Winter Jam Pick #7–Jamie Grace’s Hold Me

 

I was pretty darn fortunate to be able to see Jamie Grace in concert as part of TobyMac’s Hits Deep Tour just a little over a month ago, and I’m really looking forward to seeing her be the sole representative of the ladies at Winter Jam this year.  Based on what I saw in December, I know she’ll do us girls proud 🙂

Here’s the thing that impressed me the most about Jamie Grace, particularly in reference to the song, Hold Me–in a Q&A Session prior to the Hits Deep tour, Jamie admitted to receiving some flack from the mothers of the world for the songs she writes because she is a role model for girls and young ladies.

Jamie said (and I’m loosely quoting here), “Why do people assume that I’m writing about boys?  Why can’t my songs be written about my love for Jesus?”

Maybe I’m just super smart, but some how I kind of sensed that her songs were about Jesus; and as far as I’m concerned, I hope that she keeps using whatever formula she uses to write and sing songs like she does now, one song at a time 🙂

Jamie Grace is not only wildly talented, but has a depth of character and level of maturity that is rare among 21 year olds.  Because of this, I’m really rooting for her, and praying that big God things will come her way in the new year!

Into The Light Tour: Concert Review

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Alrighty, so on Friday night, November 9th, 2012 I headed out to Matthew West’s ‘Into The Light’ tour concert stop at IPFW’s Auer Hall along with my trusty sidekick, Sarah.  In addition to headliner Matthew West, the tour featured performances by Mikeschair, Lindsay McCaul, and Everfound.  Since I’ve been getting some flack via my e-mail for not posting nearly enough about music lately, I thought I would share some of my thoughts about the concert today. I do need to tell you this upfront, however:  if, after reading this, you are pumped up and ready to head out to the Into The Light tour, you should know that the tour actually ended yesterday.

Sorry for your luck!

In good news, though, if you are in Indiana you’ll have several opportunities to see Matthew West in the coming few months.

In not so good news, Mikeschair, Lindsay McCaul and Everfound shows are looking rather elusive in our area in the near future.

First up, I’m going to talk a little about Matthew West’s portion of the concert.  This was not the first time I’ve seen Matthew West in concert; Sarah and I saw him back in February when he came to town with Casting Crowns and we really enjoyed his performance.  Come to think of it, Matthew West must like Fort Wayne a lot because he seems to come here on a somewhat regular basis.  Anyway, of all the times I’ve seen Matthew West in concert, I have to say this past weekend’s performance was theshow of shows.  Sarah and I laughed, we cried, danced, and we cheered in our trademark two-part harmony.  (Seriously, when we scream it sounds angelic.  Really, it does!)

While some people count sheep to help them fall asleep, on Friday night after the concert I actually started counting all the Christian music concerts/performances I’ve seen this past year.  I started to lose track when I got into the 90’s range, but essentially I’ve seen a lot of shows this year already with another 15 more to go before 2013.  I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say Matthew West outdid all of them (and the bar was set pretty high coming in to Friday night).

Do you know what impressed me the most about Matthew West, though?  Right off the bat, as everyone was laughing and having a great time while he ran around through the crowd talking and singing with the audience, he stopped the entire show, the music, the light show, everything, and said “Do you want to know where my joy comes?  Make no mistake about it, my joy comes from the Lord.”

That statement right there, in my opinion, set the tone for the rest of the evening.

So, for sure you need to go see Matthew West in concert whenever you get the chance! If you live in the East half of the United States, Matthew West will be a part of the Winter Jam Spectacular along with Mr. TobyMac, Red, Jamie Grace, Sidewalk Prophets, Newsong, Royal Tailor, Jason Castro, et.al visiting over 40 cities this winter/spring.  If you’re in Fort Wayne, he’ll be here on January 20th (so feel free to get behind me in line!)  Tickets are just $10, and since I have seen every single one of the aforementioned acts, I can say definitively that attending Winter Jam will be the best use of $10 ever!

One last thing, Sarah and I stood in line for a very long time to meet Matthew West and get his latest CD, ‘Into The Light’ autographed.  We were also able to get our pictures taken with him!  Sarah’s expression totally cracks me up in the picture, so of course I have to share it.

Matthew West, Sarah and of course, me!

Moving right along, the next act I want to write about is Mikeschair.  This is probably one of the groups I have most been looking forward to seeing in these last few months of the year.  (Mikeschair is in good company.  The other acts I’m most looking forward to seeing in the next few weeks are TobyMac and Mandisa!)  I really like their current CD, A Beautiful Life, and the song ‘Let the Waters Rise’ and ‘Can’t Take Away’ from their debut self-titled album.  I thought they put on a great show on Friday night, and I have to say I was more than a little disappointed their show was over as quickly as it was.  I’m not sure I’ve ever honestly wished an opening act could do an encore before, but if Mikeschair had done an encore on Friday night I would have been totally fine with it.  Totally.

