A Question About the Fountain of Youth

by Robert Johns | September 21, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

Friday, September 9th, was a big day for indie music - it welcomed the release of new albums from some of your favorite "groovy" bands such as The Head and the Heart, Grouplove, Wilco, Bastille and Local Natives. While all of these new albums have something to offer for every music-lover, Local Natives' album "Sunlit Youth" brings a new voice to a seven-year-old band. This is not just another album for Local Natives – the album is a statement that rings true to many young people.

With themes of endless youth and undeniable cultural change, "Sunlit Youth" expresses a side of Local Natives that mirrors everything that the millennial generation is blamed for - that being mainly entitlement and a false sense of invincibility. Yet, behind the words that express invincibility, there seems to be a slight fear of the typical troubles that come being young.

Local Natives’ most played song on the album is "Fountain of Youth", which might as well be their anthem. The song contains lyrics that defy the idea of any advice young people have been given in the past. As Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer and Ryan Hahn simultaneously sing out "We can do whatever we want / We can say whatever we need", the feeling is that they strongly believe in these words.

The question becomes then, is this true? Can the youth of our generation actually do whatever we want and say whatever we need? The band goes on to sing "And if we don't care / Then who cares? / We've been dreaming of you / Drinking from fountains of youth". Is this actually the attitude that we have, and not only this, but is this attitude verifiable? And what kind of consequences come from a lifestyle of carelessness?

When it comes to the rebellion that is displayed in “Fountain of Youth”, it is clear that this is not the only theme that emerges from Sunlit Youth. In "Ellie Alice", the lyrics "On the other side, will I be reminded? / Pain in youth / Counting up the cards for the time rewinded / Pain in youth" express not only the fear of pain, but also the pain itself that comes with being young. These lyrics, when placed beside the lyrics in Fountain of Youth, are honestly a bit confusing. It is easy to find yourself, as the listener, begging for more clarity from Local Natives as to what “youth” really means to them and how it should be dealt with. Yet, perhaps this actually mirrors our adolescence – it is a difficult time period to define in our lives, and do we truly ever know how to deal with it?

Lyrics and themes aside, this album's sound delivers something for everyone. The first album on the track, "Villainy", is the kind of song that you want to shut your eyes and dance to in a slow, "far-out" kind of way. If you don't understand what I mean by that, give it a listen and I promise that you will understand. The rest of the album follows suit, having hints of a jazzy feel. “Coins” and “Ellie Alice” showcase the slowed-down raw sound that Local Natives is not only capable of, but also excellent at executing.

Local Natives has received a great deal of support for their new album from sites such as NPR music, which describes the album as "perfectly capturing the zeitgeist of 2016 and the embracing of change this year demands".  So what do you think? Has Local Natives encompassed what youth means for you through their lyrics or have they made you seek clarity on the subject more than ever before?

Preview: Vertical Church Band

by Robert Johns | September 16, 2016

written by Brian Shesko

Student Activities presents Vertical Church Band and worship from Elevation Church in the LaHaye Event Space on Friday, September 23 starting at 8 p.m. It will be a night of worship with bands from two of the most influential churches in the country today, and if you’re a student all you have to do is pay $10 in advance to be there. Tickets for the general public are just $12 in advance, and tickets for everyone will be $15 at the door. This is a standing room only show, so please plan accordingly.

Formed in 2012, Vertical Church Band is the product of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, IL. If you take a quick glance at the videos on their website, most of them feature the band as it will likely appear at the concert here at Liberty on Sept. 23 – Andi Rozier, Jon Guerra, Kyle Fredricks, Meredith Andrews, Lauren Smith, Tara Stutes, and Gabe Finochio, among others. Several of the videos feature other members of the worship team, which is to Vertical Church’s credit, and very much consistent with the band description that opens the website. The emphasis is not so much on “church” or even “band” in their name; the emphasis is on the nature of worship as “vertical”, about the condition and position of the worshiper in relationship to God. But it certainly doesn’t hurt them to have two signed artists as major performers in the group. One of them, Jon Guerra, performed as JAGUERRA for a time and now shares a stage at times with his wife, Valerie. The other is Liberty’s own Meredith Andrews, who is now producing top-level CCM music with Vertical Church on top of her already impressive solo material. All together, the group is now four albums into a solid career, much of their material consisting of live recordings, but all of it contributing to and elevating the worship genre “industry standard”. Where they truly raise the bar is in the aforementioned quality of performer. Whether it’s Meredith or Kyle or Gabe fronting the song, Vertical Church is equally at home in nearly any song. And that’s their other strength: the quality is consistent through the quantity. This is one of the reasons they are able to create the atmosphere they do; you could say that the horizontal aspect of the band in terms of stage presence is what contributes most to the vertical. It is a collective effort, all members working together to help minimize focus on any one person in the group for the greater purpose of pointing the audience upwards.

