Category Archives: Live Music Log

Someone in My Place

A thousand miles of pain I’m sure
Led you to the threshold
Of my heart’s screen door
To tell me what it is I’m dying for
Gravity comes
Like a cold cold rain
To lead me to the rope again
But someone is standing in my place…

These words are a stanza from John Mark McMillan’s Carbon Ribs. More famously the author of the Christian culture standard How He Loves, JMM writes lyrics which hold their own as poetry. (Look up Ten Thousand sometime.) His lyrics are so good they don’t need the music, but the music is just about sublime sometimes. The words punch me in the gut and bring tears to my eyes; the music puts me in another place.

I experienced actual worship through music for the first time, almost the only time, at a JMM concert. We were outdoors on the lawn of a church.  It was June, and all around us the sky was full of darkening clouds and distant lightning.  But there was literally a circle of clear sky over our heads. The storm never reached us.

As JMM sang praise and love to his Savior. What allowed me to worship wasn’t the weather, but the music shared together in praise of Someone else. For once the music was not just for my listening pleasure.

I want to think about someone standing in my place.

It’s all about love. Jesus said:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15: 12, 13

Not luck and lollipops, not a panacea, not a magic gesture which makes everyone happy in the chick flick or the Disney.  Not fair-weather love. Love which I can know is genuine because it costs.

Love is love when it costs the lover to love. What can the cost be? It can be self-determination, self-interest, turf…my time, my schedule, my priorities…my things, my personal space, my comfort…my goals, my dreams, my plans…my self-esteem, my truth, my pride…my safety. My life.

Jesus gave up every one of these things. He gave up all self-interest in a way no one else ever has. He never, not one time in his life, made a choice because it was what He wanted, because it made him comfortable, or because he preferred it.  He always chose what His Father wanted, every time, every minute of his life.

It is the literal truth that He went to his death in my place, and in yours. He rejected the credit, the adulation and the power, all he had every right to claim. He truly deserves all the glory, honor, love and obedience that there is. Instead he chose loneliness, ridicule, rejection, humiliation, torture, and excruciating death.

That humiliation is what I have earned. That death I deserve.. I must let this sink in and really believe it, or I let it become a catchphrase with no real meaning. I deserve the grotesque punishment he received. Me.

Cause I’m a dead man now
With a ghost who lives
Within the confines of
These carbon ribs

Remember facing something overwhelming. That awful thing looms over your every minute and you can’t forget it. You want with all your might to go back to your careless mundane everyday life; you’ll be so thankful if you can ever be there again. Or you’re going to have major surgery and you’re imagining all possible ways that something could go wrong.  You’re imagining dying. You can’t forget your anxiety til it’s over.

Then someone knocks on your door.  You open it and it’s an acquaintance you haven’t thought much about for weeks.  He tells you that he will undergo the surgery in your place.  In fact, he’ll take your cancer from you and put in in his own body, and then he’ll have the surgery for you. And he’ll make certain you never have cancer again. He can do all this.

Imagine your reaction.

Imagine you’ve committed terrible crimes. You’re repulsed by what you’ve done to fellow human beings. You’re horrified that what you’ve done can’t be undone. Your guilt is real; any hopes for your future, all your comfort with yourself, all gone. You are tried, convicted and sentenced. The sentence is death, right now, and you deserve it. You’re led up the stairs to face the noose.

Then someone knocks on the door. The door is opened and it’s that acquaintance again.  He walks decidedly to the stairs and climbs up to the platform.  He looks you in the eyes, gently but firmly pushes you aside and stands in your place.  He puts the rope around his neck and falls through the trap. He is executed.

Yes, he can do this too, though He has committed no crime; because He has committed no offense. Your crime is recompensed. Justice is satisfied. You are redeemed to live free and without guilt.

All of these hypotheticals are true; I am guilty enough to die. I have callously offended God and his invaluable human creations. Self-cancer is eating away at me. I cannot save myself in either case. But that Someone is able to do all the rescuing, and He did.

And one day when I’m free
I will sit

A cripple at your table

And I sit beside you

Bryan Ferry at the Tower, Philadelphia

On the way to the Tower to see Bryan Ferry, we popped Olympia into the CD player. Song to the Siren.  It seemed like the culmination of Bryan’s work since the beginning, pulling together all the strands of his art into one gorgeous romantic anthem. Words and music deceptively simple on the surface. Complex layers of vast sound and intimate meaning lie beneath, over a compellingly driving rhythm. Wistful images form in your mind. A song like ocean waves. There are real whale songs in the mix.

