with special guest Christian Lee Hutson
The artist requires all attendees must be at least two weeks past receiving full COVID vaccination and show a vaccination card along with photo ID. No refunds will be given for 2022 Concerts On The Lawn Series. All Sales Are Final. Rain or Shine.
The house is exactly what you’d expect: practically a studio apartment except it stands on its own, draped in honeysuckle and Dutchman’s pipe; a yard of dune sedge and stone. Her dog is buried in the garden along the eastern wall; sometimes, she wonders if the ground will bloom half-a-dozen of him under a certain kind of moon. In the morning the light creeps sideways through the windows and lights her up from the chest down, her head nestled in the shadow. Sometimes she finds herself playing guitar before she has left sleep. Her hands strum but her mind is still dreaming. (It’s her birthday, she’s at the movies, the screen is a tidal wave, someone touches her leg, she wakes up with her fingers tangled in the strings and the kettle whistling.)
The house is haunted. It should go without saying, but it should be said anyway. The house is haunted, but no one knows anything about the ghost or how it messes with you, except for the fact that every time she goes away (to Texas, to Memphis, to Graceland, to Germany) she always ends up coming home again. It’s the strangest kind of haunting. Everyone calls it, the house, the House of Punishment—more than one mistaken citizen has turned up looking for a similarly-named erotic dungeon on the other side of town—but the name is misleading. It is not a house where someone was punished, or a house where someone might be punished, but a house that replaces punishment; instead of feeling guilt or regret you must play quietly in any corner, and eventually the emotion will resolve itself.
Inside, every door frame is notched: the respective growths of former tenants, friends. On one of them, a place where—deep in her cups—she’d measured her height as a full five inches taller than normal; only the next morning did she realize, cotton-mouthed, that she’d been standing on her toes when she’d slid the pencil over the apex of her skull. There had been a Murphy bed once, she was certain, and sometimes when she was very, very tired she would imagine her bed, which was not a Murphy bed, snapping her up into the wall. Next to her bed, in her nightstand drawer, lived the following things: crumpled receipts, red yarn, eight dollars, a white lighter, two undeveloped film cameras, Grether’s Pastilles in their old-timey tin, fistfuls of birthday cards with the shimmer worn off, a pocket-sized copy of the constitution, a pocket knife, a pair of swimming goggles, a pair of recording headphones, shoelaces twisted into a Gordian knot, an unpaid parking ticket, a strip of Peanuts Halloween stickers, an MRI request form from when she sprained her finger, colloidal silver (someone told her it would cure her cold; someone else told her it would give her Argyria), a map of Kyoto (she’d gotten bored at the temple), incense, her first fan letter (she promised herself she’d respond; she never did), a bunch of bolts, a plastic doll’s hand, doggie bags (he’d died over a year ago), an unopened Replacements cassette, an unopened 23 & Me kit, an unopened fortune cookie, unopened pepper spray she doesn’t trust herself to take out of the packaging. In a fake book on her desk—pleather-bound and conspicuously absent a title—she collects her used boarding passes, old concert tickets, disconnected wristbands. It doesn’t escape her notice that she can’t throw anything away, that objects remain unopened, unresolved, untangled, unconsumed. She is always in the middle. She is never at the end of anything.
She lives near a hospital. All night, she hears sirens, imagines the people being transported to and fro, their bodies speeding along in the back of ambulances and their spirit trying to catch up. She makes jokes. “If I wake up, someone better be dying,” she says, until one night she wakes up and feels it: someone’s essence slipping past her on the way to somewhere else. After that, she thinks about the hospital as a metaphor, and considers the many ailments the metaphorical hospital could cure, the many symptoms it could treat: Imposter syndrome. Cabin fever. Foot-in-mouth disease. Word vomit.
She invites her friends—that is to say, her family—over for dinner. She has this one friend whose dad was really obsessed with blood—blood as in family, not the interesting kind of blood—and how it was thicker than water (ew), and then one day her friend looked up the actual expression and it was, The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. Shit, right? Anyway, she makes a green bean casserole, which is demolished in short order, and hot rolls. Someone kills a pint of ice cream she’s been saving. Someone else drinks a beer so hard it sputters, erupts. Someone else sits in the corner playing cat’s cradle, waiting to feel the guilt lift from their sternum.
After that, the coven of her covenant goes out beneath the new moon; they journal and play Bright Eyes and Britney Spears and act out María Irene Fornés’ plays and eat peaches. They lie on the grass and the stone and talk about the skies they were born under. They don’t believe, really, that it makes a difference, but it’s nice to think about. After all, everyone knows the world is ending. They’ve been told as much, and they can see it in the streets, and they know the world is irreparably fucked, but most importantly they feel it among themselves; they know this goodness cannot last forever.
She sits near them. They are together but at the same time they are alone, as we all are. Someone has put a braid into her hair; she’s left toothmarks on someone else. Something moves through the empty house, less the ghost than the breath of the ghost. She tells her friends: “I’m not afraid to disappear.” Someone laughs. Then, someone else opens their mouth, and something else climbs out.
