So, while I've been to some really sweet Christian concerts (best of which was Switchfoot), and some pretty big free concerts in Grant Park during Chicago's summer concert series (best and biggest was Brad Paisley), I hadn't yet had the experience of buying tickets to a band I wanted to see at a big venue.
Mostly because, you know, concerts are ridiculously expensive.
Unless your good friend Steph sees Mumford and Sons say on their website that they want to give tickets at cheap prices to fans before releasing them publicly to be scalped and resold and exorbitant prices, so if you're interested, message them and let them know.
And if, whoever runs Mumford's facebook page actually replies and gives Steph four tickets to a showing in Austin at totally affordable prices.
And if Steph loves you and knows you love them to and offers you two of them, and you think it's a joke (it was April 1st) and then are totally beside yourself with excitement.
So... my first and possibly last "real" concert experience was last weekend, watching my very favorite band in my very favorite city in Texas, with some of my very favorite people, and ... it was amazing.
It was also the day before Ted Dwayne, Mumford's bassist, was rushed to the hospital with a blood clot in his brain, and all the rest of their upcoming shows were cancelled. I have to admit I feel some sense of superiority because we got in, and if we'd bought tickets instead for here in Dallas, we'd have missed the experience completely. It was just amazing. I mean, I love Mumford so regardless it was just going to be amazing, but, it was, and they are:
The concert was outdoors at a racetrack venue outside of Austin, so we drove down, got a babysitter (by the skin our teeth - thank the Lord for people who babysit, for real), and went out early. We had general admission tickets and expected to be sitting on the lawn, but then they gave us free admission to the pit, so, in the end we were about three people from the stage.
It's Texas, so, completing the sentimental experience was..... the heat. You know, sticky, sweaty, makeup-melting-off-your-face heat. For hours while we waited with the crowd and through one good and one boring opening act. We were good sports (and I went up to the breezy concessions area and got water from the water fountain and some good kettle corn).
In the absolute worst timing you could have, just as Mumford took the stage and we all rose to our feet.......... I got woozy and felt like I was going to pass out. I think the rush of energy with heat (and the fact that we were all out of water) finally took its toll, and I felt just the way I did when I really did pass out earlier in this pregnancy. Being in the pit surrounded by people with Mumford just about to start, I didn't really see any way to easily get out of the crowd and get back later, so I sank to my knees and prayed I wouldn't have to be carried out! It took several songs to clear my head and gain back enough energy to stand, so my first view of the band was mostly looking up between a sea of legs and seeing Marcus Mumford's face on the screen! All part of the experience.
The crowd, of course, loves them, and being right in the pit was incredible. The week before the concert I'd been in a debate a work after a co-worker heard them for the first time and proclaimed them "dark and depressing". They are, of course, loved by many, and of course as always the Christian world sees the spiritual references in their lyrics and wants them to be a sort of hidden Christian band. This Christianity Today article analyses them and their concerts well.
Their shows are enthusiastic and joyful; fans sing and shout along, and there is an overwhelming sense of camaraderie. The band and the crowd have a sort of symbiotic relationship, feeding off each other's passion and energy.
Their lyrics—primarily written by frontman Marcus Mumford—are heart gripping, capturing experiences to which most listeners can relate—brokenness, regret, and longing for restoration.... Their songs tell stories of guilt, personal and relational anguish, loss, and discontent. But these themes are coupled with images of love, forgiveness, restoration, fulfillment, and hope. Few popular artists tell stories of the fall and redemption so poignantly.
As for me, I absolutely believe that his lyrics reflect spiritual musing and longing. His parents were leaders in the Vineyard UK church, which means the semi-charismatics evangelical world was his world, and he wrote at least part of his first album while at Oxford, newly on his own and I'm sure, as with most college kids, wrestling with much angst over his choices, faith, God, sin, etc. That's what I hear in his lyrics. I know he doesn't call himself a Christian and quite frankly, it doesn't bother me. He writes from the heart and his lyrics have depth. I love that. Sometimes I draw my own meaning into how I interpret them, sometimes I recognize that a song is simply dark, and sometimes they are undeniably beautiful spiritual truths.
And, because they have been our favorites for a few years now, some of the songs have been intertwined with what we've experienced in these years, and it was beautiful and redemptive to be there with Steph and Jake.
For me, "I Will Wait" is probably my favorite songs and it was absolutely amazing to be doused with the music, surrounded by people singing it out, with Mumford playing hard just in front of us. The song that was perhaps most striking as a live song was "Dust Bowl Dance", in which the band went absolutely wild, and Marcus is insane on the drums. When I'm listening to an album I like beauty, but the wildness of Dust Bowl Dance was unmatched live.
Ross Holmes is apparently a Texan fiddler that has been playing with them for the last couple of years, and he was so fun to watch. He lived the music and seemed to be having the time of his life, as if he'd been a nerd growing up and was living the dream of actually playing with a cool band. He plucked out "Deep In the Heart of Texas", to the great joy of the crowd.
We stood the entire time, and left dehydrated with sore feet and feeling completely exhausted.
It was worth it.