Bryan Ferry is the sole inhabitant of his own genre. There is no one like him. Song to the Siren is actually a cover of a Tim Buckley song from the 60’s, but Bryan has made it his own.

My twenty-something daughter Eva is also a fan. Explaining Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry to people in her own generation (who ought to know) has been a challenge. How would you describe Bryan Ferry? That the hipsters haven’t yet caught on was evident at the show: almost everyone in the audience was 45 and up.

I discovered Roxy Music a little later than my art college friends, in 1979. It was Siren. That album forever changed my relationship to music and I have internalized it differently since. To be honest, in trying to describe my changing reaction to Bryan Ferry’s music over the years, words fail me.

By the time I found them, Roxy Music was almost done, having broken up after Manifesto in ’77. They would reunite a couple more times but Bryan, Andy and Phil had moved into solo artist territory. The glam heyday which they had helped to create seemed to my 19 year-old mind like ancient rock history. Music changed fast in those days and artists remade themselves about once a year complete with a new concept album. Though RM had only begun eight years before, they had released six albums, a lot of evolving material.

My husband and I have seen Mr. Ferry only once before. On April 23, 1983, tickets went on sale to see Roxy Music at the Tower. That also happened to be our wedding day. We drove to the ticket office and bought those tickets in the morning, and we got married at 1:00.

I believe that show at the Tower in May of 1983 was the very last appearance that Roxy Music ever made in the U.S. (I could be wrong.) It was awesome.

Bryan Ferry is probably the foremost artist in his own right who is also a devoted cover artist. There are eight RM studio albums and 15 BF albums. Most of the solo albums have one to several covers, aside from the ones which are dedicated tribute/cover albums. There is Dylanesque, The Jazz Age, and As Time Goes By.
Last night I didn’t know what we would hear. His body of work is so vast that he couldn’t even do a survey in one evening. It was wonderful. We met a friend from art school after the show, who put it this way: “It was everything I wanted.”

Except, curiously I thought, he did not do Song to the Siren.

BF 010

They started off running with Re-Make/Re-Model. So many early Roxy songs, so satisfying. Kiss and Tell, Slave to Love, Ladytron! If There Is Something! Oh Yeah, Stronger Through the Years, Reason or Rhyme, Don’t Stop the Dance! Loop di Li, Johnny and Mary, Tara, Take a Chance with Me, Can’t Let Go, More Than this, Avalon, Casanova!!, Love is the Drug, Both Ends Burning, Jealous Guy…and Editions of You.

So many times I had to turn to Eva with my excited happy face. Each one seemed like a thoughtful gift to cherished fans. I was so glad that Eva was there; she has superb musical sense and really “gets” Mr. Ferry.

The band was excellent.  They were often mimicking the riffs we hear on our albums, but it was quite clear that this was a really superlative bunch of musicians. It was cool to see Fonzi Thornton again; he was in the same spot in 1983 as well.

BF 007

On the down side: the sound system was not as crisp as one would like. When Bryan spoke to the audience, words were hard to make out. Oh yes, and I wasn’t in the front row. That too.

Let it be noted that Mr. Ferry, rather than referencing cheesesteaks or Phillies, as all other performers do, related a memory about the Duchamp at the Philadelphia Art Museum which inspired The Bride Stripped Bare. He is one of a kind.

He had cancelled the preceding three shows because of illness, and at first it seemed he was spending most of his time sitting at the keyboard.  But as the night wore on, he seemed to be gaining energy, having more fun. More and more his flashing smile lit up that giant room.

No, there are no pictures of us with Mr. Ferry.  I’ll never have the opportunity to meet him, and I think he can happily go through life without my brilliant fan comment: “Bjhgudfbuvdtncqosncnq.”

The Mercy of a Good Opening Band

Another concert, this time with my youngest daughter. My youngest wore a giant pink squid hat with tentacles and attracted some attention. I’m cultivating another concert buddy.

PASSENGER 006 dd with dh (She is a teenager and not 6 as this pic might suggest.)

We were at  the Electric Factory seeing someone who Maddy and her dear friend Hannah listen to.  We were assured that we would not like him. Even Maddy and Hannah didn’t seem to like him too much. So my husband and I knew that we would most likely not enjoy this inexplicably popular one hit performer who shall remain nameless because we definitely did not enjoy him.

