Sidewalk Prophets Release New Full Length Christmas Album!

The following is based on a real conversation I had this morning with my intern, Jordan:

Me:  Good morning, what’s new?

Jordan:  I think most of your readers think you’re dead

Me:  What? Why?!

Jordan:  Because you haven’t posted anything about the new Sidewalk Prophets Christmas CD and it’s been over a week since it came out.  I’m starting to get a lot of angry e-mail.

Me:  It’s just October 2nd!  I’ve been busy with the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus thing, and the Scott Stapp thing, and I’ve got Royal Tailor work to do and besides I just posted a blog yesterday! I assumed I had at least until after Halloween to put something up on the blog about a Christmas CD!

Jordan: (shaking his head)  Beth, you of all people should know by now how those Sidewalk Prophet fans are since you are one of them…(Jordan takes his pointer finger and makes a circular motion around the side of his head)  Cra-zay!

Me:  (I don’t say anything.  I just pick up a file and throw it at him.)

 

I stewed over Jordan’s insinuations for a little while that I might be perceived as either dead or crazy, then I moved on to other more pressing issues.  In fact, I had almost forgotten about the debacle of the morning completely when I checked my e-mail this evening.  There, sitting atop a pile of 900+ other messages in my inbox was a message entitled “Sidewalk Prophets Merry Christmas To You on Fervent Records” from a record label publicity manager.  

My reaction was, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Apparently, the universe wants me to post a blog about this CD today, so buckle up ’cause here we go!

First let’s get my one and only critique out of the way.  (I know, I know, this is shocking, because I normally never critique anything, particularly not the Sidewalk Prophets…horror of horrors!  Please don’t send me hate mail!)

I’m not sure I like the album cover artwork.

There, I said it.

When my friend Jill called to tell me that she had bought a copy of the CD last week, she made the comment that cover was, and this is a direct quote, “whimsically fun and kind of creepy all at the same time”.  I didn’t know what that meant until I saw a .pdf of the cover today.  Now, I think “creepy” might be a bit harsh, but “whimsical”, yes, I can definitely see that.

Here’s the good news, though…this is a music blog, NOT an art blog, so I could really care less about the cover art.  What I care about is the content of the tunage contained on the CD tucked away inside the cover art.

With that being said, I feel like I need to say upfront that my expectations for this project by the Sidewalk Prophets may have been unfairly sky high.  Usually, I try to keep my expectations ridiculously low so I’m not disappointed all the time, but in all honesty, 2 of my very favorite neo-classic Christmas songs, Hope Was Born This Night and Because Its Christmas, are Sidewalk Prophets tunes.  If the Sidewalk Prophets didn’t knock this new project out of the park, I was going to be epically disappointed; like, so-disappointed-I-might-consider-boycotting-Christmas-this-year-and-proceed-directly-to-Easter disappointed.

Well, I’m happy to tell you that not only is Christmas on like Donkey Kong in 2013, my ancient Harry Connick Jr When My Heart Finds Christmas CD and Michael Buble Christmas CD will definitely have some fierce competition for rotation in the old CD player come December.

Merry Christmas to You, much like the album cover, is whimsical and fun, but that is where the similarities (thankfully) end; the CD is packed with 12 songs, some old, some new, and my two favorite neo-classics.  Each song shows a distinctive creative flair and a passion for music, two of the hallmarks of any Sidewalk Prophets album and two of the traits that I might argue that progressively endear this unlikely group of lyricists and musicians to fans with each subsequent musical release.

 

Let me address a few of the high points of this project, at least from my perspective:

Listening to Merry Christmas to You, I am sort of struck by how merry the CD actually sounds.  If you think about it, that isn’t always the case with Christmas albums.  Sometimes, Christmas music sounds more like dirge than the happy and joyous event it is.  I think Merry Christmas to You really captures the merry essence of Christmas just perfectly, even in typically more solemn songs like What Child is This and Silent Night.  Plus, what is not to like about a CD that incorporates the kazoo?  Seriously, that’s awesome.  I love the kazoo!

With that being said, let me be clear about one thing:  even though Merry Christmas to You sounds very merry indeed,  it doesn’t mean there aren’t moments that warm the heart and, quite possibly, wet the face.  (For me, that moment came early in the song What a Glorious Night…I’m known to cry like a baby when Linus tells the true meaning of Christmas found in Luke 2:8-24.)  If A Charlie Brown Christmas isn’t your thing, you might enjoy (read: get emotional) over the song Hey Moon.  I think Hey Moon may soon by joining Hope Was Born This Night and Because Its Christmas on my short list of neo-classics.

So, it’s not a well kept secret that I LOVE it when bands re-do hymnal or other traditional “church” music with a more modern twist; both Kutless and MercyMe have put out great examples of this type of album in last few years.  Needless to say, when I saw my two traditional favorite Christmas hymns listed as tracks on Merry Christmas to You, Silent Night and What Child is This, I was excited (and rightfully so!)

I love what the Sidewalk Prophets did with these two songs; if I could draw a big red heart and a happy face on my blog right HERE to show you how much I liked it, I would.  I’ve never heard a rendition of What Child Is This quite like this one before, and I was enchanted by it.  I thought it was lovely, to say the least.

As for Silent Night, well…it was beautiful.  Magical.  Perfect.  Brought tears to my eyes, and I promise you, I am not a crier.  Simple and elegant, and fit for the King of Kings. To me, no other version of Silent Night will ever top this one.

Now as much as I love listening to music, I will be the first to admit that I don’t have a technically trained ear to be able to pick out most musical instruments.  I know enough to get by, but for me to be able to say, for example, “Hey, in the 25th measure on the 2nd beat in the 4th track, that was some epic drumming, Justin!  Right on!”

I know, I’m a disappointment, but at least I’m honest, right? 🙂

This leaves me with a limited number of things I can comment on without sounding like an idiot, such as cover art work, song lyrics, and, well, singing.  Unfortunately for lead singer Dave, this means I am going to pick on him for a little bit.  (Okay, not really!) 

It’s no secret that Dave can sing; in fact, if I had a dollar for every time someone in my hometown of New Haven has come up to me since the Sidewalk Prophets played a show here in June and said, “Man, that guy could sing!” I could be sitting under a big umbrella on a beach somewhere reading a good book instead of writing this blog.

Alas, here I sit on my couch in good old Indiana.

My point is, if I had to come up with something that truly disappoints me about Merry Christmas to You, it’s this:  the vocals are so, so good on this album, its truly bittersweet that the album is seasonal and only meant to be enjoyed 2, maybe 3 months max a year.

Yeah, so thanks a lot, Dave, thanks a lot.  (I kid, I kid!)

I like to think of myself as a bit of a connoisseur of Christmas music; I’ve been known to break out the Michael Buble and Jingle Bells in the middle of July just because I feel like it.  I find that a lot of the time, however, when artists put out a Christmas album, the results are sub-par.  Ho hum.  Blasé.  Yawn.

I’m so happy this was not the case with Merry Christmas to You.  The Sidewalk Prophets remained true to the message of Linus in his iconic opening monologue,  creating a sweet treasury of  holiday tunes that everyone will enjoy.  These songs seem to capture not only what the Christmas season is all about, but in a small way, what the Sidewalk Prophets represent all year long:  loving the family we are blessed with, caring for the friends we meet along the way, cherishing the memories we have from days gone by and sharing the hope that only comes from the baby that was born on that first Christmas for the days that still remain.

Yes indeed, my dear readers, Christmas has come early this year.  Whether you are a fan of the Sidewalk Prophets matters not; if you have a working set of ears, Merry Christmas to You is a must-have CD for your musical library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Parker’s Story

parker

I always love the movies when someone sees someone from afar at the beginning of a movie, and they instantly know from that moment on that this one person is really, really special. Then, the rest of the movie is chaos and mayhem as the character tries to figure out what exactly that something “special” is.

A few cases in point: Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsdale, (sort of) August Rush with Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, or While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, and Peter Gallagher.

If you haven’t seen these movies, you really should. They are all fantastic (particularly While You Were Sleeping)!

The story you are about to read, however, isn’t about a movie from 1995. It’s actually about a story from my own life that has a similar element to it (although, sadly, it’s not a crazy Beth style full of mishaps love story. I know, too bad!)

