On a soggy evening in September I biked to the Golden West to meet Jason Reed- it had been one of those days when all of Baltimore is desperate for the humidity to break, for a single leaf to change, for some tiny hint that the worst of summer is over. Jason was waiting at the bar, a Her Fantastic Cats sticker in his hat, a beer in front of him and a copy of his new LP, I, saving a place for me.
It was like reconnecting with an old friend, that first conversation with Jason. His words and stories have a magnetic pull, and he welcomes you into all of the idiosyncrasies and magic of his life without a moment’s hesitation. That evening, in between beers and playing the old Marvel Vs. Capcom game in the back of the bar, we talked about his music, about Baltimore, and about where the two intersect. We wanted to capture his music in a setting that would amplify its playfulness, that went hand in hand with the images of both the natural world and Baltimore that Jason presents on I and the eark ep.
So a few weeks later, after rain cancellations and rescheduling, we found ourselves at the Abell Avenue playground. The sun kept teasing us, lukewarm afternoon rays poking through the dense clouds. The trees were just beginning to change. Jason and Paul, also of Wyoming Exploded, set up in front of the tattered sheet that had served as a projection screen for weekly movies over the summer. Things got off to a strange start, the banjo was acting up and Jason had to perform a quick operation with a kitchen knife. But we moved around, trying different locations. Finally we got into a rhythm and everything clicked, the music came to life.
“Great Gram” was actually the last thing we shot that afternoon. Joel was a little skeptical about the lighting, Jesse’s back was killing him, but at the last moment Jason’s friends (and owners of the little red bass amp) from Bobby E. Lee and the Sympathizers showed up, and asked for one more song. Everything Jason and Paul had left in them went into that take. Everything took a pounding on “Great Gram,” the banjo, their vocal chords. The song hits you in the face, all snarls and hooks that grab you and don’t let go. When we cut, we all knew that it was the song we had been looking for, physical and alive.