Never Been Alive (Words Do Matter)

The Saturday following the tornado outbreaks, The Avett Brothers lifted spirits in Birmingham, AL, doing what they do best: playing to a packed house. My family (and most of my county: Shelby) was fortunate enough to be spared from the swath of devastation that plowed through Alabama. It was a hard day of cleanup (I didn’t realize how sore I’d be from using a chainsaw all day or how how many massive bruises would mysteriously appear afterwards – guess it goes with the territory of being a 30+ yr-old who works from home) and the need was and remains to be overwhelming (another post on that thought coming soon). The show was full of standards, plus a few gifts, but the whole set list seemed to be intentional – the already deeply personal lyrics resonated in a new way that night.

The opening line of the show was: “Disappear from your hometown, go and find the people that you know…” followed by a chorus that has helped me with several life-decisions lately: “So when you run make sure you run, to something and not away from…” (Weight of Lies). The chorus of a newer song echoed: “If I live the life I’m given, then I won’t be scared to die…” (The Once and Future Carpenter). And the encore left us with two simple truths: “Don’t worry with all of my belongings… Always remember there is nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name…” (Murder in the City) and “God only knows. God makes his plan. The information’s unavailable to the mortal man. We’re working our jobs. Collect our pay. Believe we’re gliding down the highway when in fact we’re slip slidin’ away…” (Slip Slidin’ Away – Paul Simon cover) Finally, one last song from the middle of the concert. I simply wanted to share the lyrics of a rare, yet-to-be-recorded song performed that night. It too seemed particularly meaningful in the wake of recent events…

“Never Been Alive”

Money won’t do the trick… but it will help
To open the doors we need it to… to help someone else

Still we won’t need it, to turn things around

I’ve never been alive, like I am now

You need only tell me… when you’re under the gun
If you need someone to lend a hand… consider it done

But still you won’t need me, to turn things around

I’ve never been alive, like I am now

And even though they didn’t close with “Salvation Song” as I had secretly hoped, the sentiment rang true:

“And I would give up everything, if you were to come up clean
And see you shine so bright in a world of woe
And they may pay us off in fame, but that is not why we came
And if it compromises truth then we will go

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way…”

Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise Video

This week’s free video on iTunes is The Avett Brothers’ Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise. (Download it here) But just like the title, the song’s video is a bit conflicted – an artistic juxtaposition…

First, let me say that The Avett Brothers put on one of the absolute BEST live shows around. My wife and I caught them this past New Year’s at The Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta with my good friend in life and ministry, Andy Blanks and his wife Brendt. All four of us were blown away. (I won’t detour into our people-watching adventures, but concertgoers can be ridiculous with their go-to dance moves, incoherent outbursts, and enthusiastic gestures…. head-bobbers, leg-slappers, fist-pumpers, whoopers and whistlers… and the token “i love you” guy.)

Second, I loved this video (obviously) and wanted to share it. I’m not sure if the art was done by Scott Avett or not; the painting seems to be very similar to his style (view Scott’s gallery). I can’t imagine how much time went into the production of this video. It’s over four minutes of stop-motion style animation with a painting, probably done digitally (like that iPad artist using the brushes app), and it looks awesome.

BUT, with the countless thoughts running through my head as my imagination was lead along this painted journey, I was left impressed by two things:

1. I love the Book of Ecclesiastes, and this video reminded me of the futility of man’s great achievements and the natural cycle of this world. There is nothing new under the sun. There are seasons, highs and lows. Ultimately, everything man does will be stripped away, returning to dust, only for the next guy to come along with the sameĀ  great “new” idea. So there has to be a greater purpose than living for the so-called success and progress depicted in this video. We can’t depend on the things of this world, especially material things, to find meaning and satisfaction. (Which is their point, I believe.)

2. I was distracted by the video to the point of missing many of the lyrics (which as a writer, is one of my favorite things about The Avett Brothers). Ironically, the other theme seemed to be intentionally inserted in the middle of the video. At one point the sign is surrounded by the noise of competing signs. I say this is ironic because it seemed to unintentionally speak to the video as a whole, the noise of the medium drowning out the message. This made me wonder about life, leadership, ministry, writing, teaching, and communication in general… how often does the message get lost in the delivery? Does the creative presentation draw too much attention onto itself? Do the two work together or do they compete? Even if the creativity, production quality, and message are all incredible, is it cohesive? Is there synergy?

If there is a greater purpose and meaning in life (which I believe there is) then I want to be able to clearly communicate that in everything I do. Sometimes that means knowing when to reel a great idea in to better suit the content.