Your love is a symphony.

Friday, I headed down to Charleston for what was sure to be an epic adventure. I met up with my favorite Georgetown girl, Jessie, to see my two favorite bands, Civil Twilight and Switchfoot, play on the same stage at The Music Farm, this really awesome venue in downtown Charleston.

The fun began as I was driving down King Street, and I spotted Andrew McKellar walking down the sidewalk. Andrew is the guitarist for Civil Twilight and, therefore, awesome.

Jessie and I met up, parked in the visitors’ center parking garage and wandered around briefly. We then went back to the visitors’ center, and decided to kill a few minutes after realizing that if we moved our cars to the parking garage, we would only have to pay a flat fee of $2 for parking the rest of the evening. Just after 5 p.m., as we each drove into the parking garage, we spotted a man holding a camera standing on the sidewalk just inside the garage. Kneeling on the ground nearby was a shaggy-haired, blonde man writing with a black marker on pieces of cardboard.

The man with the camera was Andy Barron. The kneeling man was Jon Foreman.

I’m shocked Jessie and I managed to pull into the garage and find parking. I was literally jumping up and down seconds after I climbed out of my car. We rushed down to the lower level, where I high-fived Jon Foreman and Jessie chatted with Andy (friend of and photographer for Switchfoot) about his camera.

It was a beautiful moment and the show hadn’t even started yet. What followed was a delightfully simple few hours: walking up and down King Street, coffee at Starbucks, and a wonderful dinner at this tiny Italian restaurant where Jessie’s friend Luke is a waiter.

The show was magnificent, of course. Few members of the crowd knew anything about Civil Twilight, but by the time they started playing their cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop,” the crowd was totally hooked. I loved watching the reactions of people around me–I could see people texting and updating Facebook statuses about Civil Twilight, and when people began to recognize “Teardrop,” the excitement was palpable. I love this band. 🙂

And Switchfoot just keeps getting better. It was my 6th time seeing them live (and my 10th seeing Civil Twilight!). One of the best moments came when Jon introduced the song “Your Love is a Song,” which is my favorite song from their latest album Hello Hurricane. He said he’d never tried to explain the inspiration for the song onstage before that night. Sadly, the video isn’t the right file type to upload to WordPress, but if decide to upload it to YouTube, I’ll be sure to post it on here later.

This isn’t a great photo, but it’s the only one I got of the whole band. Also, while it’s great to be in the middle of a crowd, it’s less great when you’re only 5’2″ and can’t actually see more than the hairstyles in front of you.

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“This is the sound of a heartbeat.”

Friday night. The Orange Peel. Switchfoot. Incredible.

My fifth Switchfoot concert was the best I’ve been to. It would have been even better had I actually been able to see the stage. Sadly, being 5’2″ means that unless I arrive at the Orange Peel several hours pre-show, I won’t see most of the stage. However, when the musice is that intense, seeing the stage didn’t matter as much. I know what they look like by now. 🙂

The show was broken up into two sections. First, the band played the album Hello Hurricane from start to finish. As amazing as that album is, it’s so much more epic in a crowd of people who are screaming the lyrics and pumping their fists.

[Note: it was so intense, and I was so into it, that when I went to scream after the seventh song, “Hello Hurricane,” my scream was a hoarse cry that moved to a high-pitched squeal. I definitely lost my voice a mere 30 minutes into the show. Fortunately, I recovered by the end.]

After they finished “Red Eyes,” the final track from the album, Jon announced that we as an audience would choose the next song. We were all supposed to start singing the song we wanted to hear next. Eventually, the crowd would be singing the same song, and that’s how we chose. Of course, the song ended up being “Meant to Live.” It’s always a great one to hear live.

The set list for the second half of the show:

“Meant to Live”

“Stars”

“The Shadow Proves the Sunshine”

“Oh! Gravity.”

“Learning to Breathe” (my all-time favorite Switchfoot song–this is the third time I’ve heard it live)

“Twenty-Four” (a girl in the audience was celebrating her 24th birthday…fitting)

“Company Car” (from their first album The Legend of Chin. This song is so much fun live. Jon instructed the whole audience to put our arms around the person next to us and sway.)