Let’s rewind a bit to Canal Days back at the beginning of June, and perhaps even a bit before that.
When I was planning the Faith & Family Night event for Saturday night featuring Love & the Outcome and the Sidewalk Prophets, I prayed a lot.

A lot a lot.

I prayed for good weather. I prayed that we would somehow come up with all the sponsorships that we needed. I prayed that I would somehow, someway figure out what the heck I was doing and not make a train wreck out of the whole thing.

I think my most fervent prayer was this: that even if it poured down rain and we ran out of money and the Sidewalk Prophets ended up playing an acoustic set in my driveway for 12 people, at least one heart somewhere in the general vicinity of the 46774 zip code would be changed for the better by something they saw or heard at Faith and Family Night.

Well, I’m happy to report that the weather was perfect on Saturday, June 8th. I did not manage to singlehandedly bankrupt the Canal Days Festival Committee (yippee!) By all accounts, the evening was far from a train wreck and an estimated 4,000 people turned out in the park for the show. (Considering that in previous years we normally drew crowds of about 40 for a show, I was happy with 4,000!)

The only thing I didn’t know was who my ‘one’ was—my one person that I had hoped for, and prayed for. I knew it was likely that I would never really know, and I was actually very content with that as I stood backstage with my sound and lighting guru Nate, looking out at all of the smiling faces who were singing and praising the name of Jesus in Schnelker Park.

I watched as one little boy, maybe my son’s age, caught my eye near the front of the stage. He was singing along with Dave of the Sidewalk Prophets to one of my favorite songs, ‘You Love Me Anyway’, with his eyes closed and his green wristband strapped arms raised in the air.

I’m pretty sure my heart smiled.

For me, that was the face and the moment from Faith & Family Night that I won’t ever forget.
(Okay, so maybe I should be completely honest here. Perhaps the reason I noticed the little boy was his t-shirt. He was wearing a completely awesome blue t-shirt that, at first glance, looked like a Superman shirt. I am a lifelong Superman fanatic. If e-Bay had been around when I was 5, I would have sold my little brother online so I could have his Superman underoos. Anyways, the t-shirt the little boy was wearing wasn’t a Superman t-shirt—instead of an S in the middle of the chest, it had a cross. To quote my own son at age 3, “Jesus is the best superhero ever, Mommy!”)

A few days after Faith & Family Night, I received a message in my “Other” mailbox from people I am not currently friends with on Facebook. This box usually has some interesting mail in it; on this particular day, however, I found a message that said the following: “Beth, here is a picture of my son who LOVES Jesus at the Sidewalk Prophets concert.”

Right below the message was a picture of the moment I remembered from Faith & Family Night. The little 6-year-old boy in the blue Superman style t-shirt, arms up in the air was in my inbox.
His name is Parker, and he may very well be my Faith & Family Night one.

Several days later, I made an appointment to go over to Parker’s house to find out more about this little kid who I had been told talks to the kids on the school bus about Jesus. Parker was smiling out thru the window at me, and he was waving a small piece of paper in the air.

“Look what I’ve got!” he said as soon as I walked in the door. Upon closer examination, I realized he had torn off the page that the Sidewalk Prophets had autographed on his ‘Live Like That’ CD cover.
To put it mildly, the autographed sheet was looking incredibly loved.

“Whose name is that?” Parker asked me, pointing at the different signatures. “What instrument do they play?” he wanted to know. I answered his question, to which he replied “Wow! Wow! Wow!”

On a nearby couch, Parker’s mom, Valerie, sat covered up with a blanket, her multi colored medications lined up in dozens of syringes in front of her on the coffee table.

I actually remembered Valerie as well Parker from Faith & Family Night, because she had been in a wheelchair, sporting a freshly implanted medical infusion port on her chest with IV lines racing up and down her arms. While waiting in line for a Sidewalk Prophets autograph, she had nervously asked me, “Do you think they will take a picture with me even though I’m in a wheelchair?”

Without hesitation, I had replied, “Sweetie, you’re in a wheelchair. I’m pretty sure they would do anything you asked them to as long as it isn’t illegal or immoral.” She laughed, and sure enough, got the picture she wanted a few minutes later.

This particular night in Valerie’s living room, however, she began telling me the story of how she is currently battling Lyme Disease, and how she didn’t always attend Christian music concerts; in fact, it wasn’t until Parker was born after a difficult pregnancy and was placed in the NICU that she had her first real encounter with our loving and merciful Savior.

“It was 2 am in the morning, and I had snuck out of my hospital room and went down to the NICU,” Valerie told me, “and the beeping and the noises from Parker’s bassinet was driving me crazy. I didn’t know if he was going to be okay.”

Valerie stopped for a moment, drawing a shaky breath before continuing on. “My Mom had been going to church for several years, and had been asking me to go with her, but I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t need any of that.’ Then, at 2 am in the NICU, I dropped to my knees because I couldn’t handle this on my own anymore. I prayed, ‘God, if you are there, I need to know. This is too much for me.’”

What happened next, says Valerie, changed her life forevermore.

Parker’s respiration levels immediately leveled.

His heartbeat regulated.

The beeps were silenced.

“There was just silence,” recalls Valerie. “The hairs on my arms literally stood on end. It was incredibly powerful.”

From then on, Valerie said, she was going to follow Christ.

So was Parker.
She remembers a time when Parker, just 3 years old, was playing outside with his Tonka trucks. Parker had lined up the trucks, talking to a broom in his hand as Valerie and her mother watched from the porch, wondering what he was up to.

Eventually, it dawned on them he was preaching the story of John the Baptist to the Tonka trucks.

At 6 (and 1/2!), Parker still knows his stuff when it comes to Bible, and he still has a big heart for Jesus.

Parker remembers when he was 5 years old, driving along in the car he heard a song on the radio and prayed that Jesus would come into his heart and live. That day was so special he can even tell you the exact day it happened: September 30th, 2012.

Of course, I wanted to talk to Parker about music since it’s kind of my thing. Parker says some of his favorites are Skillet and the Newsboys—he really likes the songs “Monster” by Skillet and “God’s Not Dead” by the Newsboys. He also likes Chris Tomlin, and of course, the Sidewalk Prophets.

While I wanted to know more about Parker and his musical favorites, he wanted to know more about the Sidewalk Prophets; for instance, who was standing where on stage? Who was the guy wearing the hat? Who was the guy with the beard? Who was the happy guy playing the drums? Do you think they remember me? Where was the tambourine? (Sadly, I did not have an answer to that question!)

When I managed to squeeze in a final question of my own, I asked if there was anything else I needed to know about him, Parker responded enthusiastically, “I’m a big Christian! And I’ve read the whole Bible!”

He proudly held up his copy of the Beginner’s Bible. I was notably impressed.

Parker’s mom Valerie says that since attending Faith and Family night earlier this June, and meeting the Sidewalk Prophets, Parker is more aware of Christian behaviors and his faith. According to Valerie, the knowledge that everyone around him at Faith and Family Night knew God and knew the words to the songs made a huge and lasting impression on him.

That’s quite a coincidence, since Parker has made a lasting impression on me.

After getting to know Parker, I was pretty sure he might be interested in a career in music. Pair up his love of music with his public speaking tendencies at the tender age of 3 and the fact that he’s super cute, and I think this kid could go pretty far.

Granted, Parker does want to go far in life; however, he wants to go there as an astronaut, not as a musician.

This started me thinking in a roundabout way again about Parker’s blue t-shirt, the one that initially made an impression on me because it reminded me of Superman. In the new Man of Steel movie about Superman, it is revealed that the S on Superman’s chest isn’t really an S at all, but a symbol for hope on the planet Krypton.

I’m thinking that the way Parker’s blue t-shirt is reminiscent of Superman is quite serendipitous because it is replaced with a cross; Jesus is the ultimate hope, the one true hope that we have in this world.

When Parker’s mom, Valerie, was on her knees in the NICU, He was there to give her hope in one of the darkest times a mother can ever face. It’s obvious, at least to me, that His hand has been on Parker ever since.

That same hope now shines in and through Parker. His smile, his laughter are his school bus testimony;  my hope has been re-affirmed in the goodness of people because of him.

For this, I am very thankful that Parker is my Faith & Family Night one.

Very thankful.

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.
1 Timothy 4:12

Alex Expands His Musical Horizons, Sidewalk Prophets Style

It is not a secret that 6-year-old Alex is the biggest for King & Country fan in the 46774 zip code by a vast margin.

