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JFH Staff Blog | January 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

'Black Monday' Song Story

Excerpt taken from Chapter 3 of Christa Black's book, God Loves Ugly:

I got to my hotel in Washington D.C., dropped off my bags as quickly as I could, and headed out in full patriotic fashion to explore my nation’s capital.  I only had several hours to wander before my gig with Michael W. Smith and was determined to see as much as possible.  So with camera in hand I headed out on foot.

I was glad to be heading out alone, exploring at my own pace without being tied to a big group or a fact-jabbering tour guide.  I strolled across the grassy mall, sat by the beautifully serene fountain in front of the Washington Monument, and stood in front of a stoic stone Lincoln while filling up my camera with every angle possible.  Agenda-free meandering finally led me in front of the Jefferson Memorial, all the while feeling wildly patriotic as choruses of I’m Proud to be an American paraded through my head. 

In an instant, menacing clouds eclipsed the clear sky, thunder clapped, and I turned around just in time to see huge sheets of rain begin to pound the hot summer streets.  The storm hit so suddenly that there were no vendors ready to exploit tourists with ridiculously priced umbrellas.  At that point, I would have been grateful for them and paid just about anything.

I stood there for five…ten…fifteen minutes watching the blackness pour, and unfortunately, the sky didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon.  The more the rain came down to cool off the earth, the more my blood began to boil.

“I just washed my hair this morning.  I don’t have time to wash it again before I have to play my show!  My clothes, shoes, my purse—everything is going to get completely soaked if I walk outside to even try and hail a cab!  Good grief!  I don’t have time for this, much less want to deal with the inconvenience.  Doesn’t the rain know better?  How dare the rain drop in and ruin my perfect sightseeing day!”

I brooded in self-pity for a good while, feeling sorry for myself at the hands of this annoying predicament that had plowed in and demolished my plans.  Annoyance rapidly turned to anger, and since I didn’t know exactly who or what to get mad at, I got mad at everything: the rain, Washington, me for being so stupid and forgetting to check the weather, the non-existent umbrella salesmen, my shoes for not being waterproof, and, of course, the hotel for being so far away.  If you had walked by and smiled at me, I would have been mad at you for being happy in the midst of my misery.

            In some situations anger can be justified, but in others, it does nothing but ruin the moment that you are in and everything around you.  This nasty type of anger can be a poison that consumes everything in its path without rhyme or reason.  The second I gave myself permission to agree with its talons, the feeling permeated like red dye in clear water, quickly changing the entire glass.  One part of me didn’t get angry—every part of me got angry, and I saw the entire world through that fiery filter. 

            After several minutes of loathing, a very unexpected light bulb went off in my head. 

“Hmmm, so I’m mad at the rain, but is my anger actually doing anything to stop the rain?  No.  And I’m mad at myself for not checking the weather, but why would I check the weather on a perfectly clear, sunny day?  I wouldn’t.  And I’m mad at my hotel for being far away—good grief.  How ridiculous am I being right now?”

            Being mad at the rain did nothing to stop the downpour.  It only ruined a day that I could never get back.  I realized at that very moment that I always had a very clear choice:  1) I could get angry at something that was completely outside of my control and be miserable or 2) I could accept my wet fate, throw a forced smile on my face that might turn into a real one, and go puddle jumping.

            I hadn’t had that much fun in a storm since I was a little girl.  I’m sure the strangers who happened to catch my sideshow thought I was crazy—singing, dancing and jumping around like an idiot.  But I didn’t care.  I had just discovered a secret, a jewel, a treasure of the universe.  I had found the power I possessed inside of myself to choose life in any situation, regardless of what my emotions were instinctively telling me to do.   And let me tell you, it took an act of my will.  It was anything but easy to push away anger that came so naturally and turn towards something good, but the strength and power for overcoming is inside us all, and I had just found that power.

            I began to write and sing the chorus, “Black Monday, you can’t get me down, no, no, no.”  And with every note, with every word, with every sloppy puddle jump, I got further and further away from an anger that would have ruined a day I could never get back.

 

***FREE SONG DOWNLOAD!! -- The first five readers to Tweet about this blog and tag both @jfreakhideout and @godlovesuglybk will be given a free download of Christa's song "Black Monday!"***

Featured Fan - John Rogney

John, his friend Chris, the lead singer of Onward To Olympus, and two random guys that jumped in our picture.

Favorite Band/Artist: Onward To Olympas
Featured Fan: John Rogney
Location: Wytheville, Virginia
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken: Lynchburg, Virginia
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: I have seen these guys twice now, and they connect with the fans on a very down-to-earth level. Their music is very heavy, but being in the crowd for two of their concerts completely changed my attitude towards new Christian hardcore bands. They spoke to me the same way that Sleeping Giant did at one of their shows, and they remind me a lot of them because of their openness about Christ and the messages their music speaks.
Favorite Album by This Artist:  This World Is Not My Home
Favorite Song by This Artist: "Sink or Swim"
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live: Twice
Favorite Live Show Experience:  The first time I saw them in Lynchburg, Virgina at a local church.
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist: A hard copy of their album, as well as two shirts.
Website: John's Facebook

Submit your photo and reasons why YOU'RE a fan for a chance to be featured here!

