I got to see Andrew Peterson and the Captains Courageous (Andy Gullahorn & Ben Shive) this weekend when their adventuring brought them to Minnesota. They played in a good sized Lutheran Church in Lakeville with a row of peer-admirers sitting in the front. Taya and myself as well as Joel Hanson, Troy and Sara Groves, and a couple of my friends sat rapt with attention as the evening began.
Despite a somewhat tepid audience who for the most part seemed too self-conscious to really let loose and laugh (or applaud with gusto, or sing along, or…), and in spite of some sound issues for the first third of the evening (poor Andrew’s voice had more low end than any other instrument on stage), the Captains Courageous soldiered on and put on a great show, with the Andys on guitars and the masterful Ben Shive on piano and keyboard. (As the night went on, they dialed in Andrew’s voice, too, and resolved most of the sound issues.)
I wished I’d written a set list, but I wasn’t thinking of doing a review as much as I was just happy to get lost in some good music. But the evening began with four songs back to back as the fellas got a feel for the room and found their footing (lots of “f”s in that sentence). Andy P. introduced himself and a song by way of telling the story of growing up in Illinois in the skater culture of the 80’s and how he desperately wanted a pair of pink converse hightops. When he finally got them (and his brother a pair of purple ones, which they swapped a shoe so each of them had one pink and one purple – go Pete!), they ended up moving to a small town in North Florida. Andy P. and his new hightops now found themselves in redneck country where people hunted, only listened to country music, and beat up kids who wore pink (and purple) hightops. He went on to explain how he used to hate country music and would only listen to mock it, but slowly found himself staying longer on the dial than he expected as he discovered some of the great “country” like Lyle Lovett, Alison Krauss and Union Station, and Bill Monroe. He talked of how grateful he is that Bill and Chet Atkins weren’t preachers, because it forced them to preach with their music, and then he paid homage to their great preachments with a beautiful performance of “Let There Be Light”.
After this, Andy P. introduced Andy Gullahorn who introduced himself by saying that he grew up in Texas and that he was the kid who beat up the other kids at school who wore pink hightops. He had the whole audience in the palm of his hands as he told us how he was raised to work with cows and was on a career path to mastering the art of artificially inseminating said cows. “If you don’t know what that means, let me just say that it involves a rubber glove that comes up to here,” he said as he pointed to his shoulder. “So I decided I wanted to be a songwriter.”
He obliged my earlier backstage request and opened with “More Of A Man”. The audience never saw it coming as they laughed at the verses leading up to the emotional punch of the last chorus. I think he made some fans that night. He also played a new one about belief in spite of all we see that dares us to not believe. It was a great song that he tells me is on Jill Phillips’s (his wife’s) forthcoming record.
Andrew came back and ended the first set with a couple songs from Slugs & Bugs. After a brief break, the second set started strong and Andy P. totally owned it, playing tried and true classics as well as a good number of songs from his forthcoming record, Resurrection Letters, and seasoned with great stories throughout. The stories and the on stage banter are why I go to concerts like these and they were great – giving depth, meaning, and often a good laugh, if not a tear. I was struck, too, by how road ready the new songs are. They were among the strongest of the night.
At the end of the evening, they invited Troy Groves up to play percussion on Andrew’s new song “All Things New” and it was the musical highlight of the evening. The room was full of music.
Afterwards I talked to Andrew about the evening and how invasive much of it was – but in the best way possible. I don’t know about you, but I often go through times when the tenets of Christian faith begin to seem so unlikely. I’ve been in a bit of a spiritual funk recently, wondering exactly what I believe, why I believe it, and taking stock of everything. Creedal confession was a theme throughout the evening as we were asked numerous times to join in a refrain of “I believe….” Even Andy Gullahorn’s song was like this.
Lewis talks about fostering spiritual habits that turn into disciplines and how a child learns to become an adult by playing at being adult. I found that the more I was asked to sing “I believe…” throughout the evening, the more I did believe. It was invasive because at first he was obligating me by asking me to sing such significant words of great consequence – which I did even though my own conflicts were consciously registered. But by the end, through the sheer repetition of it, I found that I do indeed still believe, and was grateful to have been given an opportunity to say so. I told Andy that this was the gift he gave to me that night.
As if all this weren’t enough, we were treated to a great hang as we all went over to the Groves’ house, ate pizza, cheese, and ice cream and sat down to play a game that Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn created the previous night before their show in Green Bay, WI. They call it “Banderdash” and it’s a variation of Balderdash where we all looked at a picture of an unknown band and then had to write a name for the band that we hoped would dupe the others. Like the rest of their creative output, the game was brilliant and we all had a blast going late into the evening. Let’s hope for a version of it to be available in the Rabbit Room store soon!
Jason Gray is a recording artist with Centricity Records. His latest single, out now, is "When I Say Yes".