The methodical elements assembly continues with the redesigned Cephas Hour website. Previously it was a single page; now it has far more content with much more to come: artist bios, past show playlists and whatever else I can come up with.
Reaction thus far has been mixed; the design appeals to some and overpowers/turns off others. Ah well.
Along with tracks from the new record Eternal Teenage Angst, the show will feature songs from Veil of Ashes’ other releases along with quotes from band members and reminisces by the show’s host, who covered the band as a music journalist during its active days playing clubs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area in the time period of the late 1980s through early to mid-1990s. While the band made no effort to disguise its members beliefs, its observational lyrics format analyzing social and relationship issues along with its edgy, hard-driving music won it a wide following as it shared the stage with artists and bands such as Chris Isaak, the Call, Psychedelic Furs, Social Distortion and 4 Non-Blondes.
BlackLight Radio, on which Cephas Hour exclusively airs, is an Internet station presently celebrating its eighth year online. Since 2010 it has featured an all-80s music format. About the format station owner Gene Savage notes, “It’s the music I grew up with, a format I know well, and it’s also an excellent advertising demo (35-44 year olds).”
Savage, whose reasons for starting the station include “hopefully showing the mega-corporations who currently control radio how it’s done,” waxes enthusiastic about Cephas Hour in general and the upcoming special in particular. He comments, “It’s a fantastic addition to our programming which really helps complete the story of the music of the 80s and helps us fulfill our commitment to play ‘all of the 80s, all of the time.’ Not only does it introduce ‘new’ 80s music to many listeners, it also provides religious programming on Sunday mornings – a common practice for many top 40 stations in the 80s. Additionally, Cephas Hour is completely unique programming, unduplicated on any other station. It is a programming element that sets us apart from the other 80s stations.”
Savage adds the show has personal meaning for him as well as professional ties. “It is a great feeling for me personally. My roots are in Christian rock, and I’ve been disappointed to leave behind the music that was there for me when my faith was new. (Show host) Jerry (Wilson)’s programming is a great mix of forgotten favorites along with new-to-me songs that challenge my faith and move me forward spiritually. It’s rare to find a program that makes me tap my feet and make me think, but Jerry’s does!”
NOTE: The author of this article is the host of Cephas Hour.
Also, while a complete overhaul of the show’s website is in the works I’ve made a few modifications to the present one. A couple of banners, one for the new Veil of Ashes record and one for Frontline Records have been added, and I’ve tidied up the archive listing so it’s more compact.
The elements creation and methodical assembly continue.
Legendary East Bay alternative rock band Veil of Ashes, which shared the stage with musical luminaries such as Chris Isaak, the Call, Psychedelic Furs, Social Distortion a 4 Non-Blondes during its active years of the late 1980s through mid-1990s, has released its first new album in twenty years. Eternal Teenage Angst, available through the band’s Bandcamp page, includes one new song in addition to a collection of demos and live tracks spanning much of the band’s career.
The new track, “Reach,” is a cover version of the Brian Healy/Dead Artist Syndrome tune from his 1990 debut alum Prints of Darkness. Veil of Ashes often backed Healy in concert during his San Francisco Bay Area appearances. The song was recorded by the band’s best-known lineup of lead vocal and guitar Sean Doty, bassist Brian Kirsch, drummer Phil Meads and guitarist/keyboardist Lance Harris.
New to the listener will be three songs recorded during what turned out to be Veil of Ashes’ last studio session before disbanding in the mid-1990s: “Angel Falls,” “Demon Box” and “Seraphim Twist,” the latter featuring a rare lead vocal by Kirsch who used the stage name Sterling during his tenure with the band. The album continues with demos of known tracks recorded at different times with different lineups, with arrangements ranging from somewhat to noticeably different than the eventual studio release. The overall tenor, as befitting demo session dynamics, is more raw than the studio versions. A few live tracks close out the record.
What is most noticeable about Eternal Teenage Angst is how it showcases Veil of Ashes as both a powerhouse rock‘n’roll ensemble and how well its music has aged. The demos are in several cases superior to the studio version, better capturing the band’s driving style without forsaking melody, while the energy and style mesh well with today’s alternative rock flavorings. Far from being a nostalgia trip, the album has several tracks that would fit into most any alternative rock radio station’s playlist without the listeners suspecting they were hearing twenty to twenty-five year old music.
