MercyMe: Up Close and Personal
_ The skies opened and the deluge that followed swept many away with it. Inside the South Ridge Lodge more than a thousand people scurried about planning their escape. They would need to go back out onto the mountainside, gather the chairs and blankets left behind and risk the electrical storm that was coming from the west. Sunday River Ski Resort and the River Rock Festival had been under the threat all day, but the weather app someone had recommended never showed us any hint of what was coming. As I opened a separate radar application on my phone, the reality of what was coming sunk in.
_ It was a line of thunderstorms at least an hour in duration.
_ I've had some experience with these kinds of storms and outdoor events. The land itself might push the majority of it around the summit. Wind could press the oncoming threat to the south and we could be spared. I watched the tiny screen display again and again. Who was I kidding? This thing was coming right for us and the exodus from River Rock had already begun. In less than a quarter of an hour, more than half of the people taking shelter in the halls of the resort, had somehow managed to get back out to the hill, packed up and disappeared. When the word finally came only a few hundred people remained.
_ "MercyMe is considering an acoustic set on the side stage in the welcome center." They were whispers. At first in fact, they seemed only to be the murmurings of a few people who were intent on not letting go until the official word "cancelled" was actually announced. An acoustic set would require a completely new set list. MercyMe would have to discuss and agree on what songs were appropriate. Then again, these guys got their start as a church group. They've done it before. They even have an acoustic album in their mix.
_ It wasn't out of the question.
_ So there I sat in the command center, watching the line of thundershowers march upon Sunday River's 2300ft summit and I began to reflect on the day. At every turn that I had been met with resistance to what I was expected to do, I found that just moving on and being here was rewarded, often with a shockingly symbolic reminder of how much He wants to be with us. For every angst ridden thought I conjured about the things I could not control, I had been comforted in the music that the first day's performances and raised up praise to God for His goodness. For every surrender that I surrendered, I found myself enveloped in a renewed mountaintop experience.
_ And still, I was not yet walking on water.
_ We almost ran downstairs to the welcome center. It's difficult to run when there are hundreds of people pressing into such a small room. It's difficult to imagine a headliner band squeezing onto a stage not much larger than a 15x20 living room. It's nearly impossible to wrap your head around the kind of heat that a 100% humidity day multiplied by 250 or more bodies can produce when packed like sardines into an area that in retrospect resembled the inside of a tiny barn complete with a moosehead hanging over the performance area.
_ And there it was. For every obstacle that awaited us, space, heat, despair, logistics, our needs were met.
_ No one was crushed. I even got word from someone who was concerned about just that thing. Moments before the decision was made they had decided to relocate, became disappointed in losing a prime location on the floor and were rewarded with an unobstructed view from an alcove with less crowding. They even got to high-five the band as it arrived through that same small hallway.
_ No one passed out from the heat. It was sweaty and close but once the music started I think we all forgot just how mashed in we were.
_ No one expected a big name band like MercyMe to give up the main stage and do a coffee-shop set for us. No one expected that the grand light-show production on the mountainside could be upstaged by a few lamps giving off the appearance of candlelight. No one expected that a full-drum set could be replaced by a wooden box, but Robby certainly banged out the beats on that thing.
_ What happened after those first few notes is kind of a blur. I remember hearing "I Can Only Imagine." I remember singing "Flawless" with everyone else and "Greater." I will never forget MercyMe's impromptu cover of of a 1979 pop classic that is one of my faves of the era. They "use for warm up sometimes." Mostly I remember the emotion, evident on the faces of all the people that I could see in that tiny room as the big name band came down from the stage and shared with them a message of a savior who'd done the same 2000 years ago.
_ How amazing as I look back on it. How blessed we were to have stayed on in hope. How gracious MercyMe was to choose to stay and perform. How awed we all were at the proximity of such an event and the power of such an intimate performance. I've tried to put into words something that words cannot do justice to. The images from that evening present only a glimpse of the divine intervention that happened in that space.
_ I toyed for a while about referring to MercyMe's acoustic performance as the Moose Sessions, because of the massive mounted head above the stage. Those present that night as the storms passed over the mountain know that we were gifted not only with a magical performance, but with a special insight. We were given a glimpse into one of the greatest mysteries this lost world will ever know, something that many of us might never have personally appreciated.
_ While I may still ocassionally refer to MercyMe's acoustic set in the Welcome Center at Sunday River as the Moose Sessions, I think whenever I say it out loud, my heart will be thanking God for a moment when a band I truly admire got up close and personal with a few diehard fans and gave us a personal performance in a space strangely reminscent of a manger.
_Be the story in 2017: http://www.riverrockfestival.com
20162411344610x15JD Plourde IINikonD810River Rock FestivalSunday RiverMaineChristChristianSaviourSaviorLordmusicworshipconcertmusiciansperformersperforming artsbandcelebrationThe Lighthouse EventsBethelMercyMeacousticBart MillardNathan CochranMichael John ScheuchzerRobin ShafferBarry GraulJDPlourdeII, from