I guess I didn't post the news on the blog here. Maybe I did. Can't remember. Ordinary Neighbors placed in the top five for Calvin's Festival of Faith and Music this year. That meant that we got two tracks on the festival's compilation disc and we played an 'Around the Town' concert last evening in East Town Grand Rapids. Check it out HERE.
Despite a somewhat cranky business owner and a small venue, our performance went well considering we don't get out to play often. It was a risk to try and cram in rehearsals with Larry (synths/nord) and Jacob (electric) but having them join us helped me feel like we were leaning the performance toward something that sounds more like the forthcoming record. Such great guys and intuitive musicians. The concert was well attended by Hope College students, church friends, GR friends, festival attendees and one big families' birthday party for their toddler. We got a free pizza. The business owner ended up being quite nice and and gave us some free pizza, which was amazing.
Please take a second and check out Jacob Bullard. He's graduating this Spring and going to try to make a go with his own music. It is a joy and sadness to get to play with students like Jacob. As Trygve said last weekend, when you work at a college you fall in love often and get your heart broken often. I love Jacob and his music and you should too...his music at least.
One great surprise and kind gift that the FFM offered me was a chance to finally meet Wen Regan. Wen discovered my earlier recordings way back when and has been one of the good people who has sent me encouraging and generous words about my music over the years. He is now a PhD student at Duke and was presenting an academic paper at the festival. Wen is a talented songwriter, singer and home recordist. You can get his album for free at noise trade.
The FFM overall was again a good time. I'm incredibly thankful for Ken Hefner, his vision and the years of his persistence in not only bringing good music to W. Michigan but hosting thoughtful, discerning conversations about music and culture. He introduced many of us to Pedro the Lion in 2000 at the Festival of Faith and Writing (when the two fests were one). I was thinking this weekend that much of what I've been trying to do with the arts was largely defined by what I experienced at that event. I'm not a huge fan of what's become of David Bazan, but thanks to Ken, in 2000 I witnessed in that festival a faith community giving one of the best songwriters of our time a platform and an 'amen.' I later gave Susanna Pedro's Control as an example of the kind of truth telling art that the church needs as a witness, such a revealing mirror to hold up to itself and our society:
The impact, the aftershave, the european cigarettes
The taxi, the alcohol that lingers on your breath
The lipstick, the street lamp, the woolen overcoat
The front desk, you tell yourself, it isn't over yet
Second best, oh second best
I can learn to live with this
Plus I really need a rest
After all what's wrong with second best
What's wrong with second best
Some of my favorite moments of the festival were simply hearing Ken muse about previous concerts Calvin has hosted, their meaningfulness and their intersection with faith...Ben Harper, Sigur Ros et al. Oh geesh, I still ache for the frustration he felt over losing the chance to host the New Pornographers last Fall. I also really, really enjoyed Matisyahu even though he didn't perform with a full band. I would have appreciated if he'd come out with an established set list. The cat calls for this and that song wore me out, but nevertheless it was a magical event.
IN OTHER NEWS....
Thanks to all of you who have been praying for Susanna and I and Hope College in regard to my last post. It is awkward trying to figure out how much to share on a blog. While things can get frightfully dark and scary there is a greater strength to draw upon. Grace is always abundant in times of suffering because Christ is by definition gracious.
This past week we received a final print draft of Susanna's manuscript of Entering the House of Awe to be published by New Issues press out of Western Michigan. They make really beautiful books and have proven to be very supportive.
Three more Gathering services for the '10-'11...tonight, the 17th and then May 1st. Tonight will be the last time Team Y plays together. Next week the last for Team X and then the graduating seniors join for final service. Wow.
We are also in the middle of auditioning the new recruits for next year...nine new spots. When it is all said and done, we will have auditioned close to 50 people. Wow again. It is intimidating to think of how much turnover we are going to have, but it is also pretty exciting too. Each new recruit is like a new present we open and see what happens. It is always an experience of goodness.