Tag: danielson

I can only imagine

I got the opportunity to see the film called “I can only imagine” in a the cinema this week. I can only imagine is a faith film, its entire reason for existing it build up the faith of the viewer. I hadn’t seen many faith films but I was open to see what it was about. It was sold to me as the movie about why the guy had written a famous song. I have watched a number of documentaries which deal with one song or one artistic life, (Glen Campbell: The Rhinestone Cowboy comes to mind), but for this movie I didn’t know the song the film was dealing with.

Watching the movie, the acting was solid, and the story was reasonable. The film felt coherent with moments of comedy and moments of darkness beings solidly balanced. I felt the film was enjoyable without living with me afterwords. It showed relations in families are not easy, and that living without success is a hard slog. As I watched I wondered who is this film for? People who knew the song, was the answer, but this is a limited audience not including me. But it should be me. I knew christian music of the Era. I am inside Christianity and know a wee bit about Christian music of the Era contained in the film, but the film didn’t really affect me.

The problem with a faith film is if I am not asking the question the film answers (why was a song written?), how does the film build up my faith. Any type of testimony speaks of God’s reconciliation, the message that Christianity carries, humans can be reconciled to God, is a good one. The problem was the film wasn’t content with this message. As a bio pic of very successful band detailing a song which sold millions of copies, the film ended with the story of reconciliation with God of the father, the father mending his relationship with his son and then reconciled, his son was successful (writing a song and selling millions of records). That story of sucess does not build up my faith, nor does it speak of how I think of God.

There was a moment in the movie where the father, played by Dennis Quaid, says

“Dreams don’t pay the bills. Nothing good comes from them. All it does is keeping you from knowing what is real”

What is real is being honest about our experience and film details real life well, but it says that worship music is space where we can be real. The film hints at the moment that Contemporary Christian Music stopped being about music which was similar to normal music but had christian lyrics, music as entertainment, (perhaps best exampled in the history of Tooth & Nail Records) to becoming music as worship. The moment where DC Talk, Newsboys and PFR were having records simultaneously released in “normal” shops and also in the “christian music” shops to the moment were the Newsboys were issuing worship records to christian shops only. There is a story to be told around that time, but this film only hints at this issue.

As I watched the movie I wanted it speak more and to explore the story more. Like a trailer I had seen for a small film that mixes up real life, intermingles it with religious life, it seems to say something about faith and real life that was missing. “Parallel Love“.

I was thinking of what it means to struggle outwith the Christian world as a christian artist, the movie that tells the story of Daniel Smith and the Danielson Famile from a while ago.

Danielson: a Family Movie from JL Aronson on Vimeo.
In many ways the faith based film sector does not speak outside of itself. This was this a story well told and solidly acted. But did its target market go outside of faith community, did it even go outside of American Christianity, that is debatable.

So I left the cinema thinking. The film was ok, and if you like the song, the film is something that is decent and tells a story you may be interested in.

#live – Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil – 22nd April 2015 Webster hall, New York.  @StevetaylorTPF


In my round-up of 2014, two of my top 10 favourite albums were “Goliath” by Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil, and “Solid Gold Heart” by Jad Fair & Danielson. I recently had the opportunity to go to New York and by an extreme coincidence I managed to get tickets to see both Danielson and Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil live, together, in New York people, (thanks my wife for her significant birthday, and subsequent surprise trip to NYC that I organised).

The gig was down on 12th street at Webster hall, the studio room, (think king tuts wah wah hut in Glasgow and you’re not too far off.) We took the subway down and found something to eat before heading to the venue. Where we caught the last two songs of the opening band, who sounded very similar to Franz Ferdinand.

Danielson was advertised as appearing in his 9 fruit tree. Having followed Daniel Smith through his Danielson Famile, Brother Danielson, Danielsonship and Danielson guises I knew what to expect. Danielson Famile started as a masters thesis project in which Daniel wrote some songs and played them live with his family as a performance piece. From that had come an avant-garde series of albums, featuring falsetto vocals, hand-made matching costumes and songs about dragons and the Holy Spirit, and struggle in how to be an artist and christian. You can see the trailer to the 2006 movie about him here (Danielson Movie Trailer). The Danielson experience is creative, otherworldly, polarizing, beautiful and like all the best art in the world, great fun.

