Monday, October 29, 2007

Last Belated Recap

Just because I’m a recovering legalist who desperately needs things like closure and tidy-ness, I’m going to do a quick recap of the last house concert that I did, nearly two weeks ago.

The concert was hosted at the home of Aaron and Heather Hendrick. I know, I know, these people are everywhere, right? What can I tell you? They’re like superhuman or something, with all their tour-naming and concert-organizing and joke-posting and such. Also, they have a trampoline.

It was a really great show. Craig goes to church with the Hendrick family, and he’s pretty close to them, so I asked him to play with me again.

Maybe 25 people. We played for about 90 minutes. Nobody yawned or made boo-ing sounds or listened to their iPods while we were playing. A couple of people had the nerve to get up and “use the bathroom” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) while we were playing. Don’t worry. I totally mocked them in front of everybody.

Also, there was food. It was really good. They had stew, cornbread, and that cheesecake that tastes like sopapillas. Holy moley. I’d punch a puppy for that stuff.

But I didn’t. I only engage in canine abuse when I’m backed into a corner.

I think having food at house concerts is good. Most of the shows I’ve done so far have had food. I’m not a picky eater, so I’m usually really excited when someone puts hot grub in front of me and says “you don’t have to pay for this.” That’s just something to think about for all you future hosts.

Not much else to tell about the show. If something terrible had happened, it would make for a funny story, but no luck there. Like I said, it was basically a really good time.

Here’s something cool. The show was local, so I wasn’t all tired from traveling when it was over, and I hung out late and talked with people. That’s really the part that I love about these shows. The after-show talking.

Here’s something else. They had that Guitar Hero game, and I figured I’d be awesome at it because, well, I sort of am a guitar hero. I mean, it’s like that time I sang karaoke in Indianapolis at that sports bar. I’ll tell the story some other time, okay, but the point is that I was kind a ringer. They loved me in Indy. Karaoke Hero, you know?

So I figured this would be like that.

Well, it wasn’t. I was terrible. Lots of people that were there were way better than me, and none of them have written super-hit chart-toppers like yours truly. None of them, I bet, can blaze thru G-C-D like RK. So how come I wasn’t the awesomest?

It was pretty lame. Luckily I’m not all that competitive. Otherwise I would’ve pointed out that I think my controller was messed up and besides that it was only my first time and plus I was really distracted from all that sopapilla cheesecake I’d eaten and the game was stupid anyway.

I could beat any of those punks at Galaga.

So another great show. Right now I’m in Florida on vacation with the family. We’ve spent a few days at the beach, and tomorrow we’re going to do some Disney park stuff. If we don’t get blown off the coast by the 40 mph winds, we’ll be hanging out with Mickey for a few more days before we go home.

Speaking of Mickey Mouse, is anybody else freaked out that our nation’s most prominent animated icon is a rodent that is so big he owns a dog? Seriously.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Love of God

John Sherrill is one of my best friends in the whole world. Besides that, if you own any of my CD's, you've probably heard his writing and/or his singing and/or his piano-playing and/or his producing. Go here and find out how you can help him, as he and his family fight for the life of their baby. At the very least, take some time right this second to pray for baby Kyle.

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:17

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Congrats Johnny!

It's hard to say exactly why, but I like "Enthusiam '07 featuring Ross King" best, so Johnny wins.

What set this entry apart, you ask? I think those of you who know me well know that this is exactly the kind of subtle, smart-mouth, and oh-so-spot-on-sarcastic humor that I love. I mean, really, has the word "entusiasm" ever been used to describe me?

Runners up were, in no particular order:
Joe, with "Free Music (musical stylings and a positive message from local artist Ross King)"

Brett, with "Ross and Coco in 'I sing while he mimes'"

Lance, with "An Inconvenient Concert"
( though I really couldn't let this one win because it reminded me too much of Al Gore's "documentary," and that thing's already garnered more undeserved awards than Titanic and Crash combined; and no,that's not my attempt to refute global warming, only to refute Al's scientific and artistic integrity)

Everyone did great. You're all winners. Well, actually only Johnny is.

Anyway, I'm putting some tasty meat products in the mail to Johnny today. They're pretty heavy, and I don't have a lot of money so they may take a couple of days. So, Johnny, you can be expecting some warm pork food within a week or so.