It has often been noted that fans of today’s Christian alternative rock artists such as Switchfoot have no idea from whence the genre came. Although not as well known as a Steve Taylor or the Choir, Veil of Ashes were a vital part of Christian alternative rock’s formation in that they not only produced quality music on a level equal to secular acts, they routinely played secular venues on their own merits. Eternal Teenage Angst is not a comprehensive career-spanning Veil of Ashes anthology. But for those who want to know how artistically accomplished classic Christian alternative rock was, it is a superb introduction.
I noted Smitty’s rebuke on The Other McCain today to my none too gentle post here yesterday labeling CPAC in general and BlogBash in particular as lamentable money wasting, serving no purpose save that of egostroking. Smitty is a good man and a good blogger, but I fear in this case he is somewhat off target. To wit:
Noting Jerry Wilson’s disdain for BlogBash, “An event such as BlogBash could prove valuable if it led to greater networking, encouragement and support for all bloggers, not solely those in attendance,” I don’t think Jerry is fully briefed on the goals of The National Blogger’s Club, which really aren’t bad at all.
Actually, I am fully briefed on the NBC’s goals. To quote: “The National Bloggers Club will work to give educate, provide access, and further equip citizen-journalists without robbing them of their independence for those who advocate for economic and individual freedom.” The club’s original goal was to provide independent bloggers with accreditation that could be used to be accepted as legitimate media when covering news events. A very good idea.
The problem is the NBC has not only never delivered on this promise, it has abandoned its founding principle in favor of fundraising for whoever is crying victim and, well, throwing parties. Hey, parties are great fun when you’re invited — I’m not — and offering financial assistance to bloggers who have incurred the wrath of evildoers is a noble cause, never mind how doing so while naming names of the aforementioned evildoers does nothing but urge them forward. But to date there has been nothing done about making the NBC’s original purpose come to fruition. There was a promised website to register NBC membership cards. It has never happened. There is no form with which to apply for membership, no posted rules, no list of members or requirement for membership, and as others have discovered no one responsible for providing media credentials knows the NBC exists, let alone recognizes it as something worth considering when deciding who gets what access where. So yes, I do know the NBC’s goals. Apparently far better than the NBC.
I had gone to the President’s Dinner with Allen West, and then popped in to Blog Bash for about an hour with Da Tech Guy. Then it was time to get home, as (a) really loud music and (b) heavy partying (I drank an O’Doul’s) are done for me in that time. I did catch the awards portion. It was jolly good and quick.
An even more strident criticism, of CPAC in general, is from Richard Mgrdechian:
I have one simple question for the organizers (and the profiteers) of this political farce: how does anything being done at this event help promote American values of hard work, integrity and gratitude in any way? The answer is, it doesn’t. There is no take away whatsoever.
Two points, gents:
Failure doesn’t age well. Forty years of steady growth in CPAC attendance belie the notion that it is a ‘farce.’ BlogBash/The National Bloggers Club is an order of magnitude younger, but it’s still a growing concern, as noted by the increasing harassment received.
The Democratic party has been around a couple of centuries, but that doesn’t make it any less of a farce, Smitty. Snark aside, longevity does not automatically impart legitimacy. No enterprise is judged on last year’s batting average. And harassment because people can’t stop playing the victim long enough to stop donating their own blood to recognition vampires isn’t true harassment. It’s stupidity.
People don’t scale. With growth and success come the critics. And I’ll point you to the Man in the Arena speech and suggest that, in a capitalist society, competition is the ultimate rebuttal. That is, I’m not sure any of the proffered criticisms don’t apply to many large gatherings of people, but I’d sure like to see a rounder wheel if you can spin one.
Ah, the old “if you don’t like it do it better yourself” approach. More on this later.
Ronald Reagan’s mug dominates the wall behind the main CPAC stage, not that hero-worship excites me. What does excite me is having a concentrated place for the ideas that Reagan embraced and promoted, in that one eight year pause amidst our Progressive decline, to get transmitted from the establishment fogies decried by Wilson and Mgrdechian, to the college generation.
We need CPAC for that? Really?
Is CPAC enough? Let’s call it necessary, but not sufficient. The ditch on the other side of the road is say “They should just let CPAC die because they haven’t done enough to fix. . .” which forms a non-falsifiable, moving goal line. The more criticism heads that way, the less constructive it is.
The notion that criticism is counterproductive is ludicrous. It does nothing to address the issues raised, instead attempting to sweep it all under the rug. CPAC is pay to play, to borrow a music industry term. BlogBash is a circle jerk. And this is advancing conservatism?