Believe me, he takes this title and its inherent responsibilities very seriously.

As some of you may recall, last fall I experienced a full week of his wrath when Alex gave me the cold shoulder.

The silent treatment.

The evil eye.

The reason?  No biggie, at least in my mind–I booked the Sidewalk Prophets for the first Faith & Family Night at the New Haven Canal Days Festival.

In Alex’s mind, however, it was the end of the world because I had betrayed him in the worst possible by way by not booking for King & Country.  (In my defense, for King & Country wasn’t available when I inquired.)

In the days leading up to Faith & Family Night, Alex made it clear that he planned to make his dissatisfaction with me known to the Sidewalk Prophets in no uncertain terms as soon as they arrived in New Haven.

To put it mildly, I was living in a state of sheer terror about what Alex was going to say/do for the entire week leading up to Saturday.  For those of you who know Alex, you know exactly what I mean.

I decided my best plan would be to find a secure location to lock Alex up, leave him with a day’s supply of food and water, and a porta potty.  (Just kidding.  That thought never crossed my mind.)

My next best option was to take him out to the farm and leave him with Grandma and Grandpa for the day.  No one, including Grandma or Grandpa, was going to go for that one.

Plan C was bribing the Police Chief to baby-sit (and by baby-sit,  I would have totally gone for handcuffing him to the Chief’s golf cart while he was on patrol all day) for $100 and 2 VIP Wristbands to the concert, but since he had already watched Alex once this week, I was flat-out of luck.

I knew I was just going to have to bite the bullet and hope Alex didn’t do what he does best– that is, say the most hilariously inappropriate things at exactly the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) moment.

Saturday morning started out well enough.  Alex was busy over at  the parade, and I hadn’t seen him anywhere near the Main Stage all morning.  I was starting to relax, and think that maybe,  just maybe Alex would be so busy having fun he’d forget all about the for King & Country/Sidewalk Prophets debacle of days gone by and just enjoy the beautiful day in the park.

I should have known better.

Shortly after 12 pm out of the corner of my right eye I see Alex running like a freight train straight towards me from the direction of the park, and out of the corner of my left eye I see Dave from the Sidewalk Prophets emerging from the Park Hill Center.

Alex and Dave are headed straight towards one another.

Uh oh, I think to myself; this probably isn’t going to end well.

Dave sees Alex approaching and holds up a banana from the hospitality cart.  “This is a hold up,” Dave says, turning the banana in Alex’s direction.  “My name is Dave.  What’s your name, buddy?”

“Alex,” he replied, and I could tell he was trying really hard not to smile at Dave’s banana antics.

“What grade are you in?”  Dave asked.

“Gonna be in 1st grade,” Alex said.  “Are you one of those Sidewalk Prophets guys?” Alex asked, his eyebrows furrowed like he was interrogating a suspect in a criminal investigation.

“Yep, I am,” Dave laughed.

“You should join a real band like for King & Country,” Alex said.

And there it was.

Of course, I apologized profusely, and tried to explain Alex’s obsession with for King & Country (but really, how do you explain something like that?  I mean, there are literally no words to describe it.)  

“So, do you play the drums?  I have a drum set and cymbals just like Luke & Joel,” Alex told Dave.  “I even have suspenders just like Joel!” added Alex proudly.

“Nope,” said Dave,  “I’m the singer.”

“Luke and Joel are singers too,” said Alex.  “They’re the best singers in the whole wide world!”

Dave is laughing, I’m looking for the nearest hole in the ground to crawl into and die, while Alex is beaming with pride because he’s talking about the one subject on earth he’s a certifiable expert in, his favorite band of  blokes, for King & Country.

Luckily for me, Alex’s attention was easily diverted when I slipped him $8 and pointed him in the direction of the park.  He ran off to go get his face painted like a cheetah, sparing me for the foreseeable future from any more embarrassing moments related to his for King & Country fanaticism.

Meanwhile, while Alex was being transformed into a cheetah,  I went to track down the afternoon entertainment for the Main Stage, the magician ‘The Great Andini’.  My hope was that he would be able to use me in his act and make me disappear, like, permanently.

Alas, since The Great Andini was not able to make me permanently disappear, I was available to drive 1/2 of the Sidewalk Prophets in the minivan I borrowed from my Mom to the 909 Room for a pre-show meet and greet at 2:30 pm.  Of course, Dave ended up stuck with me (I’m sure he was thrilled about that!), along with Justin, Cal, and the band’s road manager, Duncan.  I tried to explain the whole Alex/for King & Country situation by, well, blaming it on for King & Country.  (Well, it is kind of their fault!  They made Alex a really nice, totally unexpected video message, and took time to personally meet him and just be exceedingly kind to him.  So, yes, I feel totally justified by blaming it entirely on for King & Country.  No one has every accused me of being an overly logical and rational person.)

Listening to my own explanation in the van made it pretty clear, at least in my own mind, where Alex gets his mad public speaking skills from.

The 909 Room meet and greet ended up being another legendary fiasco in a string of legendary fiascos on Saturday; granted this one was not entirely my fault.  My BFF Sarah and I somehow managed to rock Plan B, and all was well in the world for a few minutes…..until, after everyone had gone through the line, Dave looked at me and asked, “Hey, where’s Alex at?”

“Um, he wanted to go to the Magic Show back at the Main Stage…you know, the whole for King & Country thing.”

Of all the dumb things to say, I had to come up with that.  I’m a writer, for heaven’s sake.  At the very least, I could have come up with something interesting, like he was kidnapped by an army of evil clowns on the Midway who were holding him ransom for face paint and giant squeaky shoes or maybe  he joined the carnival and is now the youngest person in Guinness Book of World Records history to ever operate the giant spinning bear ride on the Burton Brothers Midway.

Anything that didn’t have to do with for King & Country would have sufficed.

Anything.

 

 

Fast forward to the middle of the Sidewalk Prophets show later on Saturday night.

I’m hanging out with my lighting gurus, Nate and Chad, backstage.  Alex is sitting on my lap, intently watching what is going on up on the stage.

Alex turns his head towards me, his blue eyes soft and wide, and he whispers, “Mommy, can Dave join for King & Country’s band?”

“No, Alex.  Dave is a Sidewalk Prophet.  He has a special place in that band, just like Luke and Joel have a special place in for King & Country.”

“Mommy, I think I like Dave anyway, even though he’s not in for King & Country.  He’s just as nice as Luke and Joel, and he sings really good, too,” said Alex.

I totally agree.

Then, from the stage Dave began talking about how God sometimes uses the broken and the least likely people around to do some of the greatest things for His kingdom.  This was a new part of the Sidewalk Prophets set that I had not heard before, and I really liked it.  Dave mentioned names from the Bible such as Mary Magdalene and David, but the one name that he spoke of that really struck me was Moses.  As he talked about Moses, a man who was one of the truly great leaders in the Bible, he said that Moses was unlikely to ever be a great leader because he was a stutterer.

I watched as Alex sat riveted, watching Dave talk about Moses and how God used Him even though he wasn’t perfect, and how He can use each one of us not in spite of our flaws, but because of our flaws.

I’m quite certain this caught Alex’s attention because this is not just Moses’ story.  This is Alex’s story, too.

You see, when Alex was three years old, it became apparent that he had a serious speech disfluency, also referred to as a stutter.  When the children in his preschool class started to make derogatory comments about how Alex talked, he shut down and completely stopped talking for an extended period of time.

He began therapy and while he has made great strides in his fluency over the years,  it remains something that he is very aware of and has to work very hard at overcoming on a daily basis.  I’d be lying if I said Alex didn’t battle  with his speech at times, and the pain and frustration and anxiety I know he feels being different from the other kids is heart wrenching.  It pains me to see him struggle, to have to work so hard to do something that comes so easily for most of us.

Last week was especially tough for Alex, because the hard ‘C’ sound in ‘Canal’ days is a very difficult one for him to make smoothly, and he told me several times in frustration, “Mommy, I’m having a hard time with my speech today!  Why did God have to make me so different, Mom?”

I wasn’t sure Alex really listened when I told him why I thought he was uniquely and wonderfully made; however, there was no doubt in my mind that he was hanging on to every single word Dave said on Saturday night from the Canal Days Main Stage.

My heart was full when, after listening to Dave talk about Moses, Alex whispered in my ear, “Mommy, I’m just like Moses!  Does that mean Dave is talking about me?”