I've still got a recap to write, from last week. The short version is that the show ruled. The long version will be ready soon.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

You think you're a rock star, S.A.?

Get it? That's not racist is it? I mean, it's dumb and not-funny, but I think it's probably harmless.

Whatever. Either way, here's the recap of last weekend in San Antonio. It was a great time.

Friday I did a house concert in the Spring Branch area, which is right off 281, between San Antonio and New Braunfels. Kelly and Tiffany Tremont were the hosts, and the leadership of Riverside Community Church put it all together. They had the show in the Tremonts' really cool, really massive backyard. The weather was surprisingly fantastic.

Keith Sewell, my good friend and the co-owner of The MixLab, came along and played percussion. He also sang harmony of several of the songs and basically conquered the world with sonic beauty. It was a really great show. We played for about 90 minutes for about 50 people, and got a great response. Really felt like God was doing some God stuff.

Sold enough CD's to pay Keith a little and still make some money.

Keith had to leave for a vacation with his wife (which is almost as cool as playing house shows for very little money), so I went and stayed with Darrell Smith and his family. Darrell is a good friend, a sometimes-client at the studio, and also a really great musician and songwriter. He helped me set up the whole weekend and his wife was kind enough to let me interrupt their lives for 48 hours or so.

During the day on Saturday, I rode along with Darrell and his drummer/pal AJ Navarro to a day-time gig they had at T Bar M in New Braunfels. It was fun. We led worship, and I just played second acoustic and sang some harmony. I had to read charts and everything. I never get to do that kind of thing. It was good for me. Darrell did a great job leading, and that was cool to see as well.

That night I did another house show, this time at the home of Keith and Dinah Shelly. Dinah is Darrell's sister, and they have a really cool house. It was another backyard deal. AJ agreed to sit in with me and, despite the fact that we didn't practice at all, he nailed it about 99% of the time.

The crowd was a little smaller at this show. Maybe 40 people. Still big for a house concert, though. Darrell took some pictures with his fancy new iPhone. They're not really very good, but I wanted to put them here anyway, to show that iPhones, though nifty, are crap cameras. Those Apple people think they're such hot snot, you know?

Again, great show. Props to Darrell for taking pictures that would probably be awesome if his phone wasn't trying to pretend like a real camera.

The next morning I went back out to Spring Branch and played the morning service at Riverside Community Church. My friend Scott Heare is the pastor there, and it was really great to be with him and the people of Riverside.

OK, here's where I do a little brutal honesty. You expect that from me, right?

First, let me give away the punchline: I sincerely enjoyed my time at the Sunday gathering of Riverside Community Church.

So what? Big deal.

Well, here's the brutal part. I hardly ever feel that way when I work with other churches besides my own. It's not like I always hate everything about every single church besides Community Church. It's not that extreme. It's just that I usually sit thru church services and think something like "I got paroled from this kind of white-collar jail a while ago, and I don't want to go back." Hey, I know how that sounds. I tried to think of a better metaphor -- something not quite as harsh -- but I came up blank.

Am I saying that being involved in another church besides my own would be comparable to being in jail? Of course not. I know a guy who is in prison right now, and it would be terribly insulting and insensitive to make that kind of serious comparison.

I just mean that, at my church, I feel really, really free. I feel like I can really be myself. I feel like people are really relaxed and alive. I feel like the Spirit of God is absolutely welcome and wanted. I feel like real relationships are prioritized over policies and schedules.

And at most churches, that's not how I feel. Again, I'm not saying those places are dungeons of nasty wickedness or whatever. I'm just saying that other places feel, quite often, like something far less than CHURCH to me.

And I'm saying that Riverside's Sunday gathering felt more like real CHURCH than lots of the Sunday gatherings where I am graciously allowed to lead and play.

So, if I've been to your church lately, don't get all huffy and defensive. I don't claim to be an authority on all-things-church-related. I'm just a guy with opinions. More than anything, I'm trying to tell you that Riverside is a cool church.

And maybe I'm also trying to make you (and me, all of us) think about what kind of environments we are creating and maintaining and protecting in our faith communities; what sorts of "greenhouses for the soul" we are building among our people and in our various gatherings.

That's all.

I'm open to any/all discussion on this. Anybody think I'm being unfair? Anybody think I have wrong desires/expectations for church? Hey, let's talk.

