First off, no, this is not a movie post. I know that breaks my long streak of theme naming my various ongoing series, but it seemed appropriate in this case. I go to live concerts so rarely that they’re big events for me (the last time I went to a concert was around five years ago when I went with my family to see the Eagles; the last time before that was nearly ten years ago when I saw Nickel Creek).
This concert was a particularly big deal because Jars of Clay is a band who have their roots in the Christian music industry and have a pretty significant following. They’ve been around for almost twenty years now, and their discography is filled with impressive work. I suppose the best way to describe their early work is coffeehouse music–it’s full of acoustic guitar and soothing vocals. Their later stuff, which I’m actually more fond of (don’t get me wrong; I like all of it, but Good Monsters made me a real fan), still has those coffeehouse elements, but the production includes much more lush instrumentation with a particular focus on keyboard (especially in The Long Fall Back to Earth) and a richer string section. Rachael and I like to talk about how these guys are consummate musicians, and since they released Good Monsters when we were in college every album has sounded drastically different from the previous one.
I take this change in style, which never seems to contradict their core musical identity, to suggest that what’s remarkable about Jars of Clay is that while they originated as a Christian band, they are first and foremost musicians who let their faith infuse their music rather than evangelists looking to spread the gospel through songs. They treat their vocation in the way that I best understand the term: they do God-honoring work by constantly improving at their craft.
That’s probably enough background on the band.
What was remarkable about this concert was that it took place at a small coffee shop in Atlanta. There was room for probably about fifty people in the place, and it was packed full. Rachael and I, in a mad bid to get to the front, ended up sitting on the floor right in front of the band next to a bunch of kids who had to be up front or else they wouldn’t have been able to see.
Sitting on a concrete floor when you’re surrounded by other people closely packed together is not the most comfortable experience, but it was less awkward than being that one tall jerk standing in the front blocking everyone else’s view. Also, once the music started it really didn’t matter that much. The close quarters and the hard floor made the music resonate all around, so it was actually pretty cool. Every time the band hit a particularly good bass line, I could feel the vibrations inside my chest.
It was like being in a cozy egg of sound.
After the concert was over, we got a chance to mingle with the band members, which was a source of great social anxiety. Through a complete fluke, I happened to have a couple of Jars of Clay’s albums in my car, so we brought those inside and got them signed, though it was a half hour of me awkwardly trying to get each guy’s attention without being pushy, and then having that moment when we’d make eye contact and I’d have to say something or else I’d come across as a weird mute fan. Fortunately, they were all incredibly gracious guys, and didn’t hold it against me when I asked them for autographs. It might have helped that everyone asked them for autographs, but just because everyone’s engaging in behavior that you find personally embarrassing doesn’t make it any less so.
Maybe that’s why I don’t go to concerts so often.