“I think he was talking about all of us, ” I said with a smile, giving him a hug, “but maybe especially about you, sweetheart.”

Alex beamed and threw his arms around my neck.

 

 

After the concert, I was chatting with the Sidewalk Prophets fans who were waiting in the signing line to meet the band when Alex came running over to me waving his arms in the air.

“Mommy, Mommy!”  he said excitedly, “Can Dave sign this for me?”

Alex held out his most prized possession, his autographed for King & Country ‘Crave’ CD.  He listens to it on repeat, he sleeps with it, he takes it with him to school; and now he wanted the Sidewalk Prophets to sign it.

Oh boy.

“Alex, that might not be such a good idea,” I said gently.  “We’ll buy you a Sidewalk Prophets CD, and they can sign one of their own CDs for you.”

“But Mommy, Dave and the Sidewalk Prophets are my favorites just like Luke and Joel,” said Alex.  “Can’t they all be friends on the same CD?”

“Yes, they can, but since you like the Sidewalk Prophets wouldn’t you like one of their CDs?”  I asked.

Alex smiled and nodded his head.

A few minutes later, Alex was tearing into his very own copy of Live Like That with a big grin on his face.  When it was his turn to approach the signing table, he marched right up to Dave and plopped his CD down on the table in front of him.

“Hi Alex,” said Dave.  “How are you doing, buddy?”

For a fleeting moment, Alex was shy.  This has happened maybe twice in his lifetime.

“Go ahead, tell him what you told me earlier,” I said encouragingly.

“You’re my favorite, Dave,” said Alex shyly.  “I like you AND for King & Country.”

I’m not sure Dave realized what an epically big compliment this was, but I did.

Big deal.  Very big deal.

 

 

A little later on, I was able to thank Dave for that part of the concert when he talked about Moses and explain about what that meant to Alex.

“That’s God working,” he said humbly, “but I didn’t notice anything unusual about Alex’s speech?”

I explained a little more about Alex’s prognosis and therapy.  “That’s awesome,” said Dave, referring to how well Alex has done with his therapy.  Then, Dave shared that he had devised a little plan of his own to surprise Alex for his birthday that may, in fact, rival the video messages of for King & Country.  (Not that this is a competition or anything, because it really isn’t.)

This made me remember something that Dave talked about when I interviewed him back in April.  The basis for the Sidewalk Prophets current project, Live Like That, was a verse in Hebrews 12:1 that says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  During the interview, Dave spoke freely about the amazing cloud of witnesses that influenced his life as boy growing up in Terre Haute, Indiana.

It occurred to me that at just 6 years of age, God has already been working for several years now to surround Alex with his own cloud of witnesses, preparing him to run with perseverance the race of his life that is still largely before him. In a world where so many kids don’t even have a father, we are so blessed that Alex is being influenced by so many men of strong Christian faith, like Luke & Joel of for King and Country and Dave Frey of the Sidewalk Prophets, and by public servants like firefighter Josh Hale and Police Chief Poiry, by Pastor Matt and Alex’s Uncle Phil, by his father Jon and his grandfathers, to name just a few.

Blessed kind of seems like the understatement of the century.

Yet, blessed we are that so many people who cross our paths are living a life like that, and it doesn’t really matter if they are fans of the Sidewalk Prophets or for King & Country or The City Harmonic (another story for an entirely different day!)  All I know is, when I see the Lukes and Joels and Daves and Joshes and Steves and Matts and Phils of the world showing kindness to my sometimes snarky 6-year-old with a speech impediment, I can’t help but think of the verse in John 13:35 when Jesus tells us “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

If you’re a fan of Jesus, if you love Him and love His people, then you should know that Alex & I are YOUR biggest fans!

Just one question…where can we get a t-shirt?

Faith & Family, Wishes & Dreams: An Interview with SWP Dave

Dear Readers:

Ok, so my feature articles from my interview with Dave Frey of the Sidewalk Prophets have all gone to print as of this weekend. which means I can officially release a special edition blog that includes all the best parts of the different Faith & Family Night stories from area publications.  If you live in Northeast Indiana, you may very well live in one of the more than 100,000+ homes that received one of these publications recently:  Fort Wayne Newspapers publications, New Haven Life magazine, West Bend Newspaper, New Haven Bulletin, WhatzUp Entertainment Newspaper, The Frost, East Allen County Times Newspaper, KPC News Media publications, or Northern Allen County Life Magazine. 

I hope you’ll enjoy!

  If you read all the way thru to the end, I’ll post some bonus material for you,  my blog readers!  First, I will tell you what Dave had to say about my Ohio BFF Jill’s favorite person in the universe, Chris August.  Second, I will post some links to previous blogs I’ve written about the SWP’s, and why I thought they would be perfect to headline the first Faith & Family Night Festival in New Haven. (I mean, I waited 10 years to make this happen, it kind of needed to be perfect, know what I mean?)  Finally, I will post a link to a story about one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, when I met my friend Pam from Minnesota (waving at Pam!!)

Enjoy!
B

________________________________________________________________________________________

help me find it

One of the things that I believe is universal to all people in all places is the innate ability to dream; by ‘dream’, I don’t really mean fall asleep while strange scenes play out in the recesses of your mind. What I really mean is we all have hopes, and wishes, and, well, dreams.

For some of us, our dreams are relatively straightforward: to be a firefighter, a teacher, a doctor. For others, the dreams are a little more complex: to be the next Larry Bird, Beyonce, or Leonardo di Caprio.

For me, I believe that God, who uniquely and lovingly created me, also uniquely and lovingly created and placed the dreams I have in my heart.

Specifically, I’m referring to one of the dreams I’ve had for over 10 years now to bring an event to my adoptive hometown of New Haven that celebrates the strong foundation that this city is built on.  What originally drew me to New Haven is its rich history of  faith interwoven with the heritage of many legacy families and relationships that last for decades.

On June 8th,2013   in Schnelker Park in downtown New Haven, the New Haven Canal Days Festival is set to host the first ever Faith & Family Night headlined by the Sidewalk Prophets.  This is where my dream of hosting such an event will intersect with fellow Hoosier native Dave Frey’s childhood dream of being a singer; Frey is the lead singer of the Dove award winning, Word Record label band that is based in Nashville, Tennessee.

For Frey, there were two main dreams driving him as a kid growing up in Terre Haute, Indiana. “I dreamed of either being a Chicago Cub or being on stage since I was a little child,” said Frey with his distinctive chuckle in our interview on April 10th. “Since I wasn’t the most athletically inclined, I ended up going to school to be an English teacher at Anderson University.”

God, however, hadn’t forgotten about Frey’s childhood dream of being on stage. In fact, according to Frey, it was quite the opposite. “God just kept showing me that this gift he had put inside me was more than just a hobby,” he said reflectively.

245

Dave Frey performs at Winter Jam 2013 on January 20, 2013

These days, Frey’s childhood dream is straight up reality; earlier this year, as the lead singer for the Sidewalk Prophets, he toured with Winter Jam, the #1 attended tour in the entire world in the first quarter of 2013, using his God-given gift to perform for more than 550,000 people in four short months.

“You know, especially once I saw bands like DC Talk and Jars of Clay and Third Day as a kid I dreamed of being on stage, and now here I’ve stood on stage next to each one of them. It’s like, ‘How blessed am I?’” asked Frey incredulously.

Well, as Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

 

 

 

When I conduct interviews, I have to admit that I really don’t have an official angle I work like a lot of writers do when they do interviews. Truth be told, I never do have an angle and it doesn’t matter if I’m interviewing former Governor Daniels or David Crowder. Like any proper journalist, I always have a list of questions to ask in case I develop a temporary case of amnesia, but aside from my handy-dandy list, my main objective is always to just ask some general questions and see what themes evolve over the course of a conversation.

This may not be the method taught at the Harvard School of Journalism, but it works for me; which brings me around to my point. Dreams, both fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled, served as a touchstone of sorts in my conversation with Dave Frey.

Perhaps what I found the most interesting about how this theme kept recurring in our conversation was how Frey consistently pointed much of the credit for achieving his dreams back to others: to God, to his parents, his band mates, his friends, and even teachers from his hometown of Terre Haute.

“Growing up, I had this cloud of witnesses guiding me to truth and love and faith,” said Frey, referring to the verse in Hebrews 12:1 that sparked the Sidewalk Prophet’s latest song and album of the same name, Live Like That.