“Dare You to Move” (a staple at any Switchfoot show)

They left the stage then, but they always do an encore. This time, it was “This is Your Life” and “Awakening,” two of my favorite songs to hear live. When Jon sings “This is Your Life,” he sings directly to the crowd. I always feel like I can conquer the world.

After the show, we headed outside in the bitter cold to hover around the tour bus. As we walked out, a group of people was singing Christmas carols to Jon Foreman. It was such a beautiful thing. Eventually, every guy from the band came out, so I met them all for the first time, took pictures with them, and they all autographed by deluxe edition of the album. I’m pretty sure it’s now my most prized possession.

Here’s me (and Candace and Jess) with the guys from Switchfoot:

Jon Foreman, of course, with me and Candace.

Tim Foreman, the bass player and Jon’s younger brother, was actually the first one we met that night.

Candace, me and Jess with Drew Shirley, the guitarist.

Us with Jerome Fontamillas, who rocks the keyboards. After Sam mentioned that I’m the biggest Switchfoot fan he knows, Jerome gave me an extra hug. It was pretty great. 🙂

Chad Butler, the drummer, was the last one to come off the tour bus, but we waited around in the freezing cold long enough to meet him.

I love Switchfoot. 🙂

“You can’t silence my love.”

hello hurricaneFriday afternoon, I found a medium flat-rate box in the mail with a return address of San Carlos, CA. Inside, encased in bubble wrap (that was quickly tossed aside) was the deluxe edition of the Switchfoot album Hello Hurricane–four days before the official release date (today!). The 84-page hardcover book contained lyrics, notes, and a story written by Jon Foreman about the album; photos of the band on tour, in-studio, and surfing; a full-size poster; a DVD detailing the making of the album, as well as live recordings; a CD of alternate mixes; and the 12-track album, the first album full of new material Switchfoot has released in nearly three years.

Before I listened to the album in its entirety, I had only listened to the song “Mess of Me” once. I wanted to wait and experience the music only when I had the CD in my hand, when I could read the lyrics as I heard them, when my focus could be almost totally on the music (which explains why I almost forgot about the cookies I was baking at the time).

I want to proclaim that this album is their best yet, and although I’ve initially believed that about every album, this one actually does blow my mind in how incredible the music is. The reason why Switchfoot is my favorite band is evident on this album: the music always meets me where I am. As my life evolves, so does the music, it seems. I listen to Switchfoot and wonder how Jon Foreman makes poetry out of the jumble of thoughts in my head. How do his words always seem to reflect what’s going on in my heart?

This album reveals the cycle of one’s life, or even one’s day. “Needle and Haystack Life,” the opening track, greets the new day, while “Red Eyes” seeks the rest that comes with hoping for a new beginning after the night is over. The progression from high-energy anthems to slow, introspective songs mirrors the triumph and tragedy of life. And through it all, one purpose is revealed: the world is wrong, messed up, but we fight for love anyway. Love is what drives us, frees us, redeems us.

So, song by song, here are my impressions of the album:

Track 1: “Needle and Haystack Life”

“The world begins / With newborn skin / We are right now”: it’s a great way to open the album. The song immediately presents the theme that is so prevalent in nearly every Switchfoot song: purpose. Life is no accident, even when it’s difficult.

Track 2: “Mess of Me”

This is the first single from the album. I’m really not surprised by the choice. It’s loud and energetic–much like “Oh! Gravity.” was for the album or “Meant to Live” was for The Beautiful Letdown. Thematically, it also works with those two songs: Yeah, we screw our lives up, but we must strive for a better life. My favorite lyrics for this song: “It’s hard to free the ones you love / When you can’t forgive yourself.” Truth is right there. And this is one example of how Switchfoot is so relevant to my life: so much of what we work through in Radius, what pervades my life as a  believer, is how to be free and free others.

