Squashing The Local Scene

•March 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m blowing the dust off this blog to get some choice words off my chest.  I might step on a few toes, but I think something needs to be said.

Yesterday, I was perusing Facebook when I came across local band Rio Bravo’s page.  I dig those guys and the music they make.  They put on a really great live show and I think they’re going places.  Their status was thus:

“Our Azalea Festival show got canceled. Make sure to tell the Azalea board that you hate them.”

(For the unaware, Azalea Festival is arguably Wilmington’s biggest tourist draw, it usually happens around the first week in April.)

Now I’m not one to aimlessly fling hate at people without getting the whole story.  Thing is, Rio Bravo has excellent music and usually draws a large crowd, so I was curious as to why their show got cancelled; and, for that matter, who made the cut to play at this big event.  Were other local rock bands?  Were they big-name stars?  Who?

After browsing the Azalea Festival website, I found the schedule for the concerts that will be held on the main and side stages downtown (aside from Darius Rucker and The Avett Brothers).

What I found made me irritated.

For a local festival, several of the bands were from out of town.  Most of them were cover bands.  And, after browsing the cover bands’ websites, I found that most of them had the same songs in their setlists.

So not only are the promoters bringing in bands from out of town to play a local festival, they’re playing other people’s music.

Now I’m not an original material purist; Blockade Runner has been known to slip in a cover or two during our shows.  But the notion that we need cover bands to come and play the same songs on the hour every hour is just ludicrous.  If I wanted to hear the same classic rock songs over and over again, I’d just turn on the radio, not go all the way downtown to see pudgy middle-aged dudes in matching Hawaiian shirts play those songs.

Out of all the acts listed on the Azalea Fest’s website, I could only find a handful of acts that were both local and original.  Now what does that say about our city’s view on the local music scene?  The fact that they have to bring in acts from out of town to play cover songs is a very strong vote-of-no-confidence in the local music scene.  In fact, it just screams DEAR LOCAL BANDS, YOU DON’T MATTER.

I’m not going to discount the work that some of these cover bands have put into being a band and playing live.  But there are equally talented artists in Wilmington working just as hard and writing original material that’s fresh and exciting.  Some of these acts include (but are not limited to) Rio Bravo, Beta Radio, The Stonewalls, Luminosity, Bella Vita, and (shameless plug coming) Blockade Runner.  Instead of giving them exposure to a wide array of captive audiences from around the eastern seaboard (and other places in the US for that matter), the Azalea Fest booking people doomed them and many other local acts to playing in the same local spots and battling for the same gigs.  This, in effect, squashes any chance we have to build a local scene in Wilmington.

I’ve heard all the time that Wilmington used to have an awesome music scene.  I want to build it up again, and hiring out-of-town cover bands is not the way to do it.  Think of it this way:  Which do you prefer, old and stale food, or something freshly made and prepared?  Once you’ve seen one cover band, you’ve seen them all.

Dear Wilmington concert promoters, stop playing it safe and pandering to the baby boomers.  You want a vibrant music scene?  Take a risk and give local, original artists a shot.


Joy – My One Thing for 2011

•January 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Blowing dust off something and starting back up again can be very therapeutic.

I apologize for the long absence, life has just been so busy with school, church, and the band all going full swing at the same time.  I think my body got the flu just to give me an extended break of sorts.  Through all the busy-ness, it’s easy to lose track of friendships and it’s easy to lose sight of the things that really give you joy, as opposed to simply taking up space.

Pastor Jeff gave us all at Lifepoint a challenge for the new year:  focus on one thing, one thing that would define our 2011.  Through what he said and some of my own soul-searching, I decided that the one thing I need to work on was joy.  Because of all the pitfalls and firefights and knock-down-drag-through-the-mud-moments of 2010, I decided I was going to take time to find joy and really simply enjoy life in 2011.

Now while this can sound like some neo-hippie thing to say for me, I can honestly say that it’s going to take work to achieve this.  Finding joy in things means taking an active approach to stay on top of the workload, to not let it get out of hand, so as to find more time to do the things I love and enjoy doing; and not staying busy just by filling up space.  It also takes conscious inventory of time, making sure I don’t just sit around bored when I have nothing to do.  The most important thing, above all else, is to spend quality time with God in prayer, reading, and writing because he is the source of true joy.

