Saturday, May 23, 2009

The "Why" Of New Song Underground

Every so often, somebody will ask about why New Song Underground came to be.  Most of the time, I don't really have the luxury of answering the question completely.  I have to condense the answer into something that can be delivered while doing a band changeover, or a load in/ out process.

It's been suggested to me that now might just be the time to put a "long form" answer up where people can actually read it.  In order to do this quickly, I've excerpted the following from a document I wrote a few months ago.  If anything is unclear, I will try to explain (if asked).


I once heard an excellent quote, which I have since modified to describe various encounters that I have had with maturing as a child of God: “When God was holding me over the pit of hell by my neck, shaking me vigorously, He wasn't trying to hurt me, and He wasn't threatening to drop me. He just wanted my undivided attention.”

The end of my involvement with Rising Artists Studios was a moment like this, where an unsettling time allowed for listening to the Spirit, and re-evaluating priorities. It also meant that there was time to re-think what an Underground-esque ministry was really about.

The ultimate aim of Christ's Church is spreading the gospel.  It may be argued that spreading the gospel involves both the transmission of a verbal message, and the demonstration of how the power behind that message operates in people who have received it.  Underground is a ministry that is mostly focused on the second aspect.

In order to display the transformative power of the gospel, Underground's philosophy is to be in opposition to the "economy of the world" which holds sway over the local music scene.  This opposition takes the form of operating as an "economy of grace," which seeks to be welcoming and hospitable - rather than closed-off and self-interested.  The way in which this manifests is described in the following assertions:

The economy of grace is an “I'll go first” situation. Logically, if God reaches out to us and takes upon Himself the risks of acting first, it is probably right to model that. One has to initiate actions within the wider community, because waiting for the world to “play nice” will result in a very long wait time!

The economy of grace is, for Underground, based on the idea of “I was a stranger, and you welcomed Me.” The idea of Christian hospitality, manifested in making our facility and equipment available to those desiring to use it, is the basic principle of what is being attempted.  Everyone should get our best, because we have received the best ourselves.

The economy of grace demands that such hospitality be, at the very least, risk free to the recipient. A band promoting a show has already taken on risk and cost, so providing facilities for them to use is only hospitable if no additional risk is incurred. The recipient must be able to “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” Underground may take a door split out of necessity, but that split must always have the possibility of being zero – otherwise, there is greater risk to the band, promoter, production name it.

The economy of grace does not evaluate the recipient before they receive the benefit of the ministry. The band already “rich” in fans should not get preferential treatment over a band with “5 people going to show up, maybe.” This means that whoever books a date first gets that date. Even if the most famous band in the world asks for that date, the least important band in the world should have its booking honored.

The economy of grace is secure in being a light to the world, with that light being undimmed by the recipients of its illumination. If one desires to reach people that others treat like "prostitutes and tax collectors," one must spend time with them and welcome them. It may not always “look good,” but it is necessary. By welcoming people who are not welcomed by the world (or, unfortunately, by other Christians) one is “preaching one's message” to them, and not the other way around.

The economy of grace is an undertaking that deserves seriousness and extensive commitment. It is not a hobby, to be given time and attention only when it is most comfortable. Rather, the attitude ought to be one of high availability – every day other than Sunday being available to the community at large. The Kingdom is not only open on weekends.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

So, What's With This "BOTB" Thing?

Some of you may have noticed a whole bunch of "Best In Utah - BOTB" entries in the show listings - and maybe you're wondering just exactly what it all means.

Here's the deal.

Dave from Happy Time Music got me on the phone, and outlined a pretty major and ambitious plan. He wants to make a big, very positive impact on the local music scene by way of starting a new, first class, all-ages, treat the bands like actual human beings, music venue.

Was that a run on sentence? Probably.

Oh well.

So, Dave wants to do that, and he also wants to get bands playing shows ASAP - you know, make some noise and get attention.

The vehicle for this is a series of shows (a BIG series) in a battle of the bands format, with hopefully a pretty major kickback to the winning band(s) at the end. Of course, the even bigger hope is that there's a kickback for the entire local music scene when Dave is able to finance his main venue - but that will be a little ways off in the distance (not necessarily a long way, just not "right this very second").

Now, normally, I'm a bit leery of Battle Of The Bands thingamajigamas. In this case, though, I'm on board. The reason is that this isn't just a scheme to make money, so that a couple of folks can buy cars, videogame consoles, and HDTV's. No - this is an idea from a guy who wants to make a difference in the scene. I'm willing to take that at face value.

Here's what I need from you, the reader - most likely a person in a band. Please remember that I speak only for myself:

1. Forget about all this competition stuff. Forget about prizes and winning, or who is better at this or that, or who might or might not deserve to do well. Put it out of your mind, because it will just end up making you unhappy. When you're done with that...

2. View this as an opportunity to play sets with other very cool bands. Network like crazy. Get each other's business cards and Myspace pages. Exchange CD's. Set up shows at other places together. Get to know people - as many as you can. Make as many friends as you can possibly keep track of. Use this as an opportunity to build the scene at a grassroots level. Make this thing work for YOU, whether you win or not.

3. Be ready to do everything "festival style." With a lot of bands per night, the sets will be short and so too will be changeover time. You can bet that I will do my best to represent you with the PA, but soundchecking is going to be nonexistent. Sing loud, and get close to the mics. Stay calm. Be excellent to each other. Know your stuff. Be flexible.

4. Help the other bands. This ties in to #2. Be ready to lend picks, straps, cables, amps, kick pedals, etc. Help people load and unload. Go to other people's shows and cheer them on. Tell your fans that this isn't just an excuse to hear you play for 20 minutes - it's a show with multiple bands that they should stay at and enjoy to the fullest.

5. Be patient. Stuff happens. Also, protect your hearing.

There. I've said my piece. Let's see what happens. If you're interested in participating, Dave is the contact guy for this. He's at 801.867.9388