2014 has been a year of difficult times for many; as we gain in years and wisdom, the price paid often too quickly for most is the acknowledgement of our own futile fight against mortality and the final acceptance in the end. Perhaps the hardest part of this journey is the friends lost along it’s telling road, already this year we’ve seen many iconic legends among us greeted with this sad reality and step beyond our personal comfort zone and into theirs. We must understand that death in an of itself is not a condition of misery or depression and nor should it be treated as such; within death is the opportunity for growth and the ability to see what has been given to the collective in days past and what continues to bare fruit in the days ahead. No one ever made any promises or commitments that what we live day to day would be here for us to enjoy day to day…far too often we live on the presumption that what we have will be here when we awake in the morn, this is not the case.
For a select few who admittedly have walked at the edges of the “pack” so to speak, they’ve seen the potentials for failure and success; these people have greeted pain with pleasure and seen every emotion in between. These are the people who among us – walk a different line and when the line is no more have celebrated life as it should be – make it not to be mistaken these are those taken first. As with those like Dave Gregg (DOA), Dave Brockie (GWAR), Bob Casale (DEVO) and most recently Mighty Joe Young (ANTiSEEN) we are at a point of critical mass in the music and entertainment industry; these are men who have given selflessly of themselves, building a career one success at a time and perilously risking it all on getting from one venue to the next. Each career is a testimonial not only to the empirical achievements of each – but more importantly the devotion of the music fan base. Too often in today’s manicured society of whitewashed, synthesized, heavily over produced music we see only momentary glimmers of light which is what built the men we reference.
As with Mighty Joe Young and his fellow musicians we’ve lost this year all were extremely talented and somewhat reclusive in nature. When I say reclusive I want to clarify by stating in no way was Dave Brockie for example reclusive in any accurate description but these men were reclusive behind their heart. Each wore their literal music based heart on their sleeve and nothing could challenge that; each had a public side that was bigger than life itself but in private each man as with any man had their solemn side.
The first occasion I had to meet Mighty Joe Young came in 2012 in Cookeville, TN at the Muddy Roots Music Festival. My first opportunity shooting this event I was not prepared for the verbal and visual assault that awaited me as ANTiSEEN loaded in to the dry dusty outdoor stage. My familiar schpeel had apparently fallen on a very eerily focused set of semi deaf ears of one Jeff Clayton. As I prepped for the stage show, Clayton passed me clad in a blue and black checkered lumberjack coat, black stained sweat pants and work boots. His long brown hair swaying in the evening breeze like a windchime hanging on the porch of the house in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As the light caught the scarring on his forehead I realized this was not about to be anything I had seen before – it became clear as the microphone stand was assembled on stage completely wrapped in barbed wire. Clayton was a cutter. I mentioned to him that I would be getting close to get some action shots, his only response “don’t get to close – and don’t touch me”. His words rang out like a shot from a gun.
As I made my way to stage left I was greeted by a long haired surf / skate / punk past what I thought was his reasonable expiration date. A weathered face peered out under his loosely curled blond locks. Two thin twinkling eyes greeted me with the sincerest handshake – “hope you have fun tonight kid!” – that was Mighty Joe Young. A man who was first considerate of others and only concerned with giving as much as possible. Always courteous and gracious in his approach Joe was ever the gentleman with a hard as nails punk core.
Following an incredibly mind blowing incendiary stage show which culminated in a fountain of Jeff Clayton’s blood and complimentary pyrotechnics; the foursome regrouped and quietly went on their way and disappeared amongst their fans and friends. This is how I see Joe today, I see an indelible record of musical achievements atop a mountainous stage and a final culmination and him laying his fender guitar quietly aside and enjoying the deafening peace in his transition to be with those he cares most for, his friends and fans. The legacy of Mighty Joe Young will not soon be forgotten and nor should it ever be – we have had the opportunity to be a part of an amazing show for the many years. With our utmost gratitude as his fans, friends and industry professionals we will celebrate the life of Joe Young the only way he would see fit turn it loud and remember!
Godspeed my friend. . .we will meet again.