So Riverside was fun. Scott gave a really great teaching. The people worshiped like crazy. The church paid me real money. The people bought crazy amounts of CD's.

And I got home in time to worship with Community Church on Sunday night.

Great weekend.

I have one more house show to recap. The ubiquitous Hendrick family hosted me for a show this past Tuesday, and I need to write about how cool it was. Soon.

Also, I'll announce the winner of the marquee contest early next week.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Big Show; Jokers Wanted

So I'm playing at this place (above) on Friday November 9, and I think everybody who lives within 90 miles or so ought to try and come. Craig Weaver (percussion/drums) and Brady Redwine (keys, dobro, etc) have already agreed to join me, and I may throw in another band member or two before it's all over with. Or maybe I'll keep it fairly acoustic. Not sure yet.

Either way, mark the calendar. This is gonna be a super-sweet face-rocker for the ages.

Oh, and in case you're wondering how/why I'm throwing a 400-seat theater venue smack into the middle of my "houses and other tiny venues" tour, here's the sitch:

Aaron and Heather Hendrick, apparently my most devoted and go-getter fans, decided to put this thing together after realizing that, in order to accomodate all the people in their life who want to hang out at their house and listen to live music, they would need to host something life 43 house shows. That seemed like too much, I guess. I mean, the cost of chips and dips alone would be staggering for such an undertaking, not to mention the potential for knick-knack theft and toilet back-up. So they emailed me and said, "what if we had one Big Show instead of 43 small ones?"

I said yes. So that's what we're doing. Who's with me? Did I mention that it's free?

I'll give you a moment to think about it....

Good. See you there.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I think it's time for another contest around here.

Last time I had people pick my tour name. Ironically, Heather won that, though only by a narrow margin. Also ironically (or alsoronically, if you will), this contest was Heather's idea as well. Hey, I told you these people were go-getters.

So here's the contest. It appears, from the above pic, that the old Palace Theater has a marquee. Now, I have no idea who has control/access to this thing, or if they'll let me get my grubbies on it. But I sure would love to have something snazzy to put there on the night of my concert.

And more than that, I sure would like to think of some really funny stuff to not put on it, but that, if we were in Fantasy World Where Everybody Likes to Make Jokes, would be on it for shiz.

So send in your ideas, and the winner will get some Free Stuff*, not to mention the huge ego boost of being lauded publicly on this here site.

Ready, set, jokes.

Todd and Lance, keep it clean.
Oh, and Alex, try to make jokes that other people besides me and you understand.
*"Free stuff" can include, but is not limited to, kind words, handshakes, platonic side-hugs, affirming yet awkward eye-winks, meat products, coozies, gently used D-Now T-shirts, spam emails, spam sandwiches, or any official Ross King merchandise. The management of Ross King World Tour will not be held responsible, nor will it even really care a whole lot, if recipients of said "Free Stuff" are unsatisfied, injured, humiliated, or made ill by the use or possession of said "Free Stuff." Restrictions apply. Available while supplies last. No monkeys were harmed in the making of this blog.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

More stories of places that i rocked real hard

OK, so I just got back from San Antonio today after a weekend of concerts, and I figured I needed to give the quick recap of all the shows I’ve done since I got back from PA. Except for the San Antonio ones. Gee whiz, I’m so behind.

I’m not sure how much anybody cares about these recaps, but they help me to process what all goes on at the shows, and they also help me to sort of document the “journey” of learning how to relate to a crowded living room full of people, with a guitar and a few tunes.

So that’s why I do this, in case anybody cares.

The first gig I had after PA/MD wasn’t really part of the house show tour thing, but it was fun, so I’ll mention it briefly. Ben Love (bass, vocals) and Michael Steele (drums) went with me to Jackson, MS to do a college conference. Voddie was there as well, which made it fun and anything-but-boring. Here’s a little secret that they don’t want you to know. Sometimes when you’re asked to lead worship at an event, they bring someone in to teach/preach who you don’t know at all, so it’s really weird trying to find some kind of unity with them.

Or, equally frustrating, you just have a really hard time enjoying (and/or agreeing with) what the speaker/preacher is teaching, and so you have to figure out how to adjust your worship and music to fit into something that you’re pretty sure isn’t going to work.

