An Open Letter To The Family

“The Family Folk Explosion is not a band, it’s a Tribe.”546391_10100236147101228_909425017_n.jpg

On August 15th, 2015 we will be gathering at the Murphys Hotel in California gold country. A coming together of family, friends, sympathetic tribes, curious clampers, fellow travelers and free thinkers. This happening is, by and large, the work of Adam Marsh at Mother Lode Hydroponics. Adam and Motherlode Hydro have been bringing people together for rad events in the foothills for the last five years and over that time we have become brothers and friends, co-conspirators in the art of the good party. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Motherlode Hydro and to the sponsors and benefactors of the event: General Hydroponics, Vermicrop, Village Rolling Papers and Royal Oakie Records. There will be a lot of inspiring rock & roll in Murphys on August 15th. Lee Gallagher & The Hallelujah, Pearl Charles, Sparrows Gate, Fpod Bpod and Everyone Is Dirty. That’s a great day on the green listening to music. And a little later in the evening we are going to invite you into the Cosmic Ballroom where we will be shifting through dimensions together, dancing together. Singing our song and doing that thing we do: the Family Folk Explosion.

It’s been a little while since we’ve stormed heaven together and we wanted to talk to you about what the Family Folk Explosion is. About what it isn’t. About what it strives toward. The FFE began taking form back in early 2011. Wild Hawk and I conceived of the basic principles and settled on the family name after a particularly long night of trading songs and conversation in my old Mission District crash pad. We meditated on what it meant to be a musician, to live a musical life. We questioned our notions of success. Music as magic. Music as discipline. We thought about our responsibility to take part in the evolution of Rock & Roll, to add our piece to the puzzle and take our seats in the circle. We didn’t want a band. We didn’t want static membership and tedious weekly rehearsals. We didn’t want to try to make it. We wanted to make it every time we stepped on stage or played on a roof or around a fire. We didn’t want our relationship to ourselves, and to our musical selves, to be so narrowly defined. The idea is about form. About where we draw the lines of definition. How do we define a Rock & Roll band? Can we make the circle wider? Can we expand our borders? Can we be a Rock & Roll Tribe instead?

Art is borne of limitation (like a canvas or a musical scale) and process (like painting or composing). That’s what gives it form. Without form there is nothing, you have to draw the parameters somewhere, after all. What we wanted was to push into the frontier. We wanted a bigger canvas. We wanted to be much more ambitious. We wanted a concept big enough to say all the things that needed saying and malleable enough to deal with all the things that needed saying in the future. As artists we are charged with tearing down walls. With questioning established norms. With breaking tradition and creating new traditions. We are charged with providing the spiritual and conceptual mojo that, not only binds a community together, but also points toward a more colorful and evolved future together. Sometimes you have to take two steps back to get a step ahead, sometimes you have to go back to the future.

We studied the organizational structure of the Lakota Nation: those mystic warriors of the plains, the people of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The Lakota Nation is made up of numerous tribes (Sitting Bull belonged to the Hunkpapa and Crazy Horse to the Oglala). Within each tribe there are bands (Crazy Horse led a band of warriors, Sitting Bull was a tribal Chief). A band is generally put together for the purposes of hunting, raiding, doing battle. If you had an idea and could convince four or five others to come with you, you had a band. But a tribe requires more than that. A tribe needs chiefs, medicine women, warriors, peace pipes, pow wows, visionaries and sacred mountains. Ceremonies to bind the community, to infuse action with meaning, spirit, and gravity. When a tribe gathers for a Pow Wow, they assemble their singers and dancers to perform the ceremonial songs and dances. We are those singers and dancers.

Over these first four years we have had a lot of mystic warriors take part in our dance. We have also developed a strong core at the center of the ceremony. Annie Girl, Wild Hawk, Kyle Lesley, Sinsai Mihaly, Matt Adams, and the Flying J’s have all clocked a lot of hours on the mat. We have gotten through some long nights together and you can usually expect us to take part in the ceremony if we are physically and spiritually up to the task. Sometimes one or two of us are off on tour or laid up in the hospital or in the throes of a Vision Quest. Each of us has missed a ceremony or two over the years. When one of our high priests can’t make the mass we are presented with an opportunity to make the circle bigger, to live up to the principles of the musical and cultural experiment. The Family Folk Explosion is always a new experience, always in the process of evolving, never completed. There will be old faces and new faces on August 15th. There will be lights and action. We have a story to tell. It will be like nothing you have ever heard. We do not traffic in nostalgia, this is the ritual of now. We are a tribe and you are as much a part of that tribe as we are. We promise to honor the trust you place in us as your singers. We feel blessed to have people who care so much about this. Here at the end of the world, there is no one we would rather sing to.

Love/Lightning

Trans Van Santos

Wild Hawk

The Family Folk Explosion