2015-04-21 20-55-20a
They put up the 9 fruit tree, representing the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit, it was so big it was hit the roof from its stage performance and required two tree technicians to assemble. With a guitar attached to the tree, Daniel stands in the tree and sings his songs. The audience participate in this with clap alongs, snap alongs, and during the song “Don’t You Be the Judge”, from the Tri-Danielson-Omega album, we had the audience making up verses and shout/singing them as part of the song. Having seen Danielson hit an unsuspecting audience before (in Glasgow on a UK Tour) I have seen this go not so well. In NYC on a Tuesday evening, it went brilliantly with every verse shouted/sung with vigour, leaving Daniel happy and slightly bemused while the room smiled, laughed, and sung along. This was emblematic of the role Danielson played in setting the right temperature of the room for the next act.

image from - https://www.facebook.com/Express.Image
image from – https://www.facebook.com/Express.Image

Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil took the stage and started to rock out and room caught it. The band, Steve Taylor (Lead Vocals) Jimmy Abegg (Guitar) John Mark Painter (Bass)  and Peter Furler (Drums), are set up as a simple, lean, rock’n’roll band, with drums, bass, guitar and a tall thin singing besuited gentleman. This wasn’t fancy big stadium stuff, it was more a was a grab for the heart of american modern rock. The band sounded great, tight as you would expect from these performers, Steve’s singing is consistently on the money with a great delivery. The songs are mostly straight rock with the odd bit of disco, reggae and a beautiful cover version which perfectly morphs into a live version of “Cash Cow” from the Squint album. it is a thing of beauty and joy. The live version of songs from 2014’s Goliath are awesome, and the songs from the back catalogue are handled brilliantly, Stand outs in the live contact were, “Comedian”, “Moonshot”, “Double Negative” from Goliath and “Easy Listening” and “Hero” also stood out significantly. NB I am pretty sure they played “sympathy vote” and I liked it, but the song kicks set list says they didn’t, so who knows?

Image from - https://www.facebook.com/Express.Image
Image from – https://www.facebook.com/Express.Image

As a concert experience it is impossible to ignore the manic, energetic, stage performance of Steve Taylor. Its is a remarkable piece of stage craft which dominated the performance. The Webster Hall studio stage isn’t the biggest in the world, he covered every inch of it several times. This energy complimented the attitude on stage with a real sense of the band enjoying being a band together. It was noticeable that this wasn’t Steve Taylor with some backing musicians, but it seemed like there was a real enjoyment of being together, and working with each other. Creating a space where the songs could flourish grow arms, and grab you into them. It really was a great show, with great music bringing a great big smile for everyone.

Anyway I came away singing “Man makes plans, God Laughs.” from Comedian. My wife came away thinking “Why didn’t he either put a hip out, or fall over from being dizzy?” Both true, both provoked by a fantastic evening.

The Long List – Best Album of 2014

A list containing some of the best sounds which have informed my year, namely the long list of the best albums of 2014. As always all musical albums I heard for the first time in 2014 are eligible for consideration and the selection decision is my own.

Decision Timescale :-
Short list issued before christmas.
Winners sometime after christmas and before new year.

The 2014 long list. (artist (inc weblink), title of album)

Smoke Fairies – Ghosts
The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
Field Mouse – Hold Still life
Gungor – I am Mountain
Nostalgia 77 – A Journey To Far
July Talk – July Talk
Joe Henry – Invisible Hour
Jeremy Fisher – The Lemon Squeeze
The Rural Alberta Advantage – Mended with Gold
Waterdeep – Moment
Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments to an Elegy
Beck – Morning Phase
FanFarlo – Let’s Go Extinct
Natalie Merchant – Natalie Merchant
The Twilight Sad – Nobody wants to Be Here and Nobody wants to leave
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Only Run
The Raveonettes – Pea’s
Sondre Lerche – PLease
A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Sea When Absent
Maplewood Lane -Sweetheart of the Radio Master
Pete Molinari – Theosophy
Yumi Zouma] – Yumi Zouma
Danielson – The Best of Gloucester County
Over the Rhine – Blood Oranges In the Snow
Linnea Olsson – Breaking and Shaking
Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son – (Double album version)
At The Close of Every Day – Darkness Travels Light
Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil – Goliath
Meaghan Smith – Have a Heart
Mogwai -Rave Tapes
Jad Fair & Danielson – Solid Gold Heart
Ibibio Sound Machine – Ibibio Sound Machine

other year end lists can be found
here – The Guardian’s top 10 records of the Year
here – album of the year aggregate site

