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Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil

November 24th, 2014

Steve Taylor

Steve Taylor hasn’t played a show in Atlanta in twenty years. The last time he was here, Bill Clinton was president and Nirvana was dominating the airwaves. While that’s a long time, it’s not as if Taylor has been slumbering. When he has not co-written songs for other bands, he directed Don Miller’s movie adaption of Blue Like Jazz, but Wednesday night he was doing what he does best. Taylor’s acerbic lyrics have always found home in a variety of musical styles, first in Bowie-esque New Wave and later the very grunge sound that the aforementioned Nirvana brought to the radio. He brought a new collection of songs from his new album, also his first in 20 years, to go alongside his classics. For me the new songs all sound a little bit the same, but Taylor’s wit has not diminished one bit and the sound, well it rocks and that seems to be an increasingly rare thing these days. The rocking sound comes from a band that is an all-star super group. John Mark Painter of the duo Fleming and John played bass, along with some saxophone (a long missed and vital part of Taylor’s music) and even french horn. Guitarist Jimmy Abegg has been associated with a variety of artists including Rich Mullins, Charlie Peacock, and even his band Vector in the 80’s. He may look like a homeless man, but he added a nice biting edge of guitar. Former Newsboys front man Peter Furler played drums.

The set list was a mix of the new album combined with some classics, including the cover-of-a-cover “I Want To Be A Clone” and “Moshing Floor” which was kinda funny because everyone in the crowd was too old to mosh. Taylor finished the night up with his newest epic “Comedian.” The encore of the evening was a tounge-in-cheek rendition of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” which led directly into “Cash Cow” and he finished the night with a serious song, “Hero.” All through the night, Taylor was ageless. He may not do cartwheels across the stage anymore, but the leaped and spun like a man who hasn’t aged in twenty years. I know I was more tired than he appeared to be at the end of the show.

Peter Furler opened the night with his three piece band. None of his new songs stood out to me, but it was fun to hear him cover some old Newsboys songs like “Not Ashamed” and “Shine”. The songs were fun to hear again and had a very different take with a raw power-trio with all of the drum machines and backing tracks stripped away. Perhaps the best old Newsboys cover that fit his new sound was “Lost the Plot” which remained powerful and loud. While the Newsboys have always seemed a little phoney, Furler was soft spoken and authentic, he seemed to enjoy the smaller crowd and simpler vibe.

So many of my favorite musicians have changed so much in twenty years, and many not for the better. Taylor however seems to be trying to pick up where he left off and while he does have some momentum to regain after being away for so long, his return to the music scene is a very welcome one and I hope there are more tours and more albums to come from here.

40

November 20th, 2014

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When I turned 30 I had something of a existential crisis. I wasn’t cool anymore. I wasn’t young anymore. My glory days were behind me. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. At 40, nobody has time for that kind of stuff.

I think I was prepared for life to change a lot when I turned 30, but I don’t know that I anticipated how much it would keep changing. I also don’t think I realized how isolated I would feel when all my friends moved away and parenthood and jobs prevented any of us from meeting up anyways. I wish I had a mentor for my 30’s. I had mentors in college and after college, but I’m not sure anyone warned me how hard the 30’s would be.

Football has finally wrapped up and our weeks are starting to relax a little. We were starting to buckle a little under the grind of practices and early mornings, but now that’s in the rear-view mirror and we can start looking forward to the holidays. Our kids are normally fun, but they are a special kind of fun at Christmas.

Today, a tow truck came and took away my Acura Integra. I donated it, and I don’t say this to make you think I am some great philanthropist, I did it for the tax write-off. I was a little sad to see it go, but it hasn’t operated well for almost a year now, so it was time to go. It is however, a tangible reminder that my 30’s are over. I bought the car when I was 25, but it has been my ride all through the 30’s, taking me to a Cornerstone Festival, all over the Southeast, and back and forth to work when I used to commute. I hope someone takes the car and gives it some love (and maybe a loud muffler, neon lights, and a big spoiler.) Just like other parts of my life, everything is changing again.

The Blur That Has Been Fall

October 29th, 2014

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A week before Adriene and I left for London, my laptop died. The power supply completely failed and I was without a laptop. So, I mailed it off to get fixed and left for London and everything since then on a technology level has been a complete mess. When I returned home, the laptop arrived a couple days later, but apparently it had been used as a basketball on the way home because the screen was cracked. I sent it back to technical support and let them know this was not satisfactory and I wanted the screen repaired for free. After two weeks of doing I don’t know what, they informed me they didn’t have the part and at that point I told them to just send me back the laptop and refund all repairs. So, I got my laptop repaired for free and it only took four weeks and one cracked screen to get that done and in the meantime all of my internet usage was on tablets and tiny computers with tiny keyboards.

