Festival of Faith & Music

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This weekend rednoW will be hanging out at Calvin College’s Festival of Faith & Music. We’re pumped for the David Bazan show tonight & Lupe Fiasco tomorrow. We’ll be sharing some thoughts here on the shows and workshops as the weekend goes on . Feel free to share your thoughts and comments as well [let us know how The Hold Steady show went!]. You can follow us on our twitter feed at twitter.com/rednow. We’ll let you know where we are grabing beers after the shows if you want to come and talk about what is going down.

Thoughts From Thursday:
*Craig Finn (the lead singer of the Hold Steady) led the Festival of Faith and Music off with an interview. Finn spoke of the power of music to move us. He spoke of growing up in Minneapolis and going to First Avenue to hear rock bands when he was as young as 13 years old. Finn also proclaimed his belief in God, talked about his mass attendance and the room the Catholic Church allows him as someone seeking joy. His art is a seeking of joy, and at the end of each show Finn reminds his audience that they have all been a part of that joy. Using rock music as a vehicle for joy is what classifies Finn, as David Bazan put it, “ultra punk,” in that he refuses to be defined by just what has come before, but at the same time looks for  has touched the most beautiful parts of what has come before him. Which in a number of ways led to the interview turning into a Springsteen love-fest…which was actually ok with me!

*Makoto Fugimura (painter, musician, artist of all things) brought up some ideas about how art can “transgress” culture-that art shakes up culture and one way art does that is to be “extravagant.” However, the multiple examples Fugimura used to demonstrate extravagance’s ability to transgress culture were financial extravagances. This was one of the issues that we returned to again and again. Is it just that our American culture is so saturated in material and financial issues that when we think of extravagance we think of it in financial terms? How else can art exhibit extravagance in ways that are not financially extravagant?

*David Bazan and Baby Dee (minus a sick Vic Chesnutt) was the concert that we chose to attend Thursday night (though we were troubled to have to miss The Hold Steady after seeing Craig Finn’s (lead singer) interview earlier in the day). Bazan led off and, as always, impressed with his baritone voice and his simple lyrics that are at the same time profound. He spat some left-over venom at the Bush Administration as he took questions from audience members (a staple at his shows), but Bazan seemed comfortable on stage, not embittered and angry and cynical, as sometimes his lyrics can seem. We were shown MANY songs off his forthcoming record “Curse Your Branches” (due out August 25th), and are excited to hear what those songs will sound like backed by a full band. Bazan left the stage Thursday night with a song that David Dark called a “hymn.” While it was not the first time Bazan questioned God’s absolute control of humanity and the world (“If you knew what would happen, my Lord, and made us just the same then it seems you’re the one to blame”) Thursday night, it was the last that caught the audience’s attention, as after he spoke the words “maybe you’ve bitten off more than you can chew” to God, he said thank you and strolled off the stage to standing applause. Baby Dee took the stage next and though her form and delivery was different than Bazan’s, the content was similar. She was both reverent in honesty and irreverent in the same honesty. The third song she sang was a “hymn,” as she called it, about a kinky grizzly bear who wears Mormon underwear. Neither Bazan nor Baby Dee took heed of anyone Thursday night who wanted them to be anything less than honest about who their God is.

Thoughts From Friday:

*Andy Crouch led off our Friday morning (we did sleep in a bit however) with a keynote that involved his sitting at a grand piano and leading a group of indie/emo looking kids in the singing of a gospel/blues melody that he used to sing in his predominantly African-American church (what a sight!). Crouch is a SMART man and after playing Tom Waits and then Bach on the piano, and then explaining each and the longing and beauty in each brilliantly, he left his audience with this advice: “Discipline your hearts into simplicity, but approach simplicity in your Sunday best,” meaning that we should not seek complexity, but rather seek simplicity with an expectation that we will be taken to complex places because of the beauty and experience that can be held in simplicity.

*Our second encounter with David Bazan came Friday morning when Jessica Hopper sat down in an interview setting with Bazan. There were a number of insights that came during this interview, but what we were most impressed with was, over the course of the last few years, how Bazan has come to feel more comfortable with truth and how we hear it and how we speak it. Bazan seems to have begun to pick his battles. He said he spends a lot of time reading the bible with his daughter, wanting his daughter to not have to fight “the battle against Darwin.” Bazan seems to know something about how we collect truth and who can own it… even what it means to “own truth.” And this understanding hasn’t quieted him down at all; it has simply made him more comfortable with where and how he stands in his seeking of “truth.”

*Some quotes and ideas from Lupe Fiasco’s interview with Dr. Cornell West:
~”People love the façade deeply and when you bring the sledge hammer of truth and start breaking things down, you make enemies. You even bring out the enemy in yourself and you start battling yourself.” -Lupe Fiasco

~”What is the purpose of all that we are taking in? Is it to move us and give us an insight, or is it to get us to buy something? Check the mess. You need to separate the mess from your message… and it takes time doing that. In Japan they take away what I wear and how I jump around on stage. You can have the more articulate, smartest person in the world, but their message can still be confused because the world is a mess. But we still take on that mess of the world.” -Lupe Fiasco

~”Hip-hop is African music, post-modernized. Poly-rhythmic… drum centered. It is also a music that is based on call and response… there are no spectators, tonight at his show you all must help Lupe Fiasco be Lupe Fiasco. We’re in the mess together.” -Cornell West