Playing with a “real” band who loves Jesus
by Rebecca Congleton
My band, theSurrendering, recently opened for Tooth and Nail Records’ band, Nine Lashes, at a venue in Indianapolis. We were excited about the concert for weeks leading up to the big night. We’re just a group of unknowns with a solid and unique sound, as well as a passion for writing songs that speak to broken hearts about the love and mercy of Christ.
We don’t often get booked with national acts, even those who have only recently signed a recording contract. We’re more likely to play alongside the garage band of tweens who can’t sing a melody to save their lives or the church worship band trying to turn “How Great Thou Art” into a classic rock song. We’ve had the honor of being on the bill with some amazing people, who sincerely love Jesus. Some of them are even decent musicians, but not the majority; and that is just fine with us.
So the opportunity to play a new venue, in a neighborhood where kids are just begging for a place to hang, with a band that clearly has at least some substantial talent going for them was a big deal. We were more than a little pumped.
I wasn’t altogether extensively familiar with Nine Lashes. I checked out their music before the show, and liked what I heard, but I didn’t know anything about the guys in the band or their hearts for ministry. As it turns out, these “rock stars” had a thing or two to teach us about declaring the love of Christ through hard rock music.
Going into a show like that, every unknown musician is bound to be a little nervous, and we were no exception. We showed up for our sound check, and found the guys from Nine Lashes were already on stage tweaking their own sound for their headliner slot at the end of the night. We were somewhat put-off. Unsure if we would get a sound check of our own, we began to organize our gear and set up our merch table.
I walked confidently from one end of the venue to the other, several times, purposely not watching what was happening on stage. I didn’t want to appear too intoxicated by this idea of opening for a “real” band. After all, what our band does is so much more ministry-oriented and humble than what a label-linked band like Nine Lashes does. At least that is what I thought.
By the time our set was over, we were even more pumped up than we had been before the night began. We killed it on stage, I sang with all the power and emotion a front-woman could manage, and the crowd had listened intently as we briefly shared about our faith and what Christ had done in our lives.
My husband and I went to the band “greenroom” to relax (and escape the hardcore happenings that followed our set). Unsure at first if we would be welcomed by the guys from Nine Lashes, we soon found ourselves sharing laughter, stories and encouragement with these young men, their wives and even one of their mom’s. They weren’t snobby or rude or pretentious. They were just people, people like us, people who had found themselves with a tiny budget and a big God.
It wasn’t until after their set, after they had rocked hard on stage to a crowd of head-nodding, jumping, screaming kids, teens and grown-ups, who may or may not have ever heard of them before; that I witnessed something that reminded me exactly why we do what we do.
After performing just a handful of songs, two of the guys from Nine Lashes, front man, Jeremy Dunn, and band-mate, “Tank” Adam Jefferson, shared extensively about Christ and what he is capable of doing in a believer’s life. Their words were not fluffy or dramatic or boastful. They simply shared what was on their hearts. And I watched as a crowd of people, who had showed up for a rock concert, sat still in a now well-lit, quiet room, and listened attentively without movement or distraction.
I was in awe. These guys mean it. They mean every word they sing, and every verse they quote. They truly love Christ and his people. They truly love the lost. They aren’t preoccupied with getting an encore or fitting in every one of their songs. They are preoccupied with preaching the Good News.
Now, at least for the time being, theSurrendering doesn’t always get that opportunity. We are usually the opener for the opener, and our time is limited. We are asked to plug in, play, and prepare to leave. We can’t shut down our show to preach a thirty minute sermon. We’re lucky to have thirty minutes at all. But I’ll tell you what we can do. We can use every ounce of devotion, passion, humility, and love that Christ has placed in us and every second of those thirty minutes we get to preach Christ with our songs, our actions and our words.
Seeing a band on a major Christian label make ministry their priority has revitalized our commitment to being witnesses of Christ first, and musicians second. We are sinners saved by grace; we are called to share that truth with a lost and dying generation; we will heed that calling; we will do it, as long as we are able, from a concert stage; and I’ll be the girl in front.