Sunday, January 24, 2010

After it gets worse...

Last night I had an amazing opportunity. I got to go and work at a concert for the second time. This time it was at a Red, Pillar, The Wedding, and Me in Motion concert, at my University.

I hadn't been to a concert in two months and three days, which is a long break, for me. But I hadn't wanted to go to any concerts. The last concert I'd been to had been the Skillet show in November, when I worked merch. And that show had left some deep scars across my outlook on concerts. I think most of us have had an experience when we went into something expecting it to be incredible, but ended up running into a lot of roadblocks and getting lost in a lot of ditches we had never foreseen. Such was the last Skillet show for me. I don't mean that I hated it or was completely miserable, but the point is that I walked out of those doors feeling like a failure, and I hadn't managed to shake that feeling. It completely stole my delight. I didn't want to go to concerts, and even as I planned for the few concerts I'll be going to this year, I did so more as a matter of habit than anything else. I wasn't looking forward to them. I was... scared. Scared that I'd somehow fail again, and once again be forced to come face-to-face with how inadequate and twisted I am. So as I got ready to work the show last night, I was incredibly nervous. Eventually, shortly before I left, I sat down and prayed about it for a while. I didn't know if it would turn out terribly or well, but I did know that I couldn't do it on my own.

When I got there, I felt immediately welcomed. My good friend and her new husband were there to volunteer as well, and even the volunteers I didn't know were great people who I got along with. This time I was so familiar with the venue that it wasn't at all disorienting. We all stood around and chatted for a while before Pillar's lead singer, Rob, came out to show my friends how to work their table (and Rob's kids are absolutely adorable, by the way. They were there for quite a bit of it). Red had a guy to work their table for them, as did The Wedding, so the other merch volunteer and I headed over to Me in Motion's table. Their bass player came out before too long to show us what he wanted done.

Tim is one of the most gentle, soft-spoken rockers I have ever met. He went through everything on their table quickly and clearly, thanking us many times for volunteering to help out. Then he headed off to soundcheck with the rest of his band. We had a while to just stand around and wait for doors to open, as the clamor of soundcheck drifted into the lobby. When the doors did open, I quickly figured out that the pace would be much slower than when I worked for Skillet. Because we were working for the opening band, we were much less overwhelmed. I was incredibly grateful for that.

Me in Motion started their set on time, so the lobby cleared out. I did go into the auditorium for their song Losers, which has always been my favorite by them. Something interesting happened, as I walked into the tunnel leading from the lobby to our huge auditorium. As I felt the sound waves wash over me, I fell in love again. I just started laughing with the total delight of being lost in the music all over again. It didn't matter if I was a merch worker or a concert goer. It was the music, and the message in the music, and the souls that made it and the souls it touched. I stood over to the side, bobbing my head along and grinning. And I knew that the night would be wonderful.

After that, there was a brief break before The Wedding went on. I didn't watch The Wedding at all. Their set seemed to fly by really fast, so before long Me in Motion was out at their table for the intermission. They signed some things, but they had quite a few lulls where I got to just talk to them and get to know them. Talking to them was one of the most fun things about the night.

When Pillar started, I ran back into the auditorium. A pit had formed at the front, so I went in and found my way up close to the stage (as I somehow always do). For a split second I was afraid I had forgotten how to do things. I hadn't headbanged since the November concert-- I hadn't wanted to anymore. But those fears were quickly washed away as Pillar kicked us off with Fire on The Inside.

Pillar was one of the earlier Christian rock bands I started listening to, sometime in 2007, so they hold a special place in my heart. They have a more laid-back stage presence than Thousand Foot Krutch or Skillet, but they have a steady energy that comes with many years of playing shows. They played most of my favorites by them as well, including the amazing single Secrets and Regrets from their new album, Confessions. They finished off the night with Frontline, the song that really made me fall in love with them, years ago. Towards the end of the song I found my way out and back to the merch table, ears ringing, legs sore from jumping, but smiling.

Through this next intermission, Me in Motion came to their table to hang out again. My co-merch-worker went in to wait for Red's set, so I had the table to myself. Whenever I needed help, Tim would jump in and help me out. When Red started up, the lobby cleared out again.

