Tuesday, March 21, 2006

if a band plays a great show and no one is there to hear it, is it still good music?

I caught the Violet Burning again in town Sunday night. Exit/In. TVB's web site says that they are co-headlining the tour with John Davis. Exit/In didn't put up any posters until a few days before the show, and their calendar and posters never mentioned TVB. There was just John Davis with the local opening act. John Davis' own site mentioned only him and the local opening act. The only place that mentioned TVB on the bill was www.thevioletburning.com. Today I got this email from TVB's mailing list about how their booking agency has been putting no effort into advertising and nobody's coming to their shows. The tour is struggling and asking for fans to help advertise and hang posters. That's real "indie" of them, but something's got to give. The crowd of some 120 people was the biggest crowd I've seen at a Violets show in Nashville in three years, and they're losing money on the tour.

It's a shame that Exit/In has posters of
Mute Math and Kevin Max by the front door (playing March 26 and 28) with ink mustaches and smiley faces drawn on them. It's just sad that a band with some 18 years of history and a dozen CDs can come into town on a co-headline tour and not even get billing from the venue or their tour partner. I hardly know what to do with that. I'd like to go support Christian music and independent rock music and show the venue that people will come for these bands, but I hardly want to justify their disrespect for the artists.

The local opener played 55 minutes, and they did well. TVB played 35 minutes and left the stage to a standing ovation. When the crowd called for an encore, the house engineer started a CD and cleared the stage. I heard 10 minutes of the "headline" act and went home disappointed. I'm almost glad that all the friends I invited didn't come. It would have been hard to explain starting a 7:00 bill at 8:10 and getting a half hour of the headliner I paid for.

I hail from the great city of Baton Rouge, LA, where I ripened on the vine until my arrival in Nash Vegas three years ago. Baton Rouge generally speaking "doesn't have" Christian shows like this. You wouldn't see shows at all outside of large churches, and those would be bands from adult contemporary Christian radio stations. Mute Math and Earth Suit hail from New Orleans. Twelve Stones comes from Mandeville, if I remember correctly. Nobody you ever heard of came from Baton Rouge except Jimmy Swaggart. For me, this is Mecca. This is a veritable gold mine. I hope I can stretch my allowance enough to catch some of the four shows left in the next three weeks, but I doubt it. I sure hope SOMEBODY goes.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Grasping the elephant

There's an old quote whose author I've been unable to verify. Someone asked a sculptor how he was able to sculpt an elephant out of a block of marble. His answer was that it was easy, that he started with a block and chipped away everything that didn't look like an elephant. I ripped that quote for my profile page, but it crossed my mind again recently.

We are what we are. Somewhere below the marble shell, I am an elephant. (That quote's also been used for angels and a few other things, but an elephant will do.) I'm taking a couple days out of town to clear my head and get away from it all. Somewhere in there, I hope to grasp the pachyderm. Of course, there's another story about three blind men being asked to describe what they found in front of them. One mistook the tail for a rope. Another said the trunk was a snake. The last identified one of the legs as a tree. I have to wonder what corner of my elephant I'll discover first. That has got to be one butt-fugly block of marble to endure so much refinement and still be so misunderstood.

This all floated to the top when I showed up at Vineyard Community Church in Marietta, GA this afternoon. I have a friend who's just planted here a few weeks ago. Like three people know him. I dropped his name and said I was early for The Violet Burning's show. They offered me some wifi and drinks out of the fridge, and I crashed on their sofa for the afternoon. Having been planted at a Vineyard for three years, I can walk into just about any Vineyard and be accepted like this.

I'll hand them this much. When you say, "I go to such-and-such Vineyard", there is an understanding that you are cut from a certain cloth -- sculpted from a certain marble, if you will -- that you and they hold in common. It's oddly even farther-reaching than being a Catholic or a Baptist. The whole denominational division of Christianity (I will accept for discussion's sake that Vineyard is a denomination) introduced some oddness into the family. This is one group of believers with such a common, natural, culturally real personality that just the name itself carries as much familiarity as skater or surfer or cowboy. I'm no longer in a Vineyard, though I'm in a Vineyard-like independent church. I may actually come to miss having a denominational name that carries so much familiarity.