On March 16, one of my old favorite Indie artists passed away from complications due to alcoholism. Jason Molina, aka Songs: Ohia, aka Magnolia Electric Co., aka whatever else he might have called himself, was only 39 years old. He may not have reached the age of 40, but he released roughly 40 albums under his various names, and another 10 or so collaborations. I am sad that he is gone, but he left a HUGE body of work behind to remember him by.
I had the privilege to see him live with the Magnolia Electric Co. band back in 2009. He played a tiny hole-in-the-wall dive bar literally down the street from my home in Citrus Heights, Ca. I could have walked there if it weren’t 108 degrees that evening.
My girlfriend-at-the-time and I met my sister and her family at the “Fire Escape”, (I think that’s what it was called. It’s called “The Couch” now), and ate some crappy bar food and drank a few beers. There was an acoustic singer-songwriter from San Francisco that I have completely forgotten about, but I remember liking a lot, who opened for Jason Molina. Molina walked in and out of the bar during the set with no apparent self-consciousness or shyness; just hanging out with everyone else.
It was a typical Sacramento summer evening, in that it never really cooled-off, and poor Jason, being from Canada, melted in our inhospitable heat. The band came on at about 8:30, or so, and played a truncated set due to the heat. Poor Jason couldn’t hang. He walked off after about 5 or 6 songs, but came back to play a 2 song encore. I got the sense that he really appreciated the crowd and wanted to give us more, even though he was not feeling well. He was talkative during the set, and thanked us between each song for coming out to see him. At one point I said, “Hey! Thanks for stopping in Sacramento!” It was a small bar, and we stood less than 5 feet away from him. He shyly acknowledged our love for his music.
We had no way of knowing this at the time, but this was the same time that he started having problems with his alcoholism. He stopped touring shortly after the show I saw, and went into various treatment centers. We always thought that he was sick from the Sacramento heat, but perhaps his health issues were already starting. His health deteriorated rapidly in this past year.
Today’s Earworm is my favorite of Jason Molina’s songs. “Farewell Transmission” is typical of his more upbeat songs, and hearkens back to Neil Young of the early 1970s. I begged him to play this when I saw him, but I think he just wanted to focus on his newer material. You can find this song on the Songs: Ohia album, “Magnolia Electric Co.”, which ironically is not the Magnolia Elecrtic Co. band.
I hope you all enjoy. Happy Wednesday, and I miss you already, Jason!
Mama, here comes midnight with the dead moon in its jaws
Must be the big star about to fall…