Sunday, September 20, 2009

Welcome to the Masquerade

Thousand Foot Krutch released a new album on September 8. I've been listening to TFK for nearly a year now, and have come to really enjoy their music, so I bought the new album. It's one of my favorite albums of all time. The album is titled Welcome to the Masquerade. The common theme woven in and out of a lot of the songs is that of masks, of the things we hide behind, the things we try to hide, and what would happen if we took the time to be honest and to listen to each other.

I didn't think about it much, honestly, until Chapel at my school on this past Friday (a week and a half after the album's release). The Christian Ministry majors were doing their chapel, as they do every semester, and the theme they chose to dramatize was that of masks. The second they all walked out on stage wearing bright masquerade masks, I thought back to TFK's album.

What followed was an incredible time of the students talking about what masks they wear, and literally taking the masks off and just being honest as a thousand students and staff listened. I mention honesty a lot. To me, the chapel was absolutely beautiful.

This had me thinking back to the Newsboys concert in March, and VOTA's song, Honestly. I re-watched the video and listened to what Bryan Oleson had to say (watch here). And I started to find it odd how this theme kept coming back.

Skip ahead 24 hours. I was getting ready for the Creation Fest Tour show at my University. I had bought a VIP ticket, which would get me access to a meet and greet with some of the bands. I was going to be meeting Thousand Foot Krutch, who had written this album that was so strongly on my heart right then. In particular, they had written one song that impacted me indescribably strongly. There is probably only one other song I've ever heard that could claim to impact me more strongly, in fact. I was thinking how weird it would be to talk to the guy who'd written this song. I was wondering if I should say anything about it to him. I was wondering if I should say anything at all, how to act like myself in just the few brief minutes I'd have, how to not be too obnoxious.

Then the thought hit me. Just be honest. I frowned What? What's that supposed to mean? But I didn't find an answer. I was still unsure and uncertain as I walked over to the auditorium.

As we waited in the reception room for the bands to walk in, I was third in line. I talked to the people around me (a mom and her daughter standing behind me had been at the Skillet concert in April, and we remembered each other, which was kind of cool). Chick-fil-a brought in a bunch of free food for us, but I didn't want to eat. I just waited. I felt shaky and kind of sick, and I was praying.

When TFK, Jars of Clay, and Mark and Will of Audio Adrenaline actually walked in, it took me a few seconds to process it. A girl and her dad in front of me went forward to talk to TFK, and I hung back. The words echoed in my head again. Just be honest.

The girl and her father moved on, but I was too afraid to take a step towards them. But Trevor stepped up to me and shook my hand and said "hey!" And I felt better. I asked them to sign my CD, and Trevor signed the cover and then passed it down. He asked me my name, and said he hoped I'd enjoy the show. And then came a moment of startling, incredible clarity, the kind of moment that comes down hard and beautiful and afterwards lives in a dream state in the realm of memory. Suddenly I was telling Trevor about how much this song meant to me, about how beautiful it was, about how I'd needed to hear that song for a long, long time.

Perhaps this is paragraph going to sound weird to most people. But he listened to me, and honestly accepted what I was saying, and told me it was awesome that it meant so much to me, and he was so glad. And I believed him. And it was incredible to me, because he listened to me. This lead singer of a rock band who had met me 30 seconds ago cared enough to listen to me and accept my honesty, to do something that not one of the 2000 students at my school have done in the past year and a half. He totally didn't shrug me off. I expected him to say "oh, cool" and then ignore me and move on to the next person. But he didn't. He held my eye contact and talked to me until I chose to move on to let the person behind me move forward. He probably won't remember what I said for more than a few days, if that. But he listened.

So often the reason I don't talk about the things in my head or in my heart is because I get met with people shrugging it off, or telling me "it'll be alright. You'll be fine." But what if I won't be? What if I can't even see that far ahead at that time? What if I need to be allowed just to bleed? And I know I'm one of millions who feels this way; there's no special, unique pain here. What would happen in a world where we listened, where we accepted honesty, where we were willing to love complete strangers by the simple act of listening? How many hearts would heal if they were allowed to face hurt instead of being told that that hurt shouldn't exist?

I moved on to Jars of Clay. Ironically, I didn't actually know if it was Jars of Clay or This Beautiful Republic until after I'd talked to them briefly and got their autographs. Then I talked to Mark and Will of Audio A. They were so incredibly friendly and ready to just chat and have fun, and then they asked the person behind me in line to take a picture of me with them. It was awesome.

