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Stavesacre: 1996-2006
By Ryan Ro

Stavesace chased me for a number of years. "Hey, have you heard Stavesacre?" At each turn, I was quick to dismiss the band. "Disquiet" was the only song I'd ever heard, and quite frankly, I thought it and the accompanying video were terrible.

Late 2002. An older acquaintance picks me up from the airport. He drives me home in the light, and while we talk, beautiful music is playing at low volume. It's Speakeasy. "Keep Waiting." He tells me about some of the lyrics and song meanings. And I am intrigued. Not long after, during an emotional time in my life, I finally make the purchase.

My review of the record from 2003:

"The lyrics are poetry. The bass is an overdriven low end monster. The throaty, emotive vocals are distinctly different from… anything I can think of. Warm, fuzzed guitars and rock riffs. Heavy, precise drumming. Gorgeous songwriting­alternately hard and fast, delicate and harsh, hopeful and heartbreaking, all paced just right.

What the hell am I supposed to say about this record? It broke my heart when I needed breaking and then helped start putting the pieces back together. I can't match Salomon's range if my life depended on it but still I try to match him word for word, no matter how out of key I am. I can't fight the hope and inspiration and emotion the Speakeasy stirs up in me and frankly, I don't want to. This is melodic hardcore at it's poignant, honest, powerful finest. "

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Promises
Don't promise me
Say yes
Say no or yes
But don't promise - "Yes"
Later, Mark Salomon would write a book. Simplicity pushed and prodded and compelled change in my life, faith and mind. It is, simply, a chronicle of life. It does answer questions for fans of Stavesacre (such as, why did Stavesacre completely quit the Christian music industry? Or "why is Mark such a jerk?" I kid.), but it is much more. Vulnerable, open and seeking dialog and communication between followers of Christ with each other and with the rest of the world,  Simplicity is both compelling band journal/auto-biography and call to honesty and openness.

All this and I still only owned one record.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She offered her hand
She whispered be a man
But when I woke from sleep
There was only me
But I'll be ready…
I'll be ready… - "Minuteman"
Friction: I don't own this. I should. "At The Moment" is brilliant.

Absolutes: A solid hard rock record. Much beloved by Stavesacre fans. Only recently have I come to appreciate it for what it is. It still feels lacking some of the sheer emotional resonance that marks Speakeasy, but is highlighted by Salomon's amazing lyrics.

Speakeasy: There are records that you're passionate about for six months, a year, maybe more, and then they seemingly vanish from your playlist.

Over four years from my discovery, I have never - not once - gotten tired of  Speakeasy. While two tracks are mediocre ("Disquiet" and "St. Eriksplan"), the first seven tracks are perhaps the greatest first seven tracks on any record ever. I mean, I love every track. "Minuteman," "Sundown Motel," the aforementioned "Keep Waiting," the best "Yell Along With In The Car With Andrew Hall" song ever in "You Know How It Is," the haunting "Rivers Underneath…"

And then it comes. The heart-rending, beautiful, tragic, sorrowful hope of "Gold & Silver." Followed up by the worshipful 3/4 time ballad "Freefall (from Hand To Hand)."

We get a nice Cure cover ("Fascination Street") before moving into the closer. "This Love" brings everything to a cathartic, moving close.

There are very few records that stay so relevant, excellent and free of fatigue. Speakeasy is a rare jewel to be cherished.

(st vz' 'k r): The disappointing follow-up to Speakeasy is essentially ruined by the production. There are good songs beneath the sludge, but the new record label clearly did not understand Stavesacre. That said, a few stand-outs ("Alice Wishlist", "Night Town") and great lyrics make the disc worth a listen for fans.

How To Live With a Curse: The most recent, and as it turns out, final outing of Stavesacre. I am very grateful that the group was able to close out their career with HTLWAC instead of the self-titled record. Curse is a unique beast. It is out of place in 2006-7, sounding very similar to the material from the group's first three Tooth & Nail records ( Friction, Absolutes, Speakeasy). It certainly would fit in well in the late '90's.

Perhaps that idea is what put me off the record at first. But my opinion of HTLWAC has changed dramatically. The record is imperfect, but much like Speakeasy, the majority is good. Politically and emotionally charged with a good mix of driving rockers and Acre-style rock ballads, songs like "Reason To Believe" and "Grace" resonate strongly to me. The album is actually worth the price of admission sheerly for the insane closer "Kill My Darlings." Unbelievable. Whereas "Gold & Silver" is stunning, epic and powerful, "Kill My Darlings" is chilling, epic and powerful. Truly chilling. It reaches deep inside to the beaten down man and causes him to rise up against mediocrity and compromise… against easy, selfish, uncaring living.

I'm dying tonight
I'm taking my time
Perfection begins when it hurts
I'm healing in slashes and burns
And that's how you live with a curse - "Kill My Darlings"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Do I see God in all of this? maybe all along
It's just that we're so small, and simply not as strong
Strong like wings of silver, and feathers made of gold
To carry heavy hearts, to cover all our helpless souls - "Gold & Silver"
February 27, 2007, the band announced via their myspace blog that the curtain has drawn. Drawn on a great band that never quite achieved, if not the success, then the recognition they deserved.

We fans will get one more disc from Stavesacre, a "final chapter" reuniting the group with former member Jeff Bellew (Chatterbox). And after the fact, I finally bought some merchandise from the Stavesacre online store.

Really, for me, Stavesacre is one album. One book. One man who I did not, as I had with other musicians such as Matthew Good, put on a god-like pedestal. It is simply that one album, one book, have impacted my life for the better. I've never been an obsessed fan over this group, never foamed rabid at somebody who dislikes them.

My love for Stavesacre is a more quiet, subtle, even mature thing. And I do indeed love this band and wish the best for the men who wrote such music. Such music! One more for the road. I miss Stavesacre. It is a bittersweet parting, yet full of hope.

At last, all that is left to say is this:

Thank you.

The sun is going down I say we follow it out of town
We've been here for far too long, but will they know we're gone
And in the morning when it rises
Maybe it will shine for us
The sun is going down, it's gonna be all right" - "Sundown Motel"
 
 
 
 
 

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