Of course, a good chunk of the time, you’re given the opportunity to work with someone who teaches/preaches really, really well. Sometimes you even come across someone who comes to really shepherd/pastor the people, and then things are fun and exciting and purposeful. That’s how it is with Voddie. Gigs with him are always a little more purposed and fulfilling.

Anyway, the weekend was great. Sold tons of CD’s, which is always fun. It was the first time in a while that I’d actually had official prices listed on the table. At the house shows, I have these buckets that I leave out next to the CD’s, and I never know what’s going to be in them when the whole deal is over. It’s like a tiny, sad, little lottery. But this was different. People actually paid for stuff.

Again, it was nice to lead worship after all the concerts I’d been doing.

Also, I tried out something new. I haven’t really been writing much worship stuff since Soulspeak, but I’d been working, off and on, with the hymn “Just as I Am,” adding something to it. I’m not a huge fan of all the “let’s add a chorus to this old hymn” movement that is going on. Sometimes I think it just implies that the hymn wasn’t good enough on its own. Other times I have a hard time believing that the new thing makes the hymn any better. The really, really cynical part of me sometimes believes that people do it as an easy way to get a writing/publishing credit, and the subsequent check that comes with it.

Hey, I said it was cynical.

The point is that, with all that ridiculous baggage, I have been working with a chorus-like thing that I’d been singing around the house, to go with “Just as I am.” I showed it to Ben and Michael, and they really liked it, so we did it. I think it went well. I’ve been bouncing around the idea of a hymns/traditional songs record for a while, and maybe this new tune will give me some inspiration to flesh that out.

So it was great weekend. Michael and Ben did great. They play with me at church a good bit, and we’re really starting to gel as a band. Plus they’re great guys who seem to understand my sense of humor. And that can sometimes be a bit of a hurdle.

The next week I had two house shows, and I invited Craig Weaver to join me for them. He played on the record, and he played with me back when concerts were a normal part of my ministry, so I thought it would be cool to use him now and again on the house shows. I figured Michael needed a break anyway, so it worked out ok.

The first show was on Tuesday Oct 2. This was a weird deal because, not only was it in my hometown of Bryan, TX, but it was actually in the house that I grew up in. My parents still own the place, and they rent it out to college students, young singles, etc. I had tons of almost-but-not-quite-good jokes that I wanted to tell about stuff like “you can never go home again” or “prophets in their home towns,” junk like that. See, I told you, there’s a joke in there somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it. Ideas?

Oh well, despite all the weirdness, it was an incredible show. Michelle Omo and her roommates hosted. They were really great. There were maybe 20-25 people there. I’m terrible at counting these things. But it seemed to be one of the most engaged and genuinely focused audiences I’ve had on the tour. I was a little worried, because the crowd was a little too big for “unplugged, “ and most of our “plugged-in” house shows, up to that point, hadn’t gone as well as I would’ve hoped. Something about amplifying yourself when people are sitting 5 feet from you. I don’t know.

But it went off just about perfect. I forgot some words at the end of “keeper of the way,” but nobody knew until I said something about it after the song. Then Craig forgot the ending of “Why Me Lord.” I don’t think anybody would’ve noticed that either, except for the fact that I totally mocked him in front of everyone. Craig’s messed up like 5 times in the last 15 years of playing, so I had to run with it. Since he’s only messed up 5 times in 15 years, he’s pretty confident. I don’t think I injured him too badly.

So big thanks to Michelle and the girls on Helena Street. They’re keeping my old room clean, which is nice. But they did take down my poster of Magnum P.I. which was, I think, a foolish choice. Nothing classes up a joint like Thomas Magnum’s smiling, mustachioed mug.

Check out pics. They even made a cake. At first, I thought they messed up the tour name, but then I got the joke.

This last pic is me with the girls from the house. Also, as you can see, Staci and the boys came. This was their first time to be at a house show. Jude did great. He yelled out every few minutes, he laughed most of the time, and he only crawled across the room to get me once. Sam sat front and center and kept his eyes glued on Craig. What would you expect him to do?

