” is a genre of music with acknowledged questionable merits. This has something to do with the schizophrenic quality of said music: the May 14, 1974 “Dark Star” performed in Missoula, Montana sounds like “In A Silent Way” as interpreted by Sonic Youth but nearly every performance of “Lazy Lightnin’” sounds like coke-snorting yuppies getting funky in tie-dyed Izods. The Dead toured with both Love and Waylon Jennings in the ‘70s but were collaborating with Bruce Hornsby and Joan Osborne by the ‘90s. I hear their influence on classic Meat Puppets and latter-day Boredoms albums, but their official inheritors are cornball bands like The String Cheese Incident and Phish. They count among their fans legions of Hell’s Angels as well as Tipper and Al Gore. There are a lot of ways to listen to the Grateful Dead. As legendary concert promoter and longtime Dead booster Bill Graham once put it, “They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”

Mostly though, the Dead’s bad reputation is due to their fans. My latent Deadheadism causes my girlfriend to worry that at a certain point of saturation, she’ll come home from work to find me reeking of patchouli oil, clad in vibrant pajama bottoms and a tank top decorated with capering bears, my dilated pupils being the only reason I haven’t yet found something to juggle. “Fukengrüven, sister!” I’ll say as she comes through the door.

My most recent Grateful Dead binge kicked off when Islamic militants decapitated Nicholas Berg on the Internet. Oh yeah. No more NPR for me. Instead, a free-falling relapse into this December 26, 1969 Dead show at Southern Methodist University. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann is late getting to the venue, so Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir lay down this sublime acoustic set of murder ballads and old Christian folk songs that they refer to as “sacred numbers.” It’s the only known recording of their version of “Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet,” which is really something to be excited about for a closet Deadhead like me. The show provides a wonderful escape—the Dead always seem so detached from reality and that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

I was looking for a similar kind of escape in 1991 while en route to my first Grateful Dead show. I wanted to see if the Deadheads might offer a more organic, hedonistic alternative to the existentialist discomfort of my central Indiana high school experience.

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Dread Zeppelins: Letter from West Texas

Q: Where does the Border Patrol’s “drug blimp” go at night?
A: It sleeps in a field outside of Marfa, Texas.

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The Marfa aerostat, aloft in daylight


The so-called “drug blimp” is actually a tethered aerostat — a white helium balloon as big or larger than the portly tire-company-maintained dirigibles that flock to parades and sporting events — operated by the U.S. Air Force, which makes the data it collects available to NORAD and the U.S. Border Patrol. It is by far the most tangible of the lazy clouds floating through the skies of the southern region of Far West Texas, its onboard radar system keeping an eye out for drug smugglers flying or driving loads of cocaine and or marijuana over from the deserts of Northern Mexico. It’s unmanned and controlled from the ground, attached via a tether cable to some kind of rail system. Similar aerostat sites can be found in the Bahamas, Arizona, and broadcasting decadent episodes of “Nanny 911” or whatever via TV Marti into Communist Cuba from Cudjoe Key, Florida. Or at least that’s what the Air Force has to say about it.


The Marfa aerostat, grounded at 2:45am


I came across it moored, at about 3am, in a blazing circle of orange halide security lamps on my way from Los Angeles to visit friends in Marfa and Terlingua. I stopped and started snapping away with my camera, but kept getting that “willies” feeling that goes along with standing on a windy, deserted Texas road in the middle of the night, taking pictures of a government surveillance aircraft that chases narcotraficantes around.


Pinto Canyon Road, West Texas, by moonlight


The Marfa aerostat is part of Far West Texas’ complex system of border monitoring technology that includes triggers on rural routes that insure government agents will be checking up on late night back road cruisers. Or so I was warned by two local joint-passing bros when I inquired as to where my friend Sasha and I might catch a glimpse of the Marfa Lights, or at least document the West Texas hills in the light of the full moon. They pointed us down Pinto Canyon Road, but told us to expect company. No Border Patrol 4x4s were waiting for us though (nor were the mysterious Marfa Lights); there were only a few wary horses on hand to monitor our activity.

