|Pictured above: Not the event that I attended (I was out of town that day and worse for it).|
A few evenings ago I had the good fortune to catch a very rare and free public screening of Burn To Shine Louisville at Seidenfaden’s. The movie was preceded by a few choice live performances all featuring The Teeth in all their furious and inebriated early-aughts glory, the perfect precursor to the documentary. For those unaware, the Burn To Shine series was created by, among others, Brendan Canty of Fugazi/Rites of Spring and filmmaker Christoph Green. The project recontextualizes urban decay as a testament to the tentative and often fleeting nature of art, which in and of itself is a temporary act of manipulation to convey meaning and beauty. In the case of Burn to Shine, that’s manifested in having a series of bands, each unique to one city, gather in a place that is soon to be destroyed. The story is as much a document of the owner of the house and the history that went with it, as it is the music created therein, one last act of beauty before the destruction. And this was beautiful.
Curated by William Benton, the unreleased Burn to Shine Louisville is wonderful display of the diversity offered in Louisville’s rich musical history, as filtered through the unrealized dreams of the former occupant Leonard Wood. Wood built the house for his wife, who passed on some time ago, where he lived until just before the time of shooting. There, he created music, composing on piano and living in just a few stray rooms of the house. It’s clear from the documentary and from speaking with those involved that he was a truly lovely person who, upon facing hardships, kept to himself living in the memory of his lost love.
That love is apparent not only in the exemplary lineup, but in the performances delivered as well. Featured here are The Commonwealth, Dead Child, Lucky Pineapple, The Shipping News, Ultra Pulverize, Verktum, Liberation Prophecy, Will Oldham, Magik Markers, and Lords, which is possibly the order, to my recollection, but perhaps not; there were beers consumed this evening. There were metal and hardcore bands covered, jazz and folk acts, noise, and indie, which somehow seemed perfectly cohesive. Here then is one of the films many strengths, in capturing that vibe that Louisville is onto itself an island and one which I cannot view objectively as an occupant. It was nice to see everyone come in and crush it in their own way, as if they owed it to the memory of the home to make something a little magical happen before it went to house heaven.
I won’t judge each performance, although I will comment on a few that really stuck out to me. The Shipping News song, Half a House, was an excellent reminder of what a powerful band we’ve lost, and played with an ease and kinship that just made it feel like friends playing music; this was definitely folks having fun and it showed. The Verktum song made me realize that I ought to have paid more attention to them when they were around. I don’t know what I was thinking. They were all wearing these horrifying masks and played this bizarre kind of Monorchid on codeine kind of thing, like a jangly punk-by-Captain Beefheart sound that remains relatively peerless. Magik Markers played a song that I can’t readily process. It was like what happens if early No-Wave took a bunch of acid and flew into a drunken bender, just an noisy squalor with an artist flair; I’m just not sure what to do with that, but it certainly peaked my interest.
I wasn’t personally close with anyone that we’ve lost in this video, but it is worth noting that we’ve lost a few fantastic performers, all of which meant a lot to the community. Seeing that life and vigor, for lack of better word, really makes you want to just get out there and do it, whatever it is that you have to do. This isn’t meant as a eulogy, but a love song to the lost, existing in perfect symmetry this decade later with the Leonard Wood and his estate. This was art in motion captured for all time and it’s a shame that this historical document hasn’t been made available in some way, instead of being shown for free and with respect to a small but interested audience. Burn to Shine Louisville is a snapshot of what was and in some ways what is, given the still eclectic and ever evolving nature of the music scene here.