Last Friday, our family went to see Architecture in Helsinki perform live at the House of Blues here in San Diego. The House of Blues has a “pass the line” policy, where concertgoers can be the first in line if they dine at the HoB restaurant. Because we wanted to make sure to get seats in the balcony, we ended up having dinner there before the show (which, it turns out, was pretty good). After dinner, we jumped the line and sat front row, center in the balcony.

Unfortunately, the first two acts were a serious letdown. Panther, which is essentially just one person, a delay pedal and a bunch of blips & bloops, was kind of fun for the first two songs. I think his music is more interesting in recorded form, as seen in this video clip for You Don’t Want Yr Nails Done. At least he brought along a live drummer. Glass Candy, on the other hand, was just a boy cranking out pseudo Kool & The Gang riffs on a half-size synth and a girl aerobacising and vocalizing in between the overly plentiful stage banter.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to indie kids discovering the dance floor. I mean, look at Matt and Kim. Some criticize them for being too precious, but it’s hard to deny their enthusiasm and joy. Check out their video for Yea Yeah and see if it doesn’t brighten up your day:

Our family loves all manner of live music, but even our daughter turned to me at one point during the Glass Candy set, frowned and shrugged. All I could do was shrug back. Things turned around quickly, however, as soon as Architecture in Helsinki took the stage.

From the get-go, they brought a level of raucous joy and excellent musicianship that basically turned a bunch of motionless indie kids into Dance Party USA. Listeners are helpless to do anything except smile and dance. Our little one was a total trooper, staying awake as late as she could. She stayed long enough to hear her favorite song, Like It Or Not (or, as she calls it, “The Trumpet Song”) — a hopped-up conga-line singalong extravaganza, before we had to call it a night.

Just to pick up a thought I had started before, I really, really wish I could experience this kind of joy and freedom in our church music. Seriously, when was the last time a worship band caused you to spontaneously smile and start dancing? Architecture in Helsinki definitely has that DIY, everyone’s invited kind of indie vibe, but they are not sloppy in their execution — for being basically an ensemble band, they are extremely tight. And, because they are so good at what they do, they are free to enjoy the music and draw others into it. A nice template for our worship bands, no?

These days, it seems like a band’s image is as important as the music they create. So, it is refreshing to see a bunch of normal looking people, not particularly dressed up get up onstage and rock the set. It worries me when, on all of my worship discs, every person has radiant skin, straight teeth and perfect hair — I’m not trying to take away anything from these artists, but simply hoping that our communities are open to all kinds of people, onstage or otherwise.

As the psalmist says, “Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious.”