We Recommend - Your Heart, 'Autumn'

For a guy who puts out several EPs a month with six different projects, you might think that Andrew Huang goes for quantity over quality.  However, the man is consistently solid with very few missteps along the way.  One of his best pieces of work is his album Autumn from his indie/folk/pop rock project, Your Heart.  This album took a few listens before I really got into it.  At first, I liked it.  Then, I liked it a lot.  Now, I love it.  He's great with honest, and sometimes cryptic, lyrics, and his talent with musicianship (and almost any instrument imaginable) shines in tracks like "Circles" and "O! What A Lie!"  I know it's scary to take a chance on independent artists these days, with countless people out there who make music and probably shouldn't, but you can rely on just about anything that Andrew Huang puts out.  And Autumn may be his crowning achievement. ~ Scott Fryberger

Your Heart
Autumn (2010)

Click here for the JFH Review.

Our synopsis: "A great indie album that will leave your heart satisfied." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger)
Perfect For: Love, life, heartbreak
Song Highlights: "Never," "Circles," "O! What A Lie!," "Lantern," "Your Heart"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Autumn? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Is The Light Being Hidden?

Recently I had the privilege of attending Winter Jam. The following day at work, my co-worker who covered for me inquired about my absence. I went on to tell him that I went to a Christian concert. He asked who was playing there, and I said some Christian rock bands which included the headliners, the Newsboys and Kutless. 

He is currently an unbeliever, so I wasn't that surprised when he said he never heard of them before. Then I mentioned that RED had also performed there. Well, he had heard of them, and, in fact, was even a fan of them. My coworker even remarked that they were pretty good and had some great songs. It even surprised him that they were a Christian band.

He then thought aloud about "that other Christian rock band..." that he knew of but couldn't think of. I tried to fill in his blank by offering up the names Skillet and Thousand Foot Krutch, Christian artists who have had some mainstream success. He then responded "Thousand Foot Krutch... I didn't know they were a Christian band."

This conversation disturbed me because he never once thought about RED and TFK's lyrics and how it made them different from other rock bands. So I'm wondering if I should be enthusiastic that Christian rock artists have successfully infiltrated mainstream rock or if I should be troubled that my unbelieving co-worker had no idea that there is something different about those artists?

Monday, January 24, 2011

'God Loves Ugly' Song Story

"Sometimes you just have to fake it 'till you make it.  Well, at least that was the case for me when I wrote the song 'God Loves Ugly.' 

 I knew all the right words to say and all the right truths to spout off.  I had the appropriate scriptures memorized as a good preacher’s daughter should, and could paint on a big, teethy smile on command, masking the volcano of emotions bubbling underneath my perfectly applied makeup.  

You see, I knew the truth in my head, but I didn’t believe it in my heart.  Yet. 

Growing up, I’d heard the phrase ‘God loves you’ more times than I’d eaten Cheerios.  That one was simple enough to believe and seemed to make sense.  God created us as His kids, so He loved what he had created.  Fair enough.  But then I began to hear things like, ‘God loves you no matter what you do—and there’s nothing you actually can do to make Him love you any more or any less than He does at this very moment.’  (Thank you, Mr. Max Lucado, for hammering that subject home on my first tour with Michael W. Smith in 2002). 

Whoa, now hold on a hot minute.  Isn’t love contingent on performance?  I mean my best friend in elementary school loved me as long as I shared my Ludens cherry cough drops with her.   Then my high school comrades liked me because I was funny, partied, and kept them amused—oh, and it didn’t hurt that I was stacked with admirable talents.  Talent always scored a few extra points for acceptance.  Rejection felt worse than walking barefoot across shards of broken glass and almost always came when you did something below the bar.  So how could God love me as a constant screw-up?  Didn’t He remember all the times I had lied, cheated, stolen, got wasted out of my mind, laughed at His people, or yelled at Him in anger and disgust? 

Then on top of all that, I had this heart that seemed more like a pincushion than anything.  The devastating daggers of peoples’ words sliced and diced my soul like a carved tomato.  You know, things like, “You’re ugly and no one will ever want you,” or “We can’t stand you,” or…well, the Rolodex of tormenting phrases liked to flip through my head on a regular basis.  

I sat on my bed in Nashville, Tennessee, listening to the planes fly overhead in the deep blue sky.  Holding on to precious truths I was desperate to believe, I picked up my guitar and began to play.  I knew that I was loved so completely and so fully, that nothing I had ever done or could ever do would take that love away or make it wax and wane.  I didn’t quite believe it enough to live it yet, but I wanted to.  I was determined to.  And I knew that writing a song that declared those truths over my life—that championed my own mouth to sing in faith, to hear the words, to water my tattered soul—just might be the actual medicine I needed to get to that high peak of believing.     

Hoping for something never changes anything, but believing produces action. And action changes everything. 

