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"The Walls were Sturdy but the Floor was Rotten"

November 22nd, 2004

Assembly of Dust, as most of my readers are likely unaware, is the fortuitous and long-anticipated conjunction of two of the most dedicated and gifted musical and creative role models of my barefoot New England jam-scene roots: Reid Genauer, former lead singer and storyteller-through-song of Vermont folk-funk favorites Strangefolk, and Nate Wilson, organ virtuoso and composer-behind-the-throne of New Hampshire’s prog-pop Traffic-reincarnate, Percy Hill. Very little could have garnered greater anticipation on my part than the prospect of these two gentlemen coming together to write music. Nor was I disappointed. Case in point: their very first collaboration, a song called Circles of Circumstance, a live version of which is available in mp3 format from the a/v section of their site.

“Down and out among the wolves again…”

At their best, AoD are like The Band with heightened gospel influence and reduced self-importance; at their worst they are a Strangefolk cover band. Don’t get me wrong–that night when Nate and Percy Hill joined Reid and Strangefolk onstage at the Portsmouth Music Hall for a ten-piece big-band cover of “Goin Down the Road Feelin Bad”, when the balcony was bouncing to the rhythm of a hundred wiggling hippy booties and threatening to yank down the walls, was one of the formative experiences of my ill-spent youth. There was a time when I considered Strangefolk the Greatest Band on Earth, the obvious inheritors of the much-hyped, mostly-worthless jamband crown, and my personal idols. And the terrifying thing is I wasn’t the only one!

But thankfully I’ve grown up since then, and thankfully so has Reid Genauer. And that isn’t what they’re doing here among my annals of the real fantastical. No–I bring them up here because in the course of reforging his flagging career into something both he and I could respect, Reid constructed around himself the yard-thick, translucent granite lintels of an all-embracing, joy-heavy, nigh content-free, illusionary neo-druidic pseudoreligion the likes of which make the tripe that passes for paganism in this age of cellphone-induced brain cancer look like full-on velvet-clad Catholicism. Take a look at StoneChoirTablets.com, the site chronicling the dubious discoveries of Dr. Earnest Wonderbound, from which Reid’s new band took its name, and you’ll understand what I mean. Even with the contents of this website as my sole, thoroughly mediated and utterly unprimary source, I am quite convinced there never was any “Dr. Earnest Wonderbound III, of the University of South Whales” [sic], and that furthermore all the research and archaeological discovery attributed to said fictional figure are equally bunk.

This Wonderbound, they claim, uncovered evidence of a “ritualistic and deeply spiritual community” called the Assembly of Dust, that “existed in an intricate network from southern Europe to the Middle East” during the waning of the Roman empire. For feck’s sake, the discoverer of this incredible missing link among the long-fragmented celtic religions of cultures as far removed from each other as Asia Minor and Gaul, this religion lacking any precepts or doctrine besides getting together to make music and dance in the name of joy, is named Earnest Wonderbound–earnest wonder-bound! For feck’s sake! They might as well have called him Gullible Happyhippy!

My first thought on discovering this site was that Reid had been taken in by it himself. He had always struck me as a lovable guy with spirituality and joy to spare, someone generous with trust and friendship, who might be more interested in a new way to foster community among fans than scrutinizing its source for hidden truth. As a matter of fact I’d say a lot of the Strangefolk fans I knew, back when I was one of them, were the same way–and that ought not to reflect badly on any of them. I want to make it clear that despite my current disillusionment with them, the jamband scene, and in particular the Strangefolk scene, is a whole hell of a lot healthier both emotionally and functionally (though perhaps not intellectually) than, say, the metal scene.

Were I still the typical Strangefolk fan I once was, I might have stopped there, not perhaps agreeing with Reid’s odd spiritual precepts, but certainly not grudging them and willing to let him go on keeping my hippy booty shaking without thinking much more about it. I am, however, no longer that typical Strangefolk fan. I am a shrewd, calculating, Mad Fantasist, hunched among the shadowy ranks of Abdul Alhazred, Herbert Quain, Don Juan Matus, and even perhaps, under all that lovability, Reid himself. My interest in the subject of this mysterious Assembly and its precepts heightened by my newfound theory, I began to study the Stone Choir site more closely–and an entirely different and still more fascinating theory began to present itself.

“Earnest Wonderbound died in 1982 at the age of 102. He was survived by wife Hannah and 10 children; Sorrel, Otto, Gabrielle, Rachel, Rebecca, Ester, Otis, Walker, Reuben and Ann; many of whom were named after the 19 original Tavern Walkers.”

Reid couldn’t have been more than fourteen or fifteen years old in 1982. Strangefolk itself didn’t form until 1991. What kind of crazy coincidence is it then that at least five out of Wonderbound’s ten children’s names mysteriously correspond to the names of Strangefolk songs? The site doesn’t mention which of those ten names belonged to the original Tavern Walkers…but I’d be willing to hazard a guess.

Add to this the fact that the Stone Choir site wasn’t created until 2002–the same year Reid and Nate formed their new band.

But which came first? Surely, you may say, Reid based his songs on Wonderbound’s work, not the other way around! According to the Stone Choir propaganda, he made his discoveries way back in 1928! And it’s possible, I suppose. Remotely. But I am not normally a betting man, and I’d give you high odds that the opposite is the case.

Somebody–maybe not Reid, maybe not Nate, but somebody surely connected with their organization, and likely in cahoots with the web designer for AoD’s own site (given certain stylistic similarities)–fabricated this whole whacked-out ball of pseudoreligious fluff and bad research as an excuse to…what? Pull in some new fans from the neopagan crew? Cement the dedication of existing fans from mere fanaticism to religious zealotry? Doesn’t sound like half a bad idea when you put it that way, though I wonder how well it worked. If you’re inclined to laugh at the notion of equating a band like Strangefolk with religion, let me help–go read the review of Reid’s last Strangefolk show on JamBands.com. And make sure you’ve got some tissues handy!

I don’t know. Maybe I should have kept all this under wraps. After all, I’m always in favor of a little fiddling with reality, especially along such interesting lines and for the benefit of a fine creative cause as this. I’d pay these guys to make music myself if I had any money. I’d start a label just for them, and if pulling the wool off has hurt them in any way, I’m sorry. It’s just I’ve never had a really good excuse to cry hoax before. It’s quite thrilling–try it if you like:

Hoax! Hoax!

“Dr. Wonderbound is buried under a tremendous oak tree on a hill in Spokenville, England. His gravestone reads: ‘Here lies Earnest Wonderbound III – Beloved husband, father and keeper of magic – We Will Remain.'”
–StoneChoirTablets.com

“And we live in and of each other
We will remain…”
–Strangefolk, So Well: the last words Reid sang with Strangefolk before taking his leave.

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