One such person that had a strong influence on the young Frey was his 10th grade history teacher, Dan McGrath. “There was something about him. You could see the passion inside him. It was infectious,” said Frey. “He loved history, and there are a lot of people who don’t like history, that are bored by it. Why are we rehashing the past, you know? Mr. McGrath just made you realize why history was important, that this was something you could learn from.”

“Watching him, I felt like I was watching Jesus teach his disciples. That’s the passion that Jesus brought, this desperate passion,” said Frey with passion in his own voice. “‘You gotta know this, because this is my heart,” he added after pausing for emphasis.

“I could just see His heart inside of Mr. McGrath. You know, in a public school you can’t necessarily lead kids in prayer but come to find out years later Mr. McGrath was a Christian the whole time. You know, he was showing me that without ever saying it,” Frey said softly. “I was incredibly blessed by his life, and by many other teachers. Teachers are so important in shaping the world.”

Another teacher who had an even more powerful role in shaping Frey’s life besides Mr. McGrath is his mother, who Frey told me has been teaching for 36 years. According to Frey, in addition to her work as a teacher she also serves as the “unofficial” chief promoter of the Sidewalk Prophets.

“My Mom will go to a show and ask people, “Who’s your favorite band?” If they don’t say Sidewalk Prophets, she’ll say “Oh, they’re good too, but I really love those Sidewalk Prophets!” Then she’ll go and buy them all t-shirts,” said Frey with a hearty laugh, adding “I’ll come back and Mom’s bought like 20 t-shirts. She’s our greatest promoter, that’s for sure.”

With that, Frey’s tone turns momentarily more serious. “She and my Father are both the reason I am where I am. They took me to church and showed me, ‘This is what life’s about: bringing joy to others and doing it thru the message of Jesus.’ Yeah, I am very blessed to have the mother and father that I have. Very blessed.”

As someone who has dedicated her adult life to encouraging and empowering young children and families, I love hearing stories like Frey’s.  Truly, it takes both strong parents and influential ‘others’, like teachers, pastors, and youth leaders to bring out the best in kids and ensure that every single child has the very best chance to lead a fulfilling life, a life where they have the tools they need to go out and forge a path to make their own dreams come true.

Perhaps that’s why having a Faith & Family Night to celebrate the importance we place on these values in New Haven is so important to me? No matter the reasoning, it seems my longstanding dream had once again kind of inadvertently found its way into the interview, and intersected with the life and times of Dave Frey.

 

 

 

“You know, I think you really have it in the right order: faith, family, friends,” said Frey. “That’s the order we ought to live our lives.”

I totally agree.

Yet, I wondered, ‘Isn’t it hard to do that when you are on the road more than 200 days a year?’ I mean, seriously, the Sidewalk Prophets are notoriously (in a good way) one of the hardest working groups around with a consistently punishing tour schedule. (For instance, did anyone else realize a few years back they did both the Rock & Worship Roadshow AND Winter Jam in the same winter? While driving a van? And they all lived to tell the tale? Pretty remarkable if you ask me. I barely survived a December road trip to Minnesota in a Honda Civic with my BFF and 2 youngsters.)

“We always have to realize that this is a calling that God has laid on our hearts,” said Frey in his usual gracious and humble manner. “We get to serve him in a mighty way and we don’t want to take that for granted. Not only do we serve him, but we get to do what we’ve always dreamed of. This is a double blessing. It blows my mind how blessed we are. We can’t take that responsibility for granted.”

With this responsibility in mind, Frey will return to his home state of Indiana with the Sidewalk Prophets co-founder, Ben McDonald, lead guitarist Shaun Tomczak, bassist Cal Joslin, and drummer Justin Nace on June 8th to rock the first ever Faith and Family Night in Schnelker Park beginning at 8 pm.

“We’re really excited to come to New Haven,” said Frey. He admitted that while growing up in Terre Haute, different festivals would frequently come to town to play, just not faith-based festivals. “That made it tough,” remembered Frey. “We’d have to drive to Bloomington or Indy or Illinois for the Christian music festivals.”

Frey recalled with a smile to his voice going to concerts at the park in Terre Haute with his Mom as child. “Mom would go to the park with her friends and I would head to the park with her friends’ kids. I would listen from far away. I wasn’t prone to loud music as a kid. I didn’t want to hear them blasting their music, so I’d go out to the swings and listen from afar,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t get over my aversion to loud music until I was in middle school.”

I think it is fair for me to speak for all the Sidewalk Prophet fans of the world when I say I’m really glad Frey got over his distaste of loud music.

“You know, that’s what’s great about outdoor festivals,” said Frey. “Not everybody wants to be front-row-blown-away-by-the-sound. (Side Note:  My BFF Sarah & I like to be front row center, blasted by the sound unless it’s a RED show.  Sarah may still be missing part of an eyebrow from the last time we got too close to a RED show.)   “There are people out swinging, and families interacting and having fun, and people just there for the atmosphere. Maybe someone who’s just there for the atmosphere will have their life changed because of what God’s doing. That’s our great hope. Hopefully our music is more than just sound bouncing off swing sets; hopefully it’s something that cuts to the heart, perhaps even unexpectedly.”

This is certainly my great hope as the Director of Festival Entertainment, and the great hope of more than 100 pastors and community residents who have been meeting with me since January to pray for the success of Faith & Family Night.

Now, with hope addressed, my mind comes full circle to the dream that started this whole idea of a Faith and Family Night in the first place. I am quietly reminded of something my favorite poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote: “God’s gifts put men’s best dreams to shame.”

This is so beautifully true; but perhaps Dave from the Sidewalk Prophets said it best in a slightly more modern way when he told me, “When I stand on stage, getting to do what I love, it’s a gift; but when anyone just tries to do something that they love, and spread the love of God, He’s going to bless it when it comes from a real and genuine place. He really is.”

I, for one, am pretty sure that the musical gifts that New Haven is about to hear courtesy of the Sidewalk Prophets on June 8th will exceed even my most ambitious dreams.

Praise God for that!

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Beth Stauffer would like to thank Mr. Frey for taking time away from his vacation with his family to conduct this interview.  It is sincerely appreciated!

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Faith & Family Night Concert Information:  Saturday night, June 8th, 2013.  Pre-show with Central Lutheran School students begins at 7:45 pm at Schnelker Park, Prospect Avenue, New Haven, Indiana.  Hosted by WBCL 90.3 FM.  Opening act–Word artist Love & The Outcome at 8:00 pm, followed by the Sidewalk Prophets at 8:20 pm.  VIP Wristbands for premium seating available for $10.00 donation at the New Haven Parks & Recreation Department, 1125 Hartzell Street, New Haven, IN 46774.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

What did Dave Frey say about Chris August during our interview?  This is a direct quote:  “Chris August is a big jerk.”

OK, Jill, calm down.  He was kidding.  Really, he was totally joking.  I actually thought it was pretty funny!

Dave then went on to say that he and Chris August are actually good friends, and even went to a hockey game together recently.  So, I think it is safe to say that Chris August is not a big jerk.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Why were the Sidewalk Prophets my #1 choice for Faith & Family Night?  Check it here

Not convincing enough?  Maybe my 3-year-old friend Ned can help.  Check out her Sidewalk Prophet story here

Here’s the link to read the story about my incredible friend Pam.  I last saw Pam and her family in December when I was in Cheese country (aka Wisconsin), and they are all doing exceedingly well.  Since I wrote the linked letter in June 2012, Pam’s sister Daria has completed several rehabilitation programs available to her, and the family prays that she will be released early for good behavior by September.  Please join me in praying for Pam, and Daria, and the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the entire family to be met.

Faith & Family Night News and Exclusive VIP Wristband Giveaway!

For some of you, the following may be new news.  For the rest of you, the following will be old news combined with an entertaining new twist.

On Saturday June 8th during Canal Days, the city of New Haven (Indiana, not Connecticut) is holding a free ‘Faith & Family’ night in Schnelker Park beginning at 8 pm.  .

Now, for those of you who are not familiar with New Haven and/or Canal Days, you may be wondering, like Dave Frey of the Sidewalk Prophets was when I interviewed him for the Festival Guide last month, just what exactly is a Canal Days Festival?

“Is New Haven like the Venice of Indiana?” Dave asked me.

While that would be completely awesome, alas, it is not.

