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I did go to 2 concerts in 2 nights, and what a study in contrasts that experience was.

Wednesday night was “forced family fun” at the Pima County Fair. They have a “Christian” band on Wednesday night during the fair. This is the 3rd year in a row I’ve gone. I saw Switchfoot, and then all of us went to Toby Mac last year. Both were good shows though a bit short. This year was For King and Country, a band I’m not familiar with. Our van plays lots of Toby Mac, so I know most of his songs. When not playing TM, KLOVE is usually on and they play For King and Country plenty, so I know a few songs. The kids, especially the older boy, enjoy them. So off we go.

But first we have to eat pizza, lots of Domino’s pizza to get their free admission passes. Thankfully the delivery person passed us from extras so we didn’t go broke and get fat trying to get to the show. The passes are for entry until 5:30 which meant leaving right after someone’s ballet lesson. This was the child who never wants to go anywhere (but usually has a good time when we are there). We left at 4:30 with more pizza in the van so we could eat on the way (which was a special dispensation for the kids). The highway is a mile from our house. It took us 13 minutes to actually get onto the highway due to traffic. I anticipated a slowdown on the other end, complicated by a large fire that had shut down the exit just past the fair grounds. Sure enough, the last few miles of highway were slow but we go there before 5:30 (barely) and got in.

Now we had to wait 2 hours. CavWife and “I hate going places” child got “our” spots against the barricade for the reserved seating. I took the others for a walk. I needed steps and they were restless. Of course we see all the food they aren’t going to eat (fried just about anything, gyros, roasted corn BBQ etc.) and rides they aren’t going to ride. I feel like Christian in Vanity Fair.

We get back and there are still 90 minutes to go. Cart wheels, dancing to disco and general tomfoolery ensue. The older boy is not involved in the shenanigans since he wants this show NOW. “I’m bored” is a frequent comment from him while the others make the best of it.

With 30 minutes to go the expected encroachment begins. People begin to squeeze us to get the spots we’ve been occupying alone the barricade. I’m protective of my kids- “hey, my kids have been waiting here for 2 hours for this spot. Give ’em space.” I have a bad attitude toward this uspurpers and johnny-come-latelies.

While I needed by ear protection for the disco, I REALLY needed it as the show begins. Man, was it loud. And I couldn’t really understand much of the lyrics. For King and Country started with a lot of songs off their new album, and while the crowd claps it seems flat. These aren’t the songs they (and I) know. It’s loud because there are thousands of people here.

The band members were energetic and engaged. Most were multi-instrumentalists including some you don’t normally see, like a cello. They are clearly talented, but I like “the big guitars” as Randy Stonehill once sang. The guitarist doesn’t seem to do much, the focus is on rhythms and percussion. They had a good light show, and the 2 brothers from Australia took 3 longer segues to be personal. One was about the size of their family, one about moving here from Australia as kids and learning about Thanksgiving the hard way (focus on God’s faithfulness) and then the intro to “Priceless” (one of the few I knew) reminding women they are made in God’s image and should expect to be treated well by men, and reminding men to treat women well and put away the porn. There was also a short intro to “My Help Comes from You” (that may not be the title but that’s the point of the chorus, that could have been a little health-wealth influence. I get jitters when people  talk about Jesus bearing our cancer on the cross. Nuance or explanation is needed.

During one song, the band members came out to the barrier to play, and the one brother crossed out of reserved seating to say ‘hi’ to the bleachers while he sang. Security was loving all of that.

It was a good show, and the kids really liked it. Even the one who hates crowds and going places (I understand, I tell her). I just wasn’t emotionally engaged. But the kids asked me about the show the next night, and I sang them some lyrics from The Choir’s Wide Eyed Wonder album, which would be the focus of the concert.