I say all that to say that trying to compose anything on touchscreens and tablets is enough to drive a man mad, so while I felt like I built up some nice momentum here on the site this summer it all came to a screeching halt and I haven’t written anything in a couple months. At the same time, I have been so busy trying to catch up at work and keep up with my kids’ activities that it’s not like I had much time to try and peck (and curse) something on a tablet touchscreen anyways.

What to say about London? A month now in the rear-view mirror and it seems like a dream. It was an alternate world that we lived in for a week and now that we are back it seems like it canters along at it’s own pace, totally oblivious that we were ever there. The whole order of our day was totally altered. We never sat in a car and we stood in crowds the entire week. At one point, Adriene saw a fatigued expression on my face and said, “You’re tired of being around people all day, aren’t you?” I did admit that I longed to sit at my desk at home and look out over our (people-less) pond and trees in the back yard. But it was amazing, it really was. Some old friends that live in London swooped down and took us off for unbelievably good Turkish food, Indian food, and so much beer I can’t even begin to say which one I liked best. By the time we got familiar with the city, I had sat in the dark corners of Stamford Bridge and watched a match from one of the biggest soccer tournaments in the world and then later taunted Stoke City fans when Niko Kranjcar hit a free kick for QPR in the dying moments of the game. We listened to Georgia Tech play football in an alternate universe where it was daytime on our phones at night in the pub. Adriene saw the Hogwarts model castle used in the Harry Potter films and we saw the Rosetta Stone, one of the world’s oldest chess sets in existence, thousand-dollar (sorry, pound) shoes at Harrod’s, and just like that we were home again where everyone drives on the right side of the road and we have 700 channels on our TV.

What a return, though! The girls signed up for cheerleading this year and I have to say there is nothing funnier than watching first grade kids play football. They are kinda like weeble-wobbles with their shoulder pads that stick out on both sides and helmets as big as their shoulders. They don’t tackle each so much as they run into each other. Games are almost always decided by a comedy of errors, almost always because there is one kid bigger and faster than the others and no one can tackle, or even catch him. The girls have had mixed opinions about cheering at the games, mostly because of the varying weather conditions, so we’ll see if we do this again next year. However, this fall it has consumed our weeks and our weekends and we’ve had to squeeze normal activities into the hinterlands of our weekly schedule. It has been fun and exciting, but I’m not sure I will be that sorry when it’s over. When it is over, it is time to get ready for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The children are happy. There is always something to look forward to.

This post is like the final piece in the puzzle of catching up this fall. I feel like the last couple of months have been a blur, but things seem to finally be returning back to a more normal pace of life just in time to start ramping up for the holiday season and more adventures to come.

(I know some people love vacation photos and for other people it brings back horrible memories of sitting at someone’s house while they show slide after slide on a screen, BUT if you’re the sort that likes vacation photos, here they are.)

Anberlin – Lowborn review

July 31st, 2014

“We’re heading nowhere/It’s not close to them/Even horizons can fade
Hope says she’s never a saint/they’re all waiting on a prayer/If we’re heading nowhere”

Anberlin released their final album, Lowborn this week and it is an album that definitely has a feel of finality about it. It is easy to view the album through the colored lens of knowing this is the last album to pull out the parts that spell a closing, but I wonder had we not known would we read the clues in between the lyrics and figure it out? I suspect so.


I’ve seen faces I may never see again
I’ve been places I never could have dreamt

The album is a bit of a change for a band known for fist-pumping anthems. I’ve always wondered if they were a band simply born 20 years too late. Lowborn is a much more ponderous, somber album. The instrumentation is simpler and guitar fireworks are limited to a few songs. Some of the songs, like “Stranger Ways” and “Hearing Voices” feel more rooted in the 80’s alterna-pop of New Order and Depeche Mode. “Dissenter” is the odd track out. With the screaming and industrial drumming, it feels like a relic from the early days when the pre-Anberlin band was ending the band Anberlin was beginning. The lyrics on the album, often cryptic in past albums seem more razor sharp here, as if Stephen Christian is running out of time to say what he has to say.


I’ve loved where I’ve been
Yes I love where I’ve been
But my heart’s where I’m going

The song order is different than the typical Anberlin formula. There is no climatic end to the album. The album was constructed in three different studios and fortunately it has meshed well together, it doesn’t feel very disjointed. However, it is telling that album was put together in so many locations. This is a band that didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the same room to work this out.

Memories circle like birds of prey
Waiting for the right mind to drive insane
Don’t look back there’s nothing to see
Regret is nothing more than a lovers disease

Vocalist Stephen Christian says he has been looking for a way out of the band for over a year now. When he approached the rest of the band about leaving, everyone else confessed that they were ready for a break as well. It’s not the stereotypical fight and bust up and that ends the band, but more five people slowly drifting each in different directions.

Not sure what tomorrow brings
Not sure why a caged bird sings
Don’t ask cause I don’t know
No idea just where to go
High hopes and higher dreams
May not have everything

So, with no future planned, it’s impossible to escape the finality of the album. Over and over again, the songs reference not looking back, not having regrets, and soberly accepting the present. It’s possible there might be solo works or a new different band formed out of the remnants of Anberlin, but if so, no one is talking about it. Instead, what we the listener are left with is the end of an era.