(For more information about the history of New Haven, the Canal Days Festival, and the 1st ever ‘Faith and Family’ Night, visit the official website for Canal Days, www.NewHavenCanalDays.orgAlso, to find out how you can win a pair of VIP wristbands to Faith & Family Night, be sure to keep reading all the way to the end of this post!) 

There is a lot of exciting stuff scheduled to go down at Canal Days this year (I would know—I’m in charge 🙂 )  Of course, I’m very excited to see the new duo, Love & the Outcome, play along with my old favorites, the Sidewalk Prophets; however, if I’m being 100% completely honest, I’m really the most excited to see the opening opening act on June 8th—the Central Lutheran School (CLS) choir!

I’m telling you, these kids are AWESOME, and I can’t wait for y’all to come out and hear just how hard they have been working on their portion of the community concert.

Perhaps some of the reason why these kids are so awesome is because they have an AWESOME music and band teacher, Mrs. Best.  As I recently found out, Mrs. Best (like me) is also a fan of the Sidewalk Prophets.  In her infinite wisdom, she decided to incorporate teaching the different classes that are participating in the community concert about the music of the Sidewalk Prophets.

For instance, the lower elementary students in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades learned about some of the different instruments the Sidewalk Prophets play (banjo, guitar, drums, etc.)  They also watched some YouTube videos of the band in concert, and, as I learned today, watched a video of lead singer Dave singing the book ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?’  (Uh, more on that in a moment.)

As a reading buddy to the lower elementary students, I’ve been able to field many questions by the youngsters about both the upcoming concert and the Sidewalk Prophets in general.

Here are a few of my favorite questions I’ve been asked so far:

Liberty, age 9: “Can I have pink microphone for myself?”   Answer:  No.

Austin, age 8:  “After we sing on stage, can I give you my autograph?”  Answer:  Yes.

Bryce, age 6:  “Can I play the drums?  I promise I won’t break anything.”  Answer:  No.

Alex, age 6:  “Will they be bringing an actual wrecking ball?”  Answer:  I hope not.

Madison, age 5:  “Next year, can we get the Bossy Frog Band to come instead?  They are the best band EVER!”

By far the most popular question , at least in the minds of the Kindergarteners, is “Will that one guy be wearing the funny hat with the horns?”

The field is split 50/50 as to whether the scary hat is a generally good idea or not.  The 6  year old boys all think the hat is brilliant; the 6 year old girls, not so much.

Case in point is adorable Lilly, a red headed kindergartener with freckles and a big front-toothless smile.  Every time she sees me, she asks ‘How many more days until I sing on a real stage?’  She loves to sing, she tells me, and wants to be a singer ‘about Jesus’ when she grows up.

I think that is a grand idea!  Today, however, I noticed Lilly didn’t seem as excited when I told her how many days it is until June 8th(26, in case you were wondering).  In fact, she seemed downright terrified when I told her.

“What’s the matter, Lilly?” I asked.  “Aren’t you excited  for Canal Days?”

“I don’t know,” she said, hesitatingly.  “Is that one guy going to be there?” she asked.

“What ‘one guy’?” I replied.

“You know, the one in the scary hat with the scary singing book,” she said, her eyebrow raised insistently in my direction.

I took me a few seconds to figure out what she was talking about, and another few seconds to keep myself from laughing at her description.  I’m pretty sure this may be the first time in the 46 year history of Bill Martin Jr.’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear that it has been referred to as ‘scary’.

“Well, Lilly, I’m pretty sure he will be there.  He sings all the songs,” I told her.

Lilly’s eyebrow fell, along with her face.  She looked decidedly pale, which is kind of a feat in itself for a redhead who is usually pale anyways.  “Is he going to wear that scary hat?  And sing that scary book?” she asked in a small voice.

“No, I’m pretty sure the scary hat and scary book don’t travel with the band,” I said.

I admit, that is pretty much a bold faced lie; for all I know, the scary hat and scary book do travel around the world with the Sidewalk Prophets.

Lilly looked relieved; me, not so much.

Let’s hope that the Sidewalk Prophets haven’t revamped their show since Winter Jam to include an opera-inspired retelling of Brown Bear, Brown Bear or I’m going to be in big trouble with a pint-sized firecracker.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Now, for the moment you’ve been waiting for….I’m officially announcing a contest to win a pair of VIP Wristbands to the Canal Days Faith & Family Night on June 8th!  I have 5 pairs to give away.  Here are the very few but important official rules:

  1.  You must be able to attend the Faith & Family Night on June 8th, 2013 in New Haven, Indiana.  This means you have to provide your own transportation to the show.  I will not be providing round-trip airfare or hotel accommodations with the VIP Wristbands.  (Sorry!  Low budget operation here!)
  2. You must not have won any previous giveaways on Spin: The Blog in last 12 calendar months.
  3. This giveaway has no cash value and is not transferrable to any other party.
  4. Only 1 entry per person, please, and only 1 winner per household.

Now, here’s how you win.  It involves answering a trivia question and e-mailing me.  Follow the steps below exactly to be eligible to win!

  1.  Here is the question you must correctly answer :  “SWP’s Dave performance of  ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear’ was not the first time he donned a “scary hat” (AKA Viking helmet) and sang a classic work of Children’s literature.  Name the other famous Children’s book that Dave has read online wearing the “scary hat”.
  2. E-mail Beth@NewHavenCanalDays.org with the correct answer.  You must include “SWP VIP” in the e-mail heading.
  3. The first 5 correct responses will receive a pair of wristbands.  If you are a winner, you will be asked to provide your name, address, and a phone number where you can be reached in order to claim your prize within 24 hours or your prize will be forfeited.

If you don’t end up winning this contest, never fear.  My friends at WBCL 90.3 FM are doing a giveaway of their own beginning on Monday, May 22nd, 2013 on the Morning Show.  Larry and Ken will have ‘Live Like That’ CD’s and VIP Wristbands to give away every morning up until Faith & Family Night on June 8th, 2013.  Good luck!

Sidewalk Prophets Release Acoustic Video for “Help Me Find It”

True story:  my friend Jill said to me just the other day, “If I had a dollar for every time you wrote about something you ‘love’ on either of your blogs, I’d have approximately a million dollars.”

I beg to differ; by my calculations, she would actually have about $368.

I will admit, I get the reasoning behind Jill’s gross overgeneralization, I really do.  I tend to go a little overboard at times raving about stuff I like.  A case in point might be that I’ve written a time or ten about how much I like the Sidewalk Prophets.  (If Jill had a dollar for every time I’ve written about the Sidewalk Prophets, she’d have at least $10 based upon a quick check of my blog’s search engine.)

So, with this in mind and to appease (maybe) my friend Jill, I’m going to post the acoustic video for the Sidewalk Prophet’s latest single, ‘Help Me Find It’ without saying a whole lot about whether I like it or not.

(Okay, so maybe I can’t help myself.  I do like the song, but I have unresolved issues with it.  If you would like a glimpse inside the mind of Beth, keep reading, otherwise just come back tomorrow).

What I will say is, for some reason I feel compelled to whip out a pencil and diagram the sentence ‘Help Me Find It’ every time I type  ‘it’ out.

Why, you might be thinking to your self?

Well, I have narrowed this compulsion down to the fact that the sentence ends in ‘it’.

Is that even allowed in proper English (you know, ending a sentence with ‘it’)?

What the heck is ‘it’ referring to, anyway?  Since ‘it’ is a pronoun, shouldn’t there be a noun in the sentence somewhere?  I mean, really?

I blame my 9th grade English teacher, Mr. Brittan, for my grammar/spelling hang-ups, may he rest in peace.  Generally a day doesn’t go by that I don’t feel like I am back in 9th grade English class again listening to him harp at my class about not using “be” verbs in our written papers, and Lord help you if you ended a sentence in a preposition.  Mr. Brittain was cantankerous and gruff and a stickler for the rules of the English language, but if you earned an A in his class you could easily earn an A in any English class anywhere, ever (including college).

I’m not sure I specifically remember much else from high school, but everything I learned in Mr. Brittain’s class is still at the forefront of my mind.

I may have earned my A in Mr. Brittain’s class, but at this point I’m thinking I may need some kind of support group to help me  get over my proclivities towards diagraming sentences and reading the updated and revised 3rd edition of the Grammar Handbook.