Instead of heading east for about 40 minutes to south Tucson, I would be heading west for 90 to Tempe. I left about 5:20 and it only took me about 5 minutes to get on the highway. Go figure. I was thinking, I should have left earlier, I should have left earlier. Despite the Patriots not having a pick in the first round, I listened to the NFL draft on the radio. It was actually interesting as it all went sideways. I didn’t hit any traffic, only a couple of those people who pull out to pass and take a month to do it. I arrived in Tempe at about 6:45 and had time for dinner at Pei Wei while I figured out where this church was. Price Rd. seemed like a frontage road. The guy who brought me my food thought I was talking about Priest Rd. since he pronounced it with a long “i” sound. It must be a tough word for Hispanics since it really isn’t pronounced phonetically. It is a Hooked on Phonics failure.

I was having issues with the phone. While I had coverage, it wanted Wi-Fi for text, FB and directions. Using Pei Wei wi-fi I got directions, and it seemed simple. I had about 15 minutes for a 7 minute drive. But Siri was “helping” me”. I was looking for a church, a poorly named church. Really, how names a church “29:11”? Sure, it probably refers to Isaiah 29:11, but that is lost on most people. Anyway, when I got where it should have been two things happened. Okay, 3. I didn’t see a “church building” but a small shopping & business plaza, I didn’t see a sign, and Siri did not say “turn here” or “you have arrived at your destination” but “follow the route”. Where!?

And so I was lost, turned around, dealing with one way streets like it was Boston and asking strangers for help. One pointed me to a big church down the road. It wasn’t the church but  a Scout troop was meeting there. After he finally realized I wasn’t crazy and 29:11 was the name of the church it all went better. I had an idea of where I was going, that shopping plaza/business center. Price to Borderline to Shannon. Easy!

I never saw a sign for Shannon. So I did the loop I did before and asked more strangers out walking their dog since on this other side street Siri said “You have arrived at your destination.” We need couple’s therapy. I got there, 10 minutes after show time. Expecting a show less than 90 minutes, this really had me aggravated.

They hadn’t started yet (why do I stress myself out so? why do I have so little faith in His goodness?). I paid my $20 and took a seat in this long, narrow room with maybe 40 people. No big platforms for the drummer or other instrumentalists. No light show or fog. No streamers shot into the air. It wasn’t deafeningly loud (which was good because I forgot my ear protection in the car due to my rush).

But I loved it. I knew the songs! All but 1, which is a new one. I loved the songs, and so many took me down historical and emotional roads. Their albums Circle Slide and Wide Eyed Wonder were influenced by having kids. And they had prompted longings in this single at the time guy to want to have kids. And now I’m thinking of my own kids as they sing. Why are there only 40 people here? It was so much better than the night before (from my strange Cavman perspective).

They began with Midnight Sun and then slipped right into Wide Eyed Wonder in its entirety, in order. Last time I saw them it was Derri, Steve and Tim Chandler on bass. This time Robin was back after nearly 3 decades to play bass, and Dan Michaels was along to play sax and other similar instruments. It was a faithful reproduction minus the sound loops they used on the record. WEW is “brighter” than Circle Slide, less melancholy. Dan seems to have a strange personality, and was messing with Robin at times. I missed a great shot of her poking him in the head during a song (I saw someone else got it). At one point Steve and Derri reminded us about the items to buy in the back (how they make their living) and took a couple of playful jabs at their friend Mike Roe and the 77’s.

Robin Had a Dream

They dedicated the song Wide Eyed Wonder to a girl in the audience whose 8th birthday was the next day- nice personal touch. And I’m transported to the time when my oldest 2 were wide eyed and wondering.

Before Bid Farewell, Steve talked some about the song and their situation at the time. Some of the lyrics came from a plane ride they had that was quite turbulent. One of those rides where you wonder if you’ll make it home. But in the studio they were working with Mark Heard which sounded like an experience they still treasure to this day. (This is part of why I love concerts, to hear this stuff too). But they weren’t sure if this would be the last hurrah for the band. Sales weren’t great and they weren’t sure if the record company would re-sign them. Or if anyone would. They weren’t sure if they were bidding farewell to their fans (thankfully not!).

After finishing WEW, they played a long version of Circle Slide that had Dan wandering into the crowd to play, eventually sitting next to the birthday girl. There was no security to protect Dan from this adoring but respectful crowd.