I like going to CPAC and trying to make the speeches a little more accessible than just a 20 minute shot of YouTube. I guess that’s my criticism of it. The bandwidth at National Harbor is also wretched, though, I guess if I was sponsoring the event I may have better joy. That many people at once is always just a drain for me.
Here’s the deal. We say we’re a family. We say we’re all together. We say everyone great and small matters and is important for the cause. So where does the inclusiveness come into play? When does it start? Did anyone do a conference call or video conference with those not in attendance? No. Unless you count an Ustream of BlogBash as inclusiveness, which would be an interesting interpretation of the word to say the least.
Did anyone at CPAC call or write anyone not there saying wish you were here? I’m sure someone did; I never heard from anyone. Did anyone at CPAC stop to actually make so much as a jab, let alone stab, at getting people not in the room involved? You say you rubbed shoulders with Allen West and Rand Paul. Great. Very good. Nice. I’m happy for you. Did you put anyone on the phone with them? Did you pass along the contact information for anyone not there at the time who has skills that they could use? Do you genuinely give a flying freak about anyone other than your immediate crew and anything other than your next photo op? Evidence, please.
As a suggestion, guys, why not organize a Christian music concert nearby, for one of the CPAC evenings? National Harbor is crawling with dogs & cats, goldfish & clownfish from all over. CPAC has gathered a great audience for you. You could leverage that for a jolly good, edifying outing of your own. Just sayin’.
Okay, time to address the “if you don’t like how it’s done you do it” bit.
Let’s say I decided to put on a concert nearby. Let’s further say I collaborated with Mgrdechian to make it a double bill with Madison Rising and someone from my corner of the music world. Now, since this isn’t a Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movie, the option of staging it at any given individual’s uncle’s barn is off the table. This means renting a venue for the evening, which means things like insurance, employee salaries for venue workers and security, and the like.
Next, you have to supply certain pieces of equipment to have a concert: PA, lights, possibly instruments such as drum sets and amplification if the artist can’t bring his or her own. You’ll need to rent this equipment plus pay a crew to set them up before the concert and take them down afterwards.
Now, let’s provide the artists who will play the concert. We already have Madison Rising booked for this hypothetical show, so it’s up to me to find someone of my preferred genre who is available to perform that evening. I’m now on the hook for their concert fee, plus in almost all cases transportation cost, meals, lodging and all that. And also Madison Rising’s.
Now, if you want anyone to come you can’t charge admission. The house keeps all revenues from food and beverage sales, which will be minimal since as a rule Christians don’t drink much. (And are terrible tippers to boot. But I digress.) The bands keep their merchandise sale revenue. And, since by the time you’re done counting the cost you are looking at five figures easy — like I have that kind of money, answer being nowhere near it — you’re looking at a not inconsiderable sum that cannot be recouped. All to say, “There. I did something.” Know anyone willing and able to cut a check and cover all that? Me neither.
Well, I do in fact do something. Hardly with the flash of a CPAC, but it is there every Sunday at 11 AM and 11 PM Eastern. And you don’t have to go anywhere or be part of the in crowd to participate. Plus, it’s free for everyone who wants to join in. Best I can do right now.
Which is far more than can be said for CPAC and BlogBash.
I spent yesterday evening putting together next Sunday’s Cephas Hour. It’s a good one; wide variety of music without illogical genre shifts, superb songs from start to finish. The host could use some work, but he knows that. All too well.
Although I was primarily focusing on song selection, making the segues from one to the next smooth and then choosing my words for the banter in-between sets, my mind did occasionally wander across the country to a piano bar where BlogBash was being held. For the uninitiated (count your blessings), BlogBash is a now annual subgathering during the annual CPAC gathering of conservatives, said subgathering consisting of a self-selected few conservative bloggers who gather together to party, give each other awards and send innumerable tweets and photos of each other, far more often than not in various stages of inebriation. Not my idea of a good time, but to each their own. As to CPAC itself, Madison Rising’s manager sums it up quite nicely.
There are invariably people attending such events I’d like to meet in real life. That said, such a gathering is hardly my definition of a quality meeting place. I prefer small groups, no more than three or four including myself, where everyone spends actual time talking with and getting to know each other. And everyone in attendance is sober. Most preferable is one on one, and not the schmoozing kind where you’re greeting whoever you are currently speaking with while simultaneously bobbing up and down to look over their shoulder so you can see if there is someone else in the room with whom you’d rather converse. Genuine one on one, with both people sharing, caring and making a meaningful connection having nothing to do with mutual career advancement.