Track 3: “Your Love is a Song”

This third track slows the tempo down to almost a rock-ballad-like feel. After my second time through the album, I’d already pegged this one as my favorite on the album, and I was listening to it on repeat. If “Mess of Me” shows that we make mistakes, this track reminds us that redemption is available, and perfect love can conquer all. Hope is here. Thematically, this works perfectly with “Let Your Love Be Strong” from Oh! Gravity. and “Your Love is Strong” from Jon Foreman’s Spring EP. My favorite lyrics would be the whole song, so I’ll just post the chorus: “I’ve been keeping my eyes wide open / Your love is a symphony / All around me / Running through me / Your love is a melody / Underneath me / Running to me / Your love is a song.”

Track 4: “The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues)”

[If you’re wondering who John Perkins is, check out his foundation’s website.]

This song picks up the tempo and blends the ideas of the two preceding tracks, while adding some incredible guitar work (and other stuff). The world is fallen and messed up: “This is the sound / From the discontented mouths / Of a haunted nation / We are the voice of breaking down.” What’s the cure? “Love is the final fight / Let it rise above / Rise above / There is no song / Louder than love.” When I start a revolution, this song will be on the soundtrack. 🙂

Track 5: “Enough to Let Me Go”

This is a quiet, aimless, melancholy tune, a nice break between the epicness of tracks 4 and 6. I want to know if there’s a story behind it, but it seems to be about the difficulties of relationship. “Do you love me enough to let me go? / To let me follow through / To let me fall for you?” While love might be what we’re fighting for, it’s not always easy. Sometimes, it hurts a lot.

Track 6: “Free”

Another anthemic song from the very first notes. I cannot wait to hear this song live–it’s gonna rock so hard. And, thematically…well, duh. Freedom again. This picks up where “Mess of Me” left off–we have to be free–from the chains we lock ourselves. The chorus: “Free / Come set me free / Down on my knees / I still believe you can save me from me.” When I see them play this live, and I’m in a crowd of fans screaming these lyrics, these words are gonna come from that desperate place deep inside all of us that desires to completely overcome the sinful, enslaved nature that prevents us from living the glorious life God has designed us to live. “There’s a hole in my heart but my hope / is not in me at all / I had a dream that my chains were broken / broken open / Free.”

Track 7: “Hello Hurricane”

This song is perfect for the album title. If “Free” gets our fighting spirit riled up, “Hello Hurricane” reminds us once more what we’re fighting for. We have to fight through our sufferings through the storms of life (or, you know, hurricanes). The song echoes the apostle Paul: “Everything I have I count as loss / Everything I have is stripped away.” How do we survive? The answer is always the same: “Hello hurricane / You can’t silence my love.”

Track 8: “Always”

Jon’s notes in the book describe this as a song about love “from the upstairs perspective.” We know that we’ll have to overcome adversity, and this is yet another reassurance that we are not alone in that battle. The last few lyrics of this song are the most beautiful. The words have my crying out that this is Truth: “Hallelujah! / Every breath is a second chance / And it is always yours / And I am always yours.”

Track 9: “Bullet Soul”

This will also be on my revolution soundtrack. It will also be incredible live. It’s so intensely anthemic–I want to be a “kid with a bullet soul.” And what will we be aiming for? Of course: “I want to turn up the radiation / I want to glow in the dark / Love is the one true innovation / Love is the only art.” Anyone else feel utterly consumed?

Track 10: “Yet”

Passion and intensity can’t be all of life, though. We have to slow down, which is evident in this much slower track: “I’m losing ground and gaining speed.” Even when we know what we’re fighting for, we lose sight and get caught up in confusion. This phase won’t last, and you’ll learn from it and come out stronger: “If it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love / If it doesn’t break your heart it’s not enough / It’s when you’re breaking down / With your insides coming out / That’s when you find out what your heart is made of / And you haven’t lost me yet.” This song is going to be such an encouragement on days when I lose sight and forget what really matters.

Track 11: “Sing It Out”

And the story continues: “I’ve lost the song of my soul tonight.” Jon’s notes describe this as an “apocalyptic hymn in first person present tense.” It begins with a lonely, ethereal, longing question. This song haunts me. This could be the story of anyone’s journey: crying out for the Father and grasping for the Truth that He is all we have. “I need your breath in my lungs tonight / Sing it out / I’m holding on / I’m holding on to you.” This is a song that’s gonna make me cry–in a good, cathartic sort of way–just when I need it most. It’s the most emotionally intense song on the album. Raw and genuine.