The second show was in Houston, at the home of Billy and Stephenie Newhouse, long time friends and former Com Church members. Man, it was great to be with them. There were tons of familiar faces, including Ryan Riley, Travis Cardwell, Nicole Starch, Justin Johnston, and some of my old pals from Billy’s time as a Student Venture leader. It was a pretty packed house; maybe 20-25 people (yeah, that’s practically “sold out” in the Ross King World Tour business). Again, I’m horrible at this. Craig and I played a pretty long set. I thought it went great. They actually asked me to do an encore. I did one, despite my rule #5. Then they asked for another. I put my foot down. Rule #4 prevailed.
Here are a couple pics. First, me and Craig setting up for the big show. We don't have roadies or techs or whatever.

And here's one of me with Billy and Stephenie. This one just reminds me that I need to do some working out. I swear I don't feel like I'm as fat as I look in that picture. Must've been some problem with the camera. In real life, I'm like totally ripped and chiseled and stuff.

So it was a great week for shows. Billy and Travis made videos. I’m going to try to get them directly on the blog so you can watch them directly here. In the meantime, go here, here, and here to watch me and Craig rock it.

Also, speaking of videos, I meant to send you here a while ago. Robb from Wichita made this one of me and Michael while we were out there last month. He posted a link to it on the comments section when I recapped the OKMOKS tour, but I thought I’d mention it again in case you missed it.

San Antonio recap in a day or two. (I’m thinking of pulling a Todd or a Heather this week and blogging, like, every day. What do these people do all day other than find ways to keep me from working?) I’ve only got one show this week, so hopefully I can finally catch up.

Oh, and I’ve got big news this week for any local (or, dare I suggest, even regional) fans. And by “big news,” I mean something involving several dozen of my adoring fans getting to see me do a mega-show somewhere in the area, some time soon.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Gather round, kids. Let Uncle Ross tell you all about life.

I’m still working on a couple of recap/update blogs for recent shows. But all this recent touring has reminded me of some stuff.

At a recent Houston show (coming in the next blog), something weird happened. They wanted an encore. I have weird feelings about encores. I have rules about such things. Long story.

So I guess this is where I let you in on “Ross King’s Rules of Performance.” Yeah, that's right, I said "Rules." This is serious business.

Have I ever done this on the blog? I don’t think so. Anyway, here they are in no particular:

Rule 1: Never play a song you wrote that day.
Reasoning: Give it some time. Play it a few times; make sure you really know how it goes and what the words are and if you even really like it. Lots of songs that are "awesome" 10 minutes after I wrote them become "what was I thinking" a few days later.

I once saw a signed, semi-famous Christian musician make this error. He'd actually written the song backstage. I heard him doing it while we were having the catered dinner (I was opening up for him). During his show, he pulled out some wadded up paper and smoothed it out on his keyboard and proceeded to stumble and stutter thru a mediocre song that could’ve been great if he’d just waited. In fact, he later released the song and it was much better. But a few hundred people paid good money to watch him "experiment" with his not-even-close-to-ready tune. It was not pretty.

***One thing that I should say here is that I'm specifically talking about "written" songs, and not those weird things that can happen in worship where something spontaneous just comes to you out the wild blue yonder of Holy Spirit land. I would never fault someone for doing that. I've done it myself a time or two. I'm talking more about giving a concert and "trying out" the song you wrote that afternoon but haven't even memorized yet.***

Rule 2: Never say things like "I'm not any good at this,” or “I don’t know why they even let me be up here.”
Reasoning: For some reason, young performers think it’s humble and cute to act like they’re no good. But here’s the thing. If you’re no good at this, what are you doing up there on stage? People are giving you their time and their ears and, sometimes, their money. Humility is good. It’s like, godly, and stuff. But honestly, if you’re a performer, you probably think you’re good enough to be up there. And if you don’t think that, then you’re not being true to your callings and convictions. Let the audience decide if you’re good.

Rule 3: When you get to the end of your allotted time (only really popular musicians have unlimited time on stage; the rest of us usually get somewhere between 30 and 90 minutes), never, ever say something like “you guys care if we do a couple more?!?”

Reasoning: You’ve just boarded the fast train to Hack City. Do more songs or don’t (and if your agreed-upon time is up, don’t), but don’t ask the audience what they think. Because here’s what happens when you do, especially when you’re performing for Christians: the nerds in the front 2 rows will cheer, because they like everything. They go to Carman shows and give weepy hi-fives during “The Champion.” They think the gray-pony-tailed lead guitarist for their church band is “the best guitarist EVER!!!” They clap (on 1 and 3) their way thru every slow song that you play. The are not discerning.