In addition to being amazingly gifted songwriters and musicians, the guys from Mikeschair are also exceedingly friendly and humble.  After the show, Sarah and I met them and were able to talk with them for a while and we were both really impressed by how down to earth and fun they were.  Mikeschair ranks very high on my list of the nicest bands you’ll ever care to meet, which includes (in no particular order) the Sidewalk Prophets, City Harmonic, For King & Country, and Royal Tailor.  Once again, they are in very good company!

Next up for Mikeschair is the ‘Christ is Come’ Christmas tour with Big Daddy Weave.  Unfortunately, they won’t be anywhere even remotely close to Northern Indiana, but if you are lucky enough to live near Columbus, Ohio or further south in the United States you might be able to go check them out.  (Side note:  I think Big Daddy Weave must have an aversion to Northern Indiana because it has been forever since they have been here!  Maybe we should ask Matthew West to put in a good word for us since he seems to like Fort Wayne?)

Here’s a picture of me with the guys from Mikeschair that Sarah took on Friday.  Don’t I totally look like I belong?  For sure they wouldn’t want me to sing back up or anything, but if Mikeschair is ever in need of someone to play the egg shakers or some other instrument that would be hard mess up, I’d be happy to help out!

Mikeschair (and me!)

Lindsay McCaul was one of the other opening acts of the night on Friday.  I’ve seen Lindsay McCaul in concert before (she was also on tour with Casting Crowns last spring), and she is just a lovely, lovely young woman.  She’s a very gifted singer/songwriter, and I really enjoy listening to her CD, ‘If It Leads Me Back’.  I especially like the song ‘Say My Name’!

Lindsay McCaul

Last but not least, I’ve got to say a few words about the opening opening act of the night, Everfound.  Prior to the concert, I had never heard of Everfound.  I’m guessing you may not have heard of Everfound either, but I’m also going to bet that this is about to change in a big way in the very near future.

Everfound pretty much has all of the elements necessary to be a huge success in any genre of music:  great music, a young, ultra-hip look, and a very interesting back story.  Did I mention that they are also freakishly awesome performers, too?  We’re talking bigger than big energy that proved somewhat difficult to photograph.  I was quite wowed by the pouring water on a drum and playing it thing they did.  (Okay, so I’m easily impressed, but in my defense, it was pretty cool!) I’m predicting big things for these guys in the future!

Everfound

I’m posting some of the pics that I took on Friday night for your enjoyment!  I had fun playing with my new camera and taking some shots in black and white and other non-traditional color schemes.  My “official” critic review will be up sometime later this week on Bryan’s site, and I’ll be sure to post a link when it goes up.  As far as being a critical review, you can probably guess it won’t be very critical!   I loved it, and if you get the chance to go see Matthew West, Mikeschair, Lindsay McCaul or Everfound, don’t miss it!

New Music Monday: Hyland’s Finding Our Way

 

I’m so excited to share with you my pick for this week’s New Music Monday:  Minnesota based Christian rock/pop group, Hyland, and their sophomore release, ‘Finding Our Way’, which was released on 10/22/2012.  Now, you may not have heard much about the group Hyland…yet.  I think it’s only a matter of time before these guys take off in a big way in the world of music!

This past summer, I happened upon the band Hyland playing at the WFRN Friend Fest.  I never really intended to see them play; come to think of it, I’m not even sure I had heard of Hyland prior to the WFRN Friend Fest.  After seeing them play once, however, I was a fan.  The Hyland guys put on an energetic, rollicking show that, in my opinion, should have put some of the big name acts appearing at the two day festival to shame.  I made a point to see them at Fandana Fest at Huntington University in August, and they were even better than the first time I had seen them; but, I digress.

This post is actually about the follow-up to Hyland’s awesome first full length CD, ‘Weights & Measures’ (which, by the way, if you don’t have, you totally don’t know what you’re missing out on!  Go get it right now!)  If I’m being honest here, I wasn’t really sure how ‘Finding Our Way’ was going to be able to measure up to ‘Weights & Measures’, but I’m here to tell you I was very pleasantly surprised!  Not only did Hyland follow-up ‘Weights & Measures’ in grand style, they showed impressive evolution stylistically in both the progression of their lyrics and music.