Track 12: “Red Eyes”

It’s fitting that the last track should reflect the close of the day when “Needle and Haystack Life”  reflected the dawn. “What are you waiting for? / The day is done.” At the end of the day, when we’re exhausted and “nowhere feels like home,” we always have the hope of the next day to look ahead to. We have to keep moving. We must have hope.  And, as a perfect way to end the song and the album, Jon’s voice echoes “In this needle and haystack life / I’ve found miracles there in your eyes / It’s no accident we’re here tonight / We are once in a lifetime.” He’s already reaching ahead, beginning the cycle over. We must join in.

#32: Actually speak to Jon Foreman.

fiction familyI love every bit of music that Jon Foreman has anything to do with. Seriously. So when I discovered that Fiction Family would be playing the Grey Eagle in Asheville–the day after my birthday, no less–I was super excited (which pretty much goes without saying, right?).

The show was wonderful. Sara Watkins (sister to Fiction Family co-founder Sean and fellow member of Nickel Creek) opened, and she did a fantastic job. And as her set neared its end, the rest of the band slowly joined her on stage–the drummer and bass player, then Sean Watkins, and finally Jon Foreman for the last song.

Side note: we sat on the far left side of the audience, about three rows back from the stage–I had a perfect view of the profiles of all the band members, and the stage was only a few feet away. Also only a few feet away? The door backstage. The door through which Jon Foreman came. The door next to which he stood (mere feet from my chair) when he wasn’t playing. 🙂

Okay…back to the show…

I really love the Fiction Family album, and they’re even better live. The venue is small, which lent itself to a more informal mood and allowed Jon Foreman to talk to individual people in the crowd–not me, but some people were lucky. The music was INCREDIBLE, of course. And Fiction Family covered Jon Foreman’s “Resurrect Me,” which they have recorded, but Jon also sang two other of his solo songs–“Behind Your Eyes” and “Your Love is Strong,” which is my favorite song from the seasonal EPs. Admittedly, there were tears in my eyes. So wonderful.

After the show, we chatted with Tim and Betsy Hendrix (Tim is a huge Nickel Creek fan, so he brought Betsy mostly to hear Sara open for Fiction Family). Then I bought a FF t-shirt, of course. Then I stood with Jess, Harvin, and Chris and admittedly lost it a little bit when Jon Foreman walked into the room.

Then Jess stood in line with me as we waited to get pictures, and I actually spoke to Jon Foreman this time. Not a long conversation, and I certainly said nothing brilliant, but he shook my hand and asked my name, and I told him the show was amazing and asked for a picture. MUCH BETTER than the last time I met Jon Foreman outside the Bi-Lo Center in November 2007, when I couldn’t even open my mouth to say “Hello” or “Thank you.” Improvement was all I was really looking for. 🙂

I know I’m ridiculous and fanatical. I know he’s just a musician, and I shouldn’t get so excited. But it’s Jon Foreman–the man who wrote the lyrics to most of my favorite songs, the frontman to the only band I don’t think I could live without anymore. He’s amazing, the music is incredible, and he’s a really swell guy. I’m glad I have a decent photo now, and I’m glad that I’ve improved enough not to be rendered completely speechless in his presence anymore.

And, of course, I’m glad to have marked something else off my List.

A Plug for Fiction Family

I’m using my blog shamelessly to plug Jon Foreman‘s newest side project, Fiction Family, which is a collaboration with Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek. The first single (“When She’s Near”) is spectacular, and the album will be released on January 20. Additionally, Fiction Family will be in Atlanta on January 29, so if you live near here, then you should consider going with me.

Also, for Hope, my faithful friend in NYC, Fiction Family will be at the Bowery Ballroom on Jan. 20, the day of the album release. If you can manage it, you should go because I totally would if I were there!

And now, for your viewing and listening pleasure…the video for “When She’s Near”: