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Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

"mornings where everything's worse": wild america, RIP

The  second half of 2010 was a wild one for me, and in a lot of ways I'm still riding out the reverberations. It was my first real season of adulthood, alone in the world and on my own--no steady other half, making good money, marooned in the almost cool part of town, free to choose my own direction. At first I spent a lot of nights alone with a half-working pen and a legal pad and sometimes some dangerously-neon-looking malt beverages working out the demons that would eventually become my book Theoretical BBQ.  I quickly relearned an old lesson, though: I was terrible at being alone, so I journeyed into downtown to find a scene that I could call home. It wasn't hard.

There had been a kinetic garage punk sound coalescing around the intersection of 6th & Red River--particularly at the cozy dive Beerland--for awhile when Matador decided to help document it with Casual Victim Pile, released in March of last year. I knew that'd be a good place to start, so I picked it up. Most of it didn't grab me right away. Woven Bones & Harlem were getting all the press, but they were too unfocused & affectedly retro for my taste. I found myself pulled toward the bands that seemed to jump out of my speakers--The Golden Boys, Love Collector, and most of all Wild America.

Their feature on Casual Victim Pile was "Drink It Dry," a manic and desperate trebly blast with a simple chorus--"we drink and drink it dry/drink it dry, drink it dry"--I could yell along to in the car in the morning without having to do a lot of thinking about it. In those days of work that left me feeling guilty about myself and nights of whiskey on the Red River corridor, that was a message I could hear really clearly. It was later, on long drives out of the city to see friends & others, that I listened close enough to hear the rest of the words.

it's so simple but so hard to understand but we can, yeah we can we can hold it in our hands we have our own well that we drink from the water that sustains and we gotta drink as deep as we can cause we'll never taste the same water again so we drink and drink it dry

I couldn't have asked for a better theme song for my new throat-grab at life.

I saw them live. Then I saw them again. Then I got their cassette demo, by which point I already knew most of the songs. Lew's straightforward lyrics about trying to embrace the grayest parts of life despite his neuroses, delivered in a quavering wail over classic 90s alt-rock-style harmonies, landed squarely in my sternum. I heard my own overthinking--and overthinking about my overthinking--in "Think Too Much," consoled myself on every morning-after with the where's-the-good-life searching of "The Right Way," and got through weekly girl ambivalence with "Opposite Shores." There was something magical in the way the band's energy overcame the melancholy of the lyrics. In one of the most uncertain periods of my life Wild America sounded like a promise that if you played loud enough and believed hard enough, you could beat back the darkness.

I got their debut 7" The Sea the day it came out at End of an Ear, and it's still the only 7" I've ever bought new. Then I saw them live again.

Last night, trying to get past a little hump of homesickness for Austin all the way up here, I pulled up a bunch of Wild America performances on YouTube. I did some Googling to see what they're up to now, to see if I was ever gonna get that damn shirt Lew promised me last summer, and I found out they played their last show during Free Week last month. They're officially done, and I didn't even know.

But what can you do? Things we love pass on, even as things we hate sometimes flourish. It's a strange world we live in--"Why Dimebag and not Saddam," as it was once immortally phrased--but at least we've still got some rock n roll songs to help us through it, you know what I mean?

i been tryin not to do these things but i am failing gotta find a new way to live but i don't think it exists and if it does, do ya know what it is i'm just lookin for the right way does anybody know the right way does anybody know the right way to live

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECbbibn-1B8]