John Reuben, Hawk Nelson|
11/13/04, Chambersburg YMCA, Chambersburg, PA
I've been going to rock shows for ten years now and I'm starting to feel old at just twenty four.
With many of the non-tour shows being youth events, a twenty-something can feel a little out of place.
But youth events are important and essential outreaches and alternative forms of entertainment for young
people today. My wife and I attended Hawk Nelson's energetic and fun set on Friday, November 12th
in Cherryville, PA at The Barn Bash youth event. The band put on a solid performance and even offered
a brief word to the crowd of teens about why they do what they do. The following night, Hawk played another
youth event at the YMCA in Chambersburg, PA along with our boy John Reuben. Kevin and I took a ride
out to Chambersburg to see these two talented artists in action.
The YMCA packed a modest crowd into one of its small gymnasiums for what was to be a very intimate
concert experience. With a ticket price of free, youth had little reason not to attend. And with football
vet Steve Fitzhugh, formerly of the Denver Broncos, offering a message to the audience, how could the night
get much cooler, right?
Tooth & Nail Records pop/punk rockers Hawk Nelson opened the evening bathed in red spotlights
with the title track from their debut album Letters To The President. Their high energy
set roused the crowd of the evening before in Cherryville but barely seemed to effect much of
the Chambersburg audience. Despite the band's best efforts, most of the kids just kind of stared
on (with the exception of three or four overzealous guys trying to mosh in the middle of a lethargic
crowd towards the close of the band's set). The Hawk boys did their best, leaving us wondering what
was wrong with the audience, but their time restraints left little room for much interaction
with people between songs. The set felt somewhat rushed while the night before had much more
breathing room for the band. If I hadn't seen the guys in a much better setting for them the night
before, I wouldn't have seen how much better they fair on their own. Perhaps the fact a new pop/punk band
performing with a more well-known rapper attracted mostly a Reuben audience. This could only be confirmed when
John would perform...
Following Hawk Nelson's valiant (and fun, mind you) efforts, the audience was encouraged to sit
on the gymnasium floor for Steve Fitzhugh's message. As I've gotten older, I've found many speakers a whole
lot less entertaining than I used to. But Steve had a charisma and a way of relating to his listeners
that few possess. Using heartbreaking stories from his childhood and points against peer influence,
Fitzhugh was indeed a wonderful addition to the evening.
John Reuben and his band (featuring Tim from House Of Heroes stepping in for a couple dates)
closed out the event. Reuben opened with the silly but fun "Treats" and immediately began working
the crowd. Reuben is one of the few performers I've seen who has been able to faithfully pump up
his audience night after night. He clearly enjoys what he does and by the end of his set, the crowd
is into the show whether they like or not. From "Treats," the band moved into "Move" and the
more edgy "Have No Opinion" before pausing to roll into his routine about 'Cheap Crowd Participation'
tricks. This year, John began incorporating into his set a session where audience members can
have their chance to freestyle on the mic. Whether amusing or downright painful to watch at times,
it's undoubtedly fun for the crowd to get involved and for some to get their harmless 'fifteen minutes of fame.'
Mixing up the fun and serious, Reuben also offered "Do Not," "Time To Leave," "Freedom To Feel,"
"Doin'," "Life Is Short," and ended with the old school favorite "Gather In." The now dwindled audience of
faithful attendees began chanting for one more song which Reuben and his band graciously answered
Venues and audiences are important for the artists' performances. While I've seen Reuben perform
well to large to minimal audiences, I got to see the stark contrast between audiences and their effect
on the Hawk boys over the course of two nights. I thoroughly enjoyed both evening's sets from
the young band and encourage fans to support each of these talented artists. Next year, catch
Reuben on tour with Thousand Foot Krutch and Pillar; and catch Hawk Nelson on tour with
KJ-52 and Falling Up in the Spring with another tour following that with Audio Adrenaline, TobyMac,
-- John DiBiase, 11/14/04