Monday, January 9, 2017

In Praise of Here

"THUD."  The ax bounces off the frozen tulip poplar log, sending me off to hunt for a wedge to be a little more persuasive.

  It's a cold, dark January night, and I'm running low on firewood.  "I really should have hustled and ordered those furnace parts already" I think to myself.    It snowed on Saturday, just a magical sugar powder dusting, but it's quite a contrast from the beach pictures on Facebook and Instagram.  Brine coats the cars, and the freeway is salty white here in the DC area.

  I think there's a perception among us "YUCCIES" (Young Urban Creatives as opposed to Young Urban Professionals) that if it gets cold, be it the air or your heart, you pick up and head for the tropics.  Sure, that's awesome, and if you can swing it, take me with you!  For the rest of us splitting firewood in the dark, I'd like to propose a bold new idea, without sounding like a bro country song (again, I'd love to be on a beach right now, so I ain't knocking that, dude!)  Here's the idea:  It's actually pretty cool to be chopping firewood.  It's great to be at work.  The gold can mined in the mire, not just the glamour.

  One time as the train hurtled through a New Jersey evening,  a fascinating gentleman told me that he thinks that there's a lot of joy in the grind, and a "good clean life."  This seems especially relevant at the start of a new year.   Where you are, right now, is where you can begin to build your castle (or simple hut.)  Let that cold air wash over your face, splashing the awareness of life into your startled breath.  Taste the salt that drifts through the wind of the ordinary parking lot, and smirk at the ruffled seagulls as they huff away on indigent yellow feet.  What will you build right here?

Timber!

- Josh 



 

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Beacons Aren't Home Yet

Sometimes I wander down to the park at dusk, and gaze across the river.  Perched on my hilltop, the tower lights far away greet me from theirs through the gathering twilight and murky soup of blues and purples.  Blink.......Blink....Blink.  "Hmm, I bet that one is why it's called 'Beacon Hill'" I wondered to myself one evening.  Beacons...we are all beacons in our own way.

The holidays are here, and I was putting up the lights on the "Beacon Tree" for the Kindness Exchange.  (www.Joshurban.com/kindness)  This time of year brings such a mix of emotions to everyone, and always makes me think of the beacons.  Sometimes we all need to find our way home.  I know I've felt in the past that I needed to reach "home" (metaphorically speaking) before I could help others do the same.  Putting up the lights on the tree this year, I realized something:

The beacons aren't home yet, but they're still lit.  

They're right in the middle of the rocky coasts, the driving rain, the monotony of a stoplight at a suburban intersection.  Yet, shine on they do.

I'm going to do my best to start shining right where I am, every moment, especially if I feel like I'm lost in the darkness.  I'll try to help you find home.  And maybe that will light my way, too.

Shine on!

- Josh

PS.  If you haven't, check out The Kindness Exchange for an easy way to connect with others who are trying the same.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/KindnessExchange/

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

They're back

The Christmas trees are back.  I saw them tonight in the florescent glare across the dangerous parking lot.  The neighborhood grocery store might be kindly described as "gritty", and I'm quite fond of it. Terrible at shopping, I'm there most every day, and know most of the staff, and some of their stories. I technically go there to get food, but the friendship we share is what's really important.

  I looked in through the dingy window, and saw my friend who has since recovered from the concussion her ex-boyfriend gave her. We talk sometimes, and her strength is commendable.  Most people in checkout #7 miss it, as they're too busy wondering if their coupon worked.  And there across the dangerous parking lot, were the Christmas trees, all leaned against the brick wall in anticipation of the decorating.

  You've got to smell the trees.  Even if it's later in the evening, and people might wonder what you're doing.  Fortunately for me, I know Loretta, the security guard who would be yelling in jest at a sketchy looking fellow wearing a Dallas Cowboys beanie, almost unrecognizable under the grime. She's a Washington fan.  "No, you can't borrow my lighter!  I'm gonna burn your head off!"