Movie Night Preview: Finding Dory

by Robert Johns | September 5, 2016

written by Brian Shesko

Student Activities is happy to present another opportunity for you to watch a movie outside. Come to our next Outdoor Movie Night for a very special presentation of Finding Dory. Just bring a blanket or other sitting device to the fields outside Dorm 28 on Saturday, September 10 at 10:30 p.m., sit back, relax, and enjoy.

How many popular movies with a sequel-ready story wait 13 years, 18 days to make one? Answer: not many. Yet that was exactly the path Disney, and eventually Pixar, chose with Finding Dory. The list of movies with delayed sequels is long, but not many are as critically acclaimed or popularly beloved as Finding Nemo. Of the massively popular franchises, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Mad Max are a few that have gaps between a sequel greater than that between Nemo and Dory. But whether the sequels are two or twenty years apart, the challenge for the movie maker remains the same: How can you create a movie that builds on an existing story without it being, as Dory director Andrew Stanton said, “derivative or redundant”?

Finding Dory accomplishes this with ease, shifting the focus to Dory, keeping Nemo, Marlin, and other old characters close without being show stealers, and introducing new characters that contribute far more than they distract. As other reviewers have discussed, both Dory and Nemo must overcome their limitations (Nemo’s malformed fin and Dory’s short-term memory loss), but Dory’s story is far more about the effects of life with a disability than Nemo’s. This is why both the character interaction and setting of Dory is such a perfect fit for the story. In Finding Nemo, much of the action takes place in the vastness of the ocean in all its mystery and danger, concentrating as much on Marlin’s journey as anything else. By contrast, Dory spends much of the time on screen in various confines – a bucket, a coffee pot, a touch pool, and, in one of the most important scenes in the movie, a series of pipes – a bit more chaotic and rapid-fire than the action of Nemo. All of these settings mirror Dory’s mental struggles perfectly as she tries to remember her way back to her parents: her mind flashes from present to past, her physical location shifts in similarly sporadic fashion.

The beauty of the story is in the proximity of her support. The Dory we are introduced to shows personality and manner that appear to just go with the flow, seemingly carefree and moving with ease between people and peril, which in a different context could seem like pure independence (more like the turtle, Crush). But we know this is not the case: the danger around her is real, and she has great need for the support of friends and family. In one sense, everyone she encounters can be a new friend, even if they are a soon-to-be-remembered old friend. But new or old, her friends are always close by, sometimes playing catch up, sometimes speaking to her from a distance, but they are never far away, regardless of how far away she thinks they are. Finding Dory is a bit sillier than its predecessor, but in that sense it is a great accomplishment, maintaining the fun while still treating disabilities with great sympathy and respect.

Preview: Block Party

by Robert Johns | August 29, 2016

written by Brian Shesko

Believe it or not, the 2016-17 school year is upon us, which means that the Student Activities Block Party is just around the corner. Meet us in the LaHaye parking lot on Saturday, September 3 starting at 5 p.m. for the best annual “welcome back” event that Liberty University has to offer! For those of you who have never experienced Block Party, this is what you can expect to see:

  • A full parking lot of carnival-style rides and games, including the always popular Ferris wheel
  • A wide variety of local food vendors and food trucks
  • Many of the university’s departments and student-led clubs, ready to provide you with all the information you could possibly want
  • Music performances by Colony House, singer-songwriter Dave Barnes, and local favorites Vacation Manor
  • A fireworks show at the conclusion of the Colony House performance

Colony House will be visiting us for the second time, having performed here previously last April in the LaHaye Event Space. Their first album When I Was Younger is excellent, and as we heard first hand during their performance here, demonstrates how capable band members Caleb & Will Chapman, Scott Mills, and Parke Avery are in terms of musicianship and quality songwriting. This is why we are very excited to host them only a couple weeks before the release of their upcoming album Only the Lonely, available on September 16. You can check out the tracks “You & I” and “You Know It” on your favorite streaming service today, and you can definitely check them out for yourself when they play here on Sept. 3.

