Nov 18, 2008

“Hippie, mountain people church music” seeks to influence life down here

by Amanda Sullivan

Liberty University students and College for a Weekend (CFAW) visitors gathered in the Schilling Center on Saturday, Nov. 15 for a concert by Downhere and the Michael Gungor band. The bands’ passions extend past playing music, reaching into the realm of ministry and missions.

Downhere bass guitar player Glenn Lavender entertained the teens with an icebreaker before the show. Lavender held up a variety of signs that displayed sounds such as “ooh,” “aah,” “laugh,” “cheer,” “whistle,” “hum,” “shh,” “single clap” and “buzz.” Lavender instructed the audience on how to properly replicate the sounds he held up, including encouraging silence in between card changes. Lavender used the sound cards to duplicate the sound of a thunderstorm.

Lavender quieted the crowd’s enthrallment with his trick and introduced the Michael Gungor Band.

“We joke around saying that the (Michael Gungor band) is probably the first band we have toured with that we think is a lot cooler than us,” Downhere lead singer Marc Martel said in a phone interview. “They have been great guys. They have been really hard working, too. Not every band you tour with is willing to put in the hard work, especially with the set up and tear down.”

The four-man band opened the concert with “Friend of God.” The band played a set of songs from its album “All I Need is Here” including “Be Praised,” “Heaven’s Song” and “Giving It All to You,” transitioning into a guitar solo by band member Brad Waller. The audience clapped in rhythm to the music.

“Here is another (song) we could use your singing support on,” Waller said as he introduced the next song, and the portions he wanted the audience’s assistance on.

The song was written by Waller in light of the presidential election in an attempt to remind himself that “God is not a man, God is love.”

The band ended its self-proclaimed “hippie, mountain people church music” with the song “Say So.”

During the stage set up for Downhere, Lavender spoke to the audience regarding two mission opportunities as missions have become a large part of the band members’ lives.

“We are the richest people in (the) world, and we have an opportunity to help,” Lavender said.

He spoke on the Mocha Club and World Vision. The Mocha Club is an organization committed to helping orphans in Africa.
“Mocha Club is about connecting your community with our community in Africa,” according to MochaClub.org. “You start by giving up $7 a month, the cost of two mochas. You get to pick where that money is going.”

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian program. The organization is dedicated to helping families receive funding across the world. World Vision seeks to demonstrate God’s love to the poor through the love of Jesus Christ – the organization is motivated by faith, according to Worldvision.org.

“World Vision is a global organization with offices in approximately 100 countries,” according to Worldvision.org. “These interdependent national offices are bound together by a Covenant of Partnership, a Biblically-based agreement that enables us to work together in a unified and complementary way as we walk alongside those we serve.”

Lavender told the audience of his own experience with the World Vision organization, stating that he has sponsored a little boy. He said sponsors are allowed to choose where to send their support for the child they choose.

“I sponsored a boy from Zimbabwe,” Lavender said. “I gave my kid a goat.”

Lavender then segued from talking about the organizations into introducing the band Downhere. The band began its show with a song off its latest album “Ending is Beginning” called “Cathedral Made of People.” The band then transitioned into the song “A Better Way” from the band’s album “Wide-eyed and Mystified.” The song talks about how the love of Jesus covers all sins, according to the band.
“(The band) has become more about me sharing my faith,” lead singer Jason Germain said. “(The song is) more a confession. I realize that I have hurt people too.”

Germain continued to reminisce about his life after the song. He told the audience his favorite song ever written is “How Many Kings.” The song has personal value beyond his writing it, according to Germain.

“This song is the only song that my dad called to say he loved,” Germain said. “He was at a loss for words, and he is a pastor so words are his thing.”

The band proceeded with the concert, moving from a more serious tone to a more relaxed atmosphere. The band’s songs increased in tempo, and the audience bobbed and clapped to the rhythm of the music as the band played its most popular song, “Rockstars.”
“Some songs we play because we pray them, but others we play because fans demand it,” Germain said. “This may be last time you hear this song because we have played it about a 1,000 times.”

The band encouraged the audience to sing along and echo certain parts of the song.

The band closed the show with its newest single “Here I Am.” Germaine told the audience the song sounds better if they sing loud, encouraging the audience to “rock out.”

“(The concert was) too great for words,” CFAW visitor Andrew Carlson, 17, said.

While the band enjoys playing music, its main desire is to serve Christ, and the band uses music as a tool to share the gospel with others. The songs on the band’s newest album “Ending is Beginning” were written from the situations and people observed while the band was on the road.

“We hope people will listen to the album and take away a feeling of hope,” Martel said. “It’s an album about hope. When we were writing and recording it, we wanted to make an album people could make their life soundtrack no matter how their life was going – if it was going well or hard. There’s a lot of hope. The title ‘Ending is Beginning’ means where God meets you – when you realize that’s where God leads you.”

Downhere’s desire to relate the idea of hope to its fans coincides with the band’s mission.

“We always said we wanted to be (a) soundtrack to the Christian living,” Martel said. “We’ve kept it pretty simple. When we first started out there was a verse (1 Cor. 13:12) that stood out to our band. We’ve kind of used it as a launching platform. When we’re writing songs and singing songs, we are trying to keep in mind the fact that this (life) is only temporary.”

The band’s mission also ties into its name. The name “Downhere” originally came from a song written by Martel after the death of a friend who attended the same college. The accident was Martel’s first experience with death and losing a friend, Martel said. He said the song was about his wrestle with understanding why something happen, especially when it happens to good people. The song is about Martel’s surrender to God, trusting that God sees the bigger picture.

“(As a band), we are constantly trying to remind people that down here is in contrast to up there, and God cares about how we live our life,” Martel said.

For more information about Downhere, visit Downhere.com, and visit MichaelGungorBand.com for upcoming events featuring the Michael Gungor band.

Information about the mission opportunities supported by the bands may be found at MochaClub.org and Worldvision.org.

 


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