And what are some of the things that give me joy?  Well, I’m a simple man, and as such, I like to keep things simple.  Spending quality time with friends is definitely something that gives me joy.  It doesn’t have to be any kind of grand adventure, but quality time is something I hold near and dear to my heart.  Of course, playing music is always something I enjoy, and I need to really work hard to make sure that it doesn’t become just my “job”.  Other things like writing, cooking, and small and simple activities like that are enough to bring me joy.  Any one or combination of things is sure to bring a smile to my face.

With a new year, it’s easy to say that we’ll do something and then turn around and forget that something not even two weeks later.  This is not some flimsy resolution that I’m gonna break in February.  This is a course in which I’m really going to steer my life this year.  What’s your one thing for 2011?

PS-For little mini-blog updates, you can check me out on Tumblr! http://wesrose.tumblr.com

Let Yourself Break Down

•November 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

I’ve had to do a lot of growing up just within the past week.  To say it’s jarring would be an understatement.

My grandmother passed away after four long years battling Alzheimer’s and complications from a stroke.  I got the news right after I got done packing everything up after leading worship at Lifepoint this past Sunday.  There were so many conflicting thoughts going through my head, I was extremely sad to hear that she had passed away, but I was glad that she didn’t have to suffer through that sickness anymore.  I was weirded out to know that the Thanksgiving table was going to have one less place at it.  It was a cavalcade of emotions that I didn’t really know how to handle.

But I didn’t really give myself any time this week to try to figure those feelings out.

Everything else in my life kept piling up.  I had all but pushed my feelings about grief to the side this week, filling that space up with busy-ness, distracting me from going deeper and pressing into Jesus with my questions about life and death and relying on him for comfort.  I thought that I needed to be the strong one, all the while forgetting that I need to break down to receive my strength.  If there’s anything that I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that I definitely can’t do anything without God’s help and that I need to completely break down in order for Him to work within me.

I went through this week with a brave face, carefully dodging any hint of deep conversation about grief, thinking that it was unnecessary.  There were two factors at work here:  one, I don’t like anyone feeling sorry for me (it ruins my back alley greaser poet image) and two, I thought the way to handle everything would be to just continue without talking about it.  Little did I know that I would have the shortest fuse I’ve ever had, the most exhaustion I’ve ever had, and the most numbing hazy feeling I’ve ever had all in one week.  And this was all because I was bottling it all up, letting it all become stagnant until it went about poisoning myself.

One of the best things I did today was to heed advice and just simply open up.  My grandmother was one of two anchors on my mom’s side of the family, the other being her husband, my PopPop.  Our family dynamic has now changed drastically, and that’s a weird thing for me.  I also opened up about how it really felt weird to be so far away from the family at this crucial time in our lives.  Thank goodness for friends to remind me that the best thing for me to do for my family at present is just to be there for them when I can; to help us all remember her great life.  In order for me to do this, I had to break down first.

We have to recognize problems before we fix them.  Yes, this is now a time for grieving; soon it will be a time for remembrance of wonderful memories here on earth and a time of celebration of new life in heaven through Jesus.  But, the grieving and the breakdown have to happen first.  Don’t fight them, accept them; only then can we move on.

The Birth of Blockade Runner

•September 22, 2010 • 1 Comment

Those that have talked to me in the past few weeks know that I’ve been extremely busy.  Sadly, I’ve been too busy to update this blog.  That’s about to change in 3…2…1…GO!

For those who don’t know, I finally got a career-type job, teaching elementary music at a charter school out in Whiteville.  It’s a bit of a drive, but I couldn’t be happier with where I work.  The first few weeks of teaching have been incredible and I’m really blessed to not be one of the multitudes moving back in with parents out of necessity.  Finding a job not even a year after graduation has been a definite godsend and has allowed me to pursue my passion for music and worship in the city of Wilmington, which I love so dearly.

Does anyone remember how I wrote a post several months back about wanting to start some crazy kind of indie rock/pop/soul/worship band?  Well, this past week, I finally got off my duff and got the ball rolling.  It happened quite out of necessity too; I was offered a gig on Oct. 30, but I had no band to back me up.  I called my friends Robbie (guitar shredder), Kyrinn (unflappably cool bassist), and Ethan (monster drummer) to help me do some worship tunes and play through a few of my original songs.  We had our first practice on Saturday and in that, played through more than a couple worship tunes, agreed on a band name, AND recorded one of my originals as a band.  I was completely overwhelmed by my bandmates’ enthusiasm and ability.

