Imagine you’re about to go under the knife for brain surgery. You’re given anesthesia and your eyelids start to get heavy. Right as you begin to lose consciousness, you hear the opening notes of The Beatles’ “Come Together.”
Switchfoot’s performance at Stage AE on Oct. 12 started early. It started during Relient K’s opening set when Jon Foreman, Switchfoot’s lead singer, ran on stage for the end of the last song, “Deathbed.” At this, a look of surprise came over the face of Matt Thiessen, Relient K’s frontman.
If you snapped a photo of Foreman and Thiessen singing together on that one mic, both with big smiles, that would be a frame that could represent the rest of the show.
Switchfoot’s message is unity. Many times during the show, Foreman stepped across the space between the stage and the front-row barrier to touch people’s hands. During their fourth song, “Gone,” he encouraged audience members to lock arms with the person next to them and sway with the music.
Snap. Another frame showing the love-thy-neighbor atmosphere the band brings.
A little later, all five band members huddled around Foreman’s mic, Chad Butler (drums) on the snare, Tim Foreman (bass) singing, Drew Shirley (guitar) on acoustic guitar and Jerome Fontamillas (keyboard) on accordion. The five of them had their arms around each other, singing, “Hello hurricane, you’re not enough. Hello hurricane, you can’t silence my love,” in honor of Haiti, which Hurricane Matthew recently devastated.
Snap. A frame showing how they’ve become a band of brothers, standing up for the broken.
Soon, the lights went off and Foreman was walking around stage with a flashlight, singing, “I’m looking for America. America, where are you?” This led into, “The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues).” With a guitar riff that could be mistaken for one of AC/DC’s, the lyrics go, “This is the sound of a heartbeat. This is the sound from the discontented mouths of a haunted nation.” All the while, footage from the Civil Rights Movement played on the screens behind the band.
Snap. A frame yearning for redemption.
Multiple times throughout the night, Foreman stepped down into the crowd, high-fiving as he pushed through the sea of people, singing with those around him. While crowd surfing during the song “Love Alone Is Worth The Fight,” Foreman garnered a chuckle from people during a break in singing.
“Sometimes I wonder how I get to these places,” he said as people’s hands held him above heads.
Snap. A frame showing trust in your fans to carry you through the air.
Soon after, Relient K decided to repay the favor and crash Switchfoot’s set. Foreman welcomed Thiessen and Matt Douglas (Relient K’s drummer) to the stage to sing the end of “Live It Well.”
“Life is short, I wanna live it well,” they all sang. “And you’re the one I’m living for.”
Snap. Another frame that shows people bonding over music.
As the night wound down, confetti shot out of cannons from either side of the stage, cities of bubbles floated around the packed room, and Foreman kneeled in front of a half disco ball during “Float.”
And then, right before playing the very last song of the evening, “Dare You To Move,” Foreman put into words the atmosphere of the room.
“This is one of those nights,” he said. “You just kind of don’t want it to end.”
Originally published in Pittsburgh City Paper
The muscle behind Switchfoot’s newest album, Where The Light Shines Through, is the one-two punch of spotlighting the dark and offering hope for what they find there. It’s summed up in the anthem of the title track: “the wound is where the light shines through.”
During the band’s fall tour, which brings the members to Stage AE on Oct. 12, they’re not only singing about giving people hope, they’re actually giving people hope. They’ve partnered with Cure International, an organization that seeks to heal children with treatable disabilities from 29 countries.
“We got to experience one of those hospitals while we were in the Philippines earlier this year,” drummer Chad Butler explains over the phone. “It’s an incredible organization, so [we would] definitely like to highlight them on this tour.”
Jon Foreman talked in an interview about how you all had to fight for the songs you wanted on this record. Were there any songs you personally had to fight for?
