It seems there's little in little Alva, Oklahoma. A Wal-Mart that's just barely over half the size of a supercenter (which I've been hired as an overnight stocker), a small theater/video rental store, a pharmacy with soda fountain, and a youth center that opens 3-5:30 pm where kids can (gossip) play video games, go online, skateboard, play sports, and pig out with food that, like the soda fountain at Holder's, is like Ohio- no tax on it.
Yet it's at that last place, called the eXtreme Building, that something really amazing happened (in the scope of this small town, 5 miles square) this past Wednesday- a concert featuring radio-steady Christian prog-rock band Fireflight with a couple guest stars- Cory Lamb and Rapture Ruckus. I was asked by the youth pastor, Jeremy Little, to help out with the band set-up. As much as I love Fireflight's music (they're not my favorite, but nonetheless, I love their stuff [my faves are As I Lay Dying, Skillet, and Demon Hunter]), why would I pass up a priviliged opportunity? So I came by expecting to help out. That I did, and so much more. Warning, I didn't treat the members of each band like some rock gods, I did greet them, hung out, and asked stuff. Not like "Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?" or "Where do you get your instruments?" Rather, stuff like "I imagine you had a few normal jobs before being in a band, huh?" and, when I saw the logo of Rapture Ruckus (it looked like an old-school video game "sprite" character), "You play video games?" Turned out, yep, many of them do. When I was asked (by the guitarist for Cory Lamb, who was wearing the shirt) what my favorite video game was (yes, I'm a hardcore lifelong video gamer), I first asked if old-school or new-school. Old-school. "That one's easy- Super Mario Bros." And I agreed with his answer, "Can never go wrong with that one!" Spent an hour getting their equipment out of their trucks and setting up inside.
Got to meet Glen from Fireflight (the band member that day I met), and he figured out pretty quickly that I'm a huge Skillet fan while he was getting his guitar ready, while Dawn, it turns out, doesn't need to look any different than she does in the videos. As someone commented on their latest video (Stay Close), "Is it just me or does she get more and more beautiful in every video?" Impossibly, it turns out to be true, And just a little talk with her showed how passionately compassionate she is, and (believe it or not), how human and humane she is. Then, onto their new drummer, Adam. While he and a lady who goes with them on the road, Katy, were getting his drums ready, all three of us talked... and talked... and talked. If they ever got annoyed of my incessant blabbing, they showed no sign, they just went along with it, and with loads of great humor. Especially when another roadie got out a huge, all-wooden tambourine, sat in it, and started playing it. I asked Katy to hold my glasses, asked the guy to keep playing, then started to headbang with a Rock On gesture shooting out and bobbing up-and-down. At that, everyone who saw it cracked up.
Believe it or not, even roadies and bands have misadventures and funny stories while on the road. The guitarist with the Rapture Ruckus shirt? It turned out that at another venue, while opening a door, was afraid he'd be slammed under, so he asked for a little assistance this time. While Rapture Ruckus was getting all their stuff set up, knowing they're from New Zealand (you don't have to know that to know they're foreign, their accents make it obvious, but I almost thought their lead singer was from Ireland!), I decided to make jokes with my "professional" linguistic skills (spoke a touch of Japanese, Norwegian, and Russian, along with English) and it got everyone surprised and amused.
Cut to 5 hours later, start of concert. Rapture Ruckus was up first, it'd been four, maybe five years since the last concert I was at (Skillet's Comatose concert at the Veteran's House in Huntington, WV), so it took quite a bit of time for me to get myself loose enough to headbang and Rock On with my fist in the air (I still feel it in my neck and right elbow...). Nonetheless, I was immensely surprised at all the energy the dude has! And anyone who wonders why a Christian music artist keeps praising God, it's not entirely because it's "in the contract" as the cop-out goes. I did a little research on the band, and their singer, Brian, had suffered from drug abuse when, at 18, he was challenged by a good friend who's a Christian on where hise life was heading. At that, he went to a church, committed his life to God. So, why constantly praise God in the music? As a public celebration, an energetic acknowledgement that your life is no longer the same, and that you have no shame about it.
Yet, the biggest thing that happened to me wasn't all the intense energy that kept flowing out and everybody rocking it out, it happened about five songs into Fireflight's playing time. Saw a little girl that was anxious to get up front, so I shifted to the "side" (if you can call it that in an open area like a mosh pit) and let her go on. A few minutes after she thanked me twice (the first time I was headbanging and she didn't know I saw her), I had the feeling she wanted to get further up, so I tapped a guy ahead of me on his arm, then tapped the girl on her shoulder, gesturing to her to go on ahead, the guy got the hint and waved her to go ahead, then she started going crazy right up front (there was no security guards at the stage). So, even with all the immense intensity and that electrifying concert that sparked this tiny town, it was helping a little girl from Enid, Oklahoma to have a better time than she would have if I hadn't let her go ahead.
After the concert, I was stunned to find out my own mother had been headbanging, while my stepdad couldn't (stiff back from work), but we all had a great time afterward nonetheless. Even managed to get pictures of the lead signer of Rapture Ruckus (my mom is in the picture, she got a picture of me with him on her phone), as well as with Cory Lamb (never heard his music before then, turned out to be really good inspirational rock). Post-concert, even had a great time helping the bands get their stuff packed up to get ready to hit the road. Told them all, "Wherever you're going after this, have a great time there."
And Adam from Fireflight? He told me to finish up on my book. Though he doesn't read fiction, it was awesome to hear a member of a great band say that to me anyway.