So Trent Wagler posts a note last Thursday on Facebook offering tickets for SpaghettiFest at a discounted price “until midnight.”
“Hmm, I wonder who’s playing this year?” I says to myself.
There is no reason why I should recognize any bands playing at SpaghettiFest, an annual indie rock festival at Natural Chimneys, because I always check and I never have. But I do like Steel Wheels, Wagler’s band. I log on to the SpaghettiFest website anyway, just to check it out. The festival’s home page lists all the bands scheduled to appear. No familiar names. Oh, but what’s this?
Undercover? No. It can’t be THE Undercover.
Undercover has been my favorite rock band since the 1980s. I was not (am not) interested in the mass-produced pedestrian music coming from the contemporary Christian music bunch. I call it “changed and rearranged” music. Then I heard Undercover. The music was punk, rebellious and worshipful. They did a version of “Holy, Holy, Holy” that was loud and fast. “God Rules” was a shouted hard rock testimony to God’s presence in our lives. “Boys and Girls Renounce the World” was a challenge to do just that.
Undercover was original. You couldn’t say they “sound like” any other band.
Then came “Branded.” Undercover was already real, but their new album, “Branded,” was outright raw. No holds barred, nothing covered up, no making nice.
At the time, I was struggling with some hard stuff. And I was utterly alone. Why? Because when I tried to talk with my friends about it, they acted like I had cooties. Christian women don’t talk about those things. We don’t even think about such things. Christian women are nice. We’re nice. Leave us alone. We’re nice.
Lyrics like this spoke to me:
It’s hard to fall asleep
When I hate the life I lead
And it’s hard to face the day
Cuz the night’s not far away
Cry, cry myself to sleep
It’s easier telling lies
When I’m dying inside
Than to open up my heart
And have it torn apart
Cry, cry myself to sleep
God in heaven above
Has compassion and love
His hands wet with my tears
He’s been drying them for years
Cry, cry myself to sleep.
I listened to “Branded”—all the songs spoke to me—over and over. My brothers in Undercover were the only people in the world who understood what I was going through. And the music was primo.
I never got to see Undercover in concert because they were a West Coast band and they just didn’t come this way. Then they nearly stopped performing. A gig in 2000, another in 2005. After the 1994 album, “Forum,” there was a live one in 2000, then “I Rose Falling” in 2002. That was it.
So on the SpaghettiFest site, I click on Undercover, and it takes me to Ojo Taylor’s MySpace! Ojo is the founder/main songwriter/keyboard guy. And there in his blog is a note about “Steve Reich at JMU.”
JMU? Why should Ojo care about anything at JMU? Then I read that he’s teaching in the music department at JMU.
What? What? How could this happen and me not know about it?
I scream. I jump up and go tearing out to the chicken coop where the husband is working. I am so excited, shaking even, that I can barely get out the words.
Of course, I immediately buy tickets to SpaghettiFest, held at Natural Chimneys in Mount Solon.
On Saturday afternoon, when then come onstage, I’m surprised to see it’s really them: Ojo Taylor, Sim Wilson, Gym Nicholson and Gary Olson. They put on an awesome rock and roll show. They play many of my favorite songs—“Mea Culpa,” “Come Away With Me,” “World Come Crashing Down”—but then, they’re all my favorites. The husband and I dance hilariously in the rain. A fitting metaphor.
The. Best. Concert. Ever. And I have seen the best.
I’m wearing my Undercover t-shirt, with the big “U” on front. The band is surprised to see a fan in the audience. Sim’s wife sidles up next to me and says they want to meet me, too.
Tell me how to keep the flame when seasons pass the time away… Remember me.
Wow. God brought my favorite band in the world to Mount Solon, in Augusta County where I live, just a few minutes from my house. Does he love me dangerously or what?