It warrants mention that I am far, far more likely to be the next cover story for GQ than be granted admittance to a BlogBash or variation thereof. Doubtless this is all my fault, and if I were the organizers of such events I wouldn’t let me near the place either. Too outspoken; too willing to cross swords and otherwise be an irreverent loose cannon. Also, a champion go along to get along type with charter membership in the mutual admiration society I am not. I truly suck at sucking up. Much more the type who has burned, if not outright dynamited, several bridges behind me over the decades.
Age hopefully brings wisdom. I do my best to be far more circumspect these days, trading a tradition of truculence for a more taciturn approach. Getting far too old for the angry young man shtick, which is nothing more than self-righteousness pretending to be a holy crusade. However, when it presses on me that something need be said, it is said. I may be more particular these days when choosing which hill to die on, but when it is called for my action plan and attitude toward same mirrors that of Esther: if I perish, I perish. The truth, in all its forms, is what matters. Me, not so much.
So many things are of infinitely greater importance than handheld mirror-rooted love feasts or Twitterati internecine warfare. A brutal reminder of this came a few days ago, when a woman I know on Twitter suffered the unspeakable horror of her daughter being killed in a car accident, the daughter leaving behind a young son. I, as do all in the unfortunate fellowship, know from personal experience the heartache of burying your parents and a sibling. Yet even as deeply as these moments hurt, they are expected events. Every child knows and reluctantly accepts that one day they will say goodbye on this earth to their parents. No parent, save in their worst nightmare, contemplates having to say goodbye to their child. For this blinding pain there can be no preparation. For those hit by such a tragedy there must be nothing but love and prayerful support.
Praying properly for others requires proper preparation. I am reminded of Pope Francis I and his introduction to the world; a quiet, humble man of faith and service whose first words to the people were a request for prayer. This is someone to emulate; this is someone setting an example via deeds and not words. This is also someone who incurred harsh criticism for remaining seemingly mute when Argentina was suffering under a repressive regime, it being revealed only years later that he had personally saved more than a few lives from his country’s then government at no small risk to his own. Again, deeds not words. Performance, not PR. Not a man who toots his own horn.
Far too often, an individual or group’s deeds are rendered impotent by the selfsame individual or group’s words. A prime example of this is when combating someone, or an alliance, that is both desirous to do harm in some fashion and feeds on attention. Certainly one must do what need be done to protect him or herself plus family and friends. That said, if the temptation of seeking sympathy by broadcasting your situation to the world is too great to resist you are immediately removing yourself from doing what is right, instead depositing yourself into a game of liar’s dice for a prize of fool’s gold. Recognition vampires will do anything necessary to get their name out there. Do not offer them your neck to bite by sticking it out while looking for your own recognition. Do these things privately. Do not so much as publicly breathe the name or names of the opposition. Do not acknowledge its existence. Quietly pursue justice. Any other course of action will make it that much more difficult to achieve.
Sadly, even as there are those who live to be noticed others live to be part of the Perpetual Sissyhood of Daily Martyrdom. Why? Some enjoy the sympathy, others how this makes for a marvelous fundraiser. For some, both. Bank account running low? Poke the hornets nest, call forth the cash cow… er, bogeyman and cue up “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me.” Works every time. Regrettably, to this group BlogBash was dedicated along with running the show.
An event such as BlogBash could prove valuable if it led to greater networking, encouragement and support for all bloggers, not solely those in attendance. This is not the case. Instead, BlogBash is Purina Ego Chow for petty little people on either side of the battlefield. The pathetic left uses it as a whipping boy for all they say is wrong with the right, while the self-absorbed right uses it as a way to say who’s in and who’s out among a little co-ed frat house blissfully ignorant of how no one outside its own circle knows it exists. Everyone is a misunderstood champion; everyone is a heroic victim of the other side. And everyone is shocked to learn none of it matters.
They ought not to be.
So much of life is lived only when we take the blows that come our way without alibi or fanfare. We will all experience genuine sorrow, the kind that can be effectively handled by no means other than becoming acquainted with the Man of Sorrows, the One acquainted with grief. We do not need sponsors, donations or high school cliques created by equally high school-ish drama queens. These are meaningless and will depart as quickly as they came, leaving behind no legacy other than a monument to folly. Even as only starving the attention seekers while working without notice to thwart their plans effectively counters their evil, only surrender to Jesus’ love and emulation of His service to others builds an enduring testimony to something worthwhile. BlogBash doesn’t qualify.
