Lately, I’ve been into going to a string of concerts. I didn’t intend to go to a bunch: they just happened. My favorite bands came to town, and my favorite people go to their concerts. (The only favorite band missing is Over the Rhine… when will they return to Pgh?!) Each concert has been super fun, encouraging, and reminds me that I love music, I love my people, and I love my life.
Kylie and I have been listening to The Liturgist podcast and Gungor‘s music for almost a year now. Our church, The Open Door, plays a few of their songs on Sundays, so we were familiar with a few songs, and we’ve really enjoyed their albums.
Gungor is primarily made of a couple: Michael and Lisa Gungor. In March, Gungor played for a concert co-hosted by our church. They interspersed their music with conversation and questions from the audience, choosing their songs to match the tenor and subject of our conversation. We talked politics, love, God, mystery, and how to handle the deconstruction and reconstruction of our faith. Lisa shared a poem she had written about the female body that left me feeling both heartache and beauty.
If you start listening to their stuff, know that their most recent three albums are a trilogy of discussing body, soul, and spirit in music form. I love their experimental honesty in voice and instrument. Gungor’s music echoes a lot of what Kylie and I have been thinking and talking about in regards to faith and life.
We are among friends with our conversations: it was one of the teenagers in our church who did the footwork to bring Gungor to town.
Here’s my favorite song from that night: “Hurricane.”
Last week, I was able to take a friend’s ticket to see U2. Originally, I didn’t think I would go time they came to town. Kylie and I saw them in 2012, and I figured that was good enough. I really love some of U2’s songs, and really don’t care for others. I run hot-and-cold with their music.
At the same time, U2’s music has been with me for years and years and years. During the college semester I spent in Ireland, I rocked out to their albums (on a personal CD player–remember those?!) on the bus, traveling the gorgeous-40-kinds-of-green hills and searching for fairy rings.
So as we got closer to the date of the concert, I knew I’d go if I got the chance… and when my friend sold her ticket to me, that also meant that I could go with good friends of mine. We grabbed burgers and shakes beforehand, talked our way through the opening act, caught up. I was sans kid, sans husband: on my own with friends–a few of the exact same friends I found when I moved to Pittsburgh ten years ago.
Ten years ago. A whole decade in Pittsburgh. I never thought I’d still be here. Those first few years after college, I moved so much, trying to find my place. Moving here for grad school was just one more move, and I thought it would spur me on to somewhere else… and instead, to quote my mother, “Pittsburgh opened her arms to me.”
From Heinz Field, where U2 plays, I could see the arms of Pittsburgh–the two rivers of the Allegheny and the Monongahela merging together to form the Ohio. Downtown nestles in between the rivers, and as we waited for U2 to take the stage, we watched dusk begin to fall, and a rainbow filled the sky. Seriously. You can’t make visual poetry up.
Soon, as U2 sang, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” I looked around–at Pittsburgh’s glory and the people surrounding me–and realized that I had, to the best of my ability, found a lot of what I’m looking for.
Scattered throughout the concert and the city were people I love and who love me too. If I followed the Allegheny River upriver, I’d find my house with two (hopefully) sleeping little girls, an adoring husband, an awesome grandpa babysitter, and an affectionate cat.
There are a lot of things about this city that I don’t like: the hills in the winter, the cramped streets, the hot muggy summers, the fact that I can see the rivers but not access them easily–and certainly not swim in them, the fact that my family is a day’s drive away.
But there are SO many things about this city that I love: the people I’ve found here, the Open Door, the big parks, the yoga community, the University of Pittsburgh, my house. I can’t find these things elsewhere–particularly the people. I’m proud to be part of this city of bridges who builds bridges to each other, to immigrants, to Paris.
Pittsburgh, I can’t live with or without you.
Michael Franti and Spearhead
This week, on my birthday, Kylie and I saw Michael Franti in concert for the 4th time. Franti is the first music artists that we discovered we had in common–when I first met Kylie, he had their lyric “God is too big for just one religion” as his email signature.
Franti, like Kylie, is biracial and wears dreads that look exactly the way Kylie’s used to look. He sings world music / reggae with an overarching theme of LOVE ALL THE PEOPLE. This is the Love Out Loud tour.
This year, his opener was a female reggae singer–Nattali Rize–and we were delighted by her music. I’m going to introduce my daughters to her music–she seems like a great female artist for them to follow (to counteract the Disney princesses… ).
Michael Franti reminds me that it’s good to be alive. A birthday seems like a good day to celebrate that. In fact, at the end of the concert, he SANG happy birthday to one of his stage crew–and Kylie replaced that guy’s name with mine.
Happy birthday. Celebrate your life. Amen.