I sat with my guitar, letting the contents of my soul bleed out onto paper. 

You said that I wasn't pretty
So I just believed you
You said that I wasn't special
So I lived that way

With critical gazes and brutal amazement
At how my reflection could be so imperfect
With all of my blemishes how could somebody want me

CHORUS:
But God loves ugly
He doesn't see the way I see
God takes ugly
And turns it into something that is beautiful
Apparently I'm beautiful ‘cause You love me

I tried to clean up the outside all shiny and new
Worked overtime to thin up and look right
But inside I knew
Deep in the bottom were secrets I thought I could try to ignore
Old ghosts in my corridors never get tired of haunting the past that's in me

BRIDGE:
Help me believe why you love me
Cause I know you see, you see everything
Help me believe why you love me
Cause I know you see inside and you still say I'm beautiful
You're telling me I'm beautiful
You're screaming out, so beautiful
And I'm finding out I'm beautiful
You're making me so beautiful
And I can see I'm beautiful
Cause you love me

I’ve sung this song hundreds upon hundreds of times.  And every time I sing, I let the words marinate my soul a little deeper, like pouring warm honey over the broken cracks of my past.  I sang this song until I believed this song. 

 

And I don’t just believe the words, friends.  I’m living them.

I believe that I’m beautiful because God has loved the barren places of my life into lush, green, breathtaking reflections of Him.  I believe I’m healed because of His love, that I’m whole because of His love.  In fact, His love has been the answer to every problem I’ve ever faced, the medicine to every sickness of my heart, and more precious to me than my next breath.

Being loved unconditionally really does turn the ugly places in our lives into something beautiful.

And I’m living proof of it."

***FREE SONG DOWNLOAD!! -- The first five readers to Tweet about this blog and tag both @jfreakhideout and @godlovesuglybk will be given a free download of Christa's song "God Loves Ugly!"***

Sunday, January 23, 2011

10 Years Later - Skillet, 'Alien Youth'

So, my original concept idea for this blog was to pit a release from 10 years ago with a new release from the same artist 10 years later (so, it'd be like, for example, Steven Curtis Chapman's 2001 Declaration album versus his announced new release for sometime this year... which hopefully I'll actually write about at some point this year). Unfortunately, that idea really limits where this blog can go, so as exemplified in the previous blog by looking at Audio Adrenaline's 2001 best-of album, Hit Parade, we're going to take a look now at Skillet's Alien Youth album from 2001... and of course see how it stacks up against their latest album, their most current album, their 2009 release, Awake.

When I was a teenager, Skillet released their self-titled debut in 1996 (shortly after I started JFH actually... yeah, I just really dated myself). So, needless to say, I've followed Skilet closely since Ardent and Forefront put out the Bleach/Skillet sampler disc in the summer of '96 (which, incidentally was Eddie DeGarmo, who ran Forefront, and Dana Key, who ran Ardent, having a wee little friendly competition with their artists... since Bleach was on Forefront and Skillet on Ardent). Skllet began as more of a grunge rock three-piece before shifting to electronic rock with their 1998 sophomore project, then going even more electronic for their 2000 album Invincible (when they became a four-piece and frontman John Cooper's wife Korey first joined). Their late summer release, Alien Youth, in 2001 took the sound more into the realm of industrial rock as current guitarist Ben Kasica made his debut in the band and Lori Peters entered as the Skillet's first female drummer. Technically, Alien Youth could probably be considered an pivotal point of the band's evolution into who they are today.

It's no secret that Skillet has grown into quite the commercial success these days. Their live shows are big and rather epic, their songs are relatable and their music is catchy. But in 2001, Skillet was still exclusively a Christian market band and the most notable difference about their songs on Alien Youth is the subject matter. While Awake continues more of the relationship-oriented themes that were explored on Collide and even more so on Comatose, Alien Youth was a sort of call-to-arms for the young Christian generation. Where dc Talk created a mult-generational anthem with their 1995 song "Jesus Freak," "Alien Youth," the song and the album, gave young believers (particularly who are also fans of accessible industrial rock) an anthem. While I would probably be more inclined to listen to Alien Youth before Awake on any given day (my initial thoughts and feelings of disappoint that I shared in 2009 have not changed), I must admit that Awake does bear a more professional sound and feel. However, for the most part, it feels emptier in comparison when it comes to lyrics and themes. While I would probably regard "Hero" as the best track on Awake, there are several tracks on Alien Youth that impacted me ten years ago and that I would still consider to be inspiring today.

The first of these tracks is "The Thirst Is Taking Over" (lyrics). It's moody, pensive, and features a great building from the atmospheric and haunting intro until it's large climactic finish. It bears a distinct worship feel in the lyrics that doesn't succomb to the over-used and stale sound of most of corporate worship. In other words, it's unofficially "worship" without being genre-specific.

You alone are what my soul needs,
You know the thirst is taking over.
Hardly breathe, I'm in urgent need.
You know the thirst is taking over.

I want to taste it, I need to taste it
Deep in the Savior's arms.