Seth, Me in Motion's lead singer, offered to make me coffee. Considering I was tired and hadn't eaten dinner and hey, coffee's good anytime, I accepted his offer. So Seth hurried off backstage. A few minutes later he triumphantly returned with a cup of coffee and some creamer and sugar. Yes, he is quite possibly the sweetest lead singer ever.

A note here about "rock stars:" life on the road is grueling. You drive through the night, get to a venue in the morning, get everything set up, make sure your roadies and your volunteers know what they're doing, soundcheck, get ready to play a show. Play songs, either for 20 minutes or over an hour (depending on if you're opening or headlining), go out and take pictures and sign things for a few thousand people. Take everything down, get back in the van. Repeat this process, often four or five days in a row in four or five different states. Strange places and unfamiliar people every single day. I would argue that, in some ways, the military isn't even that difficult, because at least you have the constancy of your companions. Which brings me to the point: life on the road seems to either make or break people, much like the military. As I've met and hung out with musicians, I've noticed that they are usually either tired and quiet and worn thin, or tired and warm and glowing with smiles and grace for everyone they meet. Yes, the tired is pretty much an absolute. You can't live that way and not be tired. But it has been amazing to meet these Christian bands who are so incredibly passionate about what they do that even months and years spent in a van won't hold them back. Secular rock stars turn to drugs and drinking to survive the loneliness of their lives, but Christian rockers can either turn to God, or give up. And those that turn to God end up being people who are fun to be around, simply because they have learned how to pour into people's lives with so much love and so much grace and so much honesty. For this reason, I value every moment that I get to spend with musicians. Maybe some of their patient endurance will rub off on me someday.

As Red's set went on, I heard them start up Pieces. I asked one of the ushers to watch my table for me while I went in. Pieces was the first Red song I heard, back in April of 2007, and it had an absolutely tremendous impact on me at the time. I'll admit to having basically cried my way through the whole song, but it was incredible to get to see it done live for the first time. After that I went out and watched the table again.

When the concert ended, the signing process began. My co-merch-worker had to leave early, so once again, I had the table on my own. It was busiest then, but I didn't mind. Eventually, Tim told me that he would watch the table so I could go and talk to the other bands, as the signing lines died down. I thanked him, and got a picture with Seth, Tim, and Dexter before heading out.

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I went and got to talk to Pillar and get a picture with them, and then I went and talked to Red and got a picture with them (though I'd already met them in October, for those of you who remember).

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

After that I went back and helped Tim take down and pack up the merch stand. Two of my friends joined me to help carry, and Me in Motion's road manager came to direct us. We hauled all the boxes back to the loading ramp. It was a little surreal to be walking backstage, past different band members and their managers, but at the same time it felt right. Finally it was time for me to head off, as there wasn't much else I could do to help.

I have very rarely felt as accepted and at home as I did that night, and I think it's because I have never felt quite so in love with music. As I sat on my bed this morning and strummed away on my guitar in my amateur, childish way, it was tempting to believe that what I was doing was somehow a mockery of "real" musicians-- as if I am somehow incomplete. But I don't believe that is the truth. After last night, I find myself remembering that God gives us passions for a reason. Whatever you love most, whatever you desire most, whatever deep longing you feel that seems too beautiful to be real... don't hide from it, so long as it's not harmful. God implants these things into our hearts so that when our hearts beat for Him, our passions will move for Him as well. We are creatures of beauty and of talent, gifted by an infinitely skilled Creator. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I've said this many times before, but after last night it bears repeating: I don't know what in the world God's doing with the whole music thing. I don't know why He's given me so many doorways to see into the music scene, why He speaks to me so clearly through music. But I do know that I want every key on my piano, every string on my guitar, every note I sing, to be given to God-- because He put them inside me in the first place. He gave me the music, and I want to give it back, whether I'm working merch or out in the audience or playing guitar alone in my room.

If you've read through this whole thing: thank you for sharing in my thoughts and my life. God bless!

- Elraen -


Anonymous said...

That was beautiful and inspiring. :) And I agree how it's easy to build things up at first. Sometimes the things that seem the scariest turn out to be the most worth it. Love you. *hugs* -- Angel

meg said...
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