John Donne was quite correct when he noted that no man is an island, although in addition to his dour framing of this truism there is also a positive interpretation. There are no truly solo artists in life. Each of us benefits from the works of others, who hopefully in turn benefit from our works. This is the Christian way; each of us fulfilling our part by carrying out our mission as all of us are joined together into one body of believers by Christ.
I note this to both set a background for my assorted electronic ink scribbles this time through and properly thank a couple of people without whom Cephas Hour would not exist. There are many people to thank, but these two deserve special praise. First, there is Gene Savage who owns and runs BlackLight Radio. Gene is kind enough to turn his baby over to me for a couple of hours each week, in the course of doing so stepping away from the station’s 1980s hits format as I play the music to close to my, and it should be noted his, heart. Also, there is Adel Meisenheimer who has taken on the herculean effort of making the massive catalog of Frontline Records, on which many of the artists I play were associated, available in proper form after years of first slapdash chopped-up re-release abuse and then neglect. Not content to stop there, Adel has also brought back music from artists across multiple labels, working out all the logistics and legalities that go into such an effort. She and Gene deserve massive accolades for doing the work to make beautiful things happen. Me? I’ve got it easy. All I have to do is once a week pick sixty minutes worth of awesome music from a bountiful supply. Piece of cake. They’re doing the work. They’re doing something.
What does it mean to do something?
It means there is an effort; an outreach beyond trotting out the same ol’ same ol’ for an existing fan base. Doing something isn’t performing for an already enraptured audience. It’s not the home team putting on a show during batting practice. It’s when, to quote one of the artists in my book, you’re shooting arrows over the horizon. Ofttimes unrewarding, at least in the immediate. You don’t know who you’re reaching or so much as if you are reaching anyone. But you do the work anyway, because it has been pressed on your heart that this is what you must do regardless of whether it is known to be paying off. Or, for that matter, whether it pays period.
Compare this with the looming silliness of a convention, allegedly designed to promote a singular political philosophy, that is actively barring people of like mind from participating due to that epidural condition commonly known as a near if not utterly terminal case of thin skin. Or sub-gatherings at such a convention getting together to throw a party that boast loud and long of their numerous sponsors, yet leaving gentle and good people doing the very work supposedly supported by the aforementioned sub-gathering dependent on the charity of others to attend. Classy.
It’s easy and highly tempting to dismiss works that on the surface seem like futile efforts as failures. Others grab awards and headlines, while the apparently despite their dogged determination unsuccessful receive for their reward at best polite indifference and usually open scorn. Not quite the wished-for support if you are on the receiving end. Yet, those looked down upon press on regardless, for they know what they must do. Namely, that which they have been called to do.
Which is nothing less than planting the seeds of cultural revolution.
There is much talk these days within conservative new media of the need to have a bigger impact on a world seemingly consumed with a passion for unknowing self-destruction on many fronts: political, economic, societal. It is nice talk. Pretty words. Unfortunately it is also, as that noted societal commentator Johnny Rotten noted a few decades ago, pretty vacant. Why is this?
Simply put, it is the unwillingness to reach beyond the comfort zone and do something — anything — beyond what is already known to earn accolades, and if played properly cash rewards, from a self-satiated circle proclaiming it wants to change the world yet in deed refusing to perform anything apart from what feeds the other circle member’s individual and collective ego, expecting the same in return. We say we want to change the culture. Great. An endless recycling and promotion by, in and of the same organizations, the same shows, the same guests, the same conventions that didn’t stop the societal/cultural downward spiral before, and aren’t stopping it now, is somehow going to suddenly not only stem the tide but reverse its course? Really now. We are familiar with the repetitive action definition of insanity, correct? Perhaps it is time we stopped indulging ourselves in the aforementioned insanity by getting off of our happy selves and doing something other than preach to the chorale at the Echo Chamber Cathedral, in the course of this “action” firmly believing pinning notes on its bulletin board constitutes genuine and effective outreach.
It is not the high flyers within a bubble that soar. It is the people who, to repeat an earlier word picture, are shooting arrows over the horizon. They are the ones doing the work, not the mutual admiration society. Only when and only if those who honestly believe doing nothing but talking to those already on their side catch the vision and embrace those who strive to reaching others where they are will there be actual progress. Until then, they remain the self-nominated beautiful people sending excuses while those they look down on accept the invitation to the only party that truly matters. Namely, the banquet at the world’s end.