It would be really hard for Skillet to have lyrics like these on an album today (given their mainstream appeal), but I have to admit it's one aspect of the band that I do miss. Thankfully, they're still open and unashamed to talk about their faith today.

Another song highlight is in "Will You Be There" (lyrics), a lovely five-minute ballad that definitely feels more dated in 2011, but is a nice duet between John and Korey. Lyrically, the pair sing out doubts in a prayerful way to their Savior, asking Him if He really will be reliable and present in the dark and difficult times.

Will You be there as I grow cold?
Will You be there when I'm falling down?
Will You be there?

When I'm in retreat,
Can I run to you?
Will my pain release
At Your mercy seat?

Are You saying so?
Oh, I gotta believe it.
Are You saying 'yeah?'
When Your love comes down, I can rest my eyes.
Feel Your grace and power flood into my life.
As my brokenness and Your strength collide.
When Your love comes down, falling down.

Of course, not all of Alien Youth is quite as memorable or impacting. Cooper's response to a live show experience from Marilyn Manson in "Ripping Me Off" is pretty corny (despite having an important message) while "Stronger" uses quirky vocal effects and a frenetic approach that doesn't work as well as the rest of the album. In addition to the aforementioned tracks, two rocker stand-outs on here have to be mentioned. "Eating Me Away" is a sweet rock track about conversing with God about our struggle with our sinfulness and humanity, and the appropriate follow-up to it, the aggressive "Kill Me Heal Me." Skillet had the incredible ability to package spiritually meaty songs in a musical packaging that listeners who wouldn't normally listen to contemporary Christian radio could still get some musical food for their soul. It's projects like this that spoke to me personally as a teenager and an early-twenty-something (when this released in 2001) that seems so scarce to find in today's Christian rock. Alien Youth rocked really hard when it rocked and then stripped things way down to just a piano with the closing ballad, "Come My Way" - which was sort of the "ugly duckling" of the album. It doesn't really fit in musically and leaves the listener with an almost-lullaby after such an energetic album, but lyrically it's a beauty as John and Korey ask God to come to them so that they might be healed.

I realize this is quite the lengthy examination of Skillet's fourth full-length studio album (and comparing who they were then with their career today), but it's enjoyable to revisit some older and often forgotten releases like this one. Panheads who don't own this one should check it out, while those feeling a little empty about some of today's rock music - and won't mind a slightly dated early-2000's electronic rock release - should also check this one out. Not all of Alien Youth holds up as well today, but it still offers some true diamonds in the rough.

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Featured Fan - Megan Yoder

Megan Yoder with her Family Force 5 merch collection

Favorite Band/Artist: Family Force 5
Featured Fan: Megan Yoder
Location: Kalona, IA
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken: This was taken in my dorm room in front of my FF5 shrine :)
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: I love their crazy but fun personalities, and their music is simply genius with how they express their love for God and people, no matter who you are! And they have a blast doing it! Plus their music just blows my mind!! It never gets old.
Favorite Album by This Artist:  ALL OF THEM!!! I don't think I could chose one.
Favorite Song by This Artist: It's a 7-way tie between "Drama Queen," "Love Addict," "Dance or Die," "Fever," "Supersonic," "DIE 4 YOU,' and "Ghostride the Whip"
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live: 5!! But believe me. There WILL be more.
Favorite Live Show Experience:  Either Sonshine Fest 2010 or a Dance Rawr Dance II show Times
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist: One of my shirts, the tote bag or the bracelet. :)
Website: Megan's Twitter

Submit your photo and reasons why YOU'RE a fan for a chance to be featured here!

Monday, January 17, 2011

We Recommend - PFR, 'Them'

I was sitting here trying to think of a project to recommend for this week, and when I opened iTunes, "Say" by PFR came on. Like a warm blanket or a steamy cup of hot cocoa on a frigid evening, the melodic vocals of Joel Hanson and the encouraging lyrics of "Let me hear you say 'It's ok.' Let me hear you say 'It's alright.' I could really use some words that comfort so I won't be alone tonight." set to a lovely piano pop sound enveloped me. After debuting the recent blog that highlighted Audio Adrenaline's Hit Parade record, someone wisely commented that PFR's Late Great PFR collection was another excellent hits record done right. PFR was at the top of their game when they told the CCM world that it was time to hang it up. Them was their swan song -- and a gem at that. From the aforementioned "Say" to the rocking opener "Pour Me Out" (which still sounds awesome today) to the anthemic ballad "Fight" to the tearful closer "Garden," Them was a solid pop rock effort and probably the band's most timeless of their releases. If you don't care about the year a record was released in but could use a little pop rock peace, check out PFR's Them. - John DiBiase

PFR
Them (1996)

Click here for our review of the album.

