Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The Hard Lessons' Augie Visocchi writes in his descriptions for the four songs that his band played in this session that one of the chief themes that runs through its record - "Arms Forest" - is one of "the conflict between the temporary and the enduring," as if we needed the hint or more importantly, as if we needed to be thinking about that particular idea more so than we already do. If it isn't one of the ripest struggles for contemplation on the regular for anyone beyond the age of 25 or 30, then some people are really into avoidance and the kind of density that it takes to ignore the way the winds blow. There's a constant sense of the haphazard moving into the picture of some stable scene over the course of an album that tugs us along at speeds that whip our cheeks red and flapping with windburn and then coax us out onto the floor for a slow dance, cheek-to-windburn-cheek, sentimentally and with appropriate amounts of comforting care. The Hard Lessons are from Detroit, Michigan, and fuck if it hasn't been a year or more of real smarting pain and suffering there. It's a city that everyone in the world has been treating like a crash victim that's on life support, the prognosis is being relayed as an ugly one and any number of people are standing around the machines ready to pull the plugs at any second just to see the perceived misery end. Those poor people working in the auto industry who have been told suddenly that the all-American vehicles - the wheeled machines that men have coveted, waxed religiously, given women's names and loved more than their children - aren't worth a damn and that most people don't want them the same way they used to. It's a failure in love and appreciation, that one. It's a bad break-up that formalized out of the clear blue. People told the auto industry that they weren't in love anymore and they just wanted to be friends. Augie Viocchi, his wife Karin and drummer Ryan Vandeberghe seem to be endeared to this city though and they're endeared to all of those things that scrap their way into a lasting position in the world - everything that just refuses to be waste paper and refuse. This includes love and the kinds of feelings that people choose to share when all of the other senses tell them to slow down now, take this one step at a time you fool, are you sure, is this a good idea, aw hell, you're doing it anyway, best of luck. These kinds of things do sometimes last and it's right to root for them. It's right to root for the 100-year-old homes, crumbling foundations and saggy roofs and all, sitting silent in historical districts to be given life back - to be renovated and turned back to life from an eyesore. It's not the natural order of the world or of progress, but so be it. Augie sings late in the record, "We've got nothin' but time," and a belief in that is enough to make one want to see what happens, to not get too damn hasty with any situation or stress, to not be influenced by the status quo. We had a conversation in a coffeehouse by the studio just before the session taped on this day right after Easter Sunday about Tiger Stadium, which was standing at the time half demolished - hanging on like the ancient Coliseum, a monument to something no longer needed, but still beloved. There were those fighting to keep a remnant of the past at least partially standing. It was a beautiful and grimy old ballpark, but a place that holds so much history. Shouldn't it remain, these vigorous people ask? Will it endure? It would have on its own. And so will the rest of us, the Hard Lessons seem to believe, if we just get it in our souls, get that feeling of clouds and sunshine in there, enjoying the feeling of sweat, the feeling of cold and warmth and the way it all makes our blood shimmer. "Arms Forest" is a demonstration of how it's supposed to feel.