I threw together a blog post about the need for conservative new media to break out of its echo chamber mindset and start embracing/promoting those who are actively reaching out in ways not always overtly political, which was first tweeted by Ladd Ehlinger Jr. and from there incorporated into a blog post by Ace over at Breitbart. It also led to a pleasant, positive chat about things with Liberty Chick, who yesterday wrote an excellent post about whether social media is breeding monsters, referencing a similar sentiment I expressed about the need to positively influence culture as a means of turning this mess around. Some of the aforementioned monsters were referenced in a post by Stacy McCain, who focused on them while neglecting to mention the need to effect cultural change aspect detailed by Liberty Chick, Ace and myself. C’mon, Stacy, paint the entire picture.
The more we incorporate something other than 100% political talk into our online lives, the better we are. Politics have their place. But how much repetition of the same message by a thousand voices to each other do we need? Far better to offer something that cuts across barriers, be they political, religious or what have you, and creates common ground from which we can converse with one another. To integrate our beliefs into the daily fabric of our lives, refusing to isolate ourselves from others who see things differently, should be our objective. We need to effectively address the culture, engaging people where they are and from there walking together toward where we ought to be.
Yes, a most interesting ordinary extraordinary day. With a touch of strangeness mixed in.
One of the more raging debate points these days within conservative new media is what exactly needs to be done as far as influencing popular culture. There is a general consensus that the right has abandoned the culture influencers — entertainment media, news media (insert obligatory “there’s a difference?” snark here) — in favor of either continuing to consume whatever is thrown its way by the aforementioned entities, regardless of how much it is slanted against they believe, or retreating behind a wall to create its own entertainment.
In both cases, it reinforces my belief that conservative new media is in the exact same position the contemporary Christian music industry was twenty to thirty years ago. You have a few heavy hitters who love to throw their weight around and lord over their phone booth-sized kingdoms, a goodly amount of people desperately vying for the high rollers’ attention in hopes of getting a better seat at the echo chamber banquet, some very good people content to be moderately in the business while refusing to be of it, and a handful of folk actively pursuing engagement with the outside world, their reward consisting of at best being tolerated and at worse openly opposed by the selfsame individuals who trumpet loud and long the need to… uh, engage the outside world.
One of my main goals with Cephas Hour is to open communication lines by playing music from artists who first blazed a trail into the previously unknown world of fitting in both with the Christian music world and the regular entertainment industry. Their reward for blazing said trail was more often than not having to dodge fires set in their path by those ostensibly on their side yet grievously offended by the artists’ efforts to bridge the gap. Little has changed in the decades since. The music remains alive and vital, the message remains clear and the reception remains decidedly mixed for those daring to be in the world but not of it.
Cephas Hour isn’t about nostalgia. It’s about now; a call to re-energize and revitalize what has lain dormant in so many hearts. It is an effort to get the music out there to two distinct groups. For the first, the hundreds of thousands who listened to these artists back in the day, it is a wake-up call for any among them who have let the years obscure this fundamental truth: while musical styles change, even as we change over time, Jesus remains the same and we can still know the joy that overwhelmed us when we first believed. The second group is those who should have heard the music when it was brand new but didn’t because they were denied the opportunity courtesy of radio stations who refused to play it, records stores who either reluctantly sold it or didn’t sell it at all and concert promoters who refused to let “those” people anywhere near their venues. These people don’t know what they missed. Well, up until now anyway.
If you reinvigorate someone at the deepest level, it becomes far easier to do so at all other levels. Intellectual appeals are a good thing, but ofttimes God speaks through His language, namely music, with far greater effect. Music engages heart and soul. The mind has no choice but to follow.
Speaking the common language of music opens doors no conservative blog, podcast or what have you can ever hope to reach. Cephas Hour isn’t part of the silliness that says let’s take popular songs and somehow extrapolate from them life lessons. It is music that both asks questions and provides answers. It is the open hand that says come, let us reason together; from there providing guidance toward common sense thinking, grounded in the faith, that leads to a radical shift toward normalcy. Certainly there are fans who are liberals. That’s okay. You’ve opened a dialog based in a common interest. That is the idea, isn’t it? Speaking to those who disagree with you and let what happens as a result happen?
Setting aside Cephas Hour so as to take this from the personal into the general, there are conservatives doing their best to address the public through different channels — music, film, etc. These efforts ought to be rewarded, or at the least supported. Yet, what is taking place is that when one or more of these artists does work that is overtly political and conservative, the praise flows like a river. Should they step out of that into doing something of an outreach nature, the crickets come to call. Without a Buddy Holly in sight.
Why is this?