  For the trees show up each year, with a faint scent of the northland and memories of Christmas past and those who have left.  It's good to breathe in deeply as you lean towards their battered boughs...and remember.

  It seems like we spend a great deal of effort and money each year to make the holidays something shiny...something picturesque.  I've spent lots of time trying to align a struggle with an ideal, and come away feeling sad that I couldn't do it.  But I'm starting to think the sight of the trees leaned against the indifferent brick wall in the mechanical glow of the lights across the dangerous parking lot - and the opportunity to check on our friends to see if they're doing OK today - is too nuanced to put in a snow globe, but is just as beautiful as those miniature worlds ensconced in glass.

   Here's to welcoming the season with all of it's scenes and our ability to see them.

- Josh 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

All Aboard!

Comrades!

  It's Throwback Thursday, and on this day in 2012, I was jamming in Charlotte, NC on the very first rail tour!

  I'm absolutely thrilled to be hopping on a train tomorrow to NYC to kick off the next one!  Proud to present...THE DANCE PARTY!  The idea:  Make a music video with the world to counter all of this fear and political nonsense.  I hope you can join in.  As always, it's interactive, it's worldwide, and it's gonna rock!

Here's the deets:

https://mazuzu.com/hamilton/view/172952

See you out there!

All Aboard!

Josh

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Throwback Thursday

It's exactly 12 years ago to the minute that I was nervously arranging my classroom for the very first guitar lesson.  (Thanks for your patience in that first class, Andy.)

  My mom's borrowed Toyota Tercel, perhaps with painted hubcaps, was parked outside the guitar shop, and the new carpet smell of the fresh building seemed a strange scent to start a rock 'n roll odyssey on, but then again, when does life make sense?

  With all the wisdom and foresight of an 18-year old boy (and I still can't decide if I mean this sarcastically or not), I had said "Yeah, music looks cool" fresh out of high school.  I was in a band making $300 a month, and applied to teach where I had taken lessons for years.  Green Day had just dropped their American Idiot album, Fall Out Boy was charting with song titles that didn't make immediate sense (well, some things never change, they still are), and that year's election of Kerry v. Bush seems like Downton Abbey in retrospect and contrast to today's circus.  "I say, sir, what about those swift boats?"

  I stepped out my own front door today, and jogging down the street, thought back over the years.

  Wow.  What a ride.  A generic expression of gratitude, no matter how fervent, doesn't cut it. (But believe me, it's there.)  So, in addition, I'd like to share something that I've learned from the last 12 years.

   At first glance, a casual observer wouldn't see much about the teaching room.  Yeah, there was always a Hendrix poster up, but the almost-caricature average town of Waldorf can blind those who aren't trained in looking.  But it's there, it's always there.  Whenever and where ever there are people, there are stories, heart and heartache, heroes, tyrants, and history to be made.  The author Tom Brown made the same point about an average front lawn with it's vast saga of flora and fauna playing out unseen.  The same could be said of Suburbia.

  It's almost a practice in itself, and what a fitting lesson for me to have learned as a teacher.

  To see the fretboard of a nervous student's guitar wet with sweat under their scared hands, but yet they keep showing up for lessons and gradually emerge from their shell.  To watch a young woman with promise take a dark turn, almost not survive, then find herself, her place in life, and accolades in a field that matters to her.  Good job on EMT of the year, Kelly.  The Revolution salutes you.  To talk with the writers and poets, the pastors and the mechanics, the moms and dads, the people who wanted to play a few songs for friends, and others who would go on to the Warped Tour and have students of their own.  To have them put up with me learning how to teach, or having a distracted day, or getting WAY to wired on Mountain Dew and a Butterfinger bar (although Sam did that intentionally.  I agree with his logic 100%) To see Andy, my first student, years later in Philly while on a street music tour, and jam with him among all the weirdos in the city...to sit and have pizza with former students, graduated from modes and scales, both of us trying to figure out life and kindness and how to make sense of it all.