But God who delights to show mercy to His beloved showered His mercy upon us and gave us a great opening band.

They are The Once. When Geraldine Hollett began singing, I knew the evening was saved. And when Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale struck in with their gorgeous harmony I was sold. Nothing compares to the stripped-down live sound of an ensemble’s essentials. Voices in harmony, a guitar, a mandolin/lute/banjo, and Geraldine’s hand drum (thing) were plenty impressive. Songs were lovely and evocative. I bought the CD at the merch table.

PASSENGER 008

Even Maddy and Hannah commented that The Once was better than the headliner was going to be.

Set list was: The Town Where You Lived, We Are All Running, All the Hours, and Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love with You (first time I’ve enjoyed that one), By the Glow of the Kerosene Light (tears), and two or three other songs I don’t know yet by title. But I loved every one. I will be getting CD #1, and the Christmas album will be added to our holiday repertoire.

PASSENGER 009

I have endured countless forgettable opening bands, but this not my first pleasant surprise. A really good opening band is like a rare and unexpected gift. In February of 2013, we discovered The Lone Bellow as an opener at a TWLOHA concert; we went because Fiction Family was headlining. We were astonished, and we’ve seen them twice since. I’ll be looking for The Once to appear in our area now too.

We had a blast.

NIN

NIN 013

I saw Nine Inch Nails last night in Camden, NJ with daughter Eva and our friend Ken. She is a dedicated fan, and she considers it an accomplishment to take me to see them. Him. Trent Reznor.
I’m really still an outsider to his music, but I do appreciate it, and I do enjoy it. Anger, atheism and in-your-face language are prominent elements; I’m only formerly angry so it’s a stretch.  And if you’ve read my Dear Blank  you know my stance on language. And God. God Box

NIN is important to Eva. That’s why I was there.  We both find music necessary. To listen passively to music and then let it go is incomprehensible to both of us. We must understand what is being said, how it’s being said, what influenced the artist to say it, and evaluate the effectiveness of his methods.  Then we must choose to reject or to internalize it.

In My Concert Shoes I discussed the importance of sharing concert experiences with my daughters. Yo, they’re the most fun people I know.

Reznor’s music is refreshingly  honest. No teenage poser angst. Doubtful but still questioning, anger and despair in the search for answers. Sometimes a dialogue with God, though it may be an angry one. Drug abuse, exhaustion and recovery have influenced the work.  All is expressed in the most concise manner possible.

Artistic integrity is rarer than it should be. It sounds great.

He’s done an interesting thing. Trent Reznor has founded a genre which he still owns. You recognize a song by NIN without being told; nobody sounds like NIN. Reznor has branded NIN like no one has branded anything. (My daughter can explain his marketing genius.) But he has managed to keep the focus on the music rather than on his celebrity.

It was an amazing show. Soundgarden and all their pyramids opened, finished, lights went up, stage was re-set. Half the audience outside getting drinks, Trent Reznor walked unannounced across the stage to the mike, and began. Drummer started playing and drum set wheeled over, other band members joined. Then the lights went down.

NIN 006

There was no doubt that Trent Reznor was in control of the room.

Powerful, relentless, energetic sound. It is the most aggressive performance I’ve ever experienced. There are no breaks in the music or the visuals, no time to catch your breath. It is an onslaught. I felt assaulted.  But after all, it’s only music, so nobody gets hurt.

The visual show is even more an assault. Each and every song has a visual concept of its own. It’s gorgeous and overwhelming. There was a time I had to lower my head and close my eyes but I could still see the flashing lights. Moving light panels meticulously choreographed.  A light show in turn sultry, somber, blinding, dazzling, frenetic. The visual effects alone were worth the price of the show.

NIN 010      NIN 012

NIN 007    NIN 015

I sincerely apologize for my pictures.

Thank you Eva!  Thanks Ken!

My Concert Shoes

These are my concert shoes. I have worn them to every live show since October 1, 2010.  Which is a good few.

shoes

I found them in a bag of clothes given to us by a friend.  Knock-off chucks.They hadn’t been worn yet (the soles were clean) and they fit just right. I’ve received a lot of compliments on them over the years, and from some pretty cool people. I put them on to see the B-52s at the Electric Factory. That was October 1, 2010. I wore them two days later at the same venue to see Switchfoot for the first time.