After that I left the meet and greet room, getting some tea on my way out to try to calm down. I was still trying to process it. I was a little disappointed that B. Reith hadn't been there, because I really wanted to meet him. I was guessing he'd be at his merch table after the show though, so I could catch him then.

I picked up a TFK shirt at their merch table, and then fought my way through the press of people to get into the auditorium and find my seat in the third row. It was a good seat, though it can be awkward to sit by total strangers. I had to climb over the laps of four guys every single time I got in or out of my seat. They were really nice about it, but that didn't mean I liked it.

FM Static kicked off the show. FM Static is Trevor and Steve of TFK's side project. They were mostly playing music from their new album, Dear Diary, but they also played the old classic Definitely Maybe, and Trevor threw in a wild card by singing Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis as a worship song.

After that there was a quick set change before B. Reith came on. I was very highly anticipating him. It may seem odd that I would like a hip hop artist, considering usually I hate hip hop. But B. Reith incorporates piano and acoustic guitar and real singing into his songs. The guy is insanely talented. In addition to that, he is just incredibly real and honest and open. He's the kind of guy who'll stop randomly mid song to wave and say hello to people walking into the auditorium, or who will forget the words of a song and announce as much, or who stares in awe and excitement at his own music video coming up on the stage screens. He is infectiously happy, and infectiously unafraid. They only gave him a 4-song set, which was ridiculously short, but I enjoyed every moment.

Audio Unplugged led us in worship (ending in an altar call) after that. I wasn't sure what to expect, but after the first song or two it was just incredibly obvious that God's presence was strong there as 2,000 people worshiped together. It was beautiful, so much more so because it's a rare opportunity for me. At the end we had several people give their lives to Christ. Very, very unforgettable.

There was a brief intermission then, so I went out to meet with my sister and a few friends who were there out in the lobby. They were talking, and I didn't want to be rude and leave, but I also wanted to get back to my seat. I waited, hoping they'd want to go back soon. No such luck. Then I heard the first few strains of TFK's Welcome to the Masquerade. All decorum aside, I dashed out of the lobby, ran down the aisle and practically threw myself past the four guys to get to my seat right as Trevor started singing.

They followed the opener up with Move. The energy levels exploded. I felt kind of silly headbanging, because I was the only one in my area doing so. The feeling continued as Bring Me to Life started. I saw a few of my friends staring to form a mosh pit right by the stage.

If there is a mosh pit, there is a 99.9% chance I'm going to be in it (and by mosh pit I do not mean literally moshing, which I am against; I mean tight packed crowd jumping and headbanging together right by the stage). So for the last time I got past the guys, ran down by the stage and leaned against it, just a few feet from Trevor. A few minutes later my sister joined me, as did the friends we'd been talking to earlier.

I hadn't been able to just let go and rock like that except at the two Skillet concerts I've been to. It was incredible. During Fire it Up, Trevor came over and pointed the mic first straight at my sister and then at me to sing. Which may or may not have something to do with the fact that we were already screaming the song at the top of our lungs, even though it's a brand new song that not a lot of people knew.

By the time TFK finished I was sweaty, bruised, and on a major adrenaline high. I had time to get water before going back for Jars of Clay. I decided that I wasn't going to bother with climbing over the guys to get to my seat. I just stayed right by the stage, camera in hand. Jars of Clay's set was much less energetic, as is to be expected. To my delight they played all my favorite songs (meaning all the ones I actually know). I was incredibly impressed by how well their vocals held out live. Most of the people in the room were there for Jars of Clay, which meant they had tons of people singing along.

After their set was over, I was rather tired. But when I walked out into the lobby to get some merch and wait for bands, I got a fresh flood of adrenaline. I bought all the music B. Reith currently has released, and then had him sign the EP. He was so incredibly nice and friendly. My sister and I got pictures with him. I was glad I finally got to meet him. My sister went through TFK's line, but right before she went through, an employee told Trevor not to agree to any pictures until after almost everyone had left. So he told Telpe they'd be doing pictures later.

So we waited in the lobby as everyone left. It was nearly 11:30 by now. Once TFK started doing a few pictures, we went over to wait for our chance. But once the group in front of us finished, TFK started walking away.

Telpe was brave. She got Trevor's attention and asked if we could get pictures. He was like "oh yeah sure, let's do it!" So then he literally ran after the rest of the band and called "hey guys, come back to do one last picture!"

Actually, they let us get two, so Telpe and I both got individual shots. They were in a rush, but I got to thank Trevor for the show, and he said he hoped he'd see me at another one. And then Telpe and I walked home, excited and completely happy.