Christian Lee Hutson
Christian Lee Hutson starts his new album Quitters with a laugh. In this follow up to his ANTI records debut, Beginners, Hutson moves away from the focus on growing up to the dread and complications of growing older. The laugh that announces Quitters is the kind you’ll find at the end of John Huston films, one of resignation and release, and somehow a cosmic laugh that says “California,” a place where lonely people gather together like birds.
Across Quitters’ 13 tracks, Hutson crafts this portrait of the place he’s from. In these short story-like songs, Hutson presents characters who carry this golden light and sinister geography inside them. It’s a place where everything in the end gets blown away and paved over with something new, where even the ocean and fires are always whispering, “One day we’ll take it all back.” This is a Los Angeles in constant transition, where childhood is lost, where home is gone and can never be visited again. Yet Hutson’s world is also one of happy accidents, where doors are left open on purpose, hoping that someone new will walk through. In the end, what’s left are these songs created by some future spirit, written to comfort the person we are now.
Produced by Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst, Quitters is also a departure from the digital recording of his debut. Hutson stated, “When we made Beginners the aim was to make simple digital recordings of how I would play the songs in the room. With this record, Phoebe and Conor had an idea that it would be fun to make it to tape. Phoebe is my best friend and making Beginners with her was so comfortable and easy. So I wanted to work with her again.” “I took a long time with Beginners,” Hutson added. “I had those songs for 10 years, but these songs came out a lot faster.” Because the songs from Quitters were written in a shorter time, “there was a little bit of insecurity with the lyrics. Having Conor there served the purpose of someone who I really respect as a lyricist and could soothe my anxiety.”
With Quitters, Hutson pulled from a wide range of influences for his second record: the tight rhymes of John Prine, Bob Mehr’s book about the Replacements Trouble Boys, and Scott McClanahan’s auto-fiction The Sarah Book. It’s a recording that also feels like a sonic expansion from Hutson’s debut.
“We made Quitters all at once. We hadn’t seen each other for sixth months and this was the first time being in the room together again. It was a real familial feeling, working with the same people, playing with the same people where everyone gets so good at knowing one another’s tricks and are complimenting one another’s weird mistakes. My favorite records are when the guitar gets fucked up and then that becomes the recorded version. And it’s those accidents that make them special.”
The song “Rubberneckers” announces Huston’s two great themes: memory and pain. Written along with his friend and artist Alex Lahey, “Rubberneckers” was the last song written for the album. Huston said, “After I made the record, I was thinking about marriage, about codependency and lying to yourself. You like to think this is my life and these are the parameters. You can’t even see you’re on this path until you wind up in the darkest wood, but you keep walking because the road is comfortable.” The song charts a relationship’s demise, through a proposal, a rupture, and then ultimately a breakup. Hutson pointed out,” It’s about the way that when your life is falling apart, friends fixate on the falling apart rather than just providing support.” The song also contains some of the album’s many perfect rhymes: Self-esteem vending machine/a doctor’s office magazine.
Yet, the song “Cherry” returns Hutson to some of the high school themes from his first album. Hutson states, “I wrote that when we were mixing Beginners and is the first song that I wrote for this record.”
The song charts the ridiculous “cringey” lies we tell in our adolescence. Hutson also pulled from memories of older friends from high school. Hutson said, “I wanted to describe that part of growing up in Los Angeles, having a cool older friend who will drive you speeding and have you jump out on the roof of the car. These people who do these flawed things and tell this type of lie.” However, Hutson’s gift is describing these characters and the world they inhabit without moralizing about it. He is less interested in the “why,” but in the simple mystery of describing these remembered moments from a place.
Likewise, the song “Age Difference” allows Hutson to expand on the Los Angeles character song tradition of Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson. The track concerns a character who is finding that they are on the dark side of my thirties. Hutson said, “There’s a specific type of an older man that I have encountered a lot in LA. The aging rocker who hasn’t had a long relationship and they are the McConaughey-like character who is dating a much younger girl, and they have just stopped progressing.” Yet Hutson refuses to pass judgment in a world filled with judgment. Hutson is interested in describing the world the way it is, not the way we want it to be.
So if every great record is a world, then this is Christian Lee Hutson’s world. It’s a California filled with the fuzzy haze of a dream, and the half-remembered moments of a forgotten life. Songs that say, “That was so long ago, but I still remember you.” A world where the past is never past, and the old people we once were still live inside the new people we are. It’s a record brave enough to say, “In the good old days, when times were bad.” But beyond the songs, it is this voice. The voice of someone who was alive in 2021 and recorded a group of songs with his friends for us to hear. And one day these people who shared these sounds will look back and say, “We were all there for a moment? And we were young once, weren’t we?” For there is a consolation prize. A breath on the window/A message that no one can see. While the whole world seemed to be ending, we still listened to one another. We tried to hear. And so we joined this sad laughter. Together.
– Bio by Scott McClanahan