Roots & Routes: Vandaveer

A photo essay of a band on the road.

The hugs goodbye always last a little longer than the hugs we share in greeting.

One a.m. finds us on a quiet, tree-lined street in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC. Vandaveer has just finished a run of east coast shows with a gig at Gypsy Sally’s. Frontman Mark Charles Heidinger pulls the van — crammed full of guitars, drums, keyboard, pedals, merch, and luggage — up to the home of a longtime friend with whom the band will be spending the night.

A cab is waiting to take me to Union Station, where I will board a three a.m. train back to New York City. Too tired to find the right words, I try to convey my gratitude in the embraces we exchange. Then I conduct the requisite check: backpack, camera bag, phone, wallet, ID.

I will never quite understand how bands don’t leave a trail of items behind as they criss-cross the country. Or maybe they do. Hansel & Gretel breadcrumbs of touring, to find their way back to the start.

evening

I get into the cab. As we pull away, I gaze back to see Mark and Tom ascending the steps. Their last night away from home for a while.

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A Lil’ Preview of Vandaveer’s New Album

I’ve been smitten with Vandaveer for a long while now, and I can’t wait for you all to hear the new album, The Wild Mercury. Here’s an amuse-bouche to whet your appetite before the February release.

It’s a rainy day here in DC. I like how clean the world feels after a sky-washing. I like how some songs feel the way the world looks right now, with raindrops clinging to eaves and branches, suspended between air and earth. Holding patterns of precipitate.

I’ve been smitten with Vandaveer for a long while now, and I can’t wait for you all to hear the new album, The Wild Mercury. Here’s an amuse-bouche to whet your appetite before the February release.

This is a time of transition for me, and I’m old enough to know that whether I stay or go, there is no constant to the “here,” and no return to what was “there.” No blank slates. Only new stories written over old, new structures built after old ones are demolished — only change, only the mercurial.

But the thing about good music is that it feels like a home and a friend that you can take with you, no matter where you go.

So thank you, Vandaveer, for making music and for giving us something to look forward to in the new year. xoxo

Landmark Music Festival Recap

Last weekend, the National Park Service partnered with C3 Presents (who also run Lollapalooza) to put on a weekend festival steps from the Washington Monument. Here are some photos & tunes for your audio-visual gleaning, including a peek backstage courtesy of the lovable hooligans of Vandaveer.

Last weekend, the Trust for the National Mall partnered with C3 Presents (who also run Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits) to put on a music festival in West Potomac Park, steps from the Washington Monument. A portion of the proceeds went toward restoring the National Mall (because Abe Lincoln doesn’t want to look out over cracked sidewalks and a tarp-covered Reflecting Pool, alright?). Stellar line-up, cool temperatures, Metro-accessible location, herbivore options aplenty, and a good cause — this basically checked all the boxes. It was remarkably well run, especially for an inaugural event.

Landmark Festival headliners included Drake, The Strokes, and CHVRCHES. Topping my list were Vandaveer, Lord Huron, and Ben Howard. I also caught some of Dr. John and Hiss Golden Messenger. Given infinite time/energy, I would have also seen Rhiannon Giddens, alt-J, Ex Hex, War on Drugs, and TV On the Radio (there will be other chances!). Here are some photos & tunes for your audio-visual gleaning, including a peek backstage, courtesy of the lovable hooligans of Vandaveer.

VANDAVEER

I’ve seen this band seven times. If I’m so lucky as to increase that number sevenfold, I will still find each experience to be utterly moving. I think our subconscious has a way of registering the Cartesian coordinates laid down by exceptional songwriting. The music that’s exactly right at an exact moment in your life — you will forever return to those songs when you need to find your way again. Vandaveer is one of those bands for me.

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On the Road with Vandaveer

This is my day with Vandaveer, a music-making, life-observing, heartstring-bending group that I’ve followed since my first days in D.C. I join them for a jaunt up to New York City — my old hometown, the city of concrete and steel, where dreams are swallowed whole and dreams are set free, where restlessness is the only constant.

Vndvr BoweryTake notes, take photos, repeat to yourself: assemble, testify, preserve. But it’s not possible to be a detached observer. A single show is not a standalone thing but part of an organic whole. It necessarily embraces you. You feel like you’re moving through someone else’s strange, beautiful, ambiguous dream. The present is the past devouring the future.

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Moonlight, my homeward escort: Vandaveer’s Living Room Tour

venue And I was glad of a chance to rest, And glad of a chance to drink with my friend. We sang to the tune of the wind in the pines, And finished our songs as the star-stream ebbed.

歡言得所憩, 美酒聊共揮. 長歌吟松風, 曲盡河星稀.

-Li Bai (李白)

Every time I attend a Vandaveer show, I feel like I’m witness to such ineffable beauty that it is foolish to try to capture it in words. It seems akin to the struggle of nature writers in describing wilderness and the experience of the sublime – those moments when you feel small and humble before the magnitude of the skies, caught up in an infinite storm of beauty, inextricably intertwined with the ebb and flow of the seas.

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