Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors play at Wheaton College

The members of Judah and the Lion took the stage in Edman chapel last Saturday night, Sept. 27.  They came to center stage without their instruments and raised their arms dramatically, waiting for the crowd to follow suit. With arms raised, the crowd grew quiet. Then the band leaned forward, touched their toes and led the crowd in a series of stretches. Judah and the Lion successfully warmed the crowd up as the opening act for the Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors at the concert sponsored by College Union.
Judah and the Lion set the bar high in terms of facial hair and instigating crowd participation. Judah and the Lion’s banjo player, Nate Zuercher, joked that if his beard had a celebrity persona it would be Drew Holcomb. The members of Judah and the Lion gave high praise to the headlining band and their excitement got the crowd rolling.
While Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors set up their instruments, students celebrated Judah and the Lion, calling their music “gnarly,” “wicked” and “pretty rockin’.” The atmosphere in Edman chapel was loud with excited chatter, and some people continued to dance after Judah and the Lion had finished. Junior Tyler Hansen commented, “I felt the music, and something in me wanted to dance.”
When Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors took the stage, the crowd poured into the aisles. This was the band’s second time playing in Edman Chapel after opening for Needtobreathe in 2012. Since then, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors has released an album called “Good Light” and has been touring extensively in the U.S. and abroad. The band has now gained a following all their own so that this time the crowd sang along, belting out familiar lyrics.
“Take courage when the road is long; don’t ever forget you’re never alone,” Holcomb sang. This lyric from his song “Live Forever” is the anthem that he hoped would remain in the minds of Wheaton students as they went about their lives after the concert. Holcomb described the concert experience that he hoped to create as “a moment in time where someone can look around and know that they are not alone. Companionship, community — that is what a concert is about.” This sense of connection was established amongst the concertgoers in Edman Chapel, and it remained even when the overhead lights flickered on and the band bowed off the stage.
Charlotte Hallstrom, College Union’s concert manager said, “Concerts provide a shared memory and a shared interest which opens doors in relationships to find further connections and ties.” The melodies of the two bands have echoed around Wheaton’s dorms and stairwells this last week and have unified the students in a small way.
Holcomb went on to illustrate the concert as a “pressure-valve” where students could find release. Hallstrom shared, “We want students to be able to relax, have fun and yet still identify with the music on a personal and spiritual level.” The night’s light-hearted music gave concertgoers the opportunity to let loose, to shake their hips and their hair. When Judah and the Lion was asked what response they most like to see to their music, “Dancing!” was their unanimous answer. They recognized the college’s community covenant, but they also hoped to inspire some spontaneous and joyful movement in the crowd.
Anyone who came to the concert needing more than just a distraction may have found him or herself able to take comfort in lyrics and the encouragement of the bands. During their song “Back’s Against the Wall,” Judah and the Lion took time to invite the crowd to pray the lyrics “stand strong” for someone they knew was struggling. Holcomb also shared that some of the dominant themes in their music include “feelings of being the underdog or outsider, overcoming evil or darkness, needing one another and hope, definitely hope.” It was the band’s desire that the concert be therapeutic.
It was this belief in music’s healing power that influenced Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors to write a new album to be released in January entitled “Medicine.” Holcomb believes that “music subconsciously helps people understand their experience and puts to words what they could not understand before.” The album is named based on his answer to the question, “What is music for?” Holcomb responded to this question by saying, “Music is for an entire spectrum of human emotion and circumstance, and we hope to add a little medicine to the mix.”
Fittingly, after the concert senior Jenny Dodrill said, “The drummer’s solo made me hold my breath. I forget sometimes how much music makes me come alive.” All in all, the concert provided space for Wheaton students and the community to come together and affirm good music and one another.

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