Our synopsis: "PFR's sensitive late 90's pop/rock record is still a delight almost fifteen years later." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase)
Perfect For: Encouragement, comfort, hope
Song Highlights: "Pour Me Out," "Fight," "Anything," "Say," "Garden"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Them? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

'I'm Still Here' Song Story

"I shut the door to my bedroom, sliding down the creaky brown wood onto old carpet I usually wouldn't have wanted to touch.  Today, however, there was no time to be particular.  Today, and every day for as long as I could remember, I just needed a place to cry.

Another day living in the hell of addiction.

I couldn't remember lighter days.  I knew they existed, but I couldn't remember the way they tasted or smelled--the way they apparently laughed around you like a sweet breeze crossing a clearing full of daisies.   All of my memories seemed to include this cage--this dark, ugly, prison of a cage.

When 'the blackness' would fall, there were very few things that could pull me out of it, especially since I usually retreated into isolation, shutting myself off from the rest of the world with its laughter and sunshine.  In fact, very few people even knew I was battling depression or struggling with an eating disorder that choked precious moments from my life. 

I wiped my nose on my sleeve, pulled myself up from the floor, and slowly walked over to my violin case.   This was the instrument that had journeyed with me through it all--the highs and lows, the success and the failure.  It had been played the same time I was learning arithmetic, and practiced alongside my first attempts to drive a car.  It had been dragged out to entertain family every Christmas, and used to make breathtaking, angelic masterpieces come to life.  I pulled out the German-made wood and bow and placed it under my wet chin, drenched in tears. 

The deep inside of me began to play.

It was a private song from a desperate soul.  It was a song of longing and a song of truth.  It was as if my fingers knew how to touch the strings and actually give sound to the crying of my heart.  I played, sang, and wept.  I wept, sang, and played.  And with every note, with every breath, with every sound, the iron-clad drawbridge of my heart began to slowly crank down.

Hope had appeared somehow, ever so small.   It was faint and it was fragile, but it was there.  The more I sang, the more determined I became.

Yes, the wind had come to destroy.  Yes, the storm had taken me out more times than I cared to remember.  And, yes, the rain continued to flashflood my soul.  But no matter how the hurricanes of life had fought and raged, I knew one thing.

If I was still there, it was for a reason. 

And I was and am… still here."

***FREE SONG DOWNLOAD!! -- The first five readers to Tweet about this blog and tag both @jfreakhideout and @godlovesuglybk will be given a free download of Christa's song "I'm Still Here!"***

Featured Fan - Sara Terhune

Lauren Barlow, Becca Barlow, Alyssa Barlow, Sara Terhune

Favorite Band/Artist: BarlowGirl
Featured Fan: Sara Terhune
Location: St. Petersburg, FL
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken: March 18th, 2010 in Brandon, FL
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: I love BarlowGirl not only for the amazing music they make, but also because their love for God is so apparent. You can't go to a show, listen to a CD or even go on their Twitter without seeing something about God. I also love that they don't try and hide the trials and struggles that they have with God. They share their stories to let others know that they aren't alone and that God is a loving, merciful & saving God. All three girls are also incredibly wise. I have tons of quotes saved from interviews and concerts about trials, and Bible verses and just awesome insight into God and His kingdom. My favorite part about BarlowGirl is best explained in a quote from Becca, "I never want to have our ministry be about music. It's not about music, that's just the platform of what we're doing." So ironically, my favorite part about BarlowGirl is that, for them, it's not about the music, but the message.
Favorite Album by This Artist:  Love & War
Favorite Song by This Artist: "Million Voices"
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live: at least 3
Favorite Live Show Experience:  I have two favorite show experiences. The first happened after the show at a small church by my house. I was in the signing line and was really nervous about talking to the girls. When I got to the signing table, I told Becca that I had talked to her a couple times about Twitter, specifically her Hebrew-Greek study Bible and I told her I was looking for one. She remembered who I was and that I played a Telecaster and we talked for a couple minutes and Alyssa said "Wow, you guys are twins!" which I thought was really cool! My other favorite show experience happened at Night of Joy 2010. Alyssa was saying that she knew that many people were going through hard times and she quoted Isaiah 43:2-3, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you." Then she said that it's not the end but the beginning of something great and not to be afraid because God is digging a deep foundation and that the deeper the foundation, the taller the building can be. I felt like that specific moment in time was created just for me and that God was speaking to me through her and it was just an amazing experience. I actually have a video of it and I watch it whenever I'm feeling down and it lifts me right back up again!
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist: Well, it's not really merch since I didn't buy it from them but I brought the pickguard from my Telecaster to a show and they signed it! I put it back on my Tele and put a translucent pickguard over it so that the signatures wouldn't come off and now I see it everytime I play and I always get asked about it. I love it!
Website: Sara's YouTube

Submit your photo and reasons why YOU'RE a fan for a chance to be featured here!

Monday, January 10, 2011

TGT's 2010 - The Year-in Review

Well hello again, everyone! Miah here, and I would like to officially wish all of you a very Happy New Year on behalf of everyone in TgT. So far, 2011 has been a great year, as we've been in the studio pretty much all of this year (which has been about a week or so haha), working on our next EP, which will likely be out sometime soon! It's a new year, so what better way to ring it in than with brand new music too! We're very pumped to get this new project out and in your headphones! Get ready everyone, it's going to be awesome!

