This past Friday, I drove out to Tulsa, OK for the WinterJam 2012 concert. Mostly I went because Skillet, my favorite band, was headlining.
When I was around age 16, I got to go with my high school youth group to a concert festival in Napa Valley-ish, and there I saw Skillet live for the first time. It was an incredible experience that my sheltered self adored every minute of. The pyrotechnics screaming high, the speakers blasting, the guitars, the rocking, the songs that I mostly knew.
At the time, I had listened to Alien Youth and the just-released Collide, but was mostly unfamiliar with their older music. I knew many of the lyrics, and after that day I promised myself that I would do whatever I had to in order to see them play live again. Yet everytime they came near when I was in college, I was on contract for an event that day – one year it was closing, another it was Summer Orientation. So years went by and I never got to see them.
Sadly, no one was able to come out to the concert with me, because everyone I asked had other things going on. So I went alone. Multiple artists and bands were playing, so I got to hear some music I had not previously heard, including for KING & COUNTRY, We As Human and Group 1 Crew. I have heard some of Group 1 Crew’s music before, but not a whole lot.
When I walked up to the We As Human booth after the concert, I saw the CD was only $5. “Yeah, sure. That’s not too bad to support a band that performed well,” I said to myself. And it was well worth it, even though there were only four tracks on the album. The opening track, Sever, boasts a loud sound full of energy. A song about separating from an evil that has latched onto us, it roars sweetly in ones ears. I highly recommend this song on a nice day – pop the CD in, roll the windows down and turn the system up. “Living Lies,” the second track has a much more subtle opening, but swells to a fantastic pulse by the chorus, which is about how much the individual hates living in lies imposed on them by both external forces and themselves. Track 3 describes the pain of living a “Double Life.” Calmer verses peacefully bookend a rockin’ chorus. Finally, “Dead Man” is a shorter, slightly more repetitive track that is abo
ut shedding the former self and becoming new. While this four-track EP was five dollars, each song is easily worth more than the $1.25 I paid for it.
Next thing, I stopped by the Group 1 Crew booth. Their performance had been incredible – and I’ve heard “Please Don’t Let Me Go” on the radio a few times before. I picked up the CD for $10, then got it autographed and got a photo with the two of them. Group 1 Crew is basically what you would have if the Black-Eyed Peas were a Christian group. Yet tracks like “Live It Up” might appear just to be a pop song to the casual listener. A song about celebrating the end of the week and making a difference in the world, it’s easy to bop along to while in the car. Bonus: the extended of the CD has a remix of this track at the end. #winning. “Outta Space Love,” a track about the incredible love of Jesus sounds almost exactly like something the BEP would perform. “I need that love, love, outta space love,” the chorus runs, zesty and catchy. Clearly the radio cut “Please Don’t Let Me Go” is also a highlight. “DigiRock” a track about how you don’t have to be famous to have a good time, bumps in near the end of the album, yet is not unforgettable.
Finally, I stopped by the for KING & COUNTRY booth and stood back a bit for a moment. “Can I help you?” the girl behind the booth asked, and I distantly tried to pretend she wasn’t talking to me, until I realized I was the only person at the booth who hadn’t been helped yet. When I saw the CD was $5, and the girl was looking at me like I was stupid, I felt the pressure. I caved. I picked up the for KING & COUNTRY album. While I would still categorize them as rock, they are much more downbeat than the near-metal style of We As Human. The notable tracks are also the songs they played live: “Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)” and “Fine Fine Life.” Also notable is “People Change.” “Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)” is a prayer to not be left during a time of struggle. Almost a song of penance in tough time, this song comes close to my hear, and has already earned five stars in my iTunes. I see it rising quickly on the “Most Played” list also. The next track on the album is almost a ballad for a second chance. Sometimes we all need that reminder that, no matter how many mistakes we make, “People Change.” Skip a few tracks, and you come to “Fine Fine Life” a joyful song about how wonderful it is to be a person, to be alive, and to get to interact with others. I think this will make a fantastic summer song.
So there’s my new music of late. $20 for three fantastic albums is definitely worth every penny.
What new (or newly discovered) music have you been listening to?