One of the things I like the best about Hyland is that they are fantastically talented storytellers.  Every song is like a little vignette set to music, however, only a portion of the song is told thru the words; a significant part of the song is told solely thru the range of emotion in lead singer Jon Lewis’ voice and the varying ways the band chooses to arrange the music.  I think this is especially evident in the songs “Power & Love” and “Work In Progress” on the ‘Finding Our Way’ album.

The other two standout songs on ‘Finding Our Way’, in my opinion, are the current single, “Beauty in the Broken”, and “Well Done”.  “Beauty in the Broken” is just an all around outstanding song.  I absolutely love it!  Easily one of my favorite songs of 2012.  Easily.

As for “Well Done”…I don’t normally tear up over a first listen of a song.  I may cry at the end of movies about dogs, but I don’t generally cry over songs, but “Well Done” had me tearing up big time.  There’s just a very emotionally riveting, vulnerable rawness when you put together these lyrics, Lewis’ voice and  the accompanying music that is just really, really special.  I loved “Well Done”, and thought it was a completely well done song.  (Side note:  I made everyone I know listen to this one today, and quite predictably, they all had the same reaction I did!)

Right now, Hyland is out on the Believer tour with headliners Kutless, Fireflight, and the Rhett Walker Band.  Not too shabby if you ask me!  I’m pretty optimistic since they’re hanging out with the likes of Kutless that they will pick up quite a few new fans out on the road this fall.  That would be a really good thing!  If you’re in my neck of the woods in Northeast Indiana, you can go check out the Believer tour  featuring Kutless, Fireflight, the Rhett Walker Band, and Hyland this coming Friday, October 26th at 7 pm at the Grand Horizon Center in Elkhart.  This is probably going to be the best concert to hit Elkhart all year, so don’t miss it!

38 Day No Fear/No Limit Challenge: Teenagers and Rap Musician Edition

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To an untrained eye looking at my life the past week, it probably would not look like I was taking my 38 day No Fears/No Limits challenge very seriously.

Aside from getting my planned fitness in like the good little girl that I am, I didn’t have time to do much of anything else besides work (and work some more, and then a little bit more).  Granted, my work is totally fun to the point that calling it work is sort of a misnomer,  but one might question how exactly doing my job relates to facing my fears and having no limits.

That’s a good question, and I’m going to try to answer it right here, right now.

I spent a lot of time with teenagers this past week.

Teenagers used to terrify me.

I’m not sure if that’s because my own teenage years were riddled with such angst and hormones that I developed an allergic reaction to teens or what.  Perhaps I was concerned that being a teenager is contagious, sort of like the plague, and if I spent too much time around them I would inevitably catch this disease and be forced to go back to high school.  Who knows.

With this being said, I attended a party with the very same high school students this past week called the “Grind Hard Endurance Pre-Homecoming Game Party.”  I’m pretty sure I would have run away screaming at the thought of anything called “Grind Hard Endurance” a few short years ago.  To me, that just sounds wrong, especially when used in conjunction with a party for teenagers.  (For the record, Grind Hard is a reference to an energy drink, like Red Bull or Monster.  Go figure!)

At this party, there was a live performance that took place on the roof of a moving Chevy 1500 van by real, honest to goodness rappers by the name of Mo Cheez and Nyzzy Nyce.

I’m so not joking.

As much as I love music, and you know I love music, if you offered me $1,000,000 right now to name one Kanye or Jay-Z song I wouldn’t be able to do it.  I literally know nothing about mainstream rap music.

I’m definitely more Barry Manilow than Mo Cheez.

In fact, when I was in high school the en vogue rappers of the day were MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice.  (Come to think of it, I even had both of their albums…on cassette tape.  Ha!)

Yet, here I was reporting live from right smack in the middle of a high school party with real rappers singing from on top of an old Chevy van (Do rappers even call it singing?  Rapping? Rhyming?  Anybody know the correct terminology here?)

I knew I was going to have to talk to Mo Cheez and Nyzzy Nyce for my story; if I’m being completely honest here, I was freaking out and not in the same way I would be freaking out if I was going to meet Barry Manilow.

First off, I was going to have to get past the two nefarious looking body-guard type guys standing with their arms folded across their chest by the stage.  They may have been wearing the equivalent of my body weight in gold chains around their necks.  Neither one looked like they would enjoy small talk, nor did it appear that my sweet self and trusty press pass would be able to get anything by them.

Either one of those two guys could have snapped me like a twig if they wanted to, that’s how big they were.

