Worship Leading Choose Your Own Ending (Part 6)

Back by popular demand. Or so I say. 😉 (Previous chapter is here.)

You chose:

I) Act like a big deal. You kind of have to, because everyone outside the church for some reason just treats you like a normal person, not the church rockstar like which you’ve grown accustomed to being treated.

In your best ‘Look at me I’m Bono but I’m better because I also hate Bono’ impersonation, you brood and mumble through the atheists’ questions with your own esoteric questions in place of answers. ‘What are we here for?’ is answered with ‘What are we here for?’ and ‘How do you explain the differing accounts of Paul’s conversion?’ is answered with, ‘How do you even put a post-spiritual awakening into words, man?’ Eventually the brooding becomes so ultra-hipster that they can no longer hear the words coming out of your mouth as you sink further and further behind the umbrella in the Chipotle outdoor eating area. Oh ya. You’re that skinny. Just look at your jeans. It’s like you don’t even eat at all, but just spend all your time running your fingers through your beard in the Orange County wilderness while you ponder the corporate takeover of the free market and what scarf will go worst with that wolf-moon shirt. When all they can see of you behind the umbrella is the 13 folds of your beanie and the horned rim of your glasses, they finally leave.

You brood back to your car, stumbling into nine real people on your way as you desperately try to follow seven new twitter-people on your phone. You tweet something witty like, ‘That awkward moment when you follow Joel Houston and then realize you have more twitter followers than he does. #justsayin .’ It’s a big deal, but you don’t really care. What does it matter when the collapse of the free market economy is imminent according to SNL? The new iPhone 5 Apple Maps guides you back to your car, and you head back to the church. Your phone is on the seat next to you, almost exploding with chirp notifications of twitter mentions, facebook likes, and instagram tags. You literally cannot wait for the five minute drive to be over so that you can check them.

You avoid the crowd still milling after church, and pull into the back lot reserved for newcomers and musicians. It’s time for rehearsal for the Sunday night service. You know, the real service. Where worship really happens. Which basically means that the college kids don’t care how loud you turn up your amp. Because how can worship truly happen if we are hindering the musicians’ creative gifts? I.e. ‘loudness.’ You and the pastor have had many a deep theological discussion on this. He doesn’t see your perspective because he’s only concerned with pleasing the older folks (blue hairs as you so respectfully refer to them) who are the biggest tithers. Yep, the church’s greed can be the only possible reason you are asked on Sunday morning to destroy your worship-inducing tone by turning down from 9 to 7. But not on Sunday nights. Worship and tone run free and frolic together in a sunlight-filled meadow of beards and Strymon pedals. You wonder as you step on stage if you should use some of those lyrics in your new Bandcamp worship album (of which Kickstarter supporters get two free LP copies, spread the word…or don’t, whatever).

The band starts trickling in. You realize that you were actually at Chipotle with most of these people a few minutes ago, but you all somehow forgot about each others’ presence amongst all the instagram tagging of each other, and ended up wandering back to the church separately. You grab your guitar and flip your amp off of stand-by, hitting your Supermoon reverb, and playing a chord. Just as you suspected…it sounds amazing. You quick pull out your phone and check your 14 Facebook worship guitar gear groups that you are a part of, to make sure the Supermoon is still the best sounding reverb. You breathe a sigh of relief. It is. Yep, you are now confident that your tone sounds good.

On come the fifteen other pedals. Your tone doesn’t sound quite as good now, but you are much cooler. In fact, it seems like worship is happening even now, as your delay-laden cavernous lo-fi shimmer settings echo off of the church drywall. You’re not exactly sure how worship is happening if no one is worshiping, but that thought doesn’t seem to give anyone pause during the service, so you don’t worry about it either during practice. How can worship not be happening amongst those reversed swells of absolute passion and Kundesque beauty? Every note in the G pentatonic scale is ringing out in sustained bliss. You can’t stand those blues guys who only know how to go up and down that tired old pentatonic scale. You also only know how to go up and down the pentatonic scale, but you use delay. That’s different. The notes ring out in the most wonderfully cacophonic harmony your ears have ever heard! Nay, that anyone’s ear have ever heard! What a blessing you are to the rest of your team of they walk onto the stage in the midst of this meditative, worshipful whale watch you have laid out before them with your servant’s heart.

