Vincent Moon has created a series of brilliant short films called The Take-Away Shows. Moon has filmed artists such as Beirut, Menomena and Tapes’n Tapes performing their songs in surprising locations — perhaps walking down the street or playing in a basement stockroom. From the Take-Away Show site:
You meet a band. You take them outside, in the streets, and ask them to play there, shoot the movie in one unique shot, whatever happens. Those are the Take-Away Shows, the weekly video podcast from French weblog La Blogotheque.
This clip of the Arcade Fire gang crowding into an elevator to play Neon Bible — playing the snare drum by tearing pages from a magazine and the bass drum by pounding the walls — and then performing Wake Up in the middle of the audience is breathtaking. Moon doesn’t edit out the band laughing or tuning, or even the occasional musical misstep; the result is a vibe that is immediate, real and filled with joy. As Arcade Fire performs from the middle of the audience, you can almost see waves sweeping over the crowd as they become part of the band.
Many people have shared their insights into the problem of the “worship industry” recently. To highlight a few:
- David Gate’s post called Translate His Wonders rails against “McWorship”
- David Park over at Next Gener.Asian Church in Coming Back To A Heart Of Worship speaks against soulless “worship karaoke”
- Brett McCracken in The Tragedy of (Most) Modern Worship Music articulates his issues with the state of modern worship music in the church today
I am all for excellence in worship. Half-hearted, out of tune, I just picked these songs five minutes ago worship sets hardly bring glory to God. However, too often that drive for excellence results in slick, overproduced songs that are indistinguishable from the latest hits by Chris Daughtry or Kelly Clarkson (actually, I wouldn’t mind a worship “hit” that is as catchy as “Since U Been Gone”) — songs that hit all the right notes, but lack soul.
I realize that my particular musical aesthetic skews toward jangly indie collectives like Arcade Fire, Architecture in Helsinki and Broken Social Scene (or Los Campesinos! who are new to me), but it might breathe some much-needed life into our worship if we made a little bit more of a racket. In this Take-Away Show of Architecture in Helsinki performing Heart It Races, the band recruits a small backing choir of fans, which turns into a conga line, which becomes an impromptu invitation into a private party:
Architecture in Helsinki thought about everything : the choir, the bass drum and portable amplifiers. Alas, during the procession that starts shortly after, the amps die. So, with an extension cord, we borrow power from the locals, overlooking from their 2nd floor windows. Electricity from a kitchen !
Cameron Bird, shiny-eyed, asks me whether he can go up in one of the apartments, as he would like to sing from the window. Kelly goes in yet another flat and shows off the ice tea her hostess gave her. In our flat, dinner is cooking in a huge pan, the kids swarm towards the window in excitement, the mom goes about her business in the back of the place, and Cameron sings along with the small crowd down in the street. He winks laughingly at Kelly, he’s having so much fun. Behind us, the kids look impressed. We brought the Take Away Show to their home, in between the living room and the kitchen, we got in the place just by asking politely, we are an accident to this family. Just as Take Away Shows are an accident to the artists we follow. As soon as the song ends, everybody goes back down. The little girls put on their shoes, they run down the stairs before us.
Meanwhile, in the street, the little choir turned into a troop. The line is already long in front of the Flèche d’Or. Architecture in Helsinki, not even all there yet, have everybody form a “congo line”. Then that’s how it goes : something’s going on at the front, in the middle, in the back, everybody moves forward. Vincent Moon bumps into the percussionnist, goes again, wants to be everywhere at once, doesn’t have time, bumps into me. In the street, a blind man wiggles to the sound of the band passing by. Since the beginning, everybody is really out of tune. Cameron sings so loud, the mic is out… We go inside the Flèche d’Or, not open yet, a private cocktail is going on. The people follow us, twenty, thirty people, invited without a word. It was good, it was fun, it was about an invitation, returned almost immediately.
Sure, it’s kind of rough around the edges, but what a joyful noise! Wouldn’t it make God’s praise glorious if we replaced some of the sheen with more joy? What if we took Moon’s words from an interview with Spin, “I don’t want to see a band on the stage; I want to be on the same level” and realized that we are the band — all of us? Of course, someone has to play the instruments, but we’re all participants. I long for the day when we can “open up the doors and let the music play” and our worship becomes contagious, creating community and opens doors so that we can celebrate together.
Well, here’s one thing we can all agree on: Sufjan Stevens needs to perform from rooftops more often.