Day 59: A Wintry Weekend in the Catskills
(NOTE: There is a listening requirement for this blog post. If you don't already have a copy of The Lone Bellow's fabulous self-titled album, download it now. Then press play before you read any further.)
This post has been a long time coming. Nearly two years ago, I spent a snowy weekend in the Catskills with a bunch of friends from Brooklyn. Thanks to a friend's connection, we stayed at a dreamy old house in the middle of the woods. It was the sort of sprawling, rustic mountain house you might see in a Ralph Lauren ad: dark wooden floors and exposed beams, flickering oil lamps, massive stone fireplaces, and a covered back porch (complete with rocking chairs) overlooking the valley. Oh, and did I mention that there was a huge kitchen??
There were about 15 of us in all, and we were escaping the city with the sole purpose of creating. We were a motley crew: there were musicians, photographers, filmmakers, stylists, a graphic designer, and me: the cook. We were there not only to create, but to collaborate: on music, photos, videos, and dinner parties.
Amongst the group were the amazingly talented members of The Lone Bellow, and they came with vanload of instruments – guitars, upright bass, banjo, mandolin, lap steel, jimbe, keyboards, and an accordian – with the intent to do some recording and shoot a few videos. (Here's one of the gorgeous videos they created that weekend - in the snow - with Ryan Booth as part of his SERIALBOX PRESENTS series.) If you've ever heard The Lone Bellow perform, you know the heart and soul that each one of them pour into their music. Their harmonies and melodies are at times haunting and heartbreaking, at other times exultant.
I'll never forget the first night we were there: everyone had dumped their gear and were trying to figure out a shooting schedule. I was in the kitchen cooking dinner, and had put out wine, cheese, and crackers for people to munch on pre-dinner. Suddenly I hear singing and playing coming from the next room. I walked in and Zach, Kanene, Brian, Jason, Brian, and Matt, instruments in hands, had plopped down at the table surrounding the cheese and were wailing their hearts out. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen or heard...these insanely talented musicians just singing for the pure pleasure of it.
This was a common theme that weekend: people doing their thing (be it music, photography, styling, whatever) for the pure pleasure of it. And even more amazing was seeing how everyone supported each other. There were all sorts of projects in the works – from videos to photo shoots to recording sessions to a potential entertaining piece for a magazine. And yet, everyone was happy to lend a hand with each others' projects. And everyone helped pitch in with food prep and dishes. It was just incredible. By the end of our time there, it felt like we were a big family.
But my favorite times were meal times. We sat around the dinner table for hours, eating, drinking, and telling story after story. Eventually the party would flow out onto the porch, and we'd stay up talking into the wee hours. And of course there would be more music. There wasn't a lot of sleep that happened that weekend, but the friendships that developed and deepened, the collaborations that took place, and the art – and memories – created will last a lifetime.
Here's to more creativity, collaboration, and community in 2014!
(A special thanks to Mackenzie Rollins & Chris Pereira, for making this whole experience possible! Photographs by Mackenzie Rollins; food by Anna Watson Carl; prop styling by Amy Anderson; menus and wine-bottle graphics by Dana Tanamachi; music by The Lone Bellow.)