  Yes, there was a lot of music.  There was also a lot of talking.  Yes, yes, I know, Hunter.  You were right.  We did chat quite a bit.  I'm glad we still do, even though we haven't played guitar together in...oh what, eight years?  (By the way, you owe me a call, dude!)

  People say to me that I'm lucky.  I couldn't agree more, although I must add a clarification.  While it's an incredible privilege to making a living with a guitar in my hands, the music is just a fraction of the equation.  It's the people, their sharing, their stories, their connection, that really matter.  The music is a vehicle, albeit a meaningful one to everyone involved.  Spinning an 80's pressing of an Ozzy concert on the turntable, I remind the young boy sitting across from me with his mom that what we do as guitar players is "epic, man!"  His presence and his laughter during the lesson replies to me that it's more than that, too.  Thanks for the reminder, buddy.

  And thank you all for the lesson.

You all so rock, and I salute you!

- Josh





Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New Tour! New Tour!

COMRADES!

  It's time for another rail tour!  It's time to make another music video together!  HERE'S THE PRESS RELEASE!

For  Immediate Release
Join the Dance Party!
Despair, USA -  It’s a funny time for a message of unity.  A peculiar time to talk about song and dance when it feels like the sky is falling.  But that could also make it exactly right. Maybe with a little laughter, we summon courage to take our power back.  Maybe by playing the blues, we lose the blues.  


 Meet musician Josh Urban.  He plays a home-built broom guitar and DJs on the street.  Spoofing the red-hot political season, the seemingly-endless stream of bad news, and sharp polarization between communities, he urges you to join the dance party.  Traveling by train along the east coast, he’ll be bringing a mix of rock and dance music to the street corner, subway, hospital waiting room, and traditional venue while engaging a worldwide audience through livestreaming and social media.  The idea:  make a music video with the world dancing away our fears and division.  


 Running September 9th through the 25th, The Dance Party tour is an interactive experience designed to bring some levity into the world, because sometimes the serious problems need a lighter contrast to remind us of our humanity.  


Get in the video!  


Ready to make a music video? Record yourself dancing (preferably to the official tour song), and tag it to #JURT on social media.  To really fit the theme, people are writing a fear on a piece of paper (be it terrorism or a mean dog), dancing with it, then crumpling the paper and throwing it out of view with triumphant gusto.  Send your video to josh@joshurban.com and it’ll be mixed into the official tour video at the conclusion. (By the way, Josh is a terrible dancer, so don’t feel pressure!) Let’s make a stand - let’s dance!  


Tour Dates


9/9 and 9/10 New York, New York
9/11 Philadelphia, PA
9/16 Charlottesville, VA
9/17 Charlotte, NC
9/18 Richmond, VA
9/23 Baltimore, MD
9/24 Alexandria, VA
9/25 Washington, DC


Contact
 Josh Urban 240-682-2801 josh@joshurban.com Twitter: @DontJoshMe Instagram: @JoshUrban www.JoshUrban.com/DanceParty


 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Damn, Daniella!

"Daaaamn, Daniella!  Back at it again with the dance moves!"

  I said it mostly because I figured spoofing the viral video quote would make a good story, but in hindsight, I'd rather have her number than the blogging rights...Oh well.

  It was another Friday night, and there I was, my words betraying the mature tie around my neck.  I didn't get her number.  And man, I never even asked.  

  But, I got a great lesson out of the epic failure!  Something that's unacceptable in my book is neglecting the things we have control over.  

  There's many things we don't.  Industry trends, customer perception, stray bullets...Daniella could have been like "Haha...NO."  But - we do have control over how we present ourselves, what kind of songs we write, how much we practice, and what words we speak.

  So, I for one will make sure to ask Daniella if she'd like to get a Zoolander selfie if I ever see her again.  The answer doesn't even matter.  It's the question! Oh yeah, and I'll also work on writing the best songs I can.  That too.

- Josh