Anyway, in spite of my aversion to the aforementioned song’s title, I like it (whatever it may be).  I think you’ll like it, too, as does my friend Jill, even though she won’t admit it.  (I’m suddenly  feeling compelled to use the word ‘it’ a lot and  to write all of my sentences so they end with ‘it’.  It may be time to stick a fork in it and call it a good night, don’t you think?)

Yeah, it sure is.  (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

 

————————————————–

 

In completely unrelated news (well, maybe not completely unrelated news), I had the chance to interview the Sidewalk Prophet’s lead singer Dave Frey last week about the band’s upcoming visit to my adoptive hometown this June.  One of the things we talked about is the ‘cloud of witnesses’ that’s mentioned in Hebrews 12:1 and how they have touched our lives.

Mr. Brittain was definitely one of the witnesses in my life during my turbulent teen years (okay, so they really weren’t all that turbulent but it is a way more interesting description). 

I know without a doubt that my life was changed forever for the better by being one of Mr. Brittain’s students.

I’m not an overly sentimental person and I don’t keep a lot of stuff unless it is really super special to me.  One of the things I’ve kept over the years is a term paper I wrote about the book ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ during my freshman year in his class.  That big red A and the few simple words he wrote at the bottom of the page made me think that if Mr. Brittain thought I had a gift for writing, maybe I did have a gift for writing.

That was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given.

Thanks, Mr. Brittain.

 

ROBERTEBRITTAIN_4191

Mr. Brittain,

one of the teachers that most influenced my life

(and we aren’t just talking about my neuroses!)

He would no doubt disapprove of this blog in its entirety 🙂

To read more about Mr. Brittain’s life, click here:  http://tinyurl.com/bw44ghr

Sidewalk Prophets Cover Bryan Adams ‘Everything I Do’

Normally, I would not condone just anyone attempting to revisit any one of Bryan Adams’ masterpieces set to music.

You just don’t mess with perfection.

(Side Note:  Yes, I may be significantly biased about Bryan Adams considering I am a self-professed Canadaphile.  (Yes, that’s a word; at least, it’s in the online Urban Dictionary!)  The only thing that would make him infinitely better than he already is would be if he joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and got to wear one of those snazzy red jackets and ride a horse!  Just saying.)

So, when my friend Jill called to tell me that one of my favorite bands, the Sidewalk Prophets, had just posted a cover of Bryan Adams ‘Everything I Do’ on YouTube, I should have had a sinking feeling that this was going to be a no-win scenario.

Luckily, I’m smart enough to know that the Sidewalk Prophets are not  just anybody.  They have a solid track record of doing a nice job with the different covers they post on YouTube, so I wasn’t that worried.  (Okay, so the real truth is I learned my lesson once before when my friend Melissa kept telling me how awesome the band’s live Michael Jackson cover was.  I did not believe her, that is, until I saw it for myself last June.  I try to make an effort to learn from past mistakes!)

I’m happy to report that I was right!  ‘Everything I Do’ is a pretty sweet cover; it’s different enough from the original to stand on its own, but still true to the feel of the original.

Nicely done!  The only thing that would make this better would be if the guys were actually Canadian.  (Just kidding!  Sort of.)

(You can view the video below, but make sure to keep scrolling down below the player for one last caveat/warning from me!)

WARNING: Do not watch this video while simultaneously viewing ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ and then proceed to fall asleep on your couch. This will undoubtedly result in some whacked-out dream sequences in which the various members of the Sidewalk Prophets take on starring roles in the movie ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ while Bryan Adams sings ‘Sugar Rush’ over and over and over all while wearing a pink wig and driving the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile.

I’d hate to think what a dream analysis would say about this dream!

New Music Pick of The Week: Plumb’s Need You Now

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have a theory that all good things can be traced back in one way or another to the great state of Indiana.  For instance, in basketball Indiana is home to the legendary Larry Bird.  (That fact alone should settle this debate, but I’ll go on.)  Abraham Lincoln spent his formative years (7-12) in Indiana.  The awesomely funny TV show Parks & Rec is based on the fictional Pawnee, Indiana.  Famed movie director Sydney Pollack and actors James Dean and Steve McQueen are all from Indiana.  David Letterman and Red Skelton are both from Indiana.  In terms of music, Indiana is the home to an eclectic mix of talent:  Axl Rose, Michael Jackson, and Jon Mellencamp, to name but three.

In the world of Christian Music, even more good things can be traced back to Indiana.  Rich Mullins is from Indiana.  Gospel music veterans Bill Gaither, Danny Gaither and Gloria Gaither (and probably the rest of the Gaithers!) are from Indiana.  Jeremy Camp is a Hoosier native from Lafayette, Indiana.  Both Royal Tailor and the Sidewalk Prophets originally began to form in Indiana while founding members attended the same college.  (The Sidewalk Prophets lead singer, Dave Frey, hails from Terre Haute, Indiana.)

Even with Indiana’s great musical tradition in mind, perhaps one of the most evocative and powerful female voices from this fine state is the simply named Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, an  Indianapolis native.

You might know her better by her stage name, Plumb.

Plumb has a crazy amazing resume spanning the course of the last decade.  She’s written for Jaci Velasquez, Michelle Branch and Mandy Moore.  She’s a repeat performer in the #1 spot on the charts (come to think of it, right now she’s holding down the #1 and #4 spots with two of her songs, I Want You Here and Need You Know.  She’s also sitting pretty on the iTunes new release chart smack dab between Taylor Swift and Rihanna.  You know, no biggie!)   Her songs are sort of  TV/movie placement phenomenons, being featured in everything from the film Bruce Almighty to the Vampire Diaries and One Tree Hill.  (I’m also pretty sure that was Plumb’s Need You Now (How Many Times) I heard on Pretty Little Liars tonight.)

While all of these accomplishments that  Plumb has racked up over the past ten years are pretty impressive, you’ll be even more impressed when you listen to her new album Need You Now (How Many Times) that released today, February 26th, 2013.

Simply put, Need You Now (How Many Times) is superb.

Plumb has positioned Need You Now (How Many Times) as the album of 2013 that other artists(particularly of the female variety) are only going to be able to dream about being like.

In the past, I have been somewhat of an outspoken advocate for the need for more positive, super talented, authentic female artists in Christian music.  This is not a bash against the guys in any way, but clearly the females are way outnumbered in this particular genre of music.  (Case in point:  on the WinterJam tour, there are currently 10 musical acts, only one of which (Jamie Grace) is a female performer.  The Rock & Worship Road Show has 8 musical acts and zero  female performers.)

Thank heavens for Plumb; she’s the real deal, exactly the kind of artist I would have hand-picked to fill the female void in Christian music.  One of the things I love the most about Plumb is that she’s not some anodized puppet with sugar for the coating.  As the biography provided by her Media Rep rightfully states, “She has a reputation to tell it like it is, giving an honest view of life while always showing the hope and light in every situation.”

It is this reputation, combined with Lee’s creative self-assuredness as an artist and her unparalleled voice, that give Plumb a suprising vantage point from which she can share her remarkable gift of music.

For sure, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Plumb’s Need You Now (How Many Times) is a beautiful amalgamation of striking raw emotion and authentic truths.  Her lyrics are at times intensely sobering while at other times hopefully melodic and teeming with bold optimism.  While Need You Now (How Many Times) is branded under the name Plumb, there is little doubt in my mind that this album is the true life story of Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, the wife and mother of three young children.

Her story is also in a way my story, and maybe even yours, too.  It’s a relatable and riveting story, beautiful but sometimes sad, filled with moments of both laughter and love, mistakes and loss.

Most of all, it’s a story that highlights the hope that we all have in Jesus Christ.

This is one album I highly recommend without reservation.  From beginning to end, Need You Now (How Many Times) is must have music.  For sure, you don’t want to miss the standout tracks Beautiful, One Drop, I Want You Here, Chocolate & Ice Cream, I Don’t Deserve You (with Paul van Dyk), and my favorite of favorites, Drifting (with Jars of Clay frontman Dan Haseltine).  (Side note:  I assume that it goes without saying that Need You Now is 5 Star track.  If you haven’t heard Need You Now by now, you must be living under a rock somewhere without radio stations, TV, or internet…and with that being said, you probably would not have made your way here to my blog.)