Refer back to the comment about those desperately vying for a higher spot on the conservative new media totem pole. It generates energy within this circle to promote what others are promoting, making sure you stay true to the message and/or meme 24/7. It doesn’t pay nearly as well to talk about art that isn’t throwing raw meat to the audience, something that requires more than a knee-jerk reaction. Apparently many believe that introspection and meditation do not mesh well with blogging or Twitter. As a result, we get cartoon character heroes and villains, bathed in urgency’s tyranny; an endless cycle of the same faces and voices saying the same thing time and again for an audience that believes all this repetition will this time through somehow lead to a different result. No, it won’t.
Stretch out. Reach out. Embrace the more challenging way. Divest yourself of the comfort zone, or to put it in a more crude yet not inaccurate way the circle jerk. Actively support conservative arts not just when they’re toeing the line, but when they blur the division line between themselves, their beliefs, and the people outside your conversation zone. Yes, doing so may well cost you brownie points among the sheep. It will also provide you the satisfaction of knowing you’re not merely paying lip service to engaging the world.
It’s been a rough weekend for artists whose music appears on Cephas Hour. First, Carey Womach, who was the lead singer in One Bad Pig, unexpectedly lost his mom on Saturday. Sunday saw Riki Michele from Adam Again saying goodbye to her sister after she lost her battle with illness, and as I write this Dawn Wisner-Johnson from Crumbächer is by her hospitalized daughter’s side as she deals with a ruptured appendix.
It’s encouraging to see fans as well as family rally to the side of those who have either renewed their membership in the unfortunate fellowship or are a parent trying to comfort a sick child. There is much love in the Christian music family; the faithful connecting with cherished artists and vice versa through social media. Together we share the memories of what was, support each other through what is and look forward to what will be. This is our joint heritage and common love.
It is a touch ironic how for so many of us in this family, now connected via social media, entry took place during our high school years. It was then we first encountered Christ; first heard the music that has become part of our lives. As I mentioned in the last post, the idea behind Cephas Hour isn’t a nostalgia trip. It is a reminder that we can again feel the passion and move with the purpose that characterized those heady days when we first believed.
In this light, the irony is in how, when you look at other areas of social media, the determination seems to be recreating high school by any means available. A case in point is the upcoming BlogBash at CPAC.
For the uninitiated — you haven’t missed much, believe me — BlogBash is a party thrown for political bloggers during CPAC (an annual gathering of conservatives) by one Ali Akbar, with whom my encounters have been well chronicled, and associates. It’s quite the to-do, with awards and sponsors and special guest star appearances by high rollers in conservative new media and politicians. Gaining admittance to BlogBash is the modern equivalent of trying to get into Studio 54.
Come BlogBash night, you will see scads and scores of blog posts and tweets from those in attendance hanging out with others in attendance, 99 44/100% of which will feature photos of said attendees in various states of inebriation hanging onto other attendees. Hey, whatever. Party your brains out. Nothing to me. I choose a different path, one of working on actively communicating outside the echo chamber, encouraging renewal and revitalization. As opposed to a BlogBash, which seeks to reinforce who’s in and who’s not.
I’ll take my renewal of high school experience over that one any day.
PS: You weren’t really expecting Alanis Morrisette, were you?
I hadn’t planned on an extended blogging break, but these things happen. Sometimes life gets in the way. That, and far more often than not my being out like a light pretty much the moment I get home from the office. Not the office’s fault; I’m just old that way. Ah well.
Speaking of “ah well,” into said category goes any thoughts of making it to CPAC in any fashion this year, let alone as a blogger. Not in the budget; I’m obviously not into political blogging these days and the thought of running into the “look at me – I went to BlogBash – I’m IMPORTANT NOW!!!” crowd is far more than I care to contemplate. For some reason Jeremiah 12:1-2 comes to mind when contemplating these people. I’ll pursue the road less traveled, thanks. Namely, Cephas Hour, airing every Sunday at 11 AM and 11 PM Eastern on BlackLight Radio.
Speaking of such, thought a discussion of what goes into a show might be of interest to at least a few. So here goes.
More often than not I record the show the day before it airs; i.e. Saturday night. If I record the show during the week, usually I’ll put the music together one night and do the voice-overs the next. This is because from the time I open GarageBand, on which I record the show, until I finish it’s usually about three hours if I do everything in one sitting. Add in the time uploading the show to BlackLight Radio and updating the Cephas Hour page here, and it’s closer to five. Easier to do it in bits rather than be up all night, especially on a weeknight as for some strange reason my employer prefers me awake at my desk. Go figure.