I don’t have the chucks, which we called high tops then, that I wore to see the B-52s for the first time. But I might have been wearing retro 60’s clothes with heels. That was probably 1981.

I wore them last Friday night (May 2) to see Nickel Creek. Lucy and I are fans of this incredible band which was “on hiatus” for 6 1/2 years. Nickel Creek was no more and each of the members, Sean Watkins, Sara Watkins and Chris Thile, each branched off into multiple solo projects. Multiple projects! They are at the top of the list in their genre, and each one has mastered other genres as well, until genre distinctions become useless. Chris Thile helps you to appreciate how classical mandolin overlaps with bluegrass, how short is the journey from one genre to another, and that music is music is music is joy.

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When the tour is over, there may never be a chance to see them together again.

So it was an important show to see. They were amazing.  You truly have to see them live to understand how good they are. These guys have been playing together since they were little kids and their virtuosity shows. And they are funny, witty, and charming, as performers tend to be when they are having a lot of fun.  Sara was particularly impressive.  I was not ready for how powerful and perfect her voice is. Sean’s guitar is clearly the backbone of the trio. Ever the quiet one onstage, it was he who came out after the show to shake hands and thank waiting fans. This is Lucy:

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I was fighting a familiar train of thought during the Nickel Creek show.  It springs to mind at all good concerts and it goes like this: This is so wonderful I don’t want to forget it.  This music happening right now, this second, is passing. That part is over, it’s gone. Pay attention!  You want to remember this!  No, pay attention to what’s happening now!  Stop thinking this and pay attention! Stop thinking that too and pay attention!

It’s the old In the Moment  dilemma. I’m always thinking about how to hold onto the rare and amazing experience I’m enjoying, and that conflicts with my ability to enjoy it right now. I can’t help thinking that thinking about how special it is diminishes the power of the experience.

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This Friday, I will wear my shoes to see The Aquabats at the TLA. It will be my husband, Lucy, Josh, Maddy and our friend Brandon. It will just be a lot of fun. And this will be a standing room show–yay!  All musical events less formal than classical concerts ought to be standing room! Someone should do something about this.

This summer I’ll wear my shoes to see NIN with my daughter Eva. That may raise a question or two from anyone who is tracking with the general theme of my blog; am I “proving all things”? Trent Reznor promotes a very different personal worldview than I do, and there are” language” differences as well. There are two reasons why I will go. First: as a musician, he has real integrity, which is rare these days. The music is honest, emotionally and artistically. Layers and layers of dense industrial sound, yet very melodic and relatable. Second: I would not miss an opportunity to experience this with my daughter.  Music is very important to Eva, to Lucy, and to me.  We spend a lot of time talking about music. It’s something we share and understand together. There’s no question that I will go.

Because cultivating the relationships I have been given is what I am still here for. Sharing experiences with each of my kids is the best thing I can do with my time, and I wouldn’t miss it. They are absolutely my favorite people on Earth.

Lucy gave me the ticket to see Nickel Creek for Mother’s Day. We’ve experienced a lot of concerts together…Switchfoot several times, Needtobreathe, John Mark McMillan, Family Force 5. And Fiction Family, where we met Sean Watkins before.

Eva is buying my ticket to NIN.  And Harry, Eva and I have our tickets to see Bryan Ferry in October! We have been successful: Eva knows that Bryan is The Man.  I am so proud.

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My shoes will accompany me to more concerts til they fall apart, and it looks like that won’t be long.

In the Moment

Being “in the moment” is not easy.

Tonight I will miss seeing Switchfoot live for the first time since October 2010.  I need a concert fund.

Some form of Jon Foreman ( SF, Fiction Family with Sean Watkins at TWLOHA, other…) comes to Philadelphia at least once a year, and my daughter and I have seen him every time (except that free summer outdoor appearance when we both had coksackie).  We are both so so disappointed.  Seeing Switchfoot is just So. Much. Fun.

They are a superlative live band, owing to almost constant touring.  They just play so well.   And at some point during the night, Jon Foreman will make his way through the crowd– he obviously loves to do this.   If climbing is involved, all the better.   If you’re disappointed that you got stuck up in the balcony, be assured that Mr. Foreman will be passing your way during the evening.

I was born shy, introverted and self-conscious.  I struggled through every day of public school; I felt like my life depended on not being noticed.  But now, as  a middle aged, homeschooling, evangelical Christian mom, I have thrown off self-consciousness.

