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art theplaceThey are my brothers.

Well, in terms of genetics, they technically aren’t. But, when it comes to heart and soul, we’re carbon copies. When it comes to purpose and intent, we’ve always been on the same page. They’re the members of Lucid — my brothers-in-arms.

The band — a rock/funk/blues/reggae/kitchen sink ensemble — and myself hail from New York State, from the North Country, from Clinton County, from the City of Plattsburgh. And for the better part of the last 12 years, we’ve been thick as thieves, ambassadors of irresponsible enlightenment, frolickers of the moonlit night, mystic wanderers of all that is cosmically holy and spiritually just.

The North Country is a pretty rough place to pursue your dreams. Granted, the landscape of the Champlain Valley, Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains is mesmerizing, but one tends to have the odds stacked against them right out of the gate. Sure, there’s ample employment up there, but those gigs of being a prison guard, border patrol officer, teacher or insurance salesman never seemed to appeal to me, or to those other folks wanting a career of artistic or melodic merit.

I remember those first few encounters with Lucid around Plattsburgh, at random shows here and there at coffee shops and dive bars. I remember being out of high school, not yet 21, and sneaking into those dive bars to see them play. At the time, it was a collage of sound, one that still hadn’t found its footing or identity, but you knew that there was something there, something of substance that, if nurtured correctly, would find its destiny.

When I was finally of legal drinking age, in 2006, I’d catch Lucid wherever and whenever I could in the North Country, from mountainside in Lake Placid to beachside in Cumberland Head. For me, and many of my peers, as the years went along, the band represented something special, almost like what going to church is for certain people. Every show was different, every set intricate and captivating, every experience like a communion, where you were part of something, of a crowd of joyous human beings, all together to become part of something bigger than ourselves.

And I think that’s exactly what led me directly into their band circle. Around early 2010, I had been a traveling music journalist for a few years. I’d made connections in and around the northeast music industry and such. They were looking for someone to hit the road with them, manage things, sell merchandise, book shows, etc. So, I jumped on the bus and took off. 

We meandered around New England and the mid-Atlantic on the highways, bi-ways and back roads of America. One night we’re at an after-party in a Syracuse mansion or a basement bar in Boston, the next with toes in the sand on the Long Island Sound, onward to the northern woods of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont or cruising the bustling streets of Greenwich Village in New York City. 

Incredible strangers seeing that band for the first time (now lifelong friends), generosity of folks to offer a place to stay for the night, tour bus breakdowns on the side of the interstate, bar brawls (not everyone liked our long hair and beards), midnight shenanigans of pure beauty and utter chaos — we saw it all. Eventually, I knew my time with the band had run its course after about a year and a half. I was ready to do other things, with a lot of that influence coming from watching Lucid, day in and day out, up there onstage reaching for their dreams. I had aspirations of my own, to become a writer — the finest writer of my generation — and Lucid fueled my drive to do so.

Thus, it was genuinely surreal last Saturday afternoon when their tour bus rolled up to my porch in downtown Waynesville. They had a show that evening in Asheville. And, until they had to load their gear in, were free to hang out and catch up with an old chum, a familiar face from the North Country.

Since it was hot that day, I decided to take them to a swimming hole up near the Sunburst Campground on N.C. 215, outside of Bethel toward the Blue Ridge Parkway. Riding in that beast of a tour bus brought back a flood of memories, as if no time had ever passed. I was surrounded by faces that I adored, faces that know me better than anybody, faces dearly missed. 

You see, living in Western North Carolina for the last three years or so sometimes makes me forget about my life before Southern Appalachia. Haywood County is my home these days, and will be. And yet, my existence back in my hometown feels so alien to me, as if some long forgotten dusty dream I only come across in the most ancient of slumbers. 

And all those beautiful things from the starting line of my existence overflowed the cup of my soul on that riverbank in Sunburst. Standing with Lucid, skipping rocks and occasionally gathering enough courage to jump into the frigid mountain stream, we talked, smiled and laughed. We remembered the good days, and the bad (which were few), and most of all, remembered each other — cosmic brothers-in-arms.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.


Hot picks

1: Nantahala Brewing (Bryson City) will have Soldier’s Heart (Americana/roots) at 8:30 p.m. May 22.

2: BearWaters Brewing (Waynesville) will have a comedy show at 8 p.m. May 23.

3: Concerts on the Creek (Sylva) at Bridge Park Pavilion will have Productive Paranoia (bluegrass/Americana) at 7 p.m. May 22.

4: A gala and benefit auction will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. May 30 at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown.

5: The Lost Hiker (Highlands) will have Porch 40 (rock/funk) at 9 p.m. May 23.

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