Good Friday with Guster & Garlin

I got to spend Good Friday with my favorite Jewish guys from Tufts.  Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner, and Brian Rosenworcel have been in my CD player, on my iPods and in my heart ever since we were all around the same age in college when they hit it big with “Amsterdam” and “Careful.”  Little did I know that those two songs were just the tip of the iceberg.  With the addition of Joe Pisapia–and then the swap out for Luke Reynolds who’s with them now–Guster has only gotten more rounded-out and awesome.  And, in a venue such as the Pantages Theatre, we were in for a real treat.

As it turned out, we were in for an odd one.  I’m going to call it a “one-off.”  When they were in Minneapolis last year, the euphoria from the show carried me through until this one.  This year, there was more of an “aggresso-vibe” in the crowd, at least I think that’s what Ryan called in when I talked to the guys afterward.  Jeff Garlin was to be on stage with Guster and, for those of us who know him, we might’ve gotten a little tip-off that this wasn’t going to be your mama’s music show.  But, billed as it was as an acoustic show, I had hope that it’d be nicely segmented into comedy followed by music.  Jeff Garlin does a great roast.  Offensive, yell-back humor is his forté. Taken separately, Jeff Garlin is stinking hilarious just as Guster (with the addition of acoustic cello and violin) is harmonious.  Thrown together, it was more of a cacophony.

The crowd.  Oh, the crowd.  Talking to folks as the evening progressed, it was just plain confusing. From the start when the comic opening for Jeff Garlin got booed (it’s GUSTER…who boos at Guster?) to the end of the show when they sang us “Jesus on the Radio” without amplification, it was a wild ride. The comics did their thing, but the crowd reacted to the brash comedy by becoming a bit boorish and belligerent. The beer and booze went in, the din raised to a roar, and the control was never really regained from the stage.  Tweets and social networking posts seemed a bit low for the amazing music we were hearing–Guster was playing some of their early stuff that we rarely get to hear live any more, let alone with cello and violin…but we couldn’t hear it very well.  The jackass behind us who was “only there to spend time with his ‘mate’ and didn’t care about the music” had gotten himself a little too tipsy and his from-across-the-pond charm was wearing thin on everyone around him, but he would simply not shut up.  The whole quadrant of the main floor behind my right shoulder couldn’t have heard much of the show as the people who were yelling back at Garlin during his stand-up were still being obnoxious throughout the music set.  What could’ve been a great mix of hilarity and harmony just didn’t happen.

Frankly, the chemistry experiment went haywire.

I kept trying to get the pulse of the situation.  Tweets were saying stuff like it was the best show ever, but I don’t think everyone left with the same elated feeling as when we saw the Guster guys last.  It probably was the best show, but we just couldn’t hear it.  It was distracting to have Garlin on one side of the stage doing something while the musicians were on the other, playing music.  I get it that it was a new format and one that isn’t going to be permanent, but that was our one shot to get our fix.

After the show, I was nervous to meet the members of my favorite band.  Natch.  But, I was more nervous because I hadn’t shaken the ooky feeling of unease.  A Friday night with Guster should’ve been a sit-back, close-my-eyes, and let-my-toes-curl evening of just enjoying.  Instead, it just wasn’t.  As a member of the media, I got to ask the questions that were bugging me: How did they think it went?  What happened?  Why?

I got what I needed to hear: Validation.  I’m not going to over-process this and have some chai tea and ponder it for too long, but I just needed to hear that the night went sideways and it was not expected.  Ryan explained that since they didn’t have a new album to promote, they thought they’d mix it up with some comedy.  But that “aggresso-vibe” happened and, as he said, even the folks who could normally be calmed by the music weren’t coming back.

Believe me, Guster, from what we could hear of the amazing string additions to the old and newish songs we love, you didn’t need to mix it up any more than that.

Please come back soon.  Perhaps an Acoustic Redux?

See photo gallery:

Church Camp: The Naming Project

Summer camp. Youthful memories of a time of life when things were figured out between trips to the ballpark or mall. Life was sort of complicated in the way that only teenagers can complicate things. Camp was when those complications were concentrated and compacted into a time and place away from home; away from the usual rhythm of life. It was a brief stint of heaven or hell, depending upon who ended up in the lower bunk. Was reality suspended or was it a microcosm of the larger world? Homesickness. Puppy love. Learning to kayak. Swimming past the buoy. Generic peanut butter. Outhouses. Woven potholders in wacky colors. Capture the Flag. Campfires. Bugspray. Permanently damp swimsuits. Tie-dyed t-shirts.


Shame. Condemnation. Fear. Confusion.

How would camp have been different had it been geared toward GLBT and Allied youth? Some might say that it couldn’t have existed. Summer camp was church camp…and no such topic of sexual orientation would be allowed or addressed. If not church-based, summer camp was just summer camp and nobody talked about such things. Or, they did. But, they did so in secret.

That was then. 15 years ago or 50 years ago, the time of silencing the identity and discovery of young people is over. The long, painful history of denying sexual orientation and identity as part of the discourse in faith communities has passed.