My next problem was, if I was going to risk my life by approaching Shaquille O’Neal’s less personable brothers, I needed some questions to ask Mo Cheez and Nyzze Nyce.   As I’ve mentioned, I know nothing about rap music, and as a result, I had absolutely no intelligent questions to ask these guys.

In my mind, I pictured the following conversation:

Me:  (After flashing my press pass and introducing myself) What was your name again?  I didn’t catch it. (This, of course, would be a lie.  I just didn’t know anything else to ask.)

Mo Cheez:  Mo Cheez.

Me:  Yeah, how do you spell that?

Mo Cheez: M-O  C-H-E-E-Z

Me:  Whatever possessed your mother to name you that? (I mean, really, that can’t be the name on his birth certificate, can it?)

This is where the story ended in my imagination.  There’s probably no good ending once you’ve insulted a rapper’s mother.

            My other problem with interviewing Mo Cheez and Nyzzy Nyce was the small issue of me being sort of uncomfortable by their attire.  I’ve done a lot of interviews before, just never where I’ve had a clear and complete view of the person’s boxer shorts.  (For those of you wondering, they were Polo by Ralph Lauren.  You’re not welcome!)  The only men’s underwear I’m used to seeing on a regular basis these days are Alex’s Lego Ninjago and Batman underpants as I’m doing the laundry.

As I mulled over these things in my mind while the music blared, I could feel the panic starting to swell up inside me.

It was then that I remembered my challenge to myself that I made last week:  “No fears, no limits.”

I had this.  Really, I did.

I’m happy to report that I ended up interviewing Mo Cheez and Nyzzy Nyce, and indeed they were both very nice.  (They aren’t the only ones around here who can rhyme!)  Even the nefarious looking bodyguards turned out to be not so nefarious.  I don’t think I asked too many stupid questions, although I will say that any questions I deemed really stupid I saved to ask my new friend and Mo Cheez’s official DJ, Kevin Kohrman.  Kevin very kindly gave me a very basic primer on rap music, Mo Cheez, and Nyzzy Nyce at a local event on Saturday.  Thanks, Kevin!

The funny part of this story is, on Saturday at the previously mentioned local event, I went into Domino’s Pizza for a minute to interview the owner.  As I was inside, I bumped into what at first glance was just a normal guy picking up his Domino’s order.

“Hey, Beth, right?” he said.

I had no idea who this guy was.

Then, I spied the Polo by Ralph Lauren underwear sticking out of the top of his jeans.

I took another look at his face and realized that this was the rapper Mo Cheez, and tried not to die laughing at what a dork I am sometimes.

            (Side note:  Do you call rappers by their rap names when you run into them at Domino’s?  Or just when performing?)

           (Side note 2:  I had to bite my tongue really, really hard not to ask Mo Cheez if he orders his pizza with mo’ cheez?  I totally found that funny, however, I’m guessing no one else probably would.)

Friends, the moral of this story is, have no fear and know no limits.  If I can party with teenagers and interview up and coming rap stars, I have no doubt that there is absolutely nothing you can’t do.  Don’t let your mind defeat you; you might be surprised what you can do if you put aside the fears and limitations you have set for yourself in the confines of your mind.

The song Mo Cheez and Nyzze Nyce collaborated on, My City, was just picked up by Sony Records and is now available on iTunes and Amazon.  You can also view the video which was made in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42aXYD3p_ZI&feature=g-like

