In a handwritten letter from my cousin last year, (we still write those…), she described how books have been like friends to her while she was growing up. They were a place she could retreat to to feel known, to make sense of things happening in her own life, echoing things she felt and experienced. A safe place.
For me that place has always been music. I remember feeling least alone with my headphones on and my discman playing. Something in the sounds and the words resonated deeply inside me, past cerebral understanding, in the well of my being. I have specific memories of which songs accompanied certain moments and experiences, and now when I look back with adult understanding and listen to those songs, I see what teenage Natalie couldn’t understand about why those songs resonated.
When I was in Jr High and High School, I lived on Switchfoot. Jon Foreman was a good decade ahead of me in life experience, but something in the emotional and poetic content of what he wrote was exactly what was going on inside of my 12 year old self. When I turned 24, I listened again through all of those old Switchfoot albums, and finally had the life experience to understand what the songs were about.
Last night I went to Jon Foreman’s solo show in Calgary, at Knox United Church. One of my favourite things to do is go to concerts by myself. It’s like my outside life stops. The music and the shared moments with the other people in that room can be life-changing. Last night was no exception.
I was sitting in my seat, waiting for the show to start, and musing in my journal about the last time I saw Jon Foreman. It was about a decade ago, when Switchfoot came to Mac Hall. My parents drove me and my best friend up to Calgary to see them. We were the first people there, waiting around for hours, and got to be right up front by the stage. I remembered the moment when he stepped out toward the crowd, and I touched his pant-leg. Teenage Natalie was elated and bragged about this to her friends. Last night I almost accidentally walked into the green room behind the stage on my way back from the bathroom prior the show. I wrote about this and laughed at how different I felt about everything now. I wrote, “This is a time capsule moment.”
Little did I know.
Jon did this fun thing where the crowd could write down their requests and leave them on the stage before his set, and he would play whatever we requested. It was, of course, a sea of little white papers. He was cracking jokes, and generally having a great time being present with us. Trying to loosen us up by having a great time rocking out.
When it came time to play House of God Forever, he said, “The problem with this song, is that I recorded it with my sister-in-law and I need…”
“ME!” I shouted, shooting up my hand in the dark.
I can’t really tell you exactly how it all went. There was no consideration of my thoughts and actions. Only impulse. But I ended up on stage and sang the House of God Forever with Jon Foreman. I, like so many others, have covered this song, and never in a million years thought I’d ever sing it with the creator of it.
I cannot deny my obnoxious behaviour. But I am thrilled. And I think the evening turned into one of those experiences that makes live music so magical. It was a special moment, all of us united by our experience of the music. Jon bringing whatever history he has of writing and playing those songs, all of us bringing whatever history we associate with hearing them. Him being present with us, inviting us to share in an experience with him. It was very generous. For someone who performs a lot, it can be tempting to go on auto-pilot. Do the thing you rehearsed, get paid and go home. It takes way more guts and vulnerability to enter a room in a foreign city, completely open, and say to a crowd of people, “What shall we experience together tonight?”
This indeed was a time capsule moment.
(Watch the video HERE)