A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
(Editor’s note: This is another installment in an extremely intermittent series of columns, wherein our founder indulges in self-deprecation, -aggrandizement and/or -reflection. Fairly warned be thee, says we.)
Death got me into this blog, and death is kicking me out of it.
Beginning tomorrow, April 25, Post Mortem will be mortuus.
(In the meantime, I plan on going to tonight’s show at SPACE Gallery where Sylvia and Shabti will open for Today Is the Day. [There’s another awesome show tonight at Asylum with Hessian, Sunrunner and an Iron Maiden tribute band — plus this show at Mathew’s — but I’m choosing SPACE because I debuted Post Mortem by covering a Sylvia show, so tonight’s appearance will make for a natural bookend. Also, I’ve missed every opportunity to see Shabti, and I’m tired of feeling stupid about it.])
As much as I love this blog and the bands it covers, there are several reasons for packing it in. For starters — at the risk of sounding like a cryass — Post Mortem is absurdly time consuming. Each show represents between 10 and 12 hours of pro bono work. (At least two hours go into interviewing musicians and writing a preview article before the show; the shows themselves last anywhere from two to four hours; after each show, I usually edit photos for about two hours before going to bed; the next morning, I spend about four more hours editing photos, writing a quick [often pithy] story, and posting the links to social media.)
Luckily, the work has been largely enjoyable, but lately — as I’ve been catching more and more freelance photo assignments — I’ve struggled to balance the two jobs and family life.
Family, in particular, has been a tough obligation to meet. Staying awake until 3 a.m. (or later) after each show means that I’m pretty much non-functional the next day — incapable of doing much beyond editing and napping. For this reason, my 7-year-old son has recently depicted me in drawings as either asleep or on the computer, describing both activities as some of my “favorite things.”
This is a legacy I hope to shake.
My 2-year-old son, with whom I spend my weekdays, has also suffered under this blog. On days when I’m writing articles, he tends to languish in front of the TV, developing a deeper bond with Dora the Explorer than his own flesh and blood.
But, the biggest reason to call it quits is the simplest:
I am colossally depressed.
On March 1, my dad died at age 65 of chronic disease, leaving me the sole survivor of my nuclear family. My mom died four years ago at age 60 and I have no siblings, so I am the lone caretaker of our shared memories — countless stories with no one to reminisce but me.
At the risk of understatement, this is a huge fucking bummer.
In some ways, my decision to mothball Post Mortem is paradoxical. After all, the blog was birthed from death.
Last year, after my uncle died at age 60, I was left to puzzle some dire math: So many people in my family have died in their early-to-mid sixties that there’s really no reason I should buy green bananas. Instead, I should live like there’s no tomorrow, because, genetically speaking, there’s very little chance I’ll survive to retirement anyway.
And rather than being upset by this grim realization, I felt liberated. Suddenly there was really no need to act responsibly, or plan for a brighter future, because there was no future. So, I quit my full-time job, started this blog, and adopted a simple-but-effective philosophy:
Be exactly as weird as you are.
For a while, everything seemed to fall perfectly into place under the new philosophy; I was doing good work, getting noticed, making new friends, seeing great shows, getting free passes, meeting idols, and feeling like a goddamned, motherfucking rockstar.
I was also partying pretty damn hard.
In order to get into “the zone” to photograph a show, I’d drink five or six beers before leaving the house. (Being a concert photographer is basically a conscious decision to be the worst, most pushy, impolite person in the room. I always tried to be courteous and respectful, but the perception is unavoidable and you can’t help but feel like a massive douche. Alcohol really, really helps.) At the venue, I’d drink four or five more. I’d go to afterparties and drink more still. After a while, I’d forget entire portions of some nights, surprising myself the next morning with photographs of places or people I couldn’t remember. On one occasion, I left a house party not remembering how I got there. On another occasion, while accompanying Hessian from a festival, I stripped down to my underwear and sleepwalked through the van while we motored down some dark highway (or so I’ve been told).
Clearly, this path was unsustainable, but I could’t foresee a sustainable future anyway. So … party on.
All this changed on March 1.
I don’t want to violate Dad’s privacy, so I won’t go into specifics, but Dad and I were on similar paths and his path killed him. By all accounts, it was an excruciating death. And, for the survivors (my son, in particular), it’s still excruciating.
So, while I can’t guarantee myself a long life, I can avoid that particular fate. And, at least for now, shutting down my beloved Post Mortem is part of that plan. (In the future, I’ll probably pop out of my Unabomber-style shack to photograph compelling shows, but it will be sporadic and spur-of-the-moment stuff, like my earliest days in this city. And, with a little luck, I might be able to do it occasionally for other publications and blogs. I also hope to start a long-term project with some of these same bands. Details later.)
I can’t say whether Post Mortem truly accomplished anything lasting, but I’d like to think it raised the profile of heavy music in Portland — something that I hope continues to grow. In the meantime, folks like Holly Nunan, Jakob Battick and Hilly Town continue to spread the good word about the scene.
Thank you, Dear Reader, for your support over the past year. It has truly been a pleasure to know you.
— Ben McCanna, April 24, 2015