So 2010 has come and gone. Some of you might not know this, but TgT has been a band for almost five years (March 2011 will be our fifth anniversary). With that, 2010 was without a doubt our best year as a band yet, as well as our busiest. What an incredible time of new experiences, new friends, and new blessings from God! For instance, we had the great pleasure of meeting new friends and amazing musicians such as the guys in Kutless, Trevor of TFK, Matt Hammitt of Sanctus Real, and others. We also were blessed to spend some time at the home of three time Super Bowl champion defensive back Je' Rod Cherry, an amazing man of God with a heart for ministry and a wonderful family. What a blessing to get to know these great men, who serve as inspiration and examples to all of us.

As stated earlier, 2010 was our busiest year to date, having finished out the year with just under 200 shows. Some of these shows included tours with our good friends in Satellites & Sirens, Temple Veil, and Eleventyseven, all of whom helped make this year probably the most fun we've had on the road as well. You can see all of our tour recap videos with all of those great bands on our Youtube site www.youtube.com/thegreattransparency. Along with the consistant touring, TgT took the stage at several major festivals this year including Lifest (playing right before FM Static at this event was a personal highlight for me, and meeting Trevor and spending some time with him was awesome), Soul Fest, Cross Fest, Ampalooza, and Ignite Festival. On the festival note, TgT has just learned that we'll be appearing at the Alive Fest here in Ohio this year! I love festivals for many reasons, but for me, it's just a blessing getting to see so many talented bands in one place, and to get to know some of those artists on a personal level, and to see their hearts in action. Such great times! Another festival highlight this year was for Tommy, as he took in the Casting Crowns performance at Lifest litterally three feet away from their drummer backstage.

In between touring and all of the festivals, we played a variety of spot shows with great artists such as Kutless (with a crowd of almost 1,000 that night), Fireflight, Run Kid Run, Abandon Kansas, Philmont, Disciple, Spoken, Kids In The Way, Wavorly, White Collar Sideshow, and John Reuben. For a few of those bands, it was my first chance getting to see them live, and I can tell you that all of those shows did not dissapoint. 

As some of you know, we had a few tunes out on the radio this year, including our single "Don't You Ever", which stayed in the top 30 over at ChristianRock.net for 13 consecutive weeks, and our take on the Christmas classic "O Holy Night" which hopefully a majority of you were able to grab here at JFH as a free download during the holiday season. We're already talking about what song we want to do this year, so if you have any suggestions, feel free to let us know on our Facebook page sometime! We LOVE to hear your feedback and ideas!

2010 saw a changing of th guard at the position of bass. We said farewell to our good friend Chris and welcomed another dear brother in Marshall Wilver, who played with TgT in the early days, but has returned. So please be sure to say hello to Marshall at a show soon! We also began some great partnerships with some awesome companies such as SoZo Guitars, TRX Cymbals, Reverend Guitars, Knucklehead Strings, and the amazing ministry organization RYFO, who everyone needs to check out at ryfo.org. TgT is blessed to be working with such great companies!

Finally, 2010 was the best year for me personally as my wife Amanda and I welcomed our first child into this world on May 31st, our daughter Leelah Louise! She is now 7 and a hald months, is starting to crawl, and sprouting some teeth! Such a huge blessing! Leelah's arrival truly shores up the definition of 2010 for not only myself, but for all of TgT: NEW. 2010 brought so many new things for all of us, and I know that 2011 will be no different. I thank God for His never ending mercy, and for the gifts He's given us to be able to tour all over this nation and share some good news with all of you! I'm looking forward to doing much of the same this year, and we'll be bringing new music with us! So, make this new yeat a great one, and share love whenever you can! God bless you all, and thanks for all of your support! See you on the road!

love always,

Miah & TgT

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Featured Fan - Maria Mickelson

Rose Mickelson (Maria's mom), Daniel Zach, Paul Zach, Cindy Boelman, David Zach, Maria Mickelson (blue shirt), Philip Zach, Kaitlin Boelman

Favorite Band/Artist: Remedy Drive
Featured Fan: Maria Mickelson
Location: Belmond, Iowa
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken: Rock and Worship Roadshow 2010, Council Bluffs, IA
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: All their lyrics hit home on such a personal level. I can relate just about each and every one of their songs to a specific time in my life, and most have more than one connection.  My favorite part of their concerts is when David gives his inspirational pep talk that seems to go straight to your soul. Also, they're all very personable and take the time to get to know their fans by signing and taking pictures after the show.  I can't wait for their next record and I hope to see them again soon!
Favorite Album by This Artist:  Magnify. I really like this album because it's kind of like the blending point from their older work to their newer albums.
Favorite Song by This Artist: Right now, "Stand Up". But I will always have a special place in my heart for "Day Starr"
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live: 13. And I already have tickets for my next 2 shows! : ]
Favorite Live Show Experience: Rochester, MN. 05.31.09
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist: I love my black lightbulb shirt and wear it as often as possible.
Website: Maria's Twitter

Submit your photo and reasons why YOU'RE a fan for a chance to be featured here!

