Life’s not always grand, and that goes for the music at North Point. While some of you may think it to be the promised land, some weeks there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go behind making each week as good as possible. While there was no blood this week, there was a bunch of sweat. And maybe a few tears.
We’ve got two stages doing the same music at the same time, and because some of us music and production staff float from side to side, we’re constantly making an assumption of one side’s experience (spiritual, musical and production – video direction, sound, camera shots, lighting, etc.). So one side is being judged not only on it’s own merits, but in direct real-time comparison with the other.
This said, this week the West was doomed from the get go. “Fee “, or as we know them: Steve Fee, Matt Adkins, Heath Baltzglier, Brandon Coker and their/our good buddy Alex Nifong were on East. Now this, my friends is the definition of a well-oiled machine. They’d played the selected tunes a bajillion times, and they’re fully conscious of each other musically AND socially.
Socially you ask? Yes – they know each others’ personalities to a “T”. They know what to say and how to say it to achieve the best possible musical and worship experience. They are, after all, an official band, and Alex might as well be their honorary 5th member. Plus, Steve is one of the absolute best Worship Leaders I’ve ever witnessed when it comes to not only creating an exciting worship experience, but engaging a crowd as though just you and him were sitting in comfy chairs at Starbucks, chatting away. And the other 3,000 people are feeling the same way. Staggering.
Needless to say, East was guuuuuuud. Put those boys up there and press Autopilot.
The West, however, was a different story altogether. Quite the opposite in most regards. Now let me preface this with this: “By the time we reached the first service, things were gelling.” But it was not an easy path. Just because something looks good on paper, doesn’t mean it will go like you think…
There was not one specific thing that lead to our frustration during Wed and Sun AM rehearsals, but rather the “Perfect Storm” of issues: New (shy) rhythm electric guitarist, no keys player (synths, B3, pads, etc), no acoustic guitar, a poorly designed keyboard boom stand, and a set Pro Tools loop.
Eddie Kirkland was leading, and when it was all said and done, did a fantastic job (as usual, of course) and lead from piano (Roland X8 on a little rolling cart), and the current set did not allow for a large Keys riser, so we nixed the keys, other that Eddie’s piano. This, however, started a chain of events relating to everyone on stage having to re-adjust their familiar parts and traditional in-ear mixes. Add to that an in-experienced and slightly timid rhythm guitarist, and the band was literally having to re-learn the songs.
Plus, once the rhythm player was finally comfortable, Danny Grady (bless him!) had to readjust and refine new lead parts. All with no acoustic providing rhythm or B3/pads filling holes.
This all goes back to communication, specifically between guitarists. Danny was being polite (especially noting the rhythm player’s timidity), and the rhythm player was trying to find his way. And Ashley on drums and Earl on bass were having to adjust to the “piano and 1.5 electrics” verses our usual “1 acoustic, 2 electrics and full keyboards“.
Add to that the confusion of “who was playing what this time” for the Front Of House sound engineer, and it made for a, shall we say, interesting Wednesday night and Sunday morning rehearsals. To be honest, I was actually glad the West band only had to worry about and rehearse 2 worship tunes. That’s not an insult, but rather a realization that it was good to focus on fewer songs and making them the best musical and worship experiences possible.
But we were able to top off the service with Eddie and Steve (on their respective sides) singing and playing piano (Roland X8) with a live string quartet for the closer. No band, just piano, vocal and quartet. Very beautiful, and a nice sonic change of pace.
“Faithful” by Alex Nifong. This is on our new CD with Kristian Stanfill singing it, but last time Fee was here we decided to bump up the tempo from 113 to 119. Yep, that’s a big jump. Brandon Coker added a cool drum groove on the top, very reminiscent of the verser of All American Rejects’ “Move Along”. Very cool, and the tempo and groove change has added a lot of life to that song. And people even sang it!
“Lift High” by Eddie Kirkland and Steve Fee, also on our CD. Yeah, I know it’s predictable to have the two guys who wrote it also lead it, but hey – who’s gonna give it more passion than them? I love this song, and if the world was fair it would tie for “Awesomest Song Of The Year” along side Todd Fields’ “Breathe On Me” at the annual Awesomely Awesome Awards. “We Shine” would be 3rd.
“Word Of God Speak” by Mercy Me (Bart Millard or whatever…). This is such a simple, pretty song, but can evoke a great emotion in the end choruses. The live strings added a great presence, and the media boys added a cool video of some of the actual string players on location against a brick wall and hardwood floors with some great sweeping jib shots. It was a rich, sepia based texture. Very nice!
Steve and the boys in East:
Eddie and strings in rehearsal:
What I learned this week: DO NOT put new player on when messing around with standard instrumentation!!
What caused YOU to worship this week?