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THE SODFATHER: Californian compost wizard TIM DUNDON

The Sodfather
Californian compost wizard TIM DUNDON talks shit with Daniel Chamberlin.

Photography by Eden Batki

Originally published in Arthur No. 27 (Dec 2007) – available for $5.

Original design by Molly Frances and Mark Frohman.

Find bonus Sodfather photos by Chamberlin at Into The Green.

Alchemists are often characterized in modern times as bumbling would-be wizards at best, greedy charlatans at worst. They’re portrayed as fumbling hopelessly in cluttered laboratories, unenlightened madmen trying to turn lead into gold. The reality is more complex, of course.

Alchemists were up to plenty of things, many of them having to do with relating to the natural world—and understanding its processes of transformation and transmutation—in philosophical and spiritual dimensions that transcended traditional religious thinking, both Christian and pagan, and preceded modern scientific thought. The whole “lead into gold” thing was but the most lucrative of the alchemical —or hermetic—practices in the eyes of the monarchs and rulers. Alchemy’s material prima as Peter Lamborn Wilson writes in the recent collection Green Hermeticism: Alchemy and Ecology, “can be found ‘on any dung hill.’ Hermeticism changes shit into gold.” It’s an image memorably realized in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 film The Holy Mountain wherein the thief character takes a dump in a fancy bucket, and Jodorowsky, playing an alchemist, distills those fresh turds into a hefty chunk of golden bling.

Such fantastical processes are well known to dirt-worshipping gardening sage Tim Dundon, the beneficent caretaker of California’s most famous compost pile and the kindly warden of the tropical forest that has fruited from its rich humus. It’s here that Dundon, a scientist-poet in the truest hermetic sense, finds hope and salvation in the transformation of death into life—of rotting organic matter into nutrient-rich soil—that takes place daily in the fecund jungle he maintains on his one-acre yard.

The botanical odyssey of Dundon, the self-proclaimed “guru of doo-doo” and the man whose mammoth compost pile once covered a football-field-sized lot, begins in 1967 with a marijuana shortage. Like any good gardening story, it encompasses Hollywood producers, fires, suicide, PCP injection, a nude Quaker iconoclast, standoffs with city officials and a violent pet coyote.

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The Way of The Riff: Contemplators Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance) and Al Cisneros (Om) discuss roots, rock, rhythm and chess.

Originally published in Arthur No. 27 (Dec 2007).

Artwork by Arik Roper
Introduction by Daniel Chamberlin

My favorite story about Om, the bass and drum duo of Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius—the rhythm section of now defunct drone metal icons Sleep—takes place on the back patio of Los Angeles club The Echo. It’s a cool winter night in 2007 and we’re all gathered here—hippie goners, young punks, indie rock squares—to take in a few breaths of fresh air before the band takes to the stage inside. One group stands out from the crowd: two women and a guy who are having a whale of a time, gesticulating wildly and laughing like crazy. At one point the dude approaches a hipster who’s nervously dragging on a toothpick joint. Our man offers his flask to the young fellow and a confusing exchange takes place: I can tell that he’s looking to swap quaff for toke, but for some reason he’s having trouble communicating this. I catch on about the same time the stoner does, giving up the doobie to the guy and his gal pals: They’re deaf, this happy trio of Om heads. That’s how deep the band’s sensual, mantra-like music goes.

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TRIGGER HIPPIES AND TRIMMER GIRLS: Life on a Humboldt cannabis farm during harvest season

illustration by Arik Roper

What can I tell you about going to work on a weed farm that the Grower, The Trimmers and The Landowner won’t kill me for? Soft criminals are especially tense about getting put in cages by men with guns….


A very special edition of Dave Reeves’ “Do The Math” column in Arthur 32/December 2008. Illustration by Arik Roper. Photos by Daniel Chamberlin.

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