They left the stage to applause, but thankfully were not done. Steve came out and picked up the acoustic guitar. The hum from one of Derri’s pedals kept throwing him off. “One of those ADD moments, I can’t think.” I can relate, my fellow Steve. With that cleared up, he sang The Soul of Every Creature Cries Out from Shadow Weaver. Then Derri came back out to join him. First Derri talked about his dad, and how he moved to LA to care for him in his last days. I wish I could sit by my dad like Derri does and hear his stories (my dad doesn’t talk about such things). When Steve came out to visit and work on some songs, he put this to words. They played a song that will be on their new album.

Then they played “a medley of their hit”, Sentimental Song from Circle Slide. To close the show, Robin and Dan re-emerged and Derri finally picked up the starburst Strat for What You Think I Am.

Like the night before it was about an hour and 20 minutes. It was a good show and I’m glad I got to head up to Tempe to see them again. I’ve seen them more in the last few years than in their heyday. But these shows sounded better than the one I saw in their heyday- the year that the New Sound festival wasn’t at Gordon College. I’m hoping they tour for Speckled Bird soon.

 

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It wasn’t quite the best time to head to Mexico for a mission trip.  For one, I just got home from a lengthy vacation.  For another, we are at an important point in the adoption process.  And it is the hottest time of the year in that border city, often above 100 degrees.  It’s hotter than Tucson there.  But we are not in control of our times, and the time had come to head south of the border.

This is not the best time to head down south.  Cartel violence has made many a headline.   But there are a few things to consider.  For one, God is in control.  For another, not all of Mexico is dangerous.  A church member works with homeland security, and did some research on the area.  It is not a contested area, so it is pretty peaceful.  As we would learn, you bump into a police car every few hundred feet.

It was time to kiss the family goodbye and meet the rest of the team at the church facility.  As we were loading up we decided not to bring the ladder.  This meant that we could fit everything, and everybody, in the van and one car.  The other guy who bought insurance to drive his car in Mexico was willing to not drive.  It might have been because he hadn’t slept, since he was cleaning his car well into the night.  He also put new tires on it recently.  But I like to drive, and my car is not a valuable as his. I got a decent night’s sleep.   So…. we took mine.  He became CavNav(igator) for the trip.  So off we went, next stop Gila Bend.

The first part of the trip was uneventful.  Lots of jokes, nearly missing the exit to I-8 due to construction and that’s pretty much it.  At Gila Bend, we grabbed a quick snack and made use of the facilities.  After about 2 hours in the car, our legs needed to be stretched.  Since I was tired, I decided to put some music in.  I chose the 77’s Sticks and Stones.  A great album, but it may have not been the best choice because Don’t This Way was running thru my brain much of the week, including those times I lay awake in the middle of the night.  The other song that ran thru my mind was You Walked in the Room– “lousy jokes, and out and out lying…”.

This explains a few things.

While the 77’s were playing I began to notice a vibration.  I thought it might be the increasingly rough road.  CavNav chose the next CD- All That You Can’t Leave Behind.  Sort of appropriate when you think of it.  The vibration grew worse.  Problem was, we were heading up a mountain.  I didn’t want the van we were traveling with to have to start back up with that grade incline.  So, when we started our descent, I found a place with room on the side of the road with good visibility.  The driver’s side front tire was good.  The passenger’s side, not so much.  I could see that the tire was not flat, anymore.  the surface was warped.  And then there was the tread separation.  No small problem that.

I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of changing a tire on such a steep downgrade.  We slowly made our way to the next exit.  As it turns out, we should have gone the extra 2 miles thump-a-thump-thumping to the next exit.

We pulled off the highway and found a parking lot.  I missed the sign that would have provided some good shade for the tire change.  The ladies decided to shop while the men got busy.  It really was a group effort.  Being on a mission trip has some advantages when changing a tire in 100+ degree heat in Yuma, AZ.  Okay, except for the fact that we had to empty the trunk to get to the spare.  We had work gloves so we didn’t burn our hands as we worked.  And when the spare was empty, we had a compressor to fill it.  Sweet!