There are few things I enjoy more than being immersed in a tight crowd of strangers,  up against the stage for a live performance seeing a really good band

A few years ago,  I finally realized that at a rock show, no one is looking at me, no one can hear me no matter how loud I sing with the band, and I should just enjoy it.   I can forget myself, and just have fun.

I like to politely but firmly worm my way to the front, as close to the stage as possible.  There I must stand , holding my place, for the rest of the night.   So I might be standing there for 4  hours, because it may be two hours before the band I came to see appears.   At a general admission show, moving means losing your spot.

At a good live show, the real, actual, authentic music, played by the real authors of that music,  is happening right in front of me.  I’m IN the experience along with the band and the people around me.   If you are close to the stage, the band members can see you. Maybe they talk to you from onstage.  They play for the bunch of you, for tonight a circle of close friends singing the same language.  You, the band, and the other crowd members around you are all having an absolute blast together.

It’s a rare chance to be in the moment.  It’s hard to be in the moment as an adult, isn’t it?    Children are able to be fully present in the now.  We lose that ability as we mature.  It’s one thing I wish I hadn’t lost.  My mind is always preoccupied with ten things other than  what I’m doing now.

Concert-going  takes a lot of energy.   For me, it’s an expenditure way outside my energy envelope.  But all that effort focuses my mind and helps put me into the immediacy of the experience.  Then there is the enormous level of sound.  It all helps to blast me into the right now.  To experience this fun thing right now to the utmost.

Here’s a disclaimer.  I owe my Switchfoot fandom to my daughter Lucy, who is the real and foremost Switchfoot fan.  And the real Jon Foreman fan. Without her discerning ears I would never have discovered them!

And by the way, Lucy is by far my favorite live performer, and my most-often concert partner.

But I do seem to love a live show more than my kids. At times, most of them would rather hang in the back. As an art school kid I saw bands like Adam Ant, the Pretenders, the B-52s, Iggy Pop, Talking Heads, Robert Fripp, Bowie and Roxy Music; and clubbing, saw locals like The Speedies, The Tights, Eugene Chadbourne (and his rake), Pearl Harbor and the Explosions, Bunnydrums,  and many I’ve forgotten. Those were the days when real punk was just done, and was morphing into new wave. Those were my old days.

I didn’t have nearly so much fun in those old days.  I enjoyed it a lot, but I squandered chances to get up close, dance, jump up and down and yell.

In the last few years, I’ve seen Switchfoot (4x), Fiction Family, the B-52s, Kevin Max, Danzig, Needtobreathe, Relient K, Family Force 5 (2x), Muse, John Mark McMillan, and we’re about to see The Lone Bellow for the third time. (My ticket is a birthday gift.)

Some notable items from my recent resume:
With my daughter Eva  I saw Danzig with a migraine.   I hope to see more with Eva, without migraine.
I danced with Kevin Max.  Story:  Very small space, very small audience, and he couldn’t help seeing me.  I had a migraine and I yawned, even though I was having the time of my life.  In the middle of the song, he says,” Don’t go to sleep baby!”,  jumps down to the floor and starts dancing with me while he’s singing Stranded 72.5.  So much fun.

Most of the people we’ve seen, except for the mega- successful, have been kind enough to come out after the show to talk to us.  We’ve enjoyed meeting The Lone Bellow members: Kanene Pipkin, Zach Williams and Brian Elmquist, Soul Glow Activatur and Chapstique of Family Force 5, Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman, Drew Shirley of Switchfoot, Kevin Max (who thanked us personally about 5 times at that tiny venue), Sean Watkins of Fiction Family and Nickel Creek. Without exception, all were very kind. They’re just very talented regular people, after all.

I’m thankful I have had a chance to learn to relax –in public!  Now I’ll be looking for other ways to forget myself and enjoy.

Next:  my daughter Eva is taking me to see NIN this summer!

UPDATE:  I guess we’re eclectic.  My daughter Lucy has just gifted me with tickets to see Nickel Creek next Friday!  We two will be in the orchestra section of the Tower Theater.   This is, of course, a really special event because they broke up in 2009 and are doing a limited tour, probably never to be a unit again.  It’s a chance to see three artists who’ve gone on to great solo things…together.

Then, on May 9, a bunch of us will see The Aquabats, which is predicted to be super fun!

And there’s still Nine Inch Nails to see with Eva, who is also making me a gift of the tix.

I have great kids!