The City Harmonic Concert Review

The City Harmonic
 

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   Utterly passionate.  Filled with zeal.  Spontaneous.  Fun.  Inspiring.  Everything I could have asked for and more.  Those are just a few of the ways I would describe The City Harmonic’s performance on the Star 88.3 Music Stage at the Three Rivers Festival on July 15th, 2012.
          I have to say, I was expecting The City Harmonic’s portion of the concert to be good.  Really good.  After all, both the EP ‘Introducing the City Harmonic’ and the full length CD ‘I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home)’ are musically stunning.  Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so:  ‘Introducing The City Harmonic’ was a top 5 download on iTunes, and  the group went on to become a best selling new artist on Billboard’s top current digital sales chart.
        Plus, there is that little YouTube sensation known as ‘Manifesto’ with well over 1.5 million hits as of today.
       I’ve learned over the years of attending concerts that it’s best to keep my expectations marginally low, that way I don’t end up bitterly disappointed if I end up at some awful reincarnation of a Milli Vanilli concert:  mildly appealing on the radio, but horrifically disastrous live and in person.
        After seeing The City Harmonic perform on Sunday, I realized that expecting them to just be “really good” was kind of an insult to how superbly talented they truly are.
     Hands down, The City Harmonic’s performance on the Star 88.3 Music Stage has been THE concert of the summer as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve seen a lot of exceptionally good concerts this summer:  David Crowder, Casting Crowns, Sanctus Real, Tenth Avenue North, Matthew West, Sidewalk Prophets, Mandisa, For King and Country, The Afters…and I think you get the general idea.  Lots of great music for me all summer long, yet there has only been one group whose performance ran away with my heart!
        If you aren’t familiar with The City Harmonic’s musical stylings, one comparison I’ve read over and over in my research is to the band Coldplay.  I like Coldplay, and I can hear the similarities between the two:  both groups are creatively brilliant musically, with a strong focus on the piano and lead singer. Personally, I prefer Elias Dummer’s voice (The City Harmonic’s lead singer) to Chris Martin’s of Coldplay.  In my opinion, Elias has a stronger, more confident sound and a rich,vibrant tone to his voice that really stands out. Performance wise, I also see some similarities between The City Harmonic and the group The Fray (‘Over My Head’, ‘You Found Me’) and between Elias Dummer and Pat Monahan of Train.
         Regardless of who The City Harmonic may sound like in mainstream music, they unquestionably stand apart from the rest of the crowd in Christian music in a really good, really wonderful way.  Their music is like a driving force for the soul: energizing, uplifting, and exhilarating, while consistently pointing all of the glory back to the One for whom they sing.
         Lyrically, their songs are not just catchy, but brilliant (and if you don’t believe me, Google the lyrics for any one of their songs!)   Some of the standout songs from The City Harmonic’s performance on Sunday, if I had to pick a few, were ‘Mountaintop’, ‘Holy (Wedding Day)’, ‘Yours’, and ‘Spark’.
         Only adding to The City Harmonic’s awesomeness is how very, very friendly and personable all of the guys in the band were.

       For fun on Monday at the suggestion of one of my readers, I gave out some awards from Sunday’s Star 88.3 Music Stage and The City Harmonic managed to snag several awards, one of those awards being “The Friendliest Band”.  The City Harmonic just barely managed to squeeze out Royal Tailor for that award.  I almost think they had an unfair advantage being Canadian and all, but those are the breaks.  Sorry, Royal Tailor!
         The deciding factor in “The Friendliest Band” award was mainly due to something I witnessed as I waited in line to go thru the VIP Meet & Greet for The City Harmonic.  I noticed two little girls standing by the fence off to the side of the stage desperately trying to get the attention of somebody, anybody, to sign an autograph for them.  It was very cute, but sad, because no one was paying a bit of attention to them.
        Elias, The City Harmonic’s lead singer, happened to walk by and no doubt he was very busy trying to get everything wrapped up from the performance and get to the Meet & Greet; yet, he saw the two little girls standing there by the fence and stopped to talk to them, take a picture and give them both autographs.  The looks on the faces of those little girls as they walked away was priceless!
         As if I wasn’t already a fan after just seeing The City Harmonic perform moments earlier, I was definitely sold at this point.  Then, a little bit later in the Meet & Greet line I asked if I could take a picture of the band for my blog and Elias nearly jumped across the table and said, “How about I take a picture of both of us?”  Either Elias is very friendly, or just likes having his picture taken.  I’m thinking he’s probably just a very friendly guy!

Elias Dummer, lead singer for The City Harmonic, and me, Beth Stauffer

         I wholeheartedly recommend you go right now and buy both of The City Harmonic’s projects, ‘Introducing The City Harmonic’ and ‘I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home)’ wherever you buy your music.  I suspect that you will react to hearing The City Harmonic’s music the same way Mark, the Pharmacist at CVS did, earlier today when I drove thru the Pick Up window listening to ‘Spark’ on the CD ‘I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home)’.  Mark said to me,  “What are you listening to?  It sounds awesome!  Is that really Christian music?  I want to get that!”
        Yes indeed to all of the above, Mark, yes indeed!
        To recap, I totally and unabashedly recommend you go see The City Harmonic wherever and whenever you get the chance.  You’ll have a chance this fall as they headline their first ever tour, the I Have A Dream Fall 2012 Tour, along with Daniel Bashta, Eric Brandon, and writer and speaker Bob Lenz.  Yep, I’m thinking it’s going to be epic!  You can get more information about the I Have A Dream Fall 2012 Tour by clicking here.
       Two more quick things, not really related to The City Harmonic but kind of related to the City Harmonic.  If you would like to see the full run down of my fun awards from the Star 88.3 Music Stage, click here.  If you would like to read a short story I wrote recently after listening to The City Harmonic’s song, ‘Yours’, click here.
        Most of all, thanks for reading!