Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 150: 3-6
One evening the phone rang and I received an offer to play with a Christian Contemporary Rock band. The caller was polite and to the point. The fellow explained that he had been looking for a drummer and no others seemed available. (Which may have explained why he was approaching an old geezer like me to play rock.) I felt I had heard ‘Christian Rock’, and I could handle the challenge. That coupled with his dilemma meant I was going to play Christian rock. After all, how hard could it be?
Truth to tell, I don’t listen to Christian radio as it tends towards the sweet. I always need an edge, something with a little grit with a simple poetry and melody. I love gospel music, but my favorites lean toward the rural and material created in the middle of the last century. However, I have seen Robin Mark and some of his material has a down-right punky feel, and he certainly had the crowd rocking. I can listen to Elvis Costello, Clash, Stooges, Rush and the Ramones, so like I said, how hard could it be?
On the agreed night I went to the rehearsal reasonably certain I could do OK. I was led into a full on recording studio, and was handed carefully prepared lyric sheets and a CD covering what we were playing. The drum kit was electric and very large. Neil Pert might not be intimidated, but I was starting to be. One by one in filed the other musicians. One by one they opened their cases (more like unearthed their weapons). People, this was serious stuff; Paul Reed Smith guitars; Hi-watt and Messaboogie amps; and enough Effects pedals to run NASA! Suddenly I regretted ever cutting my hair. The Bass and guitar players lacked only the tattoos necessary to mistake them for metal music people. I had enough adrenaline running through my system to keep my sinuses clear for a week.
After the necessary introductions and tuning, we were counted in and away we went. I felt like I was hanging on to the coattails of a madman. If I kept the beat a small miracle would have occurred. Forget the ride cymbal; it would have to be bass, snare, hi-hat, and the occasional tom.
This was music with an edge alright. Unfortunately I was looking for Motown and was hearing Fillmore East. It went on like this for the better part of forever. My struggle (however valiantly) was barely adequate and obvious.
The lyrics were very different from mainstream rock, and be assured, God was definitely being praised. He would not have had to strain to hear. I love music like this, very loud and in your face. Listening to and performing loud music is why I wear hearing aids. But never mind the decibels, full speed ahead!
When the rehearsal was over, I waited behind for the inevitable. We both agreed that my abilities were not going to do for this band, and he wanted to thank me for coming out. However, if he could not find a drummer would I do the gig, and we would leave it in God’s hands? I agreed, hoping he would find the drummer he needed.
The next day I happened to be near his work place and caught up to him. I was hoping he had secured a drummer, and I would be off the hook. He told me he had indeed done this. We were able to sit and talk for a little while, and a very pleasant conversation ensued. He told me he was impressed with my gentle and understanding reaction around being told my drumming might not fit in with the music. I was touched by this and thanked him.
If you have been a performer of any stripe you know you must have some form of ego in order to take even the first step towards a stage. You must have at least a sense that some of your material will be enjoyed by some part of your audience. What this can mean is that you are exposed and that same strength of ego that got you there is unprotected. Unprotected ego can take a pounding, especially for the sensitive which most musicians are. Being told by another musician that you did not make it, would poke a sore spot.
Possibly before coming to Riverside, I might have had a similar reaction which impressed my friend. Yet, I wonder if I would have had the inner grace to feel as touched by the experience as I was. Since accepting God, I have a sense that so much has changed. There is joy in life, and a hope which is not far away. It can even buffer the ego of a musician. How about that? Ted