Anberlin – Lowborn review

“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


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.

Silverbacks vs. Fire – US Open Cup


This has been the summer of soccer. The World Cup has been on TV in our house all month and I, like most everyone in our country, was held captive by the US Men’s National Team as they advanced into the Round of 16.

In a couple years, the MLS is coming to Atlanta and we will have a team in the big leagues to root for. Until then, our local NASL club, the Atlanta Silverbacks are doing a pretty good job themselves. In the US Open Cup, they had already defeated two MLS clubs and were looking to get a third scalp from Chicago Fire. I rode over to the stadium with a friend and saw my first game in action. The impressive run ended with a loss to the Fire, but it was really closer than the 3-1 score indicated as it was tied up until the 82nd minute and Atlanta held possession for large parts of the game. I had a lot of fun and maybe when the NASL kicks off again in the fall I’ll try to get to a game or two.

In the meantime, enjoy my photos from the game!

Cornerstone Memories (Again)


It’s the week of Cornerstone Festival again and there is no Cornerstone. I am looking forward to a weekend in Savannah with my family and think we will have a good time, it’s a different fourth of July celebration that what I’ve been used to, but we will enjoy it.

In the meantime before we leave, I need to get my mind off everything else on the Internet today. So, since I’m feeling the ache of an empty cornfield in Illinois, I thought it would be fun to write up a quick take about every year I went to Cornerstone Festival.

1998 – My first year at the festival! My friend Joel and his friend Elaine were my guides to aid me as a newbie. My biggest memory, other than just taking it all in for the first time was the Rich Mullins Tribute as his friends played his songs for three hours.

2000 – David and I drove up together in my little car for this one. Of all the years I went, I think this year might have had the best lineup. There was a great mix of old bands and new bands. I remember having to make the agonizing choice between Over the Rhine and The Choir on the final night and I’m glad that I now have full recordings of each show.

2001 – This is the first year that I rode up with Jerry and I rode with him every year after this one. I remember Stryper on the last day was the big topic of discussion. I’m not a huge Stryper fan and I actually ended up skipping the show to see The Violet Burning (who were freaking amazing.) I was really into Over the Rhine at this time and this was the third festival in a row that they were the final show of the festival for me.

2002 – Adriene went with me this year, the only year she went with me to the festival. It was a total sauna. My favorite memory from this year was on the last night at the Sixpence None the Richer show. Adriene and I relaxed on a blanket on the hill and looked at the stars while they played and there was not a care in the world for one evening.

2004 – There was a lot of rain this year, so much that the rain leaked between the seams of the tent during Over the Rhine’s show. I remember the pyro-technics from the P.O.D. show. I also the remember the last day at the Gallery stage had a fantastic lineup of Denison Witmer, Unwed Sailor, and Ester Drang. The tent was full and buzzing with teens and I remember thinking this must be what it’s like to be with the cool kids.

2006 – This was the year where Mute Math broke Chuck’s brain. This was also the first year I started to blog for the festival and I really enjoyed getting to know the organizers of the festival and learning how the festival worked from the inside.

2007 – The sunsets this year were the most of amazing of any year I went to Cornerstone. In between shows I couldn’t resist standing outside and taking picture after picture. One of my favorite memories was between shows. The sound crew played Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and kids that weren’t even born when the sound was popular were singing right along, even taking over when he cut the volume.

2009 – I skipped 2008 due to the birth of my girls, but in 2009 Adriene and her mother held down the fort so I could go. This year was weird because it was so cold and windy. This was also the year the generator stages started to take over. I saw a lot of bands I didn’t recognize at all. The deluge of rain on the final day sealed the fate of the location of mainstage down by the lake, but it also gave us a surreal final day of hardcore music on the normally mild-mannered Gallery Stage.

2010 – Switchfoot kicked off the new mainstage location and did a fantastic job starting off a new era at Cornerstone. I also remember Paper Route having the best show at the festival, leaving everyone speechless and amazed. I was also sick for a majority of the festival so now I guess this is what it’s like to go to a music festival under the influence because I was pretty incoherent for most of the festival.

2011 – The Jesus Music day was pretty special this year. I got to see a lot of artists that I had never seen before and might never see again. I also remember getting a call from home on the last day that my grandmother’s death was imminent. Michael Gungor’s worship music was a healing for me as I prepared for a week of grieving.

2012 – The last festival was a particularly poignant one. Even with only two main stages and a bunch of generator stages, there was still a lot of good music to remember. The heat this year was oppressive and it was hard to think about anything other than the heat. When the festival was over, it was hard to process the mourning of the end of Cornerstone because I was just so glad not to be subjected to the weather. The Viking Funeral was a strange, but totally Cornerstone way of having closure and The Choir, the first band at the very first Cornerstone, gave a nice bookend as the last band at the last festival.

Those were my memories in short takes. Please, share your memories of your years at Cornerstone!