For a little sample of just how amazing Plumb is, check out the YouTube video below of her performing Need You Now.  (You may want to head to iTunes first and start the download of Need You Now (How Many Times) before you start the video…that way, you’ll be all set to listen to the album in its entirety when you’ve finished watching the video!  Just a suggestion, because I care 🙂

This N That Music News, Tuesday 2/26/2013

It’s cold in Indiana today. We are in the midst of an ice storm, and as a result I am cowering under a stack of warm blankets right now trying to keep warm. So, partially because I’m trying to stay warm and partially because I’m feeling kind of lazy I’m just going to write one mashed up blog highlighting some of the music news of the day.

First and most news worthy (OK, at least to me) was that one of my favorite bands, the Sidewalk Prophets (@swprophets), tweeted today that they spent the day writing some new music with frequent co-writer, Sam Mizell (@SamMizell). Yay! The band’s lead singer, Dave Frey (@swpdave), later tweeted “Writing Christmas tunes with our good friend @SamMizell. Gonna be glorious!” Granted, I’m not quite as excited about new Christmas music as I would be about, let’s say, all season multi-purpose Sidewalk Prophets music, but regardless I’m sure it will indeed be glorious as promised.

In other Sidewalk Prophets news, band co-founder Ben McDonald today announced the winners of the “Love To Sing” video cover contest. Congrats to sisters Salah and Shekinah on their winning cover of the band’s tune, ‘Love Love Love.’ You can check out their video on YouTube below:

Next up, does anyone remember Stryper besides me? Don’t try and deny it, you know you do! (How could anyone forget the classic ‘To Hell With the Devil’?) I remember being 7 or 8 years old, brown pigtails and all, listening to Stryper with my Dad.

Those were good times.

Well, the good times are about to rock and roll again as Stryper is set to release an album of new music this March on Frontier Records. The first single off ‘Second Coming’, the new the album, is called ‘Bleeding From the Inside Out’ and was released on February 25th, 2013. You can find out all the deets on Stryper’s new music in the video below where Michael Sweet & company discuss the band’s history and future:

Okay, so while we are talking about things we do and don’t remember…do you remember yesterday when I told y’all about the new Everfound single, ‘Never Beyond Repair?’ Remember how I said I thought this was going to be a big song for the group in the near future? And, remember how I encouraged y’all to call up your radio station and ask them to play ‘Never Beyond Repair’? Well, today Everfound (@Everfound) tweeted the following: “Last night we found out that our song Never Beyond Repair is the MOST-ADDED song on Christian Radio this week!”

Well..told ya so!

Congrats Everfound on your recent success! Very well deserved 🙂

Last but not least, in other Twitter-y news of the day, Brad Dring of Rapture Ruckus posted a super cute picture of a Skype chat with his 5 week old son on Instagram today. Little Roman is the cutest baby ever! (You can check out the photo on Instagram by clicking here.) Congrats to the Dring family on this new little sweetie!

In other Rapture Ruckus news, the band recently added a lyric video for their new song that I am obsessed with, ‘In Crowd’. The song was recorded live at the famed Parachute Music Festival in New Zealand last fall and you can download it for free at the Rapture Ruckus website, http://www.RaptureRuckus.com. Not much better in life than great music that is free 🙂

Sidewalk Prophets Release Road Life Ep. 7

Today (January 30th, 2013) the Sidewalk Prophets released Episode 7 in their somewhat regular video series, “Road Life.”  This particular episode is entitled “The Enduring Determination”, which focuses on the amazing and inspirational story of the group’s co-founder, rhythm guitarist, and song co-writer Ben McDonald.  In the video, Ben shares how he lost an astonishing 125 pounds not by following any magic weight loss plan, but through discipline and by making the right choices for himself.   Most importantly, he learned how to love himself in the process, and the end result was God being able to use his story to inspire and encourage others, too.

At the end of video, Ben’s friend and the other co-founder of the Sidewalk Prophets, Dave Frey, makes a comment about how Ben’s story is so much bigger than just being a weight loss story.  (Typing that out, I realized that the use of ‘bigger’ in this context is somewhat ironic, but whatever!)  No matter what troubles may be knocking at our door, from issues of self-esteem to addictions, eating disorders, cutting, depression, or  family problems, our God is bigger yet.  We can all consciously chose to make better choices, put forth a little discipline , and allow God to help us in our desire to transform our lives.

As was the case in Ben’s story, transformation begins working from the inside out.  What do you need to transform in your life?  Watch Ben’s story, and begin thinking about how this might be the awesome beginning to your own personal story of transformation!

Winter Jam Tour: Sidewalk Prophets Review

So here on Spin: The Blog it is not a very well-kept secret that I am a mega-fan of the Sidewalk Prophets.  It is sort of a joke (but not seriously) that when the Sidewalk Prophets come to New Haven in June for Canal Days to play at our Faith & Family Night that the biggest threat to security will be me, and I’m the one who signed the contract for them to come and is in charge of the entire festival’s entertainment stage.  (I promise to be on my best, most professional behavior on June 8th, Girl Scout’s honor; and if not, I’m sure the police will have their tasers charged up and ready to go!)

Anyhow, my BFF Sarah and I were excited to see the Sidewalk Prophets at Winter Jam, and we were curious to see how they would adapt the longer show we are used to seeing to a shorter format.  (Sarah and I were guessing they would have maybe 15-20 minutes on stage.)  The Sidewalk Prophets pretty much stuck to a montage of crowd-pleasing favorites:  my all-time favorite song of favorite songs, You Love Me Anyway, The Words I Would Say, and Live Like That.  In a surprising twist, they bypassed completely their newest single, Help Me Find It, and instead closed out the show with the rollicking good Love Love Love that is accompanied by an appropriately awesome Lego-esque video.

Honestly, I thought that was a pretty sound move; I really like the song Help Me Find It and thought it was a good choice for the follow-up single to Live Like That.  In concert, however, Help Me Find It is one of the longer songs because of the way they work the intro to give lead singer Dave Frey the opportunity to showcase some of his vocal chops.  Winter Jam isn’t really the format for that kind of thing, though; it’s more like speed dating, where you’ve got the equivalent of 30 seconds to bring out your razzle dazzle before moving along to make room for the next big thing.  With that being said, you probably can’t go wrong with a song that features a Legos video and lyrics that incorporate Chuck Norris and Star Wars.  Everybody likes Legos, Chuck Norris, and Star Wars; plus, it’s decidedly unique for a video/song lyric combo.

Enough about that, though.  I’m going to tell you the most important point that I want to make in this review, and I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, even before Winter Jam when Sarah and I were discussing how we thought the Sidewalk Prophets would adjust their show to fit in the allotted time.  At some point last year, when I was in the midst of attending the 100+ concerts I saw in 2012, it occurred to me that only one group/band/artist/whatever you want to call it always made a point of always physically bringing the word of God out onto the stage in the middle of a concert.

Only one group.  Always.  Every time.

If you guessed that group was the Sidewalk Prophets, you would be correct.

I found that I really looked forward to that portion of a Sidewalk Prophets concert, and that it really added something special and meaningful to each and every show.

I can’t begin to tell you all how glad I was at Winter Jam when Dave brought the trusty old Bible out and started in with the words that are now almost familiar to me.  That part of the concert could have very easily been scrapped to squeeze in another song, but instead it almost felt like the whole show was revamped to be built around that moment with the Bible.

Really, isn’t the truths contained in the Bible what Winter Jam’s ultimately all about anyway?

I’m pretty sure it is, which is why I think this alone speaks very highly of the integrity and genuineness of the Sidewalk Prophets.

Of course, I should probably confess that as soon as I saw the Bible start to come out, I looked at Sarah and said, “Told you so!”  Perhaps that wasn’t one of my finer moments, but who doesn’t like to be proven right every once in a while?  Okay, so maybe just me.  My bad.

It certainly goes without saying that the quality of the Sidewalk Prophets musicianship at Winter Jam was stellar (as usual!), so I won’t drag this review on for any longer than necessary.  This is how I see it:  Royal Tailor may have more flair in the fashion department, TobyMac may well be kind of an icon, and Red quite literally set the stage on fire, but my favorite performance of the night by a considerable margin was the Sidewalk Prophets.  I think you’ll agree with me that once you’ve seen them in concert, there is something very special about this group of guys.  If you haven’t seen them in concert and don’t have either of their CD’s, then I have to ask…what are you waiting for?!  Christmas was last month!  (Preview their latest album, Live Like That, below on Spotify!)