We got to the club where the band was scheduled to play and we were stunned by how small it was. I think I counted eight tables on the main floor and there were maybe another eight tables on a level above us. We got there early to get a good seat and we took one of the tables on the main floor. By the time the show started, there were probably 150 people packed into the little place—many of whom stood near the stage when OTR came out.
I found this photo on Twitter that someone took at the show:
OTR is mostly comprised of the husband-wife team of Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist (shown above). They hire musicians to tour with them to make up the rest of the band. If you haven't heard their music, I'm going to have a difficult time explaining what it sounds like. The funny thing is, iTunes can't squeeze them into a category either. I own six of their CDs and here is the genres iTunes lists them under: rock, classic rock, pop, and singer/songwriter (that's a genre?—wouldn't all groups fall under this category?).
But forget their genre. Their music is magical, emotional, hair-raising, honest, real, gut-wrenching, playful, soul-searching, and as close to describing the human experience as any music I've ever heard. Listening to them feels like you are being opened up a by word surgeon who isn't looking to fix your body, but instead is focused on your soul. The difference is, a normal surgeon works on you while you are asleep. OTR performs surgery while you are wide awake.
They opened the show on Monday with a song called "Born" from their CD entitled "Drunkard's Prayer." It was a perfect way to start the show. Here are the first few verses:
I was born to laugh
I learned to laugh through my tears
I was born to love
I'm gonna learn to love without fear
Pour me a glass of wine
Talk deep into the night
Who knows what we'll find
Intuition, deja vu
The Holy Ghost haunting you
Whatever you got
I don't mind
Put your elbows on the table
I'll listen long as I am able
There's nowhere I'd rather be
I love the way this song starts—a person who is born to laugh must learn to laugh through her tears. It doesn't come naturally. And while we might be born to love, it doesn't come naturally either. We have to learn to love without fear.
Deep down, humans long for intimacy. We want one other person to know us for who we really are and we long to be accepted once we are uncovered. As a single person, I dream about finding a wife who would sit down in front of me with a glass of wine saying, "Tell me everything, I'll listen as long as I'm able—there's nowhere else I'd rather be."
People listened to "Born" in silence. I think we were all overwhelmed by the intimate setting of the place that seemed like a rundown club just a few minutes prior and by the power of the music.
A couple of songs into the set, they played "I Don't Want to Waste Your Time." I've written about that song here. On the band's website, Detweiler elaborates on the message of this song:
"Believe me, we don't want to waste anybody's time. When we stop believing we're doing our best work, we're done. Every song has to be good, every record has to be great, every concert has to have some spiritual significance—something that we can't quantify, something bigger than all of us."From my perspective, they are succeeding.
They went on to play so many great songs: "I'm On a Roll," "The Trumpet Child," "Drunkard's Prayer," "Don't Wait for Tom," "If a Song Could be President," and "Ohio." I got goosebumps when Bergquist sat down at the keyboard and began playing "Ohio." I wrote extensively about that song here a few months ago.
As I look through their catalog of music, they could have played so many more great songs—most notably "Latter Days," but they would have needed to be on stage four or five hours to do so.
I told my friend on the way home that OTR puts a voice to so many of the changes and hardships I've gone through in the past five or six years while at the same time making me completely aware of what I crave: an understanding wife, a slow deep life, and the belief that God is the overseer and orchestrator of it all.
If you've never seen OTR live, you must check their tour dates to see if they are coming to a city near you.