Everyone wants to know God
But they’re afraid of what they’ll find
Everyone wants to know God
But they want to live like he died.

I can identify with the end of an era. It feels like I’ve been mourning one for a while now. There are people and places in my life that I will probably never see again. One lesson that I have been painfully learning this summer is that God will forgive sin, but most times He will not remove the consequences or events from the sin. There are wounds that will not heal and relationships will sever forever. I’ve witnessed a lot of this during the past few months. I am thankful that I am not the one wounded, but I also left wondering who I have wounded and scarred with my words and actions.

I feel as if I am in a transitional period of my life. When I was younger I was always eager for the next stage of life. I wish I was as optimistic as I used to be. I don’t really know what is coming next, my children are slowly starting to write their own stories and I feel like I am slowly having to loosen the rope, let them go a little more. We’re still a long ways from cars, boys, and even (gulp) college, but it’s approaching. I feel like much of my story has been wrapped up in raising them and now as I’m releasing them I have to find my own story again. I’m comforted, however, that I have strong support from home. If we are to enter another new unknown, I’m glad to face it with my family.


It’s not losing it all, if we have each other
In the end it’s all, in the end it’s all that matters
If we take this chance, and it falls to pieces
In the end you’re all, in the end you’re all that matters

How could I say goodbye?
We’ve come too far to turn back now
Who are we without each other?
Too entwined to untangle now

The Choir in Music City

July 28th, 2014

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When The Choir released their newest CD Shadow Weaver they also promised to record “the definitive live album” in front of a small audience. The tickets were affordable and when I found out some other friends were going to the show, I decided I should do a weekend in Nashville. It was a whirlwind trip but I circled all around the city, visiting famous landmarks and eating some pretty good food.

I arrived in town early on Saturday morning, so I decided to walk around Bicentennial Mall near the Capitol for a while before the day got too warm. As luck turned out, there was a car show in the park so I got to see some Ferraris, Lambourghinis, Porsches, and even a Tesla up close. After a little while, I drove down to Franklin to meet up with Jerry Ray and Julie for lunch. We ate a Music City Dog House which co-owned by Choir bass player, Tim Chandler (though according to Steve Hindalong, maybe not anymore.) I had a giant Italian Beef sandwich which was pretty tasty. We walked off our big lunch at the battleground near Franklin and then drove up to Opryland Hotel. I’ve always been to Opryland during Christmas time when it is decorated up and very, very crowded. Things were a little low key this time around (so much so that I drove in a broken parking gate and pleaded my case to a security guy so that we didn’t get charged parking), but it was nice to walk around in the air conditioning and walk through the gardens.

For dinner, I finally ate at the much-recommended Baja Burrito. While we were there we watched the live stream of the early concert. We were definitely living in future by eating dinner and watching the show we were going to. We had some extra time afterwards so we walked around the Parthenon at Centennial Park for a bit before driving over to the show.

As for the show itself, the show was located at Studio Instrument Rentals, a warehouse surrounded by razor wire which was filled with instruments to the ceiling, but it also had a couple of studio rooms with room for about 100 people. The sound was as high quality as I’ve ever heard at any concert I’ve been to, thanks to some seriously high-end equipment and some very talented engineers behind the boards. The sound was loud, but not painful and every instrument could clearly be heard in the mix. The band was the four essential members, though Tim Chandler was under the weather and sat in a chair for much of the concert, though he did stand up to rock out some of the extended outros. They were joined by Marc and Christy Byrd as Marc provided his Hammock sounding noise layered on top of the songs and Christy provided beautiful harmony vocals and some additional percusion. The set list had some pleasant surprises with some of their recent songs and since they had been well rehearsed from their recent tour, a block of Chase The Kangaroo songs. Then they settled into some of the classics ending with a fantastic drawn out “Circle Slide” a punchy version of “About Love” and then “Beautiful Scandalous Night” to wrap things up.

The band had a table of memorabilia laid out on the table from all eras of the band, including awards, original master tapes, Dan’s version 2 lyricon, and even some hand-written original lyrics. The crowd was also a who’s who of Nashville residents and visitors. We enjoyed talking to Bruce Brown and members of the band milled about. (Steve approved of our dinner choice at Baja Burrito.)

The next morning, Jerry, Julie, and I met up with the LaFianza’s for a mini-Cornerstone reunion at Copper Kettle. I also had a quick opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane on the David Lipscomb University campus before brunch which was right across the street. We had some great food and great conversation and then it was time to drive home.

I’m very much looking forward to the live album. The songs sounded great and the house sound was so great that I think the album will sound incredible. The whole weekend was kind of a quick blur, but I’m so glad I went and hopefully soon we’ll have an album to remember the trip by.