I’m sure some are wondering why I started this, particularly because I’m so busy with other things such as Lifepoint (and all that goes with it), this new job, and another band I’m helping out right now.  I understand people’s concern and aside from the joke answer of me being a glutton for punishment, I really feel that Wilmington is about to experience a musical breakthrough.  I’m seeing a lot of cool bands get their start here:  Rio Bravo, Beta Radio, Luminosity, Sumerlin, The Stonewalls, they’re all great musicians and extremely wonderful people that really want to turn this town’s scene around and eventually move beyond it.  That’s exactly where my heart is too; I want to break through lines and barriers, which is part of the reason that I suggested the name Blockade Runner.  Another reason (aside from portraying the four of us as cool, Rhett Butler-type rogues), is that the name Blockade Runner is nearly synonymous with Wilmington and its history (good and bad).  Wilmington is our home, and I believe its my mission through Lifepoint and Blockade Runner to break through the barriers and get everyone singing about hope and restoration, because this city needs it.

I feel energized with this group, there’s a certain electricity that I get when I think about us playing at different venues, going through the rigors of recording, hopefully touring, and establishing relationships with other bands in the city and elsewhere as well as forming connections with people who really dig the music.  My feelings in a word?  Stoked.  I’m ready for this.

Falling Together

•July 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Blogging used to be so regular, I need to work on that.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel like everything is falling apart?  Like it seems that nothing you do ever works or stays together.  To say that I’ve felt that way for a while would be the understatement of the century.  It seemed as though I were stuck in a neverending rut, spinning my wheels endlessly and failing to actually go anywhere.  As a matter of fact, it felt like I was taking two steps back for every step forward.  Advance felt tedious and useless, everything just seemed dull.

By the world’s standards, I could justify the notion that I had a right to feel that way.  After all, I’m a college grad (with honors) that has nothing to show for it except a piece of paper and numerous student loans to repay with both money and service to the state.  Working at a cafe isn’t exactly the ideal job for a post-grad and it seemed like everyone in my graduating class was lining up a job or was immediately starting grad school.  My situation at a glance?  Doomed to limbo.

That’s when I needed to have both a divine intervention and a general mindset switch.  The divine intervention started, ironically enough, with me and my roommates getting kicked out of our house in favor of tenants who could pay a higher rate of rent.  I was furious at the way things were handled.  And to make matters worse, every attempt at finding a new place fell through.  Every.  Attempt.  But that’s when God stepped in.  And isn’t that how it always happens?  One of my potential roommates and his family agreed to host me until we could get some money saved up to move into a new place.  Also, the day that I moved in, three jobs in my field opened up in Wilmington.  To say that kind of situation is exceedingly rare would be pretty accurate.

Needless to say, I had plenty of inspiration and examples of how God was working in my life in order to fuel myself to lead worship at Lifepoint Church today.  It was an incredible experience to see God’s provision at work and to be able to share my newfound joy with others.  What was even better was the fact that everything God had been telling me, all the times he told me to be patient and wait for him to work, it all culminated today in a jubilant and exuberant way.

If I resembled a firework going off today during worship, now you know why.  Just when I thought everything was falling apart, it was really falling together in the most glorious way.

An Eventual Goal

•May 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I was really hesitant to write this at first, because I wasn’t sure how it would sound.  Also, I know if I write something like this, then there are gonna be those people that are really going to push and encourage me to do what I’m gonna write about in this post.

I’m just going to say this right off the bat:  I want my life to involve music.  I can’t see my life going in any other direction besides playing music in some capacity for a living.  Ever since I was eight years old, I wanted to be the lead singer in a band (still don’t know how I went from that to playing bass) and, not trying to brag, but music has always been something I understood easily.  Naturally, I pursued it more in grade school, learning as much as I could about the craft of making music and really learning how to listen to it.  That’s when I really got hooked on the idea of being in a band; not some ever-changing weekend warrior cover group, but a “real” band that wrote its own music and chased after that romantic dream of “making it” in the music business.  You know, that story played in countless movies and episodes of Behind The Music.  Something about it attracted me.  It wasn’t the money (although the lure of riches tempts something fierce), it was more about creating music that really connected with people.  To quote Russel Hammond from Almost Famous (one of those really influential movies), it’s about making music that really turns people on.

So after numerous false starts and attempts to break into something that I wasn’t fully prepared for, I’ve decided to actually make an announcement and make it somewhat official.  I’m going to start a band. I don’t know when or how this is going to happen, but it is gonna, preferably before too long.  If there’s one thing that the good Lord’s been teaching me in all aspects of my life, it’s patience.  I can’t rush something like this, but it is good for me to actually speak it so it can eventually come into existence.

