David Bazan graced Fuller Seminary with his presence this past Saturday, playing a sold-out show in what turned out to be a very intimate show in Fuller’s Travis Auditorium. I’ve been a fan of David Bazan’s music (aka Pedro the Lion and Headphones) since a friend of mine let me borrow a copy of the Whole EP in my early college years. Ever since that point Bazan has been at the very top of my preferred musicians. His deeply profound, and often bleak, narrative-driven songs delve the major questions of humanity, sexuality, faith, life/death, marriage, politics and Christianity, while always grasping for the Real. Bazan is one of a kind when it comes to crafting heartfelt songs that have a kind of prophetic grit to them, and his show at Fuller this past weekend was no exception.
Emily and I have seen Bazan a handful of times, but this was the first time we’ve seen him since we moved to California playing his newer solo stuff. The new material is really worth listening to (the best way is to check out his myspace or search for him on YouTube), not only because it’s just darn good songwriting, but also because many of the songs remind me of some of my favorite Psalms. Here I’m thinking mainly of what Old Testament scholar Walter Bruggemann calls songs of retribution, ((Brugueggemann 1984:45)) and songs of disorientation, laments that are either personal or communal. ((Brugueggemann 1984:51ff)) For instance, one song that really stands out to me in the new set is called The Stitches which among other things questions God’s dealings with Job:
My body bangs and twitches
The tequila whets my tongue
My fingers find the stitches
Firmly back and forth they run
I need no other memory
Of the bits of me I left
When all this lethal drinking
Is to hopefully forget about you
I might as well admit it
Like I even have a choice
The crew have killed the captain
But they still can hear his voice
A shadow on the water
A whisper in the wind
On long walks with my daughter
Who is lately full of questions about you
When Job asked you a question,
You answered, “Who are you?”
That sounds a bit defensive
Did you just bite off more than you could chew
The appeal for me Bazan’s new music has runs in many directions, but for one I appreciate the deeply theological questioning that happens here, and the insights that arise out of the tales he weaves. This kind of reflection and critical struggle over questions of faith ultimately walk the thin line of dis/belief. Bazan’s laments work out to be a kind of contemplative rubric from which one is invited to come to grips with the difficult questions laying at the root of humanity. It gives an aid to those who want to personally examine their own faith.
One final aside. Emily, L and I were out riding bikes on Saturday when we decided to stop by Fuller’s bookstore/coffeshop and to our surprise Bazan was sitting outside with a few of our friends. So we got to meet him, and not only that but we also had a lovely conversation with him too. We talked about raising kids, the unique place Fuller is as a seminary and what it meant for him to be there, and of course the election. He was also interested in my studies around Quakerism and I made sure recommend a number of things for him to read and watch including the “Politics of Jesus” by John Howard Yoder.
Bazan ended with what he called one his most favorite songs in his current state: Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and so it seems fitting to end with that as well.