Sunday, August 14, 2016

On Stage with Langhorne Slim and The Law

He crouched lower and lower to the edge of the stage and looked us right in the eye, his own eyes dark and piercing under the shade of his black hat, and he crowed in a low voice into the microphone, “Come a little closer. I have something to tell you.”

All of us fans in the crowd moved as one body closer to the stage.

Langhorne Slim, the singer songwriter from Nashville, TN, was courting us with his lyrics and storytelling now like a fisherman in the sea of music, and storytelling was his bait to draw us in.

Then, when he had us captivated and listening, he stood up and sang out passionately, “I came all this way to show you my love.”

What an unforgettable night at the 2016 Timberfest music festival in Carnation, WA. Although the event happened a whole month ago, and I am only now finishing my record of it, the memory is as keen as if it were yesterday. So I stop in the middle of my forward-planning wedding tracks and glance back on a concert with Langhorne Slim and The Law spent wild and free under a starry night sky.

As we entered the festival grounds, whose car should drive in front of us but Langhorne’s, and a few minutes later there he was, strolling nonchalantly in his leather boots and jeans, literally crossing our path again as we waited for a Greek gyro, and Robert ducked out to greet him personally.

The concert commenced and Langhorne called out to the people behind us within a fenced drinking arena. He shouted to them in good humor to finish their beer, get out and come closer. When that didn’t seem to do the trick, a few songs later, Langhorne decided to get closer to the crowds himself. (Incidentally, his latest album The Spirit Moves is the first he’s written and recorded entirely sober, leaving drugs and alcohol behind him, according to his website bio here.) Jumping off the stage right into the midst of us, he pressed through the crowd to get to the outsiders while we watched and clapped on. One leap and he was standing right over them on the wooden counter singing into the microphone while his stage managers, used to keeping up to his wild antics, didn’t miss a beat as they held the mic cords high above people’s heads and waited for Langhorne to return to stage.

“He was walking among us!” I felt a revelation as if he were some kind of Christ figure, for he kept bending down low and captivating us with his stories, making our hearts thump louder to the beat of something bigger than us, casting out his bait to the farthest reaches of humanity, those of us caught behind whatever fences we may have constructed for ourselves, inviting us all into the full musical experience. “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Really, we were having the time of our life, celebrating life and live music in the great outdoors, hemmed in by Washington’s majestic trees all around us. We shouted joyfully and jumped up and down and danced to the talents of the band.

But the best part came at the end of the show. In the final act, Langhorne jumped off stage again and then pulled people from the crowd up on stage with him. I couldn’t believe it when Robert knelt down on one knee and hoisted me onto stage, while Langhorne himself grabbed my elbow to steady me as I got a footing, and we danced next to the talented Mr. Slim!

As we danced on higher ground, I thought this too was an uncanny allegory to heaven and to Christ, who joins our raw humanity on the ground in order to, in the final act, lift us up onto heaven’s stage, drawing us into glory.

So there we were, shouting joyfully, of all lyrics, “I’m not dead, I’m not dead, I’m not dead!” Ha, a reminder that despite everything we’ve been through, each of our stories isn’t over yet, and we are still alive, still pressing on, still being resurrected.

We swayed to the final encore, “Changes,” and smiled as we related to going through changes in our hearts and lives.  And while we could have made those changes getting hitched in a private chapel or eloping to an island to profess our vows, we felt instead compelled to go the distance back to our families. Now I know the reason why: “to show them our love.”

Thank you for inspiring us, Langhorne Slim and The Law, and for an amazing concert! Happy birthday on August 20th, our wedding day!