This past weekend has been one of the best I’ve had in a long while. Friday evening marked a long anticipated concert, featuring Anberlin and Switchfoot at the Newport Music Hall (a more complete concert review will go up at my music blog, Tuned Up! in the coming days). Long story short, the concert was unforgettable. The vibe in the room was like that of a big family, and I even gained a couple of new friends in the process (later confirmed on Facebook, of course). The music, especially during Switchfoot’s set just seemed to be so Christ-centered in spite of the lack of any direct references to His Name.
Following the conclusion of the show, my group experienced an encounter with Stephen Christian of Anberlin that resulted in hugs being exchanged, and then we caught Jon Foreman of Switchfoot giving an acoustic, bare bones aftershow to a small audience in the chill of that October eve. The ambience moved into a worshipful one, especially when Foreman played his well known solo piece, “Your Love Is Strong.”
Afterward, I was walking back to our meeting place with my friends Daniel and Paul from my young adult minstry group, talking about the evening. Daniel and I began talking about the existential crises of sorts we have been dealing with of sorts (Relevant has an excellent article on this phenomenon). We agreed that at this stage in life sometimes it was a struggle to just be optimistic in general, but really the weird feelings that come with this period can be hard to articulate. Switchfoot’s song themes address these existential conflicts a bunch, alluding to what is being revealed to be true to me more and more each day. How much I really need for God to be behind everything. God IS the adventure behind life. This is why we were created. God had no need for humanity, but where’s the adventure in a universe that’s void and without form?
As Paul, Daniel and I left our little concert bubble we were rudely awakened to the flawed nature of the world when we witnessed a fight on a street corner, between two women who looked like they were about to kill each other. This perfection that we scratched the surface with at the concert was contrasted in that moment with a situation that scratched the surface at why the world needed God to intervene for redemptive purposes.
My thought process continued the following evening at a fall gathering of my college/young adult group (Alive) near campus. My friend Pete and I walked over to a Speedway to grab some drinks, and waiting for Pete to make his purchase I noticed a homeless guy eyeing me. “Can I have 50 cents?” he asked sheepishly. I said “take a dollar, buy yourself a sandwich” to which he stammered, “Oh, Ok! I’m gonna go right over there…” before scampering off. After the party, as some of us were leaving we encountered a young, blue collar guy who was very eager to talk to us about the misadventures of his cat. I couldn’t help but wonder if we would form a friendship with him in the future, given the proximity to the Alive ministry house. As I drove home, I reflected on the good times combined with the opportunities to reach out. My friend Daniel from Alive once told me that when he gets antsy/anxious sometimes that means he needs to get out and serve. I’m beginning to think the same is true for those that go through these existential crises. At just the right time, God provides opportunities to take the focus off of ourselves. I am reminded of Romans 5, when Paul writes “You see, at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” in verse 6. If we can trust God to save us at just the right time, certainly we can trust Him with deliverance from doubts and anxiety at the right time if we allow Him to. When we make God the adventure, everything else seems to light up.
On Friday, August 13th I attended a date on Project 86’s summer run with The Wedding at Columbus Ohio’s the Alrosa Villa (the venue where Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell and 3 others were infamously killed a few years ago). The Alrosa is definitely an interesting, mostly hosting acts that are blantantly anti-Christian at times. A sign at the bar reading “NO PISSING ON THE FLOOR – MGMT” and another sign at the sound booth reading “if you don’t like the way I mix, F*** OFF” greet visitors.
After 3 local bands, The Wedding took the stage after some appropriate Johnny Cash intro music with the rousing “Return” from their “The Sound, The Steel” EP. “Receive” and “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” followed, much like their set at Ichthus Festival earlier in the summer. Vocalist Matt Shelton then introduced the first of 2 new songs from their upcoming “Distance” EP. I think its a shame they’re only releasing an EP considering their last LP was back in 2007. The first song was titled “Heartbreak and Melody” and was typical fun, rockin’ Wedding fare. The second track was a bit slower but also continued in the style of what fans have heard from the “Polarity” record. Next, they played a cover of Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right (To Party)” and ended their set with “Reveal”. All in all, a solid set. I wish they would have played more from “Polarity” though. The Beastie Boys cover was definitely a fun surprise. On a side note, a label really needs to get behind this band. They’ve been independent since Brave New World Records (also the former home of Deas Vail)
Project 86 took the stage with a lineup that was hardly Project, except that Andrew Schwab was still the lead vocalist. The live show still owned though, with the quartet kicking things off with “Sincerely, Ichabod” followed by old favorites “Safe Haven” and “Oblivion”. All of this the crowd seemed to enjoy, though I wished more people had showed up that evening to make the mosh pit more worthwhile. “Last Meal” from Truthless Heroes followed, it being the only unfamiliar song of the evening for me (but I of course looked it up when I arrived back home). “Evil” and “Illuminate” followed, and then Schwab announced that “Destroyer” would be their last song. Though I knew there would be an encore the set still seemed a bit short. When the inevitable return to the stage did occur Schwab announced “Stein’s Theme” and preceded the final song by speaking for a few minutes about the Mocha Club, a group the band is partnering to help get prostitutes off the streets of Ethiopia. Its nice to hear a band plugging such a ministry, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of Schwab’s insight in his book “Fame is Infamy”. The evening concluded with set staple “The Spy Hunter”, much to the crowd’s joy.