Suddenly, your heart skips a beat. You watch the door at the back of the worship center slowly open. It can’t be! A small knot starts to turn inside your stomach. You try to resist, but your hand starts to slowly and inexorably slip to an F. A flatted 7th! The most hated scale degree in all of post-modern worship! You can’t help it…your brain whirls with the horror. In through the open door walks the new guitarist, carrying none other than a Marshall Valvestate! He walks the long, slow walk of the length of the center aisle of the sanctuary. The Marshall is getting closer and closer! You can taste the Spinal Tap! You think that he must be at the wrong church. He has to be! You watch in stupefied terror as he slowly climbs the stage steps and starts to set up his gear next to yours! You can’t believe it! Quick as the immediate denial of a hipster worship guitarist that he has ever owned a Boss pedal, you…

A) Pull out your phone and post a ‘1970’s hue instagram photo of your Morgan next to his Marshall with a caption in reference to the Spinal Tap ‘This one goes to eleven’ scene which no one has referenced for at least two days.

B) Saunter over to his amp, bend down, and peer into the back of it as if looking for what types of tubes it has. When he asks what you are doing, it is the perfect open door for of course Godly and edifying pontification on the importance of tube amps in worship.

C) Ignore him completely, but bust out a few super awesome licks every time he glances in your direction.

D) Ignore him completely.

E) Catch the bassist’s eye, glance at the Marshall, and then steal a quick glance back to the bassist, while you smirk and shake your head. The bassist looks back at you with the ‘You are a guitarist, and hence an idiot’ eyes.

F) Do the same thing with the drummer. He stares back at you, expressionless as he pounds on his cymbals methodically. Is he even looking at you?

G) Offer the new guitarist your 240v European converter, and when his amp explodes, go…’Oh, I’m so sorry! Guess you’ll just have to use my backup Blues Junior.’

H) Put your iPod headphones in and relearn the second guitar part on every song, as you know you’ll now have to play both parts because his amp won’t cut through the mix.

I) Go back to the sound booth and steal some black tape, and tape over the Marshall logo. Who cares how it sounds…when was the last time you saw a Marshall logo at Elevation Church, Hillsong, or Jesus Culture? If Gungor doesn’t play it, it doesn’t belong in worship.

J) Say hi and introduce yourself. Maybe ask his name, and see if you can learn anything from his gear and playing.

K) Ask if he needs prayer. When he asks what for, just wink condescendingly at him as you bow your head and put your arm around his shoulder.

L) Subtly place your Morgan directly in front of his Marshall. When he questions you, look confused.

M) Tackle him, knock him out, and tie him to a chair in the green room. Make him watch ‘Rattle and Hum’ on repeat while cranking ‘Comfortably Numb’ from your phone into the headphones you’ve jammed into his ears, while putting the house lighting system on a chase pattern. Steal his phone and sign him up for The Gear Page, Ebay, and 17 Facebook worship guitar gear groups.

And as always, you can’t choose J). hehe

Remember that tone, gear, and that awesome feeling of being on the worship team, pale in comparison to loving God and loving people. Your worship team and your congregation need love and relationships so much more than they need another $400 variation on a tubescreamer. Even more than they need a changeover from solid state to tube. Oh ya. I’m serious about this. 😉


You Know You’re a Hipster Worship Guitarist When…

And I can say these things because I am a worship guitarist, and a lot of these are true about me. That’s the rule; you’re allowed to make fun of things you are. And Nicolas Cage. So…you know you’re a hipster worship guitarist when…

  • when you no longer feel awkward before service at church because you can spend the downtime pretending to mess with your pedals.
  • when you own a Morgan amp.
  • when you own two Morgan amps.
  • when you run a Strymon Blue Sky stereo into your two Morgan’s.
  • when you plug a Duesenberg into your pedalboard. (Or a Tele.)
  • when you politely email Strymon about the shortcomings of the Timeline every time it delays a wrong note you hit, and then post about it on Gear Page. ‘Ya, I’ve already contacted Strymon about that, and Ethan says they’re working on it. Because, to be completely honest, a delay pedal that can’t intuitively sense when I hit a wrong note, is totally unusable live.’
  • when you still talk about John Mark McMillan as if no one has ever heard of him.
  • when you liked Mutemath before they were cool.
  • when you complain about the injustices of mass-produced overseas gear via twitter from your iPhone.
  • when every riff you play sounds like U2, but you still maintain that they’re overplayed and unoriginal.
  • when you hate U2, but dig The Edge’s innovative approach to the guitar.
  • when you know the names of every Hillsong guitarist.
  • when instead of saying, ‘The lead goes like this’, you say, ‘Well Nigel does this.’
  • when you are honestly able to convince yourself to pay rush shipping because you legitimately believe worship won’t happen without that fuzz pedal.
  • when you complain about the snobbishness of The Gear Page, on posts in Facebook guitar gear groups.
  • when you have a pedalboard as big as the sun.
  • when you’ve sold your Fulldrive for a Tim, your Tim for a King of Tone, your King of Tone for a Jetter Gain Stage, your Gain Stage for a Wampler Ecstasy, your Wampler for a Rockett Flex Drive, your Flex Drive for a Pearl, your Pearl for a JHS Double Barrel, and then end up using your stock TS9 most of the time.
  • when you battle for ‘Praise and Worship’ to be recognized as a legitimate message board musical genre.
  • when you consider yourself innovative for lowering the mix level on your dotted eighths.
  • when you wear wristbands and stripe socks, but still maintain that ‘you’re not hipster.’ Right. Because you were so wearing stripe socks in 2004.
  • when you Instagram 7 photos a day of your ‘updated pedalboard’, even though no one can tell the difference due to the vintage ’70’s lighting effect.
  • when you pontificate on pedals you’ve never played…or sometimes even heard of.
  • when you hate Rob Bell, love Francis Chan, and have a dust-covered copy of Blue Like Jazz you’ve never read.
  • when, if the power to the whole building went out, your rig could still run for two hours. (In fact, you rig was probably the reason for the power outage.)
  • when you miss prayer to pull your Pedal Power out form under your Pedaltrain to change the dipswitch and test out your Fulltone OCD on 9 vs. 12 volts in a live situation. (Oh yikes…I’ve so done that.)
  • when you have an ambient album. 😉

