Capital Audiofest 2017—A Look Back

Takeaways: David Foster Wallace is a readers writer. Everything Harvey played from his Robert Ashley collection was amazing, as well as this months favorite music. Capital Audiofest as a show was fun and interesting and maybe even worth the effort—which I can’t say for most shows and the investment they require. It’s not the room cost, it’s the time and the juggle. Thanks Gary for sticking with the show and pouring so much into it.

The drive from Ogden, Utah to Washington, DC according to Maps is thirty hours of non-stop driving, 2100 miles. Driving has it’s advantages, the biggest of which is you can put shit off until the vary last minute. You are also very nearly guaranteed to have all your stuff arrive, and damage free, assuming it’s packed to crash and that you don’t actually crash. By now we Zu Audio factotums count ourselves as highly skilled and disciplined amateur drivers, and hi-fi show sound, stage and lighting pros. But this really isn’t about the show, it’s about the bookends and the time between show hours and how we make our choices about room size, setup, music and things we see. Stuff you only see if you are the exhibitor, the DJ, and the guy that has his eyes and ears open and isn’t trying to impress or sell something to every single person that walks into the demo. But that might not be totally honest, that last bit, conveying that we don’t actually care about every single impression. Because really, we do. Can you tell I listened to maybe my nineteenth novel and drew some inspiration in writing from it, Dave Wallace’s… no it was David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. Harvey made me, no that’s not right, he sold it and having little else in the queue list, it happened, and I fully enjoyed it. Yeah, Harvey Day here at Zu was co-captain on this line-drive to DC hi-fi show and co-DJ during show hours. We talked a ton. You really get to know about a person when you are driving, riding, sharing and sleeping in the same ten square feet for two days. Extend that relative proximity for eight continuous days, you really get to know about a person.

Suddenly I’m pretty board. You get that way driving on I-80, any interstate really, mostly, the NW has some okay freeways, I mean, you wont want to blow your head off. The stretch between SLC and Denver on I-70, that one is good enough. Anyway, it was my attempt at humor, and yes, I still had to look it up to make sure the joke was spelled right, correctly, whatever. Reliving the last eight days happens so much more quickly when you don’t have to say it or write it. I don’t suck at story telling or typing, I do suck at spelling and organizing thoughts into interesting and linear chunks, prose in writing is not something I spend much time on. I think people are usually good at the things thunk and done, that last bit being the crux of the getting good at something. “You want to be a cowboy?” My grandpa Smith would say, “You go buy yourself ten head of cattle.” Sink or swim. I never wanted to be a cowboy, though I wasn’t half bad at it, mostly it’s fixing problems on the fly, tractors and implements, stuff that busts, and you work all but sleeping and eating hours, and you make sure to keep very alert when you are branding and doctoring yearlings—they really can kick sideways. This is your brain as you drive if you don’t have a great lecture, story, conversation or music to keep your mind focused. Lectures and textbooks, and as there are very few textbooks on tape, at least of interest, lectures get a lot of play on my drives. PBS’s Space Time for example. I’m not totally sure I reciprocated Harvey’s profound introduction of Robert Ashely and David Foster Wallace—neither of whom I’d read or listened too, and I’m not kidding, sadly. Space Time is a nice compact package and usually written in a very Feyn-Steinian way. The mashup of Feynman and Einstein, it’s kinda of fun, a rhyme kinda thing, and you notice I’m happy to place Feynman first, maybe because he sucked at spelling too, or maybe because he was just so fucking cool, or maybe it was because his second volume of transcribed lectures happened to land in my lap as a kid, and that picture of him on the bongos was transcendent, to say nothing of his presentations and views within E&M and fields generally and relentless energy and love of running into problems and obstacles and seeing them as beautiful features to explore. Sure, I did my best to pitch Feynman to Harvey, even if it’s just checking out his quotes and clips. My view of Harvey certainly matured. Harvey started working for Zu when he was just out of high school, and like most of us at that age he struggled with a few things. He needed a place to stay for a year or two while he got ground under his feet, that was my basement, the pool room—I don’t really play pool. He has really matured into a fascinating, interesting, kind person. I enjoyed every minute with him. Funny really, how people, depending on where they are and where you are and what is going on is typically love or hate.

Most of what happened at the show, behind the scenes you can guess at, it’s nearly always the same. To really bring you into my world, what I experience as a DJ trying to play really great music of all kinds of whatever, to the majority of show-goers that is expecting and even wanting you to play to their desire to be impressed and to then impress and to the chemical cocktail of elation they get when the buy stuff. I haven’t really figured out the psychology of what it is that we do, most of the time writing it off as that we really love music and sound and noise. But there is more to it, partly it’s a need to entertain ourselves. We bring a ton of music because the group that now makes up Zu are real music and sound freaks, the cream of the truly obsessed. We play what we play because we like it. We also think others should know about it, and accidentally, if we are lucky others will as well, like it that is. We have this reputation of being the cool and fun guys in hi-fi, or the posers, or “douche squared” as was stated by one I really respect, and still do. Really, I do. I wish this guy liked me more, and there reveals that we, or maybe it’s just me, really aren’t as cool as our reputation. Cool guys really don’t give a fuck, not really, not when it matters. Sure, we have style, we have our brains turned on and since we are always trying things and experiment and moving a little faster than skill alone allows, we are forced to think creatively, and by design I think, a fundamental, back of our head need to see things fresh… maybe.

If you visited us at DC, thank you. If we let you down, we hope you will give us another chance. And if you dug what we were doing you can count on more of the same, though it might be totally different next year, especially if we get in a crash on the drive out.

Sean CaseyCapital Audiofest