This may start out sounding like one of those "but enough about me, let's talk about me" posts, but I am totally shocked and saddened by this news. My diction and ability to express myself--not so great right now. Please bear with me for a paragraph as there are two important things I need to share about the character of Mr. Molina.
I had the good fortune to open a show for Jason in 2007. He was playing solo, and as I was playing by my lonesome at the time, the powers that be thought it made sense to slap me on the bill. I was doubly happy as I imagined it was my prickly reputation and local connections that had helped to get my friends in The Bracelets booked as well (in reality, while this was partially true, all I had done was see to it that I was shafted out of money that day as I had made enemies with just about anyone whom I felt treated artists unfairly--in this case, this meant the student-aged bookers). I think that I even talked getting Houndrunner, a gifted punk/post-punk type outfit, on the bill as a condition for getting The Bracelets, only to have the former band back out of the show last minute as they felt they didn't fit. In any case, I was 21 and felt I had bucked the system. I must really be something special to get away with getting nothing but "real" music onto the Union Terrace (beautiful venue directly on the lake in Madison, WI).
That mid-April day proved crappy, and we had to play inside. Enter Jason Molina (in that Indiana Jones-style hat of his). We were introduced and I began asking him about Neil Young records as I was on a huge kick at the time. I think these must have been irritating questions for him to have been asked, but he was 100% gracious and kind throughout. I asked him about his peers, what they were like, (specifically Nina Nastasia), and he answered all my inquiries in thoughtful detail. I cannot stress enough how much time he took out of his night for me even though I clearly knew diddly about jack. On top of being a too-precocious, know-it-all 21 year old, I admitted to him that I didn't know his music very well, but that I had seen his band, Magnolia Electric Co. at the Intonation Festival (now Pitchfork) a year or two prior and that it had brought me to tears despite my knowing next to nothing of his band previously. At the mention of this, he became more engaged, almost reverentially so. He expressed to me that he felt the band had been "on fire" or "shit-hot" that day. I think his description had something to do with burning. We kept on this topic for a little bit, and it was clear that this set had stood out very clearly in his memory. I can testify on his behalf that the Chicago set at Intonation truly was special. At 19, I was an uninformed and objective observer to that fact, and I remember being confused as to how a band completely unknown to me could cause me to well up with tears. I think it was the insistence and knowing bobbing of one player's curly fro that sent me over the edge into being completely cognizant of the moment.
Jason and I didn't speak for more than a few minutes, and I think it was actually me that ended the conversation as I didn't want to bother him by speaking for too long. That, and I don't think I appreciated at all what a special pleasure it was to meet the man. I didn't see what was so great about his solo work until Tim Midgett/Midyett pointed me in the right direction.
If my diction has been poor or hyperbolic, it's because I'm completely stunned and saddened right now and have been locked in this state all morning. Jason Molina was a class act all the way--even when maniacs were bringing the show to a standstill, screaming for the crowd to quiet down, even when the audience (half of whom deserved to be assaulted by the reticent and absent Houndrunner) refused to stop talking, even when introduced to an arrogant kid the likes of me, he appeared unfazed and completely at ease with his ability and the honesty of his music. I found my friend Cindy in the back, and between speaking with her (far away from the stage) and watching Jason, I witnessed a real working musician fight through adversity, standing up on a table halfway through the proceedings, and playing songs that came straight from his literate guts.
Someone please find that Intonation soundboard recording if you are the sort to read this and have access to that sort of thing. It must be from 2005.