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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Roe’


I hadn’t seen Switchfoot live since before the release of Nothing is Sound in 2005. That was at the short-lived Cypress Gardens Adventure Park (now Legoland). That night they previewed Stars which is still one of my favorite Switchfoot songs.

Since then there have been a series of lost chances and bad chances. For awhile, they only placed festivals in FL, like Rock the Universe. Most of the bands at those events don’t really interest me.

Then in early 2010 they would be in concert close enough in FL to get my hopes up during the Hello, Hurricane tour. Then I realized I would actually be in AZ finalizing things for my new position. So I checked their tour dates to see when they would be in AZ. There was one coming up, while we were driving from FL to AZ.

The last 5 years have seen a similar pattern of festivals and concerts when I was unable to make it (like on at Grand Canyon University). This may be for my good: the saving of my hearing.

When I saw there was a tour with NeedToBreathe I looked at the dates. Nothing near me. So I was surprised when a short time later my wife called to say they would be playing in Tucson. I was surprised. There was nothing on their website, but I found it on the local KLOVE website. Yes, they would be at the Pima County Fair, the night before presbytery.

Argh! I thought. The Choir and Mike Roe would be Phoenix in June for the 25th anniversary of the Circle Slide album Tour. It is the night before I leave for General Assembly so CavWife put the kibosh on that. I thought this might suffer a familiar fate since it would most likely be an overnight trip. Maybe she felt a tinge of guilt, but she actually encouraged me to go. It helped that my session meeting on Tuesday night had been postponed.

I’ve lived here for 5 years and have yet to go to the fairgrounds for ANYTHING including the fair. So on Wednesday night I made the drive south of town into the veritable middle of nowhere to the fairgrounds. It is very easy to get to. Parking was not bad. $5 for parking and $8 for admission made this a $13 concert for me. It was also an hour closer than Phoenix.

I endured the slow-moving crowds to make my way to the main stage. They were the only act. I was about 40 minutes early and camped out between the preferred seating (about $10 extra bucks) and the sound board. I was dead center and less than 100 feet from the stage. There was only one group of people between me and fence. This was a great spot. As the sun went down and the wind picked up, I wondered if I should have worn either a fleece or pants instead of my shorts and t-shirt. But as the area filled with warm bodies it was great weather for a concert.

At 7:30 one of the local rock stations sent a rep up who introduced two people from KOVE. How is that for a bit strange. They had some give-aways, but sent a girl who threw t-shirts like a girl and frisbees like a 3 year-old. If you were more than 10 feet from the stage- forget about it!

At the same time the show started, and for about 30 minutes, there was some aircraft zooming around to the southwest. Non-blinking green lights on one side, and red on the other. I couldn’t see a spot so I don’t think it was a Border Patrol helicopter. At times it seemed to hover like one, but at other times it was moving very fast. It was interesting in distracting as I kept on eye on it and one on the concert.

They opened with a song I didn’t recognize. The most repeated phrase was “Like You Mean It”. From there they went into the aforementioned “Stars”. They seemed to hit their stride at this point.

I wasn’t sure what the next song was entitled but then they moved into a cover of Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down.” Then they played “Your Love is a Song” which is a great song of off Hello, Hurricane.

For there they played “Love Along is Worth the Fight” from Fading West with a bit of an intro connected with the making of the movie. Jon came down off the stage. First he was walking on the preferred seating fans and then made it to the corner near me, standing of the fence but facing away from me. Then he moved to the other corner and faced me.

From there he mentioned they were back from Australia and open to getting away from the set list. Someone had requested “We Are One Tonight”. In the middle of the song they did a verse from “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine.” Nice little mini-medley there.

They went back in time to play “Dare You to Move” which Jon claimed to have written before he dropped out of college. Then it was “Let it Out.” Jon introduced his little brother Tim on bass who got to pick the next song. I have no idea what the song was but it did have a great bass line to feature him.

From there it was “We Come Alive” (questionable title) before “Dark Horses”. Jon then got his acoustic for the familiar strains of “Meant to Live” to close the set. I looked at my phone to see the time. Only 8:40.

They came back for an encore of “Only Yours” and “Forever Now”, wrapping up at 8:55.

It was a short show, but I figured it was a $13 dollar show. They did put on a good show and sounded good. As a band they don’t focus on elongated solos. The drum “solo” at the end of a song was maybe 30 seconds. That just doesn’t seem to be there thing, which is too bad. Jon’s voice isn’t the strongest so it got lost in the mix occasionally.

I was disappointed by what they didn’t play. I wanted to hear “The Sound (John Perkin’s Blues)”, “Mess of Me” and nearly anything from Nothing is Sound.” But such things are to be expected when you have that many albums. It was still a good and enjoyable show.

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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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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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