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Back in 1991 a strange, beautiful thing happened.  Members of 4 of my favorite alternative Christian bands formed a side band called The Lost Dogs.  Terry Taylor (lead singer & songwriter for DA & the Swirling Eddies), Gene Eugene (singer & songwriter for Adam Again), Derri Daugherty (singer & guitarist for the Choir, which is releasing a new album in June) and Mike Roe (lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the 77’s) decided to move from friends to musical partners.  What emerged was the band much like the Traveling Wilburys.  It was like nothing any of them had done before.

It was a blend of folk rock and blues rock.  The first album (Scenic Routes) contained moments both serious and silly (Why is the Devil Red?).  While I don’t much like the political statements (Bush League) I really enjoyed the combination of sadness and faith.  They did covers (You Gotta Move, Lord, Protect My Child), adapted songs (Old and Lonesome), wrote some songs together and some alone.  It was a great, vibrant mix that has held up well over time.

In 1993 they followed this up with the similar-sounding but equally good Little Red Riding Hood.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  The only covers this time was I’m a Loser by the Beatles and the traditional song Precious Memories.  There were silly songs (Bad Indigestion) and sad songs (Rocky Mountain Mines and Eleanor, It’s Raining Now).   There were also struggles (No Room for Us) and hope (You Satisfy).   The album had a slightly less folk and more rock feel to it.    Working together seemed to scratch an itch they all had in a way that we could all benefit from.

The Green Room Serenade (Part 1) was released in 1996 and continued the shift to a more popular style.  Terry Taylor was responsible for more of the songwriting.  The formula was still there.  They covered If It Be Your Will.  They had some fun on songs like Close But No Cigar and Hey, You Little Devil.  There was hope in songs like Love Takes Over the World.  It was probably their most upbeat and accessible album.  Things were looking good for their side gig.

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On a recent ride home from Tampa, I listened to this disc for the first time in awhile.  I was reminded why I enjoyed it so much for such a long time.

If I recall correctly, Drowning with Land in Sight was the 77’s first release on Word, a “major” label.  It remains one of their most accessible releases.  This is odd since Gene Eugene and Ojo Taylor, though innovative and interesting musicians in their own right, weren’t exactly mainstream.  The 77’s struggled to maintain artistic integrity and the demands of the “mainstream” Christian music industry.  Derek Webb is currently fighting a bigger, uglier fight with his label.  But enough of that…

The album starts off with a  cover of Nobody’s Fault But Mine, to set the pace for this series of songs lamenting our role in all that is wrong in our world.  They do a very good job with this old blues standard, dragging it into the 90’s (the album was released in 1994).  This hard rocking beginning continues through Snowblind and Snake.  Snake was a major concession, with Mike Roe commenting on not liking the song in some live gigs captured on CD (It’s For You– which is great, simple record of his solo tour).  The first is also something of a lament about how temptation blinds us.  The second is about one of the sources of temptation.  While I enjoy the music, Snake is not one of Mike’s better lyrical and vocal performances.

Indian Winter marks a shift in direction for the album.  The chorus is slower, and there seem to be glimmers of hope.  There is some very nice guitar work during the solo.  The songs that follow are not quite as full-bore hard rock, but have a bit more space and deal mostly with relationships, and how sin and selfishness destroy them.  Film at 11 contains some of my favorite lyrics by Mike.  They are filled with longing and disappointment.

Mezzo is a guitar-focused instrumental  that has hints of surf rock among the layers.  An enjoyable, sad-tinged song.  Cold, Cold Night adds a bit more distortion, biting guitar licks and relational despair.  Mike Roe hits his stride.  Dave’s Blues returns to the theme of our guilt, moral confusion, and hope in the Savior.  Doesn’t hurt that it has some very good guitar work.

Sounds o’ Autumn is drummer Aaron Smith’s time to shine.  It is a subtle solo piece rather than over the top and bombastic.  It provides a short breather before the last 3 songs.