Now, this all ties back together. In chapel on Friday I realized something, as I sat in the dark watching students on stage talk about honesty and masks. I finally understand why music means so much to me, especially concerts. It's because music is honest. Music says things that we are afraid to say aloud, that we don't know how to express. At concerts we throw down the walls, we throw down the masks, we throw down pretending. Pain is allowed to be real. Hurt is allowed to cry aloud. But more importantly, hope is allowed to shine, love is allowed to embrace, and truth is allowed to conquer lies.

This is why I love concerts so much. This is why I'm so unafraid to scream aloud words about hope, and love, and life. The honesty is so beautifully breathtaking that it steals away all my pretensions.

This is also why I have for so long been unwilling to sit with people I know during concerts. I don't want them seeing me cry. I don't want them seeing me sing, the expressions on my face as I worship. I am afraid, as selfish, insecure, and silly as it is. But that's another exciting thing. I was with people I knew during TFK's set last night, and it was OK. Maybe it's a sign that I'm learning something, that God is bringing me into new places I've never been before.

So the challenge I pose to you tonight is this: what mask do you wear? Do you hide behind an internet persona, behind facebook or twitter or forums? Do you hide behind your schoolwork? Do you hide behind your social life, behind the laughter that isn't always real? Behind your own fear and insecurity? God wants the masks gone. He already knows what's down there, and He loves you anyway. What else could you possibly need? I'm daring to suggest that it's OK to be honest about struggling, to be honest about not always being alright. It's human. It's how we heal.

And when was the last time you asked someone how are you and meant it? I think we're all at fault in this, because we feel we're too busy, or because we're so drowned in our own issues that we can't see clearly enough to listen to someone else. But if we would do that, if we would simply listen, lives would be changed.

The masquerade may seem beautiful on the surface, but anyone who's seen beneath the masks can tell you that it's definitely not. Breaking away from it takes courage, because it often hurts. Fortunately God has enough strength to go around. And I'm so glad that, in my case, He gives me that strength through music, through nights under bright stage lights with my open hands in the air.

Out of the fire, rise from the ashes
Reject your doubt and release the passion...
I’m not ashamed, I’m not afraid, I’m not ok:
Welcome to the masquerade.

- Elraen -


Blire Daeriel said...

Thank you. For your honesty and for your words. Once again, it's something I've been needing to hear.

I'm also really glad for you that you got to go to the concert and experience what you did. It's wonderful to see you enjoying things like that. :)

Love you, Sis.

AwakeandAlive said...

Wow Mary, that was AMAZING! I recently realized that I had been hiding behind a mask, mainly because I'm afraid to tell the people I love about what I've been going through, fearing they might reject the true me. It's been a subject that has been weighing heavily on my heart in the past few weeks. Welcome to the Masquerade is the song that made me realize that hiding behind the mask is not ok. Bring Me To Life (Probably the most relatable song I've ever heard) is a song that encourages me to run from the darkness I've been in...I just want to be free. Removing the mask may be tough, but I know it will be worth it.
Hiding behind my mask has made me physically and emotionally sick. I've started taking it off and showing the real me to a few select people, and guess what, they understand what I'm going through.
When I first heard this CD I didn't really like it, but now it's grown on me to the point where it's in my top 5 CDs of all time.
Thanks for posting this, Mary!

Liz said...

Beautifully written girl. And I agree, I learned that long ago, that music is what is honest, it is where people are vulnerable, that is why musicians have such an opportunity. They can sow seeds of hope or seeds of goes back to Jamie's recent blog, about what people say into the microphone. Masks are never good, it means we are not free to be who we are, but removing them, that in itself is a good thing. ♥

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting. I really needed to hear this. :)I can relate to this so well. I don't like to open up to people. It's easy for me to hide behind a mask and just try to fit in wherever I go, but this post made me realize that I should just be myself. If I'm honest, maybe more people will understand than I think. Thanks. I love you.- Angel

Anonymous said...

"How many hearts would heal if they were allowed to face hurt instead of being told that that hurt shouldn't exist?"

Thank you. Thank you for giving me courage to do what's right.

AwakeandAlive said...

"How many hearts would heal if they were allowed to face hurt instead of being told that that hurt shouldn't exist?"

I must have missed this quote when I read it the first time. I think the problem with some christians and churches is that they pretend that hurt doesn't exist, and so the hurting keep hiding behind the mask until it becomes to much to bear. Whether it be running away from their beliefs or suicide, the hurting will try to make their own way out, instead of relying on God.
The church needs to start talking about some of these issues instead of running away from them.
As a person who's been secretly hurting for years I can say that I really wish my church would deal with certain issues, but they won't.
Thank you again for this awesome blog post.