The rest of the audience, torn between honesty and niceness, choose niceness and join in on the cheering, though with much less excitement. Nobody ever yells out, “No, we’d rather you didn't play any more songs.” That would be funny.

The point is that you’re never going to be able to count on an honest answer if you throw out that question. So the safe bet is to count on…

Rule 4: When in doubt, always leave them wanting more.
Reasoning: It’s obvious, I think. If you wear people out with too much of a good thing, you think they’re going to go buy a CD? Nope. They’re heard enough. But if you leave them wanting more, they’ll probably go pay for the “more” with their own money.

Rule 5: Encores are tricky. Use extreme caution.
Reasoning: This one probably seems especially silly. I mean, what could be wrong with encores? Allow me to explain. You ever waited to wash your car because you’re pretty sure it’s going to rain, and then it doesn’t rain, but it keeps looking, day after day, like it’s going to rain, so you just keep waiting, and your car just keeps getting nastier and cruddier?

It goes the other way, too.

Sometimes you’re totally sure that it’s not going to rain, so you wash your car and give it the royal treatment. Then of course it rains, right? Encores are kind of like that. If you plan your song list around the assurance of an encore, you won’t get asked to do one. Maybe you’re thinking, “big deal,” “so what?” That’s because you’ve never had to plan for an encore, o foolish child.

What are you supposed to play in an encore? YOUR BEST SONG, that’s what. So what if you save that BEST SONG for an encore, and then nobody asks for one?

It goes the other way, too.

What if you assume that there will be no encore, so you play all your good songs, including YOUR BEST ONE, and then they ask for an encore? What are you supposed to play now? Some B-side, anti-climactic dribble that wasn’t even good enough to fit into your song list? I don’t think so.

So here’s the safe bet (and this is really the kind of info that you ought to have to pay for). Play all your best songs, except the “odd” ones (for example, a love song about your spouse, or a song about your family or your kids or something; maybe even a really specific song or weirdly metaphorical song; or even a funny or silly song that usually makes people laugh but doesn’t fit that well into a really “spiritual” serious concert). These kinds of songs don’t usually fit into the set all that well, anyway.

Then, if they ask for an encore, you can be like, “well, I pretty much played everything that I came here to play, and I never really assume that I’m going to get asked to do an encore…” (which is totally true, and actually sounds really humble, cause it is) "… but if you guys really want another one, here’s one I wrote about my adopted boys.” I mean, genius, right? The crowd gets a peek into the more personal “you,” and everybody’s happy. And if they don’t ask for an encore, nobody loses anything.

So, yeah, encores. I’ll explain more in a day or two. I’m almost finished with that blog.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

PA, MD, finally

OK, so I got a little lazy on the blogging front, but I'm back with a vengeance. Well, maybe not a vengeance, but at least a concerted effort. Here's how I'll do it. I've actually had several gigs since I got back from the great Northeast, but I'll post about that stuff in a day or two. I have the early part of this week off, so hopefully I'll be caught up by Friday or so, in time for my San Antonio shows.

So, here's the recap of PA/MD:

Michael and I arrived at the Baltimore airport on Tuesday Sept 18. Lance Burch and Jason Fullen (youth pastors at their church) picked us up and took us to Lance's place. Lance and his wife were hosting us that evening for a house concert, and the evening started off with a party/barbecue thing. Michael and I were delighted to find that the yankees up in MD were acquainted with our new favorite game (we learned it from the farmers up in IN, who taught it to us in the hills out in OH). The game shall go unnamed here, due to the caliber of jokes that will surely accompany its mention. We ended up taking on Jason and one of their buddies. Due to an until-then-unheard-of facet of the game known as, I think, "The Boston Rule," Michael and I actually ended up winning, which was a lovely moral victory that, as it turned out, took us in great spirits into the evening.

The concert went great. Maybe 15 people showed up, which may sound small to you, but was actually just perfect. It's weird. Some of my best shows of the last two months have been the smallest ones. Anyway, just about everyone took a CD or two at least, and there was (as there has been throughout the tour) way more money in "the box" than there should've been. God is graciously sneaky when blessing His kids.

