Beyond the Trees: Barrett Martin and Duke Garwood’s Spellbinding Night at Bush Hall

A Friday night in London at the iconic Bush Hall became the setting for an intimate yet extraordinary evening of film, storytelling and live music with drummer extraordinaire Barrett Martin. He is best known for his time with Screaming Trees and his diverse musical projects, but did you know he also has a master’s degree in anthropology and linguistics? I’ll be back to talk more about that in a moment. Renowned UK-based singer-songwriter Duke Garwood, would also be joining Martin. I’ve not heard of Garwood until I got the invite for this show, but holy hell, this guy is incredible, what a fucking talent. But before we dive into how brilliant this show was, I want to take you back to the early 90s.

I first came across Screaming Trees in 1992, when grunge was at its peak and they released their album Sweet Oblivion. It was a solid record and the band seemed to be on the brink of their breakthrough moment, but it was their follow-up, Dust, that made me a devoted fan. Despite its brilliance and the grunge era’s peak, it didn’t help the band to become mainstream famous. I think this was probably because of their sound – which I thought was unique because it seemed to be infused with more atmospheric Americana which didn’t fit the typical grunge mould. After the band split up, I kept up with Mark Lanegan’s solo work and Barrett’s projects like Tuatara and Walking Papers (another one of those should have been bigger bands).

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I read Barrett Martin’s autobiography on a flight from London to DC. The Greatest Band That Ever Wasn’t: The Story Of The Roughest, Toughest, Most Hell-Raising Band To Ever Come out Of The Pacific Northwest, The Screaming Trees isn’t just one hell of a long book title, it’s also spot fucking on. 204 pages brilliantly written by Martin, are chock-full of fascinating, engaging stories, that while painful at times to read, paint an optimistic yet turbulent picture of The Screaming Trees. Martin mixes in humour with some pretty shocking revelations about internal conflicts, detailing some of the pivotal tours and the missteps that kept the Trees from the same fame as other grunge legends. What I found most gripping was his recount of a nearly successful two-month reunion tour in 2018, which was thwarted at the last minute by Mark Lanegan’s unexpected refusal. I don’t want to give too much away, but Martin’s got some incredible stories, not to mention he’s actually won awards for his writing, so this one’s next level when it comes to rock n roll biographies.

A week or so after I got back to London, I got an invite to see Martin bring this book to life along with his new video series and a live performance celebrating his legacy along with Mark Lanegan’s kindred spirit. The evening  kicked off with Martin walking us through the stories behind his upcoming Vevo series, “The Singing Earth.” The series explores musical traditions from remote corners of the globe, from the Peruvian Amazon to Bali to the Mississippi Delta and beyond. It was originally scheduled to be released on Martin’s Vevo channel but with interest piqued by PBS and National Geographic, the release is pushed back, and rightfully so. This is an epic piece of work. We got to see a few bits of this journey, including a lovely blessing from a Shipibo shaman and a beautiful story about a travelling fiddle in the Arctic, all accompanied by Martin’s live musical interpretations on both stand-up bass and xylophone. He wasn’t just sharing the incredible backstories and personal anecdotes, he also played the soundtrack live, which was pretty cool to see.

The real show-stopper came later, though, when Duke Garwood joined in. Martin introduced him as a national treasure, and that was confirmed from the very first song. Heavily praised by the late great Mark Lanegan—who considered him his favorite singer-songwriter—Garwood transported the entire room to another place While it wasn’t necessarily taking us to church, it was very much spiritual in the sense that we were all in fucking awe hanging on every single note this guy majestically pulled from his road-worn guitar.  Garwood’s presence and musical style were reminiscent of the brooding intensity of Tom Waits and Nick Cave, with a hint of Leonard Cohen’s poetic soul. His guitar work created soundscapes that built a wall of sound so profound, it would surely make Phil Spector proud. The music was dirty, atmospheric, glorious, and utterly transformative – some of the best songs I’ve heard in my life. I was hooked and since that gig I’ve spent the entire week getting to know his back catalogue better, starting with the standout album, Garden of Ashes which is where I recommend you start as well. Songs like “Coldblooded,” “Sleep,” and “Blue” have been on constant rotation for me as I distinctly remembered them played live that evening. Even though Martin and Garwood had an incredibly simple setup, that was all they needed to make their magic.

Outside of me being blown away by the Garwood songs, the rest of the setlist for the evening was filled with surprises and deep cuts, with no “hits” in sight. Highlights included “Winter Song” by Screaming Trees, “Long Gone Day” from Mad Season, and an impressive version of the hauntingly beautiful  “Upon Doing Something Wrong” from 2018’s  Lanegan-Garwood collaboration record.

All in all, it was a stellar evening celebrating an incredible body of work both musically and visually. You could tell that Martin not only thrives off his passion projects, but he doesn’t ever stop. Let’s hope he gets the recognition for his future projects that the Tree’s should have gotten, but more importantly, let’s go back and celebrate the legacy of incredible music that Mark Lanegan left behind as well. It looks to be a very good hands with both Martin and Garwood carrying the torch.

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Jason Miller
Jason Miller

Jason Miller is a leading digital B2B marketer, who’s held senior roles at LinkedIn, Marketo, and ActiveCampaign. Before entering the B2B space, he spent ten years at Sony, developing and executing marketing campaigns around the biggest names in music. He is a prolific keynote speaker, digital marketing instructor at UC Berkeley, and best-selling author. Also an accomplished rock concert photographer, his work appears in books, magazines, and album covers.

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