Dave Barnes is no stranger to Liberty University either, having performed here several times (including Block Party in 2011). Unlike that Block Party, this time we don’t expect there to be a hurricane just east of us. But just like that Block Party, we expect Dave to be just as endearing and melodic as ever. You will surely hear your favorites from his extensive catalog, but we are excited to see how his most recent, Eagles-inspired release “Carry On, San Vincente” sounds on a summer night in September. It should be a perfect setting for his laid back sound.

And of course, we love to support local talent, so we are thrilled to be able to add Vacation Manor to the show this year. Be sure to check out their debut EP “Girl, Say” as soon as you can.

While you enjoy everything we have to offer, take plenty of pictures and tag all of your posts with #SAblockparty. There will be tons of prizes and giveaways throughout the day, so be sure to get there early and plan to stay late!

Preview: Movie Night

by Stephanie Ward | August 18, 2016

written by Brian Shesko

What would Fall Welcome Week be without a Movie Night? It would still be very good. However, it is hard to argue that a Movie Night does anything other than make Fall Welcome Week better. So please, do not argue with us. Come to the Vines Center on Saturday, August 27 for a double feature of these:

  • The Legend of Tarzan – 8:00 p.m.
  • The Jungle Book (2016) – 10:00 p.m.

On one hand, it does not seem to be surprising to see more than one critic ask why or how The Legend of Tarzan came to be. Maybe by pointing this out we’re cutting off our own vine in mid-swing, so to speak, but this is our nicer way of pointing out that this movie was not particularly well-reviewed. Besides, how many current moviegoers, especially that coveted 18-39 year old demographic, were clamoring for more of a character that has been represented on movie screens over 50 times since 1918, a few of those occurring since 1998? And as other reviewers have asked, given the current socio-political climate in the US, is this really the time for a reboot of the British colonial, white-guy-as-king-of-the-jungle hero story that is Tarzan? Well, on the other hand, it’s pretty clear that the Tarzan filmmakers were aware of these things, as the cast and certain plot points suggest. The various historical issues of the story are present but primarily serve as a backdrop and catalyst for the action. Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams gets to be both Tarzan and the audience’s guide through it all; his facial expressions are probably the closest thing to what everyone should feel as they watch this movie. This lets Christoph Waltz be his usual, slightly insane bad guy self, Alexander Skarsgard be the almost perfectly physique-d Tarzan, and Margot Robbie the near-perfect Jane. Plus, since no one is coming to this movie for a thorough exposition and denunciation of European colonialist practices circa 1881-1914, it should allow most folks the chance to enjoy Samuel L. Jackson wisecracking and Tarzan swinging on things, fighting some people and some animals, and, of course, saving Jane.

Our second movie for the night is the most recent version of The Jungle Book, which at least critically speaking is the polar opposite of The Legend of Tarzan. One of the best reviewed movies of 2016 (so far), The Jungle Book is a CGI marvel and an absolute load of fun to watch. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising at this point, but it is amazing to hear how some actors are almost able to voice their own persona into an animated character, and this is particularly true for those in The Jungle Book: Bill Murray (Baloo), Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), Christopher Walken (King Louie), and Ben Kingsley (Bagheera). The seamless blend between live action and animation is largely the result of an excellent performance from new actor Neel Sethi as Mowgli. It’s an outstanding blend of nostalgia and novelty, and you should come see it whether you’ve seen it already or not.

As usual, we will provide free popcorn and lots of inexpensive junk food and drinks for your snacking pleasure. Enjoy the show!