While sometimes I make up the playlist as I’m recording the show, letting the first song chosen to a degree determine the remainder of the song selection so there’s a flow, my preferred method is writing out a playlist as this results in a much swifter recording session. In either case, the goal is the same: feature artists and songs I’ve loved over the years. Stylistically, while once in a while I’ll do a show heavily slanted toward a particular musical genre I prefer to mix it up a bit. Not in a jarring fashion, but a logical one. At least logical to me. I grew up listening to albums where the artist(s) would skip from style to style on each successive track, so I take a bit more liberty with the song progression than might make sense. But it makes sense to me. Lyrically, while I’ll occasionally match themes in successive songs it’s anything but a primary thought. Not that the lyrics aren’t important, but they’re either strong enough to stand by themselves without leaning on one another or they’re on a song that is not going to be played.
Another factor going into the playlist is whether I’ve played a particular artist recently, and if so how often. I don’t mind playing a favorite two or more weeks in a row, but I aim for playing as many different artists as possible from show to show. There was a good number of great artists and bands during the show’s time frame, which runs from the mid-1970s until the mid-1990s. They all deserve an audience. It’s my purpose to provide a platform on which they can have one.
Once every two or three months I’ll devote an entire show to a single artist, such as is the case with today’s (February 10) show which is all music by the Choir. These shows are admittedly easier to assemble, but in many cases force difficult decisions about what to include and what to leave out.
On shows where the selected songs finish before the hour is up, I play “Alma Mater (A Cappella)” by Crumbächer from Escape From the Fallen Planet (25th Anniversary Edition)!. I try to cram as many songs into each show as possible, so I usually have time for but a portion of this track.
I have no idea what artist and/or song I’ve played the most often; I don’t keep a record of what’s been played. I usually list the most recent show’s playlist during the week on its page here, although I have no set pattern as to when I update things. I should probably correct that. I do have all past shows available for either listening to online or downloading at the show’s page.
The music comes primarily from my existing collection. I do occasionally buy used CDs or, when available, digital downloads to fill in gaps. I prefer having the CD for sound quality purposes. There is a regrettably large number of albums yet to see the light of day on CD or digital, so I have a growing collection of rips from vinyl. That USB turntable has proved to be a sound investment.
Having said all that, time to outline why I do the show.
I freely admit I am a sentimentalist, but at the same time do not wish to live in the past or attempt to recreate the past. It’s fun listening to music from back when I was the young lion determined to set the Christian music world on its ear, steering it away from over-produced shlock and toward vital music of the street and clubs where the message of Jesus desperately needed to be proclaimed. As you will quickly notice should you peruse the music department of your nearest Christian bookstore, the final score in this battle reads Christian music industry 1, me zero. Certainly there is a far greater acceptance of rock as a legitimate vessel for ministry than back in the day. But in terms of what music is being released and promoted by what’s left of the record labels, things are as they ever were: a few nuggets buried amid the morass of Christianese ear candy.
I don’t do the show strictly as a reminder of how much good music there was once upon a time. I do hope people’s memory will be jogged, or perhaps they will be introduced to music of which they were previously unaware. From this, where the music is again available I hope they will buy it, thus creating a phenomenon seldom seen back in the day: artists getting paid what they are owed. However, this is but a portion of the whys behind the show.
The second purpose follows this, with the addition that it speaks primarily to conservatives. If we believe what we say we believe about God and popular culture, namely the need to bring the former into the latter, we need to abandon the notion that politics alone will bring about change. Today’s political punditry is preaching to the choir while accepting a generous love donation from the congregation at its worst. Handwringing over the decadence of pop culture and entertainment accomplishes nothing. We need to break out of the echo chamber and begin making genuine impact in people’s lives by speaking to matters of importance. If in addition to believing what we say about God and popular culture we also believe what we say we believe about the redemptive, transformational power of Christ, it becomes apparent that addressing solely the political mind is woefully insufficient in terms of effecting change. Speaking to the heart and soul is infinitely more important. We must address the entire person. The Prince of Peace, and the people He died for, must trump politics if we are to truly address the need to influence popular culture.
There are thousands if not tens of thousands of conservative talk shows, blogs and whatnot. They have their place. However, even a cursory glance around shows their impact is at best limited. Meanwhile, there is only one Cephas Hour, playing music that fits in perfectly with its host: a regular station and its format of 1980s pop music. This is bringing the message to the people. This is great music about the Good News. This is standing unashamed for Christ in a forum that embraces, not hides from, the world. This matters.