Now this band would be meaningless if I didn’t write about something that really connected and united people.  So I want to get real.  I see a lot of artists writing fluff songs to please contracts and produce more of the paper-like green stuff.  I don’t want to do that.  I want my songs to be raw and edgy, stuff that makes people think and sing at the same time.  I don’t want to focus on airy or intangible things, I did that before and now I see it as almost a colossal and unmitigated failure.  I was thinking about how the songs I really connect with are heartfelt and sung straight from the thoracic cavity.  I used to use my head too much in songwriting.  No more.

And what of the sound of this band?  Well going on the idea of having raw and edgy lyrics about real life and the struggles and triumph therein, I want the band to have that same kind of intensity and drive.  Not the distortion-soaked madness that’s played on most “alternative” stations, but a truly lean and piercing sound that makes people move.  A combination of indie rock, post punk, and even a little bit of old school soul to satisfy the Southern boy in me.  Almost like early U2 meets Jimmy Eat World meets Kings of Leon meets Otis Redding.

Weird?  Kinda.  Doable?  I think so.

So I need help getting this together.  I need musicians who kinda feel the same way and want to collaboratively create something like this.  I’ll actually be bold enough to state what instrumentation as well:  lead guitar, bass, and drums (preferably one or all of those singing backup vocals).  Like I said, I’m not in a rush but I don’t want to wait around too long either.

This isn’t me quitting Gloria Spillers’ band or Lifepoint, but this is me wanting to stretch myself and truly glorify my Lord by singing a new song.  How will this end?  I have no clue, but I’m willing to try and find out, even if it fails spectacularly.

Sick in Sin

•April 15, 2010 • 1 Comment

A lot’s been happening with me these last couple weeks, and it’s been awesome.  One thing that’s been great is having the opportunity to lead worship for Lifepoint Church’s student ministry Ignite in a couple weeks.  This is a huge and incredible opportunity for me as I’ll be satisfying my two big passions in ministry:  music and student ministry.

Now I know you’re probably wondering about the title and what it has to do with the above statement.  I saw this song on the setlist for a worship service we’re planning in the future.  It’s an incredibly powerful song and we’ve done it before, but I remember there being a big mess about this song two years ago.  It’s called “Healer” by Hillsong and it was written by a young man named Michael Guglielmucci who reportedly had terminal cancer.  The lyrics are incredibly intimate and the music just hits you right in the chest.  Here’s the song:

When I first heard the song, I was completely blown away.  But then I heard about a big controversy surrounding the song after it had been released two years ago.  After digging for a little bit, here’s what I found:

As it turns out, Michael Guglielmucci lied about his battle with cancer.  There was no cancer to begin with.  Being an amateur songwriter, I was furious at first.  My thoughts went along the lines of, how can this liar write a song that touches thousands people while I’m being completely honest and getting nowhere? I think many people were hurt and/or outraged by the purported fraud that they bought.  I know it definitely didn’t help the secular world’s view of Christianity.  After all, if a musician can lie about having something like cancer to influence people in ministry, what’s stopping a pastor or, God forbid, even the Pope from misleading thousands and even millions of people?

The first time we did this song at Lifepoint, I wasn’t sure if we’d even be able to play it due to the firestorm surrounding it.  I was a bit miffed at the song and the artist behind it, so it was really hard for me to get behind it at first.  That’s when I decided to take the song at face value; it’s truth is universal, no matter who wrote it.  We are all physically sick and need the healing power of Jesus for our ailments.

But there’s also something else at work too.  In the news video, Guglielmucci’s father said that he had been struggling with sin, and because of that, physical ailments began to show up in his life.  Guglielmucci used the cancer as a cover to escape the pain and the guilt of his sin.  That got me thinking:  what kind of masks do we have for our own sin?  What have we done in our own lives to cover up our imperfections and put on a “game face” for our ministry?  Sure, none of us have strapped on an oxygen mask and pretended to have cancer to minister to people, but we’ve all had a point in our lives when we were struggling and still felt like we had to “perform” in ministry.  This is something that God has been wrecking me with lately, as there have been times when I was running on empty in my personal life, but still put on a happy face for Sundays.  This has challenged me to seek Jesus first and nothing else.

When viewed in the light of sin and not just physical sickness, I believe the lyrics take on a completely new and powerful meaning

I believe You’re my healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe You’re my portion
I believe You’re more than enough for me
Jesus, You’re all I need

Maybe next time we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.