It’s really, really refreshing to laugh at yourself every once in a while. We’re such goobers. And I’ll gladly risk sounding cliche here because it’s just so incredibly true and really awesome: God’s grace is amazing.


Worship Leading Choose Your Own Ending (Part 5)

You chose:

E) Finish the song how it is, and look forward to the juicy 2-hour lunch conversation at Chipotle on the church credit card with the worship team, discussing the spiritual shortcomings of every modern-day church attender except for yourself.

(If you’re confused right now, that’s okay. Just listen to some U2, and read part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4 of the Worship Leading Choose Your Own Ending series, of which this post is the latest installment. The listening to U2 part really has nothing to with it.)

You end the song, letting the last little bit of Timeline-delayed Wampler Ecstasy subtle drive fade out on that lovely G chord, and of course harboring a hidden bitterness against the pastor for starting his closing monologue before the 14th echo of your last chord fully smeared out. (The Timeline has smear. It’s wonderful.) The pastor dismisses the congregation, saying something mildly humorous about whatever football team is in closest proximity to the church, as you nod and give a loud stage mime chuckle even though you’re not listening but instead are on one knee manually and unnecessarily fading out the delay mix knob on your other Timeline, so that everyone knows that you really do know what you’re doing on a pedalboard that size, no matter what the sound tech jokingly asks you every single Sunday.

The pastor says his last word, and quick as the popularity half-life of any Facebook-hyped new boutique pedal, the drummer clicks off the tempo and you jump in to a much more rocked out version of your opening song before the sound tech can turn on the house music. As if programmed into the subconscious of your string-plucking minds, you, the other guitarist, the worship leader, and the bassist instantly go to your amps and turn them up. All bets are off for the closing song. People’s worship of course increases exponentially with the decibel level of the guitar amps (provided they are tube, point-to-point, and no one else has the same one except for every single person on The Gear Page), so the loudness of your amp blowing directly past your knees on stage and right at the ear of the people who have come to the front of the stage for prayer, is only helping them to worship God more fully.

Quickly your eyes scan the room for young hipster kids learning guitar making their way to the front of the stage to compliment your awesomeness and gawk at your pedalboard. You see them. Coming down the middle isle. The moment of truth. Which way are the going to turn? You see the indecision in their eyes. Here it comes…no! Really?! They walk up to the other guitarist. He smiles graciously at them, as you turn on six delay pedals and take an unscripted solo. You look back at them. Still not coming over to you! Because the other guitarist is taking his guitar off and letting them take turns playing it! What a jerk. They totally would have come over to you if he wasn’t so nice. No one cares about good tone these days.

You rip through your solo, the song ends, and you make a big show of turning on your tuner mute button, unplugging your guitar, and going to get your guitar case while your delay is still ringing out your last chord. It makes you awesome. You know it. And quicker than the stupid uncontrollable second delay time setting on the dual delay mode of a DD20, you and the rest of the band are out the back door and off to Chipotle. You can still hear your TC Hall of Fame reverb lusciously wofting out a Jesus Culture toneprint as the back door clicks shut. The coolest thing about being a worship musician is that, without lifting a finger, every direct box, mic cable, mic stand, music stand (although not yours…you don’t use a music stand, because true worshipers learn the songs…even if it means you hitting multiple wrong chords), and your equipment, is always somehow magically picked up after each Sunday morning, and will magically re-appear in its proper place for the Sunday night college service stage setup or for the next week’s rehearsal. You’re still not sure exactly how that happens.

