Venue: 12th & Porter, Nashville
Status: Hot, Standing Room Only, Literally up against strangers
Main Act: John Mark McMillan
I'd never heard of the opening acts before, and had no idea what to expect. I've learned to expect that opening acts generally are not even remotely close to the main act, and in this case I was about half correct. Kye Kye, while I did enjoy their music, had a very heavy electronica rock sound. So loud that, being just feet from the stage, my entire body shook with vibrations from the sub. The music was so loud that I could not understand anything the lead singer was singing. Nevertheless, they're music was cool, just not what I was in the mood for.
Jude Moses was the polar opposite. Two guys with wicked awesome mustaches (seriously, check out their website above for pictures), armed with an acoustic guitar and a keyboard. They played three or four songs and reminded me of Justin Townes Earle. The brothers then exited the stage and soon John Mark appeared.
They played a healthy mixture of songs from both The Medicine and Economy, hitting some of my favorites, missing others. It was really cool to be a part of "Death In His Grave" (which I recommend that you watch the video to get an understanding, as this was kind of how the song was in concert). I'm a big fan of the "Oh-oh-oh" part, and it was great the way the lights and crowd erupted with the song.
The allure of John Mark McMillan is that he gives off the impression of openness and honesty. He seems sincere in what he does. His songs have grit to them, pointing out that the Christian life isn't easy but there is victory. There is more to it, of course. Good songs require both good music and good lyrics, and John Mark excels in both of these areas. The live performance was not as polished as the albums, but there was a fresh sense and some minor experimentation with a few songs. He kind of reminds me of Jars of Clay, but more with more swagger.
Really, it was crazy watching these guys play. There was synergy out the wazoo, obvious to anyone watching. They felt each other and worked to make something memorable and fun. John Mark talked with the crowd a little, but not too much. He was funny, but mostly he just let the songs speak for themselves. "Skeleton Bones" and "How He Loves" were my two favorite songs he performed, mainly because the dynamics were awesome and the lighting was perfect for the mood. (Plus "Skeleton Bones" is one of the coolest and catchiest songs he's done. I really recommend you give it a listen. And if you're wanting something else with a sweet beat and snazzy words, check out "Carolina Tide." Listen for one minute before you decide whether or not you like it.)
Overall, seeing John Mark McMillan was an excellent experience. The crowd was varied, from posh hipsters to rednecks. John Mark put on a great performance, and the people seemed to enjoy themselves. I know I had fun, and I'd gladly see him again. If he comes close to you, be sure and check him out. You won't regret it. And if you're not familiar with John Mark McMillan and enjoy good music, then I recommend you familiarize yourself with him by listening to the songs I've linked in this post. His stuff is truly remarkable.