For the most part … we agree on the majority of it, but usually the last one or two songs that you’re deciding to cut … that’s when the arm wrestling starts [laughs]. The intensity goes up a notch. Because, I think, as an individual, you become attached to a song, whether it’s a particular lyric or just the way it makes you feel, and they mean different things to different people. So in particular, there was a song — “Bull In A China Shop” — that I really wanted to be on the record, and I remember that one being a point of contention for sure. Maybe it’s because I’m a drummer, and thinking about the live show, that one seemed like one that I wanted to play every night. So I fought for that one for sure.
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How do you guys work that out? How do you come to a decision?
… Ultimately, the passion is what wins. So if somebody has really got a strong opinion, they just have to formulate their case, you know. In the studio, you have to really fight for the song. But ultimately, those arguments are to better the art. You don’t take it personally — you have to have thick skin to take the passion for the song but not be looking at it beyond that as far as someone’s character. It’s more about if you love the song, you’re going to fight for it tooth and nail.
This album is very different but still classic Switchfoot at the same time. Did you guys approach this album differently than you did others?
With Fading West, we started without guitars intentionally to try to take the music somewhere new. But [for] this record, we started with guitars. It’s a rock guitar record from the very get-go. For me, it’s kind of a return to the guitar rock songs that Switchfoot’s known for.
Do you guys ever think about or talk about how Switchfoot’s music could affect people and stick with them?
Yeah, absolutely … The goal of this band has always been to communicate hope. And the goal of this record, the reason why we made this record is because hope deserves an anthem. And for us, wrestling with big questions of life and looking for hope in the dark places. It’s really what motivates us and keeps us going as a band. It’s more than just about rock n’ roll — this is about a desire to communicate hope and to explore the world through songs. And I think that’s the beauty of art, is that you can really talk about things that are deeper, that are maybe uncomfortable or off-limits for everyday conversation. But through the songs you can explore those things in a meaningful way.
Originally published in Pittsburgh City Paper
Josh Groban was bullied as a kid.
He describes his younger self as shy and sensitive, very unlike the Groban we know now, the multi-platinum-selling artist who belts some of the most powerful ballads in the modern operatic world and makes cameos in shows like The Office and Parks & Recreation.
His response to that bullying was sharpening his own humor — humor that has now earned him more than 800,000 Twitter followers.
“I think that’s probably the case with a lot of comedians,” Groban says over the phone. “I think humor winds up being a defense.”
Bullies will always roam schools, but now they walk the hallways of the internet too.
“I wasn’t in school when there were iPhones and Twitter,” Groban recalls. “And there are now a hundred new ways to bully people that weren’t around when I was young. You had to actually step up to someone face to face when I was a kid — it was, like, the real assholes back then because they were the only ones that had the courage to actually shove you around in person.”
In addition to humor, Groban says the arts, and specifically music, got him through those rough days.
“Music absolutely saved me,” he says. “It was the music teachers; it was my arts teachers; it was my theater teachers; it was my improv-comedy class — it was that group. I said, ‘Oh my god, these are my people. We all have the same inspiration for that kind of self-expression and making people laugh, or singing something that’s beautiful.’ That was my saving grace.”
Now Groban runs the Find Your Light Foundation which encourages and funds arts education around the country.
“I think that the arts [is] the one core subject that really teaches some of the self-expression that is universal in all of us,” Groban says, citing research showing that arts education increases graduation rates and student grades in subjects like math and science. “It is a language that is in everybody, no matter how naturally talented you are at a particular artistic skill.
“When everything in the world … is blaring to us 24/7 how divided we all are, the arts teach people how to communicate to everyone in their own special way … it makes us not so myopic about our own worlds. … It gives us a much broader picture of how similar we all are.”
If only his bullies knew what could be done through music and the arts, Groban may have escaped his childhood misery. But, on the other hand, we may not have the Josh Groban we know today.
“I think that, while bullying and feeling a little bit like an outcast was certainly not fun at that time in my life — and certainly caused a lot of tears at home — I look back on it, and I say to myself, ‘Well, I can wear that badge proudly, and I can say it helped me build character. It helped me discover what my strongest attributes are,’” he says. “And you grow from it.”
This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper.
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