Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Taft Diary, part 1 - Friday (The original Over the Rhine)

Last weekend, mere hours after my last day at work, I took a treacherous drive down to Cincinnati for the Over the Rhine reunion show at the Taft theater, and it was certainly the best 3 days of this otherwise shitty year for me, one of the best weekends I've had in quite a few years, actually.

A severe snowstorm was forcast for Friday morning, when I was planning on leaving, so I decided to leave the night before to avoid all that. Only I hit freezing rain and icing highways just past Bowling Green, Ohio, and made it as far as Lima (doing about 35-45 mph for a few hours) before I finally pulled over and made a makeshift hotel room out of my car in front of a Speedway gas pump for a few hours. My only consolation for how ridiculous this probably looked was that it felt like the sort of thing Tom Waits would do. I've never driven through such wet weather in my life. My car was making horrible noises that at first sounded like the muffler, but were distinctly coming from the engine. A comment by a stranger at another gas station down the road made me realize it was probably my belt slipping. It freaked me out, whatever it was, and led to a fair amount of highway "help me" prayers. I just want to get to Cincinnati...

I listen to Sam Phillip new CD on the way there as she sings "I...I love you...when you're useless...when you don't do anything" and I wonder if that kind of unconditional love is even possible to share with another or to experience ourselves. It certainly sounds like a wonderful idea. Some sort of counterbalance to the thoughts and voices that insist "you're not good enough".

Just past Dayton, and the temperature starts to rise, the rain eases up a bit, and as I pulled into Cincinnati (and no sooner), the sun comes out onto a near-60 degree morning. It only took me 10 hours to make this 5-hour trip. I check into my cheap-ass motel and try to get some of the sleep I missed last night.

My friends Bill and Heidi braved the foot of snow in Detroit to leave this morning, didn't have to deal with any ice in Ohio, and made it into town just in time for us to go to dinner before the big show at 8. It is great to have friends here to share this great weekend with. Bill is one of the few people I know whose knowledge and love of music rivals and even surpases mine. We both have CD collections that number in the thousands.
We met a random stranger coming off the bus in downtown and they asked him if he knew any good places to eat within walking distance. Instead of pulling out a gun to mug us (as a random stranger off the bus probably would have done here in Detroit), he actually walked with us down to his recommended restaurant. Really nice guy. Unfortunately the place was packed, so we ended up eating at a mall food court across the street (a mall that oddly closed at 7pm on this Friday evening before Christmas. ?.). It was then, in the middle of a great conversation about old Christian rock, that Bill confessed his early love of Air Supply to us. I told him I'd never admit to that sort of thing publicly...and I won't. (*ahem*)

After dinner we walked the few blocks back to The Taft in the cool night air for what was one of the most anticipated reunion shows of my life. Over the Rhine was getting back together for one night with their original members - drummer Brian Kelly and the legendary guitarist Ric Hordinski. and they did not disappoint.

Over the Rhine has probably been my favorite group (off and on with Vigilantes of Love / Bill Mallonee) for about 15 years now. They played a key role in my post-college years as a beacon of how faith could be expressed in art outside of the confining CCM/Christian sub-culture (or "ghetto"). As such, they opened my eyes to a whole world of literature and music and way of living in this world that was a tremendous breath of fresh air to me and my spiritual life. this original line-up hadn't played together for over 10 years, and I almost forgot how special those early shows were, and how much of an impact they had on me. They delivered a reunion show that exceeded all expectations and hit the mark perfectly for me. And somehow, during the course of the show, I felt like I was regaining some sort of center again, like the "reset" button was being pressed on my life.

Someday I hope you might be true to all it is I see in you...
The music of Over the Rhine makes me long for a better life, makes me want to be a better person along the way. Not necessarily to reach higher, but to reach deeper. There is a life out here beyond what I've allowed for myself. There are people here I connect with who remind me of who I really am, where I was heading, once upon a time. There are seeds being planted right now, in this season, and this is a beginning. Where it goes or whether it grows only God really knows. but it is my prayer that something comes of all this, inside and out, that connections can be made, to others and to that life I can't refuse...

After the show I go upstairs and talk with Dave Nixon, former pastor of the Vineyard Central community there in Norwood. It is good to reconnect with him for a few minutes, and unfortunate that that will be the only real chance I get to talk with him at length.

I meet a few people from The Orchard (Over the Rhine's online discussion group), chat some small talk a bit, and then we head back to the hotel to try and get some more respectable sleep. Tommorrow Bill and I will search Cinci for some used record and bookstore action. already the weekend has been worth the price of admission and the risk it took to get here. Tommorrow things will get even better...

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