Post #1 – January 2017 – Nahko Bear & Medicine for the People
My journey of self-discovery started around six months ago, in the summer/fall of 2016, and music was an enormous and critical part of it, as it has been in most aspects of my life. In times of confusion, stress, and change, music can take on a greater relevance in one’s life, even if music was already held in particularly high regard. It helps to heal, develop new thought patterns, let go of the past, and look to the future. Some of these songs have become my hymns and part of my life’s soundtrack. The artist below provided something I needed at the time I needed it, and I feel they are worthy of writing about and passing on to others that might enjoy them as much as I have.
Nahko Bear & Medicine for the People
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I first heard of Nahko and Medicine for the People during a phone conversation I was having while being guided by the universe and searching for my life’s answers in Nashville only a couple of days before 2016 came to a close. I happened to be engaged in the longest man-to-man phone calls I’d ever been on, over the course of what I’m fairly certain was three-plus hours, speaking with an old friend and band mate, now residing in Denver. We had reconnected a mere two months before when I was visiting other friends in Denver, and we managed not only to reconnect with no premeditation, but also wound up jamming with a group of other like-minded musicians for several hours. Our conversation after that jam was one of frank disclosure and storytelling about our recent lives – how we had both experienced significant challenges and change, and the struggles each of us were dealing with currently. Our stories, as it turned out, were eerily similar. This was one of many coincidences both he and I had been experiencing in our lives and it was nothing short of mind-blowing.
We made it a point since (although as I write this post I feel lapsed and remiss) to connect regularly, update each other on our journeys, and see what lessons we may have for each other. The Nashville-Denver call was one of those check-ins, and an epic one at that. This phone call marked the first time I heard someone refer to the changes and strange coincidences I had been experiencing as symptomatic of a “spiritual awakening” (the second being the very next night, from a stranger). I barely paid attention let alone gave credence to such a silly, hippy-like term, at this time still clinging to my atheism like a life preserver. When he mentioned that there was a band playing in Denver the next two nights named Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People that carried a message about spirituality and a changing societal consciousness, I offered it the same vague attention, dismissing it as more “hippy-dippy bullshit” in my mind, while at least being respectful to him. I was trying to find myself after all, so I couldn’t be distracted by this kind of new-age crystals and Reiki madness.
As it turns out, I gave them a spin, almost begrudgingly and with lowest of expectations, during my departure from Nashville (on an inspired overnight jaunt to Rochester, New York) late the next evening,
They have remained the bedrock of my playlist since.
I absolutely love these guys and the message they carry. Their music delivered a message I desperately needed at the time… the message that I wasn’t crazy, and I wasn’t alone. Magical forces are at work around us and ancient spirits continue to tug at the balance of nature and man, and sometimes mere mortals become conscious of it… perhaps even “spiritually awakened.”
I haven’t been able to help but share Nahko and MFTP with close friends and nearly everyone (possibly everyone) has had a similar reaction, finding their music and message fulfilling and validating. For many, this has been the first musical artist in a long time – if ever – to create music so thematically focused on this lofty purpose and shared consciousness of mankind.
Andie, my partner in crime and passion, (and sometimes crimes of passion), and I had the opportunity to see Nahko and MFTP in Covington, Kentucky on January 28th at the small but very cool Madison Theater. I approached this event with psychological caution if not outright defensiveness. I had come to really love this band and their message had become a meditative tool in my life since first hearing them a month ago. I was frankly afraid of two possibilities:
- Concern #1 – They’re full of shit. They’re vulturing new-age hippies and chanting contrived phrases insincerely to milk people of their hard-earned cash.
If this were the case I thought I’d see it pretty clearly. It would be apparent in their live performance. I’d see the ego, the pandering, or some other telltale sign of the new American pop-up tent evangelism.
- Concern #2 – They suck. This happens sometimes with bands that sound great in the studio…they suck live. That would be a huge disappointment (but not as huge as concern #1).
The sounds were pretty layered on the tracks I’d listened to and it wasn’t clear exactly what instrumentation was in the current live shows. Furthermore, there is an almost purposeful absence of what we’ve all become used to in the jam band and festival scenes – the ripping guitar solo (or in more general terms, the “show-off” sensibilities of most on stage musicians). Could that be simply because they don’t play or perform well, so you know… they endeavor to keep it simple?
My friend from Denver had said only great things from the New Year’s run, even suggesting they would be “huge” in the music scene as they gained more exposure. I was skeptical but encouraged.
Following the Covington show, I was ultimately happy to report back to him that the show not only quelled my concerns, but far exceeded my expectations in every aspect. The musicians that Nahko assembled were lacking in no way, to the point where it’s nearly impossible for me to call any particular one out without minimizing the talent of the others. Despite that statement, I have to say that one of the most attractive characteristics of their music is the use of instruments not classically used in this genre (and by “this genre” I’m taking a liberty and identifying them with the likes of Rusted Root or Michael Franti and Spearhead, each having similar aspects to their music and/or message, or perhaps other bands they would like “to be just like, in a completely different way“). To that point I have to say Max Ribner (trumpet) and Tim Snider (violin) were the musicians on stage that shredded any doubt in my mind concerning the respect Nahko and MFTP give to the music and musicianship itself. The playing by all was truly inspired and it became quickly obvious that each is a consummate musician in their own right, with their collective being something to truly enjoy and marvel at .
As for my concern about their integrity, nothing that night indicated anything but sincerity on behalf of the band, and my exposure over the past few months has revealed (over and over) the numerous social and environmental causes that each member of the band have become involved with – or founded – to serve a need or injustice in the world apparent to them and close to their heart.
All accolades for the band and their endeavors aside, I’ll always still remember their music fondly for coming to me at a time in my life where they carried a message of hope, inspiration, and encouragement to think differently about my values and priorities that I desperately needed to hear. If I never saw the band live or knew any more about them, I’d still hold them in high regard for those contributions they made to me on a personal level. As I set out into 2017 pursuing my dreams for the first time in a pure manner and with a sense of clarity I’ve never attained before, I partially have them to thank… for encouraging me and ensuring me I’m not (completely) crazy, or at least if I am I’m with pretty damn good company in my insanity.
I’ll be sure to listen to them often this summer and fall as I pursue a new life and career and wake the dreams into realities.