Winter Jam 2K17
I am by no wild stretch of the imagination a connoisseur of music and, to my regret, I have only recently begun to appreciate music instead of merely consuming it. It wasn’t until the day that I found Tenth Avenue North, a young band that sings about God’s grace and refuses to settle for anything less than an intense, passionate hope in God’s grace, that I understood the power of music to come alongside hurting people and offer a glimpse of hope. Ever since the day that I began listening to their music, I have dreamed of watching this band perform live. Last Saturday, at Winter Jam, my chance came.
An annual tour of several bands performing for a shocking ten dollars per person, Winter Jam attracts large crowds, including many OBU students. A group of us determined to go quickly formed. Though the concert would not begin until 6:00, we left early, arriving a few hours before the doors opened. We parked several blocks from Chesapeake Arena, and as we walked to the venue, I realized why we had parked so far away: crowds. By the time we had found our spots in line (still awhile before the doors opened), a long line of people had formed. When the doors finally opened and we had paid for our tickets, we followed the crowd to the arena where we somehow managed to get some seats quite close to the stage, relatively speaking.
With a strong opening from the band OBB (Oswald Brothers Band), Winter Jam began amidst deafening cheers erupting from all around the massive arena. After they had finished performing, the emcee for the night talked briefly before the next band, Thousand Foot Krutch, performed. Perhaps it was the poor acoustics; perhaps it was his singing style; perhaps it was the bass that thundered so loudly an erupting volcano would be put to shame–regardless of what it was, I did not like their music. I will say, though, that they were a huge hit with the crowd. They finished, the crowd wildly applauding them, and the emcee hopped back on stage to introduce a new band.
As the night wore on, I grew not a little impatient to see Tenth Avenue North and, to a lesser extent, Crowder. Applause died after yet another band finished and the emcee hopped, once again, back on stage to introduce the next band–Tenth Avenue North. I may have cheered ecstatically and jumped up and down like a kangaroo. If so, it was a good thing that everyone else was too busy bouncing like kangaroos to notice me. Whatever may or may not have happened, I got to see my favorite band perform live . . . and they did not disappoint.
To see a favorite band perform live is nothing like listening to one of their albums. If I didn’t realize that when I watched Switchfoot, then I certainly realized that here. Mike Donehey, the lead singer and front-man for Tenth Avenue North, impressed me on several accounts. For one, I appreciated the way that he connected the messages of their songs to the gospel. As he mentioned, it’s easy to lose sight of grace in the world that we live in, but so many of their songs constantly point back to God’s incredible grace. When he introduced the song “I Have This Hope,” for example, he moved me with the brief but unforgettable story of its inception. Donehey also impressed the band’s heart on me: They did all that they did–writing songs, making music, sharing stories–because they wanted to spread the truth of God’s grace to others, something that he demonstrated concretely when he walked through the crowd and hugged a woman. Seeing Tenth Avenue North live was an experience that I will not soon forget.
I also appreciated seeing Crowder live, though not for the same reasons that I appreciated Tenth Avenue North. Crowder did not talk to the crowd; rather, he simply performed the songs that have made him one of the most popular artists in the Christian music industry. He is passionate when he performs. When he sings, it comes from his heart, the messages of God’s forgiveness, grace, and love flooding the arena.
As Crowder sang, I looked across the stadium and saw several thousand people with their arms raised skyward, singing at the top of their lungs praises to God. It was a bittersweet moment for me. On the one hand, hearing such a large crowd singing God’s praise left an indelible taste of heaven in my mouth. On the other hand, I feared that many of these men, women, and kids would go back home that night, the passion they expressed with their arms raised would die quickly, and they would return to normal life, completely missing the purpose of the night. It grieved me.
Perhaps I’m overly cynical and will one day see that I’m wrong (How I hope this is the case!). Perhaps I’m right (sadly). Perhaps I’ll one day see that one person–just one person–discovered God for the first time and will go on to do great things in the name of Jesus and, with Jesus, change the world. Though filled with music, Winter Jam is not about the music: it’s about bringing people to the feet of Jesus. If through music someone came to the feet of Jesus and threw their arms skyward, then Winter Jam served its purpose.