10 Years Later - Audio Adrenaline, 'Hit Parade'

For some time now, I've debated on launching this new blog section that will take aim at revisiting music that released ten years ago. It's interesting to see how much things can change in the world and in life in just a decade and music is a good example of that.

For "10 Years Later...," we hope to look at some records that released 10 years ago, re-evaluate them, highlight them as something worth checking out still today, or even compare them to the current release from the same artist.

The first project I want to look at myself is Audio Adrenaline's March, 2001 best-of release, Hit Parade. While Audio Adrenaline is no longer around today, two of their founding members, Will McGinniss (bass) and Mark Stuart (vocals) can be found heading up a new worship endeavor called Know Hope Collective. That group of worshippers are set to release their self-titled debut album on Integrity Music March 1st. As many Christian music fans know, Audio A disbanded in 2007, releasing one final hits album during the previous fall, titled Adios. To me, as a longtime fan of the band's work, the 2001 collection, Hit Parade (review), really seemed to highlight the band's glory days. Stuart's voice was starting to get a little rough, but he still handled most of the lead vocals and the band was still filling venues and rocking festivals like few could.

I'm sure there are more songs on Hit Parade that will sound dated to young ears than found on Adios, but both projects offered 17 tracks with Parade containing two solid brand new songs that were worth the price of the collection alone, "Will Not Fade" and "One Like You" (Adios also offered two new songs, with one of those being a cover song and another being a farewell anthem. The Special Edition release offered a third new recording, also a cover song). But for 2001, the band had just enough records that a 17-song hits project represented their best and most memorable songs really well. It was to the point that Adios had to include cuts from an additional three studio albums that it made it too easy to exclude some crucial songs from the band's catalog.

Now that Audio Adrenaline's catalog of music has officially wrapped up, Hit Parade stands out as the strongest collection of 90s rock hits from the band's career (I'd be tempted to re-rate the project with a perfect 5 stars today). The only thing that would be missing to make this record stronger would be a couple cuts from their fall 2001 studio album Lift (particularly "Glory" and "Tremble"). Still, as a collection of 90's pop rock highlights, Hit Parade represents Audio A very well ten years later. This band is truly missed!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Featured Fan - Michael Schaffer

Michael with members of Worth Dying For

Favorite Band/Artist: Worth Dying For
Featured Fan: Michael Schaffer
Location: Altoona, PA
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken: Creation Festival: The Tour 2008 in Huntington, PA
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: Breaking boundaries for worship music and reaching to different lifestyles through their ministry and worship.
Favorite Album by This Artist:  Love Riot EP
Favorite Song by This Artist: I have to pick just one? I'd say "Love Riot"
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live: At least 10... I've lost count...
Favorite Live Show Experience: Filming their set onstage for them for the at Creation Festival Northeast 2009
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist: "Light Kills Dark" T-Shirt


Submit your photo and reasons why YOU'RE a fan for a chance to be featured here!

We Recommend - The Classic Crime, 'The Silver Cord'

It’s very possible I’m in the minority when I say this, but when The Classic Crime released their third record Vagabonds last year, I felt the result was particularly underwhelming.  It definitely wasn’t a horrific record, but I felt many of the tracks weren’t especially powerful (with a couple bordering on slightly offensive).  And when compared to the Tooth & Nail signees’ second record, The Silver Cord, it just doesn’t seem to measure up.  But as a result, The Silver Cord looks like an even greater musical achievement in retrospect.  The quintet’s debut Albatross got the band started in the right direction, and their follow-up polished up their sound efficiently.  It’s aggressive in some areas (“Gravedigging,” “5808,” “Abracadavers,” “Medisin”), but it also takes its time when most effective, making the fifteen-track album full of ambition and variety.  With so many songs on one record, they’re all surprisingly very strong, but with some major highlights in consideration, “Salt In the Snow” is the real standout (and, in my opinion, perhaps one of the best rock songs of the last decade).  The Silver Cord isn’t especially spiritual, but it’s nonetheless a well-constructed, thoughtful, and very memorable record from 2008 that hits all the right notes. - Roger Gelwicks

The Classic Crime
The Silver Cord (2008)

Click here for our review of the album.

Our synopsis: "One of 2008's best records, The Classic Crime successfully link fun and proficiency together to create one strong epic rock album." (Recommended by JFH's Roger Gelwicks)
Perfect For: Contemplation, Self-Reflection, Relationships
Song Highlights: "Just a Man," "Gravedigging," "Salt In the Snow", "Abracadavers", "Closer Than We Think," "The Beginning (A Simple Seed)"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Silver Cord? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

When Our Grand Kids Want to Hear the Story

It's 2005, and I'm a nervous high school senior with a serious crush on the prettiest girl at school. Likelihood of feelings being reciprocated are hanging somewhere between not likely and absolutely not. Try as I may to focus on other things, to be mature and not let this silly little crush end me, I can't seem to shake the feeling. We don't talk that much, but when we do, it just feels special. At least it does on my end. I want to get to know this girl. I want to be the one she calls when things are good, and not so good. But it's all just a pleasant fantasy, I'm sure.

