The Avett Brothers, Confessional Singing, and a not-so Community of Strangers

Last night I had the privilege of standing in the Fox theater with a group of friends and strangers listening to a free show by the Avett Brothers. It was great, the seats we found were stage-side and the air was electric.

As I stood along side my wife and in the community of my friends a couple of things occurred to me that I had not thought about in a while. In fact, I hadn’t really thought about them since the last time I saw U2 in concert.

Check it:

There is something about the experience of entering into a community of strangers that is messy and profound all at the same time. Indeed, from our seats, we could see all kinds experience: people screaming out every word to every song, dads with small kids bouncing on their shoulders, and cling-ons who had somehow¬† managed to find their way into the crowd with others they knew. In many ways, we were all strangers, but in others, we were all the same: a community gathered by the expectation of an experience that was greater than ourselves. Now, while I’m sure that for some, Avett left out their favorite song, for me, the experience of being caught up in the delight of much larger community was not only powerful, but energizing!

Next, there is something about music that is lyrically confession that not only allows for power of lamentation, but is transforming and inspiring. There is no shortage of songs among the repertoire of AB that doesn’t call you to confess or own up to something. Be it shame, inner guilt, longing for new beginnings, relationships that didn’t make it (and then did), the tragedy and challenge of being in a family (of family or friends) or the desire to find oneself. Time and time again as I watched and listened and sang, I could see people smiling, crying, lamenting, yearning, and hoping for things to be different, and new, and alive. In many ways, AB last night was more than just a good show, it was an authentic experience of confession and renewal that many had been awaiting and longing for sometime. (If you are not familiar with the Avett Brothers, please, do yourself a favor and go check them out!)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m there are loads of people who thought last night was just a good show, but my hunch is, no my intuition tells me, that what really drew people to a “free show” with a community of strangers, what something of the power and experience of life in all of its mess and aspiration. Indeed, my sense is, if more communities, neighborhood associations, churches, and civil groups could approach their mission with the same energy, art and honesty, people my be drawn more fully into them, and the world might just be a much better place.

At the end of the day, if nothing else, I’m better today because of last night.

Let it be so…

Joshua