Word on the Street: Picking up the Pieces

"credit" Jeff HarpHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/28/13) – The last couple of weeks have been really hard. I’m not only speaking for myself here, but for many others as well. Recently, our local music community was stricken with heartbreaking news: one of Hopkins County’s most talented and genuine individuals had been taken from us. This loss has made a huge impact on me. This tragedy has deeply affected the lives of many people I hold dear to me.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Nobody likes to talk about suicide. Why would we? It’s a dark topic that is easily avoided. Suicide rarely comes up in conversation. Nobody likes to think about the disturbing depths a person can sink to. We wrestle with our own forms of loneliness and despair on a daily basis. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that a close friend, or a family member for that matter, could be in such a hopeless place that they feel they have nowhere to turn, no other option.

"credit" Jessi Smith
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I didn’t see it coming. None of us were prepared for this. How could we be? A sharp, sudden, emotional impact—then hollow silence. That's how I felt when I was hit with the news that Landon Miller was gone. I am still waiting to regain my balance. I don’t know how long that may take. What I do know is that I, like many of us, have been searching for closure. Up until recently, I had turned up little to nothing.

"credit" Jessi Smith
After Landon’s funeral was over, we were informed that the service had concluded as we all stood graveside beside our longtime friend. The heavy atmosphere stuck to me like humid glue. My feet refused to budge. Nobody was moving. We all stood there shattered, confused, drained, empty, and emotionally wounded. I couldn’t leave. It just didn’t feel right leaving Landon up there on that grassy hill all by himself. Shouldn’t he be following the rest of us out of here? He’s part of our crew, after all. Closure—where is the closure?

"credit" Jessi Smith
I’ve been searching for that closure ever since. I know I am not the only one. I’d hoped the funeral would be the answer, but it left me feeling more discontented than before. It seems to get more difficult as time continues to pass by. The reality is starting to sink in on multiple levels. I will never see Landon Miller again. That fact torments me.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Recently, on Saturday, August 24th, local musicians from within our community came together to collaborate on a benefit for Landon Miller’s family, all of us grieving on different levels, trying to help in any way that we could while attempting to make sure that things were being handled respectably.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Many of us were quick to pick the benefit apart. It was going to be an all acoustic show? Is that what Landon would have wanted? GypsyLifter wasn’t headlining? That just didn’t seem right either. Did all of the performers have a personal connection to Landon and his family? How could this benefit be improved? I was right there with them, infected with sadness, selfishly pointing out what I would do differently if it were up to me.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Regardless of my confliction, I went to honor Landon and to support his family, as well as other mutual friends and musicians. Upon entering the Green Dragon Tavern, I was surrounded by friends, and music filled every bit of the remaining space.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Now, it has been scientifically proven that music has healing properties. Studies have shown that music levels out anxiety, causes the brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine, and has an association with higher levels of immunoglobin A, an antibody linked to immunity. Even if I hadn’t been aware of that fact, I still would have realized that the music emanating from the Green Dragon Tavern was healing me.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Once there, I wasn’t worried about whether or not the benefit was an all-acoustic show. I wasn’t concerned about the band line-up or any of the previous flaws I had managed to dredge up in my grief-inflicted state. I was completely immersed in the therapeutic guitar riffs, the restorative powers of well-written lyrics, and the many soothing hugs from friends and loved ones.

"credit" Jessi Smith
The most memorable part of the benefit, for me, was when GypsyLifter took the stage. Although their familiar sound was indeed altered by the lack of their late friend and bassist, Landon Miller – aka “the original groove mechanic” – his spot was filled by his equally talented older brother, Faren Miller. It broke my heart, yet simultaneously comforted my soul, to see this band, left to pick up the pieces, putting everything they had out there for the whole audience to see. Equally so, to see Faren onstage, honoring the life of his little brother by playing a familiar song Landon had written so many years ago. The group was utilizing the stage and the music as a way of getting one step closer to closure, while supporting the audience as well.

"credit" Jessi Smith
I know for a fact that hearing “Crutch” was a moment in time that I never will forget. As soon as I heard the first two notes of the song, I started frantically motioning to Sugg Street Photographer Jessi Smith to catch it on video. This is a song easily recognized by anyone who knew Landon. It’s a song of Landon’s that many have loved for a long time. I wanted this moment captured, and I wanted to be able to share it with those of you who I know will hold it near to your hearts.

"credit" Jessi Smith
To everyone who came together and participated in this benefit to support Landon’s family during this difficult time, I thank you. To those of you that are still hurting, I am hurting with you. I wish I could tell you that this pain is only temporary and that your emotional wounds will heal with time, but I am not in any position at this point to do so. What I can do is provide you with this article, which I’ve written out of love for a very dear friend. I will continue to support Landon’s family, as well as GypsyLifter (Chad Estes, Randy Stone, and Michael Miller), who I also consider Landon’s family, in any way that I can. I can share photos of GypsyLifter at the event and I can share a moment in time. Below this article I have included an embedded video of GypsyLifter, as well as Faren Miller, performing “Crutch” at the benefit.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Closure? I’m still searching for it and it may never come. I’m sure it will be a long painful process at best. The greatest outcome I can see coming from this heartbreak is that the community has truly come together out of both love and necessity. As artists and friends, we support each other, but it’s easy to forget just how much support we are truly receiving from one another sometimes. We have been able to grieve as a family of friends and to recognize each other openly in ways we haven’t before. It is so important to let others know how much they are truly loved and cared for. That being said, if you need a friend, you can call on me, and I’ll be there. Lord knows we could all use a shoulder to lean on from time to time.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Below you will find some links to previous articles both by and about Landon Miller:

RabCab Rock & Roll Review - Soundgarden, "King Animal"
RabCab Rock & Roll Review - Avett Brothers, "The Carpenter"
RabCab Reccomendation - John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
GypsyLifter - It's Good to be Home
Creating Community with Electric Synergy
Gear Guide - Landon Miller's Custom G&L

Sugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos and video by Jessi Smith

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