The Jig is Up is one of my favorite songs, a lament about a troubled man who walks alone.  When this album came out, I could identify with this song as I slogged through a very lengthy, difficult time.  This sad song gave me opportunity to grieve.  Alone Together is another of those haunting songs Mike Roe writes so well.  It is about the end of a relationship set in contrast with the great beginning.  It is strange how little things can add up, destroying good things unexpectedly- the slow drift…

The album ends with For Crying Out Loud, about looking for hope and help in the One above.  It is also about being honest with God, finally.  So ends of my favorite albums- one filled with great guitar work, honest, painful at times lyrics, and emotional openness.  How did they get this released on Word?  I’m glad they did.

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Perfecta was the final release by Adam Again, if I remember correctly.  Similarly to the 77’s, I heard an early album (New World in Time) and was not very impressed.  In a store one day, a friend had me listen to some of their Dig album and I was sold.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I listened to it driving up to Orlando the other night.  Ah, the memories.

Gene Eugene liked metaphor, so many of his lyrics were not easy to interpret.  The average CCM band they were not.  Along with Daniel Amos, the 77’s, and the Choir, they led the alternative rock movement among Christian musicians.  It was no mistake that Gene would join with Terry Taylor, Mike Roe and Derry Daugherty from those respective bands to form The Lost Dogs.

Perfecta was not Adam Again’s best album but it was still a very good album.  I think this was following Gene’s divorce, and a fair amount of that sense of alienation comes through somehow.  It starts off with Stone, “and I try to forget the day I chased you away.”  The guitar has plenty of reverb, and it stays that way throughout the album.  There are plenty of songs with extended solos, or musical interludes.

Strobe is one of those songs where you just aren’t sure what Gene is trying to say.  The chorus is a bit repetitive, but it works for some reason.  All You Lucky People sounds like the complaint of a prisoner to me (“I’ve got nothing but time”).

Air is one of those songs short of lyrics, but long on musical interludes.  The first verse is about the electric company employee demanding he pay his bill.  He doesn’t have money, but he’s got friends coming over.  Dogjam is one of my favorite songs, which could be due to lines like “3-legged dog hobblin’ in the back yard/ I don’t mind at all/ 3-legged dog, cat chasing is hard/but I can’t forget that she paid for it all.”  Lots of good guitar going for it too.

Every Mother’s Way is the token slower, more gentle song.  Try Not to Try is almost as slow, and seems to be about the process of sanctification, but I could be wrong. 

But songs like Unfunny and Relapse have plenty of loud, alternative rock ‘n’ roll.

Like the rest of the Adam Again catalog, this is hard to find.  I’ve never been able to replace my stolen copy of 10 Songs, which I think is their best collection of songs.  This is unfortunate, because Gene and company sure could make some interesting music.

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My daughter pulled my copy of the 77’s Sticks and Stones out this morning and asked to listen to it.  My heart skipped a beat in joy.  But I’m not sure she really understands the greatness that is this album.

I had listened to Ping Pong Over the Abyss as a new Christian back in ’86 or ’87.  I didn’t like it.  I wrote them off.  Then, on my initial visit to RTS Orlando, a guy named Andy Graham gave me a tape of Sticks and Stones.  I was converted.  It was alternative enough to be ‘cool’ and ‘pop’ enough to be accessible.  Sticks and Stones is a compilation of sorts featuring 14 hits, cast offs and unreleased takes.  There is plenty of great music here.

The album starts off with 3 alt-pop-rock numbers featuring some good guitar work.  Make that very good.  The focus of MT, Nowhere Else and This is the Way Love Is seems to be a relationship with Christ. 

The sound and subject matter shift with Perfect Blues.  It is a more blues oriented number about how none of us meets the standards of others in relationships.  It is about the struggle of relationships and expectations.  Once again Mike Roe provides some nice guitar work.

I had this album for years before I realized what Don’t, This Way was about.  I had thought it was about a failed relationship.  I was cranking the album in my apartment when the truth hit me like a ton of bricks.  It is, as the liner notes say, the saddest song ever.  It is about a lover looking over the dead body of their beloved.  It is a return to a more alt-pop-rock sound, but the music matches the lyrics to create a nearly perfect song.  There is plenty of mournful guitar to set the mood.  It nearly brings me to tears when I listen.  Some might find the length of song (7:22) excessive, but I don’t.  I love some of the extended jams on this disc.

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