Now, there is The Naming Project. One of a handful of camps in North America for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identified, allied, and questioning youth, The Naming Project organization started its formation in 2002 as an answer to the question, was there a place where a gay youth could go to discuss sexuality as well as spirituality?

It was a simple—but revolutionary—question. No, there was not.

Since then, the founders of The Naming Project—Jay Wiesner, Ross Murray, and Brad Froslee—have built a multi-faceted organization with programming to help GLBTA youth learn, grow, and share their experiences. It includes outings to worship and fellowship experiences; resources for youth and parents; workshops and conversations for youth in schools, communities, and churches; workshops for youth workers, parents, and congregations; and, as seen here, a five-day summer camp for youth at Bay Lake Camp near Garrison, Minnesota.

The camp is on an island. Metaphorical or literal, the shift in reality is palpable.

What is found on the island is unconditional acceptance. There is enlightenment. Something is known there that has yet to be fully articulated elsewhere:

Whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identifying, an ally, or questioning, you have been created and named as “a beloved child of God.”

Again, revolutionary. To come from a society where GLBT individuals are called names throughout their lives, it was an imperative of The Naming Project that the youth know that in being created, baptized, and called they are given another name, “Child of God.”

Though on an island, the work of The Naming Project is not relegated to its boundaries. The youth leave Bay Lake with a charge to see how they fit into society and figure out what they can do to make it better which, by simply existing, they already do.

The Naming Project has been featured on Our America with Lisa Ling and in the documentary Camp Out.


A Beginner's Guide to a Lynx Game*

I went to my first Minnesota Lynx game on August 30 when they smacked the Washington Mystics at the Target Center, 73-56. I was worried; I’ve gone to one professional basketball game in my life…about eight years ago. I didn’t know how to go to a basketball game. “Smacked?” Is that the right word for trouncing the opponent in such a fashion? At one time, they were up by 20 points…the first half was a little iffy, but by the end it was clear: Our WNBA team is on their way to the playoffs and I fully expect a smackdown the whole way to the Championship. Big talk from someone who just went to her first Lynx game, but if there’s one thing I know about beginners and sports, we don’t take chances. This sounds like a sure thing.

What’s also a sure thing is that you should be at the games.

Never been to a game, either? Don’t psych yourself out about it. Let me be of assistance.

Don’t sweat the venue. The Target Center is just like any other big building in downtown Minneapolis that people go to for an event. If you’re accustomed to going to Orchestra Hall or the Walker Art Center for concerts or exhibits, it’s the same thing to be going to the Target Center for basketball. You find a place to park, you go to the box office, you find your seat, and you settle in to give yourself up to the Lynx for couple of hours. The space may appear surprisingly small and intimate to a first-timer. I was impressed that the seats are so close to the floor–like going to a show at First Avenue over the Xcel Center. The action is right there in front of us–smackdown central.

Look around and catch the energy.
Be prepared to know people. Minnesota is lucky to have one of only 12 Women’s National Basketball Association teams in the United States and, of course, it’s no surprise that a large percentage of the Lynx fan base is from the GLBT community. If not in the community, itself, the seats are full of enlightened people who have caught on to the fact that we’ve got a stellar women’s basketball team. The fans are loyal and growing in number, as well they should be. And, chances are good that you know some of the other enlightened individuals in the seats. It’s an energetic, feel-good group of people.

Mastery of the game of basketball is not required. I was worried that I wouldn’t know what was happening on the boards, that someone would out me and I’d be asked to leave. Not at all. People are extremely willing to give the rookie some pointers and though I may not have understood why the whistle blew at particular times, I got the gist of it. Turns out, the back-to-back years that I watched Duke win the NCAA Championship with my older brother 20 years ago came in very handy for understanding which players were in what roles for the Lynx (as players, not as attitudes).

Get to know our players and coaches. There are 11 players. It’s catchy when the crowd croons “MAYAHHH” whenever Maya Moore makes a basket. Former Gopher Lindsay Whalen was the top scorer against the Mystics and Candice Wiggins gave an inspirational speech after the game about HIV/AIDS Awareness. The players are real and they’re worth getting to know. All of the players got time against the Mystics and each one of them scored. Cheryl Reeves is the Head Coach; Shelley Patterson and Jim Peterson are the Assistant Coaches. Watch the coaches–they can be as fascinating as the players and the game. Like any other organized sport, they use a body language and signals. And, they use them to win.

Appreciation is easy. You’re there to be involved so get caught up in the excitement of the game. These women are phenomenal athletes. Not to be conflated with the euphemistic “physical fitness” aspect of a beauty pageant, any athletic event is a time to appreciate the abilities of the human body. The strategies of the human mind. The chemistry of a team. And, the crisp air of a victory. Okay…and if that’s a bit too flowery for you, they’re wiping the boards with their opponents. That’s stinking awesome.

*To those of you who are die-hard fans, thank you for indulging me and reading this Beginner’s Guide to your Lynx games. Be prepared to see more of us newbies in the seats in this next month and your patience and assistance is appreciated. I promise, though, that a real sports writer will be covering the playoff games in our upcoming issues. I know when it’s my place to just watch and learn.