Keytar to the Kingdom

I love the David Crowder Band, so I took a group of students to a recent stop on David Crowder Band’s Collision Tour. While all of the performers in this Texas trifecta are accomplished musicians in their own right (Robbie Seay Band, Shane & Shane), the crowd that evening came to get down with the DCB.

I love how DCB can integrate art, technology and theology and still rock the set. I love that they are into Eggers and Murakami, and that they reward good readers of their liner notes. I love that they have rewritten so much of how the Church speaks from the heart to God. Who knew we would be running through a forest, diving into a lake with painted hills all around, as we made a joyful noise to the Lord from inside our chapels and sanctuaries? They remind us that God is just as worthy of praise in His wrath and His mercy, and just how beautiful is the collision between our depravity and His divinity. I love that they cover artists ranging from current NPR and music media sweetheart Sufjan Stevens to Sinead O’Connor to Hank Williams, alongside ancient hymns of the faith. But maybe I love them most for their sense of humor.

There, reflecting the multicolored spotlights, in David Crowder’s hands, we saw the mightiest of hybrid instruments—the keytar. Sounds like a keyboard, held like a guitar, rocks like a hurricane. And tonight, somehow, this wondrous keytar would open a door for God’s people to worship.

Sometimes I wish I could be a detached, ironic hipster, expressing approval through the almost imperceptible lifting of my chin, smirking my way through life. But I cannot contain my inner dork. I am inexcusably loud at movies. Not the guy who stands up during Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and yells “I didn’t come for no English class” because of the subtitles or who shouts, “Buy! Sell!” into my wireless phone. No, the guy who not only laughs out loud at every Ben Stiller gag, but who insists on turning and repeating them right away to his beleaguered wife; the guy who looks for high-fives upon hearing that Kip is training to be a cage fighter.

So, needless to say, I could barely contain my enthusiasm when David Crowder revealed a keytar. I always enjoy hearing what Crowder has to say at live events. When he tells me to apologize to my neighbor before singing the jumpathon “Undignified,” I do so quickly and with sincerity. When he asks us to make such a loud and joyful noise that we would interrupt Neil Diamond’s performance of “Coming to America” across the street at the Staples Center, I yell barbarically and with gusto.

They were about to unveil a new song, “Foreverandever, etc.” to the thousands present. This song boasts a wicked hook, which Crowder played for us on his keytar before launching full force into the song. And he wanted all of us to whistle along. And then lift our hands over our heads and clap—not just on two and four—on every quarter-note beat. Ten-thousand people whistling a synth line that would feel comfortable on a Reggie and the Full Effect album, clapping overhead, hoedown style. When David Crowder proclaimed that they were bringing us back to 1983, it felt so true.

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Somewhere between seeing one of my students mouth to another, “What is that?” while pointing at the keytar and another student mouthing, “Who?” at the Neil Diamond reference (response in both cases: shrug), I realized that this keytar was playing more than an energetic, punk-inflected riff; it was playing a freedom song for the captives that night.

It goes something like this: we love to take ourselves seriously—so seriously that we begin to take the rightful place of God in our own minds. Not some delusional ranting about how we know what will happen next week on Lost because, you know, we’re omnipotent, but more like being preoccupied with ourselves. And this occupation by self in the territory of heart, soul and mind prevents the King from exercising His rightful, sovereign reign. This climate of occupation and warfare makes us look with contempt at the person next to us when he raises his hands during worship or when she sings real loud because, well, we know what they’re really like, and it causes us to think of what we’ll roll up next in Katamari Damacy instead of actually praying when we close our eyes because, frankly, that’s where we spend most of our time.

And that shiny red keytar reminds me not to take myself too seriously. That He is the One we take seriously, not me. It’s a reminder that I am free from the chains of self-centered preoccupation, and that we are all free in the presence of the King. In the midst of the whistling, jumping, smiling, singing and unleashing of inner dorks, this keytar opens a door to the kingdom, and there is a brief moment of clarity, and I am reminded that He alone is the bright and morning star of this show.

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