Jason Isbell at the Varsity Theater – October 25, 2013

30 Oct

DSC_0591editedReview and Photography By: Alexa Jones

Sometimes, I feel guilty for essentially “giving up” on artists who, at one time, were the soundtrack to a good chunk of my life. Sirens of the Ditch, and even further back Jason’s Isbell‘s tunes for Drive-By Truckers, were the songs that I played over and over again during a huge chunk of the wildest parts of my 20s…so much so that now I can’t separate the memory of driving around with $2 cash to put into my empty gas tank, a depleted bank account, dusty combat boots that had seen venues all across the country from the opening notes to “Outfit” or “Chicago Promenade.”

But it happens. And after the intense effect that Sirens had on my life, nothing really held up. I listened to the follow-up albums, bits and pieces, maybe once or twice. And I stopped dropping everything to see Isbell as he came through town.

Until Southeastern.

There was this excitement surrounding this album unlike any of his previous releases. The second my trusted music comrades started falling over themselves for the lyrics, for the tunes, I knew this was just something I had to pay attention to. And I did. Song by song, I listened. I blared Southeastern in its entirety over and over and over again. This album is an intense, painful reflection on Isbell’s own path to recovery, on growth, and taking this one life seriously. On growing up.

“I felt like he wrote the album just for me,” an old friend, who had faced his own demons of addiction, told me a few months ago. We dissected the effect the album was having on our current lives, on the opening lyrics to “Flying Over Water.” “From the sky we look so organized and brave.” Sometimes, I stop the song in the middle just so I could go back to the beginning because I need to hear those lyrics again, right away.

Simply put, these were our songs. They are Isbell’s most personal songs to date, but somehow they are ours too. That’s the mark of something really special.

At the Varsity Theater last Friday night, it felt a little bit like a reunion of sorts, between who I was during Sirens of a Ditch and who I am now, with all the vast and positive changes that have happened in my life in the past six years (though I still have and love those dusty combat boots).  Before the show, a friend and I made bets over which songs we’d openly cry to. During opener T. Hardy Morris‘ set, the sold-out crowd begin to press forward towards the stage. The excitement was palpable. These were our songs after all.

Hidden behind my camera, I stood alone, surrounded by fans, and when Isbell and his band came onstage and opened his set with that line “from the sky we look so organized and brave,” I was a goner. Isbell’s story. His struggle. My song. My soundtrack.

It was a great night.

DSC_0547edited DSC_0565edited

One Response to “Jason Isbell at the Varsity Theater – October 25, 2013”