On September 4th of 2009, we spent the night at Seattle‘s NEUMOS, attending a performance by two previous Monster Fresh interviewees, Daniel Johnston and Kimya Dawson. Kimya was asked to open the show by her past collaborator–Daniel appeared on her 2004 album, Hidden Vagenda (K Records)–and even had Johnston briefly sit in behind the drums during her set. Long-time clean and sober, the all-ages friendly Dawson made the extremely rare exception to perform at the 21+ event just to have the opportunity to appear with her old friend once again. She did, however, bring along a handful of members from her all-ages, no experience/tryout necessary, community-based Olympia Free Choir, to accompany her on stage for a few songs (including, “We Are The World“). One track that Kimya performed independently was a brand new one that had yet to be titled, at the time. Back in February, that song resurfaced with dark, choppy piano thumps and heavy boom-bap hip-hop percussion under the title “Miami Advice“. The added depth of this new studio-produced version was further increased through vocal contributions by the Free Choir and a much more unlikely collaborator… Aesop Rock. Last month, I got the opportunity to see Kimya perform the track for the first time since hearing it at that Seattle debut nearly two years ago. Not only was she joined by her new rapping cohort, this time, but it was also one of the most all-ages friendly venues that anyone could possibly hope for. In fact, the event was casually titled as the “Aesop Rock/Kimya Dawson Slip & Slide Picnic/Potluck Thing.“
A week before the “potluck thing” went down, I was sitting at home pissed off and agitated. Recent unwarranted conflicts, expecting a new baby, alternate employment responsibilities, and flaky ass bastards were stressing me out. By the time June hit, these factors had piled up and I was on the verge of blasting Venetian Snares over repeated viewings of Falling Down, while huffing gas through a rag and drinking Four Loco with a crossbow. Basically, I was getting so wound up that I was about to break like a Canal St. Rolex. My sister called me and suggested that I go to Olympia with her and my 6-year old niece to be part of a music video shoot that Kimya had invited them to. I had lived in Oly for about 6 years, but had only returned once in the last five 1/2 years; and that was to see a Built to Spill show/Halo Benders reunion. Based on the urging of my sister and my baby’s mama -both of which strongly felt that I needed to leave my apartment for a while- I agreed to put the site on hold and head out of town, but with no intention of being involved with the filming or any community interaction. Once there, however, I quickly found myself removed from a sullen lump in the corner and into an active and carefree participant. Even more surprisingly, I actually felt extremely relaxed and happy. Without divulging too much about the yet-to-be-released video, I can say that it was created for “Solid and Strong“, a song which will appear on Kimya‘s new album, Thunder Thighs, now being self-released in October.
Although “Solid & Strong” isn’t one of them, Aesop Rock will appear on a handful of tracks for Thunder Thighs and the duo is working on a more official combined effort, also slated for release later this year. In addition to those projects, Aesop is also scheduled to drop a solo LP this year, the first for him since 2007 ‘s None Shall Pass (Definitive Jux). This year operates as a return of sorts for Kimya, as well. In 2009, she released an album as a member of The Bundles and the year before saw her dropping the childrens album ALPHABUTT, but she hasn’t offered up a proper straight-forward solo effort since the pre-Juno Soundtrack release, Remember that I love You (2006, K Records). She’s done plenty of touring, but the lyrical content of the upcoming release should provide a bit of insight regarding her perspectives on life since the birth of her first child and after gaining such a sudden burst of widespread attention via the Grammy-winning soundtrack to the Academy Award winning film. As for Aesop, in February of last year, founder El-P announced an indefinite “hiatus” of sorts for Def initive Jux, the label that had been releasing his material for the last decade and majority of his career. I feel that it’s safe to say that both of these artists have voices that many have been waiting to hear from again, but I also feel that it’s safe to say that each of their particular fan-bases generally stem from very different demographics and that the idea that their creative returns to the forefront would also involve them working together, came as quite a surprise to each of those respective groups.
Since debuting their live show to enthusiastic and positive reviews at San Francisco‘s Noise Pop festival last February -not to mention and in store for the closing of artist, Alex Pardee‘s ZERO FRIENDS shop in L.A.– the duo has gone on to perform together at SXSW and a string of tour dates throughout the month of May. Also featured on these bills have been Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz, who, along with Aesop Rock, form Hail Mary Mallon, a trio that just dropped their debut album Are You Gonna Eat That? (Rhymesayers) on June 7th. Kimya, Aesop and crew had a show scheduled just 4 days after, on Saturday June 11th, here in Seattle. Quite a few days prior to that, however, I received a Facebook invitation from Kimya to an event taking place at her home in Olympia for the day after the show. On the days up to it’s lead up, the title of this event was changed a few times, until settling on the sufficiently descriptive, “Aesop Rock/Kimya Dawson Slip&Slide Picnic/Potluck Thing“. No booze. No drugs. It was a family friendly environment where the artists would perform, people would bring food, and relax in Dawson‘s backyard. There would also be access to Slip ‘N Slides, along with a huge inflatable bouncy castle and inflatable slide that the hostess had rented.
Based on the way that my previous trek to Oly had served my disposition, I figured that I needed to head up for this and, along with my lady, my sister, and my niece, I did just that. Things were pretty much just as described. There was a table with food and the huge aforementioned inflatables, the absurdity and girth of which I had underestimated. The back deck was set up as a small stage and, when we arrived, Hail Mary Mallon was already performing on it. It began to temporarily drizzle and a few of the people in attendance helped hold a tarp over Big Wiz to protect him and his equipment from the elements. Eventually, Aesop called out for Kimya to join him to perform some tracks on the “stage” and, when she finally did emerge, her clothing was completely drenched and smattered with grass blades from using the Slip ‘N Slides. She did a set next, which in turn, also featured appearances by Aesop. While playing one of her songs solo, a little girl was noticeably knocking away at a toy piano, so Kimya invited her to come up and play/sing along with her. The music officially ended after an entertaining closing set by Clyde Peterson of Your Heart Breaks. Kimya‘s parents were there, as well as her husband/musician Angelo Spencer and fellow K-Records recording artist, Arrington de Dionyso (Malaikat dan Singa). I had a chance to talk with her father, who is awesome, and it was great to see some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while, such as Alex (aka: Doc Hollywood) of Hollywood Kill Krew. Aesop and Kimya‘s voices/styles work surprisingly well (pretty much, seamlessly) together and it was really nice to have such a chill and open event to attend. My neurotic nerves could probably use things like this a lot more often, so we appreciated the invite.
The potluck/show worked as a brief break before the crew had to head out of town for more tour dates, but Kimya still made time to throw something up on her Tumblr page, regarding the event, not long after. The text from that post (featured below) gives a bit more insight into what purpose and meaning that the potluck truly held for her.
“Every summer for years my parents and I would have backyard jamborees in Bedford Hills, NY. House show potluck BBQs that were so much fun. As things started to get crazier, and more people knew who I was, people would sometimes say to me that I wasn’t going to be able to do that anymore- just invite people to come to my house.
Well, I still can and I still do.
And it’s still awesome.
And my parents still come and hug everyone and hang out.
And now I have buddies like Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, DJ Big Wiz, and Clyde Petersen (Your Heart Breaks) to help me bring the fun.
And now there are inflatables.
It’s up to you to pump up your own heart.
Get it real big.
Then let everyone in.“
Check out the following slide-show/photo-set from the event, below: