by Paul Landkamer
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The kids were whining a bit when we left for their first Chinese restaurant experience. They absolutely knew they wouldn't like it. Their mom and I were pretty convinced they would. We made sure they got General Tso's chicken, pork-fried rice, some egg rolls and crab Rangoon on the first round. They both reluctantly began eating, and as they chewed, smiles began to creep across their faces until they beamed, "THIS is GOOD!" Since then, whenever there was doubt as to where to eat, Chinese has been an answer. That's one example of family fun. We've had fun together through camping, fishing, experimenting with various ethnic restaurants, and even, from time to time, church activities. Another way we've had family fun was after I "discovered" Christian music. We began to go to concerts, and even listen to music at home together. I've gone to quite a few concerts with my kids and now that they've grown and moved out, my wife goes with me more often. I love it!
I don't think I'd paid more than $15 for a ticket, except for the multi-day festival concerts. Most of the concerts have been $5 and under. That doesn't mean I've only been to see local unsigned bands. Our concerts have included Audio Adrenaline, Rebecca St. James, Pillar, Skillet, Disciple, Casting Crowns, Building 429, Newsboys, Mercy Me, Toby Mac, Jeremy Camp, Todd Agnew, FFH and more. That's quality music without those premium-priced tickets. Also, "local unsigned bands" doesn't have to mean low quality or amateurish. There's some great music near you if you look for it.
Imagine teens willingly accompanying parents to entertainment venues, and those venues, ones where the focus is Jesus and not the flesh. We do become what we constantly fill our heads with, and families are the same. Music is a universal language, which spans a wide range of ages. Kids love to see their parents have fun. My kids thought it quite bold of Mom to go down in front of the stage and dance to a Christian classic rock band. They like it when I go up to the artists and talk to 'em like they're the real people they really are. And things get wild when whole families do a train through a crowd to "God's on the Bus". Families can and need to have fun in the name of Jesus! This article isn't about my testimony to the power of Christian music, because that topic is fairly well covered elsewhere. It's more about how we should make an effort to make Christian music more readily available.
In various Internet formats, I've told lots of people about our concert-going, and almost always I get responses from teens to the effect of, "Oh man, that'd be so cool if my parents would go to concerts with me." Would life change at all if parents started taking their kids to Christian music concerts on weekends instead of to movies, shopping, parties, etcetera? Could parents and kids start to communicate more openly if they shared fun-times in life? I think things would change for the better, but a big problem is that those concerts aren't as readily available as the more-worldly entertainments. Christian music concerts could be more available, if we felt them to be important enough. I think they're important, which is why I'm writing this article.
With minimal effort, one can know of many Christian bands and artists who'd love to play local concerts. Obstacles include location, money, lodging, publicity, etc. A big obstacle is apathy. We, who appreciate the value of Christian music, need to band together to make such concerts happen despite the obstacles.
A concert that wants to happen later this summer, faces some obstacles. The bands have personal costs that have to be met or they can't do a show. I have no idea (yet) on how many people the tour would include. I know members of the two bands number at least five, then there are family, management, possible sound-tech's, more musicians and others. The concert doesn't yet have a place to happen, I doubt I can afford it myself, and I'm lousy at publicity. Those obstacles are absolutely not insurmountable!
The band said they've got their own sound equipment. That makes our local job easier. They said they'd work with me on price, and lodging and feeding the group would figure in on that, too. It's so easy to think, "All I need to find are X-number of people or groups who'd donate $100 to the cause." I'm one, so I'm now down to X-1, but where do X-1 more $100-donors come from? Or I could charge admission –but how much, and how many people need to get the word and commit to coming? I'd need publicity for that. A love offering could generate quite a bit –providing people feel generous. Location might pose a problem. But concerts can happen, and one did in my own back yard last year.
In 2008, I crossed paths with a band who asked if I might have any area venues that could use them. They were playing in the Omaha and Council Bluffs area, and the Kansas City area is only a few hours away. I e-mailed churches, coffeehouses, schools and more. Any bites, I connected to the band.
The band ultimately got a show at Lee's Summit's Club-D-Mask-Us. I don't know if I had anything to do with it, but it's fun to think I did. They asked if I could find another place and even suggested a house concert. More days passed and I was coming up with nothing, so I asked what would be needed to do a concert at my place.
The concert happened in my back yard, and I've covered that in other articles. Shortening the story: the music was great, the new Family I met was fun, but attendance was really poor. I still feel bad about it because that band deserved so much more.
Not counting those who said they couldn't make it, I personally talked to over 100 people. My wife also helped spread the word at her work and at church. The band made a bunch of color posters, which I delivered to local churches, campus ministries, coffeehouses and more places in my town, and at least 10 neighboring towns. The band also made smaller black and white flyers. I left those around for people as more personal reminders of the concert. Despite all this, we only had about 20 actually show up. Money was weak, and I don't know how their merchandise sales went. Literally everyone who heard them, liked them. We're still on friendly terms, and whenever I can, I still try to find more venues for them. And just in case you're looking for someone to play a concert, check out the band, SHEL. You'll like 'em too!
To be able to do concerts more often and more successfully, we need a greater turn-out to encourage return engagements, and more local support for concerts in general. Concert support can come through providing locations, publicity, money, prayer and more.
So why not get free bands? No band is free. Almost all concerts cost something. Someone has to pay, whether it's for the musician's instruments, power to run the show, food for the bands, lodging, gas money, pre-concert publicity (printing costs, etc.), or time. Stuff doesn't just happen without lots of behind-the-scenes investment. Sure, there are lots of people out there, maybe even reading this, who say Christian artists should perform out of the goodness of their hearts, and not for compensation. That's selfish thought. These Christian artists are ministers, and my Bible says ministers should be paid (1 Cor. 9:4-14).
And now, referring back to mid-article: There's a concert that wants to happen on a mid-September Friday night in our area. It's a fleeting opportunity that's gotta be grabbed, or it's gone. The bands' musical styles are hard rock, but not screamo, with male vocals and pop with female vocals. The musical styles are perfect for families. There's approachable pop for everyone (more energetic than most adult contemporary or easy-listening stuff we usually hear on the radio), and harder rock for those Christian music skeptics. (I know you skeptics are out there. I was one until not too long ago.) This musical line-up could easily help bring families closer. Check out the bands: Bright Light Parade and Pilot for Kite.
I'd love to see this concert happen in my west-central Missouri area, but I can't do it alone. Please consider helping, and get back to me if you think you can.
Let's get more family-friendly concerts to our area (and yours, too!), and always let your music help keep your focus on Jesus!
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Your excitement is surging through this article. I hope you get your concert. The musicians are most defintely ministers. I love contemporary Christian music too. It has created a family time opportunity between me and my sibling. I do have some reservations... I hope that there will be a trend towards crisply audible lyrics. (Most artists are careful about this.) My family is repelled by the volume at concerts. I'm not sure, but I think they play at auditory damage levels. I do like it loud, but can we turn it down a little?