Friday, July 21, 2006

Square Peg Overload

Team Redd loves good music, and the fine folks of the Square Peg Alliance definitely provide copious amounts of it. In fact, we've been privileged to see over a third of them in concert within the last week. Here's a brief summary:

Last Friday Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken played at Rockdale Community Church in nearby Conyers. This church always lines up quality acts for their summer concert series. Derek and Sandra provided a wonderful evening of music to the beyond-capacity crowd (probably 300+). We were at the church when the doors opened (thirty minutes before showtime), and the place filled to ~70% capacity within fifteen minutes. Extra chairs arrived from other rooms, but a good number of folks still were relegated to standing along the walls and in the back.

Derek and Sandra sounded fantastic (despite a few amplifier issues), energized by the large and enthusiastic audience. Sandra played a great opening set, accompanied by Derek on most of the songs, and after a brief intermission, Mr. Webb played an assortment of songs spanning his entire repertoire (both Caedmon's and solo). I especially appreciate how Derek connects the socially-themed content of Mockingbird, his latest album, with the unabashed Gospel message of his previous works. Derek also discussed his plans to make Mockingbird available for free download for three months, which is very cool. One humorous moment (of several): At the end of the show, Derek was introducing Sandra's song "Awake My Soul," and he related how he initially mistook the song for an old hymn the first time he heard Sandra singing it (since Sandra has done a lot of great work in writing new tunes for lesser known hymn texts). But it really is a McCracken original that only sounds like it could be an old hymn. Not two breaths later, Derek stated that the song was "a hymn text from the 1700s that Sandra had written a chorus for." After a few awkward seconds, she piped up and caused Derek to do a double-take and realize what he had just said. "See, the song is that good, it still fools me!" He then made a comment about how good Sandra looked for being 300 years old. Funny, funny.

(One other cool thing: we were able to snag a copy of Sandra's new disc Gravity | Love, which wasn't supposed to be available until late August. Yet they were on sale at the concert. Good stuff!)

On Tuesday Matthew Perryman Jones played at Eddie's Attic here in the Atlanta area. Eddie's is a cool but small venue, and MPJ definitely packed the place, especially with some of his hometown connections. I've seen him play at Eddie's before, but this time he was supported by a band, including the ubiquitous Cason Cooley (keys and vocals), Justin Orton (drums) and a bass player whose name was also Matthew. MPJ is currently touring with Faith Gilmore, a fellow Nashville singer-songwriter, and he and the band played during her opening set. I had never heard of her before Tuesday, but I thought she was fairly decent. MPJ sounds really great with a full band, although not as much rock was had as he originally intended: he commented that he had originally planned to play most of his set on electric guitar, but the fickle instrument was proving problematic. Regardless, he still sounded wonderful, and it was definitely an "on" night. In addition to his own material (including several cuts from his new highly-endorsed-by-Team-Redd album, Throwing Punches in the Dark), he treated us to a couple of great covers by Paul Simon ("American Tune") and U2 ("Like A Song"). Also, I think the hometown crowd really energized him, because he was much more light-hearted and banter-prone than usual ("not as dark and brooding," as he put it).

One funny thing: Because of the relatively large crowd and Eddies' small capacity, the musicians really couldn't get too far from the stage after each set. So they just sort of hung out in the back corner where we were sitting (I was with a group of about 15) until it was time to play, with only a velvet rope demarcating the slim corridor leading up to the stage. They basically got to take about five steps off stage, wait, and then turn back around.

The only downer for this show was that Allison was out of town visiting her parents. But she wasn't completely deprived of music, because ...

On Wednesday Andrew Peterson played in Opelika, AL, and Allison and her mom were able to enjoy the concert (without me, sadly). Andrew's right-hand man Ben Shive was absent, since his wife just delivered their new son, but fellow Square Pegger (and fellow Andy) Andy Gullahorn was present to provide guitar skillz. It's notoriously difficult to write a review of a concert one hasn't attended, so I'll leave the floor open for Allison to provide additional details. From what I hear, though, it was a great show, with a new song from each Andy, as well as plenty of old favorites, comical banter, and even some cover tunes.

So to recap: one week (6 days, actually), three concerts, five Pegs. Not too shabby!

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