“a blaze is set upon a hill …”

We don’t always have to travel miles across seas, or book flights out of town. Adventure awaits us right around every corner. When your favorite band tours cities near your hometown, book some air b&b’s, pack your backpack, put together a playlist and hit the open road.

Music has always had such a big influence in my life. I grew up playing the piano (I loathed practicing), and I can remember jamming out to the tapes of my older brothers favorite 80’s hair metal bands, (was GnR considered a hair metal band?) It wouldn’t be till I attended my first live concert in 2001 did I really create a strong bond to it. Fast forward 17 years later, I’m a bit older and a bit deafer, but the energy at a live show is still the same.

ReedemerNorma Jean was formed in 1997, but it really wasn’t until 2016 did I relate to their music on such a high level. I’m lucky enough to live near a bunch of major cities, so when the Redeemer Tour was announced, it was to pass through Philadelphia, Hartford, and New York City. I immediately knew an adventure was on the horizon. I eventually had to scrap the NYC stop due to a family obligation, but I booked my air b&b’s for the other cities, crammed my backpack, jumped in the truck and hit the road.

I was most looking forward to the Philadelphia show. My residence for the night was right on South Street, a melting pot of bars, restaurants, shops and people. I had also purchased a VIP upgrade to catch an intimate acoustic performance before the doors opened. There were maybe 15 people there and the band played 4 songs, while sharing some stories about the song writing process and the tales behind the tracks. I actually had an opportunity to buy cheesesteaks for the band prior to heading down to the venue, but I didn’t. I guess it was better off, because my luck, it would’ve been rancid meat. They wouldn’t play their actual set till about 4 hours later, but the energy had never dissipated. I woke up the next morning a bit groggy, climbed up an aluminum ladder on the outside deck of my apartment and enjoyed a quiet roof top view of the city, before heading off to Hartford.

It was about a three and a half hour drive between the cities, so I decided to make a stop at the Fort Lee historic park in New Jersey to rest. I found a nice outcrop of rocks overlooking the George Washington Bridge, parked my ass there and soaked in every ounce of blue sky and sun that I could. For a brief moment, you forget that Manhattan looms in the distance. I tried to envision what every one of those drivers had on their mind. Where were they going, what were they doing?

The universe had intervened with my life a few weeks earlier, so my brief stop in Hartford turned out to be a little more than just catching a show. I made an impromptu trip to Philadelphia two weeks earlier, where at the end of the night I met an interesting soul. We shared a brief conversation, exchanged information and it turns out she lived only a short distance from the Hartford area. Considering I’d be making the same trek, Philadelphia to Hartford in a just a few weeks, we would make plans to meet up again. I like to think of life as a game now. Once I get caught up in the flow of it, I enjoy just letting it roll. Anxiety aside, it’s still really fun! Some of the best connections I have made with people, have been guided by unseen forces and that specific day, they were certainly at work.

That night I felt my age creeping in. The band actually went on earlier, 10 pm, but it had been a very long 24 hours. Long gone are the days of entering a venue when the doors open, so now I’ll usually hang around the city occupying myself till an hour or so before a bands scheduled set time. My energy would quickly return as soon the music began thundering. My air b&b that night was a bit more reserved. A couch for $30, just a few blocks away from the venue, and I was sold. I sacrificed some comfort for dollars, but it was worth it. I know this sounds crazy, but I had more fun in just two days on the open road, then I did during my three weeks in Europe. It’s something I’m trying to figure out! What is my soul asking of me? What is my heart beating for?

Cory Brandan, lead singer for Norma Jean, during both shows made mention of being careful with ones words. Words reverberate, words connect, words are contagious, just like a small spark vs. a great forest. One word can ignite an entire fire, good or bad. Think about it!

Could I have pulled off a third show the next night in NYC, sure with some much needed rest, but as I’ve been learning, the universe continues to work in mysterious ways, so it just wasn’t meant to be …

Norma Jean

What did you say?
Don’t speak.
You nailed down all your words on me
And it felt like a blind guide.
Leading me into quicksand.
So fight fair, fight fair.
But all you hear is noise.
Fight fair. Fight fair!

I’ve earthed this seed so many times.
Deeply held in this skin of bark.
Branches made of ash and forests born aflame.

Restless and full of poison, shattered by a sea of dialog.
Rabid speech like dogs with teeth.
Words like a beggar, that don’t speak.
Crouched and bent out of shape.

Rip this tongue out by the root.
Shake the walls off this pale grave.
A blaze, a blaze is set upon the hills.

A blaze, a blaze is set upon the hills.

An open grave from which a great forest will rise
The fires collapses.
The corpses I’ve made.
This should not be. Oh, how we curse.
The tongue is a flame.
Let there be grace.

With words like a beggar, with words like a beggar
That don’t speak, that don’t speak
That don’t speak, that don’t speak
Don’t speak

Rip this tongue out by the root
And shake these walls
Shake these walls of this pale grave

A blaze, a blaze is set upon the hills

Fight fair!

(A Small Spark vs. A Great Forest ~ Norma Jean)


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