You all pile into the worship leader’s Escalade, which he obviously paid for by only buying clothes from the Salvation Army’s hipster section, crank up some Gungor so that everyone knows you listen to the cool underground Christian music that hasn’t been discovered yet except by the record company who bought the music and distributed it to everywhere, and you’re off to Chipotle. You stop on the way to graciously mingle with some of the church people…no, you didn’t.

You all walk into the Chipotle together. It’s like a scene from some nerdy ’90’s pre-teen tv show, and you’re dressed the same way too. At first the servers think you might be a gang, but after a few seconds of watching you take yourselves way too seriously as you joke about things that ‘normal church people’ would probably be offended by but it’s okay because you’re post-modern, but without ever uttering any real curse words besides the occasional under-your-breath ones followed by a snicker, the entire restaurant comes to the conclusion that you are indeed a church worship band. And when you order your food without any indication of the servers’ presence except possibly one of slight annoyance at their very existence, it removes all doubt.

You sit down to eat outside. You’re talking, laughing, discussing how much better high-end response your new Tung Sol’s had than your reissue Mullard’s, and it happens. You’ve been spotted. The table next to yours. Atheists, discussing atheist things! They’ve recognized you as a Christian. Blast! They must’ve seen your JHS Pedals t-shirt! You try to escape, but it’s too late. They want to talk. Quick as the sanded neck of a bird’s eye maple D’Pergo, you…

A) Point to them and scream, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ and go scattering off from your table in all directions.

B) Look down at your food and give the worship leader the, ‘You’re the one paid by the church’ glance.

C) Kindly nod and smile and give the bare minimum answer to each question until they get bored and go away.

D) Tell them that God isn’t man-made but that God made man, or any other stock Christian Facebook status update quote, and when they ask how you know, simply repeat yourself.

E) Change the subject because you’re scared, but tell yourself it’s because you’re trying to get to know them and have a relationship with them before you eventually lay down the gauntlet…in 15 years.

F) Say, ‘Pay it forward.’ You don’t know why. You just say it.

G) Engage in a lengthy discussion where you inexplicably and confusedly end up explaining in depth the day/age theory of Genesis that you heard about once during a message you weren’t really listening to.

H) Ask if they play guitar, and if they do, ask if they are interested in buying that Zendrive you’re selling.

I) Act like a big deal. You kind of have to, because everyone outside the church for some reason just treats you like a normal person, not the church rockstar like which you’ve grown accustomed to being treated.

J) Use your knowledge of the Bible to mercilessly attack their views, and then humiliate them by filming it and putting it on YouTube, so that if they ever actually take your advice and read the Bible for themselves, they can run across John 13:35 about knowing Christians by their love, conclude that since you cared more about winning the argument and your conquest than you did about seeing them understand God’s love, that you yourself are conceivably possibly not a Christian, which sends them into confusion and quite possibly atheism all over again. (Sorry, I couldn’t hold out much longer.)

K) Pretend you’re done with your meal, apologize, and leave the table, subtly leaving behind an invite card for your Sunday night church service, and then pat yourself on the back later for your fine job of witnessing.

L) Yell at the Chipotle worker cleaning the tables that you need more napkins, then turn politely to the atheists and say, ‘I’m sorry, what was it you were wondering about Christianity?’

M) Engage in a huge, bitterly fought argument, both sides throwing facts around built on premises that the other does not believe, until no one is sure what to say, and then leave awkwardly.

N) Engage in a huge, bitterly fought argument, both sides throwing facts around built on premises that the other does not believe, until no one is sure what to say, and then put on your church smile, hand them the invite card for your service times and say, ‘Here’s my card. You should come visit us sometime!’

O) Immediately close your eyes and warrior pray for their souls. Ignore their calls of ‘Excuse me, sir? Excuse me?’

P) Say a bunch of Christian things that they obviously don’t agree with, and then pretend as if you won the argument.

Q) Kindly answer their questions, and treat them like…oh sweet mercy…like people. Try to love them enough to care not just about their eternal destiny, but about them as people. And not just about making friends with them, but about their eternal destiny. You wave goodbye after a nice, humanly, respectful conversation, and ask God for the love to remember to ask them to dinner, and not solely to whip out your nine spiritual laws tract.

And as usual, you can’t choose the last one. 😉


P.S. I know I may have been a little harsh in this one, but for what it’s worth, my honest answer is usually ‘E’. I’ve got some work to do, too.