In a flash, I'm sitting in the back of my family's van, five years later. Suitcases packed, it's obvious we're heading to Florida to see the relatives. It must be Christmas time! I'm aware of the presence of someone in the backseat with me, curled up and sleeping. But with my eyes forward, I see the rest of my family first. Dad driving, mom shotgun, my two siblings just ahead of me. So who is next to me?

I slowly turn my head to find that it's Her, asleep. Her hair is a holy mess, the result of some serious bedhead, but she looks like an angel. Why is she here?

I am then keenly aware of a slight pressure on a finger on my left hand, my ring finger, specifically. I've never been one for jewelry, so that piece of white gold must have some serious significance. I start to put two and two together, and all I can think to think is: "How on earth did I get here?"

Sometimes, it's fun to do this, when something otherwise mundane is going on- Take myself out of the scene for a second, and pretend a 17-18 year old me has been thrust into the very moment I am currently living, transported multiple years with no real explanation. What would I think? Would I be able to comprehend all the changes?

Only one thing is really for sure: I would be so thankful. I wouldn't be able to get over how thankful I was.

In his fantastic book Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?, Gary Thomas spends a lot of time stressing the importance of remembering your sacred history with your spouse. It sounds a little corny when you read it out loud. But, four months into this thing, it's already hugely apparent that this is vital!

Remembering your sacred history keeps you humble and honest and, most importantly, clear minded. There are times when the shimmer wanes and all the flash of being newlyweds disappears and being married is just... normal. I'm pretty sure that being married should never be normal.

So when Kelli and/or I threaten complacency in our young marriage, I grab her close and remind her of the time we had our "movie moment" in front of prom in 2007, or the night we finally talked about our feelings in 2008, or just how long and confusing and breathtaking our young friendship was for the first few years- all the things that make it apparent that there's a divine plan and an unmistakable romance in our relationship that is so, so special.

Oh, how thankful I am that long before we were even together, the story of our first meeting was so deeply ingrained in our minds, and was retold often, almost as though Yahweh knew our meeting needed to be just like a movie. It's for this very reason that I asked Kelli to date and marry me in the same place we first met! There is a reverence and beauty in the sacred history He has written for us, and it must not be forgotten, but celebrated.

So when we're old and our grand kids want to know the moment I knew I was going to marry their grandmother, I'll smile with pride because I'll remember exactly when it was. Because Kelli and I retell those stories to each other all of the time.

Because that stuff is important.

(Taken from my blog Taylorville)

Help for the Days Ahead

God called me to preach when I was just fourteen years old, and immediately I began to wonder what that meant for my life.

At that time, my mother and I were very poor, so the cost of college seemed far beyond what I could hope to save. However, the Lord allowed that challenge in my life to show me how to pray and trust Him for all my needs. Through that struggle, He demonstrated His faithfulness-teaching me that He would enable me to do everything He called me to do by providing whatever I needed to do it.

God was rooting the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6 in my heart: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." I can honestly say that this is absolutely true-God has never let me down. The Father has always been faithful to keep all of His promises to me.

As 2011 begins and you think about the possibilities of the year ahead, what is it that seems impossible in your life? What has the Lord called you to do that appears to be far beyond your ability to achieve? You may not see how this situation could work out, but God does. He assumes full responsibility for your needs when you obey Him. But how do you remain obedient to Him so you can fully experience His faithfulness?

First, seek God's guidance. Living a godly life doesn't come naturally to any of us. But the Lord will teach us how to live in a manner that's pleasing to Him.

Second, listen to God. Paying attention to how the Lord is directing you is essential to walking with Him and remaining in the center of His will.

Third, watch for God's help and provision. The Father wants you to have faith in His faultless character and depend upon Him. So look for the ways He answers your prayers-the doors He opens and how He meets your needs step by step-and praise His intimate involvement in every detail of your life.

Fourth, keep your focus on God, not on your circumstances. Do not dwell on the problems; rather, cling to His promises. Knowing that He will never forsake you will help you face every obstacle with hope and perseverance.

Fifth, recall God's victories. It is important to remember all the ways the Lord has helped you so you can remain confident and courageous in the face of every obstacle.

Sixth, cultivate a godly life by meditating on Scripture. The Bible has the timeless principles you need to live in a manner that honors Him. Read it with joy, knowing that all He has done for His people in the past, He will do for you too when you trust Him and obey His commands.

There is no doubt that God is absolutely faithful to keep His promises. So as you face difficulties in the year to come, commit yourself to seeking Him, listening to His commands, watching for His help, keeping your focus on Him, recalling His faithfulness, and embracing His Word. Your heavenly Father has awesome blessings for you. Trust Him and stay in the center of His will, because that's how you'll experience life at its very best.

Copyright 2010 In Touch Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org

 


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