After the concert, Lance took Michael and me to a local Irish pub, where we got to hang out, talk about the Kingdom, and unwind from the very long day. It was really cool. The bartender/waiter was a real-live Irish dude. Or a great faker playing a joke on us. Or a crazy person playing a joke on the little Leprechaun who lives in his pocket. Probably he was a real Irish dude. Let's just go with that.

We spent Wednesday hanging out with Lance some, reading, and watching Discovery Channel. That night we played at the church for maybe 70 people. It was a really great show; plugged in and everything. Here are a few pics, taken by Jason, I believe:

The crowd was really cool and responsive, and we sold a boatload of CD's. A good night on all counts. Afterward, we went to the pub again and had a late dinner with Jason and Lance. More great conversation, some excellent food and beverage, and lots of laughing and learning.

As a side note, why is it that pubs (and places of that nature) are, quite often, places of greater honesty, joy, conversational safety, and Spirit-filled connection than many church buildings? And don't try throwing any legalistic, extra-biblical nonsense about drinking and bars and such at me. Making that argument will only get you a theological smackdown from Thad, Johnny, Lance, or any number of the other Christ-following, freed-up geniuses that frequent this page. I'm really curious about this. What have we done to make church buildings (not always, but lots of the time) so sterile, so life-sucking? It's a question that I think we really do have to answer. Maybe not right here on this blog, but at some point.


Overall, our time in MD was fantastic. Big thanks to Lance, Jason, and their families for all their kindness, hospitality, and support. Can't wait to come back soon (can I? please, can I?).

Thursday we drove over to the Reading/Sinking Springs area. It was a short easy drive. An extremely kind and trusting young lady from Lance's church let us borrow a car for our time there. That was a major help and answer to prayer.

Thursday night was really cool. My friend Rob Tyson, owner of the soon-to-be-opening Gravity Bookstore in Reading hosted us at his church, and my good pal and former bandmate Alex Burdine joined Michael and I for the show. Alex is a great singer and multi-instrumentalist (much like his crazy brother James, writer of many brilliant and super-strange songs), and he played second acoustic and sang pitch-perfect harmonies. There were maybe 50 people there, and they all seemed really engaged and gracious. It was a very fun and vibrant show. I felt like some real ministry happened.

Also, a great songwriter named Jeremy Simon opened up for us. He was excellent, and I'm not just saying that. He played maybe 6-7 songs, and I liked every single one. I LOVED 2-3 of them. Go buy his music. He seems like a real guy with real talent.

After the show we went out for a late dinner at some diner kind of place. We had some really great and, at times, awkward conversation about the Kingdom, the Real Church of Jesus, honesty, vulnerability, and church membership. It was rich!

After dinner Alex headed off to Allentown, and Michael and I went to our hotel. Big thanks to Rob and Cheryl Tyson for hosting and making us feel like rock stars.

On Friday Michael and I made the short drive to Lancaster to join my long-time pal and supporter, Sean Williams, for a retreat with the youth at his church. We hung out with him some that afternoon, enjoyed the free wi-fi in their building, and then headed out to Northeast, MD (that's actually the name of the town, kind of like West, TX) for the retreat.

We had a great time at the retreat. Here's how it went. We did 3 sessions, each one consisting of a short "concert" kind of thing (3-4 of my songs), then some worship. It was nice to lead some worship after all the concerts we'd been doing. I'm thrilled to be back into "performing," but I suppose my heart is still (and always will be) drawn to the pastoral and interactive aspects of leading people in praise.

Sunday we went back to Lancaster, where we led worship for the morning service of Sean's church, then did a concert for the youth group that evening. Alex came back and played with us again, and he did great. Also, they showed this great video that I'll try to upload some time soon. It was basically, well, you'd just have to see it. It was bizarre and awesome.

Muchos gracios to Sean Williams, and to the people of his church.

Michael and I drove back to Reisterstown that night and stayed with Jason Fullen, who was a real trooper, staying up late to watch the Cowboys, then getting up at 4 am to take us to the Baltimore airport.

We came home the next day. Another 7 days with me, and Michael hasn't killed me yet.

I'll post in the next couple of days about the TX shows, and maybe a little about the great trip we had to MS.

So, anybody got any stories about people getting mad at "Happy" or any of my other songs?