Danielsons – Trying Hartz

Danielson has a new album out. From the liner notes –

Trying Hartz samples the first decade of the Danielson/Danielson Famile/Br. Danielson oeuvre (all the years before Ships), attesting generously to the movement of the work as a whole, from proto-minimalist eccentric gospel band to prog-metal-dread outfit to music hall choir to indie rock one-man band to outsider art celebrity to family man and family member. It’s a perfect starter volume for listeners who have not had the pleasure of engaging with the evolution of this unusual, surprising, and incredibly moving musical consortium. And yet: please note that no verbal account of the work can possibly summon the effect of the decade digested in this assemblage. After all, as Daniel sings, “My Lord is known by His song.” Not by His press releases. The ecstatic vision of the Danielson project is the unnamable part, the impossible to describe part, and this ecstatic vision is cumulative. It’s not what Daniel says, though he always says it well, it’s the circumstances in which he says it, with family gathered around him, whether related by blood or not; it’s the reiteration of the spiritual thematic material, a reiteration that sounds nothing like early 20th century gospel-it’s far more poeticized, it’s far more elemental-but which has all the seriousness and all the joy of that long ago music. Ecstatic vision. You won’t get it by reading these lines, nor even by reading the lyrics. You will get it by listening to this distillation of ten years’ work and the earlier albums and going to the shows. Then you will experience the humble but devious and complicated grassroots movement that is Danielson. Trying Hartz is an essential place to start.

Dunno about you but that kinda sounds like the type of album i would like to listen to!

Lyrics – Danielson – Cutest Lil Dragon

when i believe that the skin will give peace to my inners,
only winners
are those “me me me” conspiracies

enemies of the spirit of the truth
and the sooth-
sayers talking down my gentle dragon slayer

that dragon aint the love sweet love
that dragon aint the love sweet love
that dragon aint the love sweet love

the rubbernecker ain’t no lover,
he’s a wrecker
of the family of ties,
now a word for his wives

if you see him checking out my little sister
tell that mister
that his thoughts are quite contrary
and her brothers is big and scary

the temper’s hereditary
raised a fight unfairly
comin’ to impair me
got good vocabulary

put down that half-baked thought
and get caught
by the purity of truth,
kick the darkhorse in the tooth

the morning after and the ladykiller’s dead
self-promotion’s in the red
happy hour kicked his dome

that dragon aint the love sweet love
that dragon aint the love sweet love
that dragon aint the love sweet love

that love slapped the dragon
that love ate the dragon
that love cut the dragon
that love ate the dragon
that love broke the dragon
that love ate the dragon

Cutest lil Dragon
Tri-Danielson Omega

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Danielson @ King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow, 30th Nov 2006

Photo’s and Videos By FreeKorps @ Youtube & Flikr

A Danielson show is that weird thing. Good Art. I make that distinction because I believe good Art has a direct emotional response on those who view it. Good Art has an affect on everyone who views it. It draws you and asks you the question, what do you think of me? Your response is either positive or negative but your response is never lukewarm. A Danielson show I guess is the musical example of this.

The night was cold, it had been raining for four hours solid as we entered King Tuts Wah Wah Hut. Home to many bands on the First tour of the Uk Circuit as well as many good local bands.

For Danielson this was their third gig on the UK leg of their European Tour. This was their first and only scottish date on the tour. We entered the venue through the bar meeting old friends as we went. we got drinks and noticed that Daniel Smith of Danielson was selling the Danielson merchandise himself. At this point I decided the way to ensure a band’s lead singer/creative genius never gets too big for their boots is to make them man the march stalls at all their concerts.

The first support band were mostly rubbish. they had one tune they palyed five times with different lyrics. If they cut out all the sex and drugs references a great future opening for McFly would be there to work at.

Jeffery Lewis Was the main support and was enteraining. I enjoyed his movies, Yeah, live movie making at the show. I liked the song about the record companies and the girlfirends/happy song. His creeping brain song will remain my main memories of the man though. He was a good warm up but what about Danielson.

The Band set up on stage, I could Identify, John on Keyboards, David on Drums and Daniel on guitars. I didn’t recognise the bass player I should really pay more attention. I was concerned by the absence of uniforms as well. But I shouldn’t have feared, about 10 minutes later the band took to King Tut’s stage. resplendent in what looked like american police uniform but with love as their shields.
The concert started with gusto and barrage of songs from the last album Ships.

The concert was going well.
I like ships and recognised most of the songs when John the bass player disappeared from sight. I was at the back of the room. at the end of the song they asked for a seat for John and for the on stage smoke machine to be stopped. Apparently he wasn’t feeling well. He then left the stage causing a reorganising of the set list while he apparently, passed out back stage for a while. He did return to the stage three songs later but did look ill.
Highlights of the set were, Did I Set on Your Trumpet?, Time, That BAld Sexton and Cutest Lil Dragon.

Did I enjoy It?

Danielson is a precious & rare thing to me, something that brings me Joy. During the Concert I found myself just smiling and being happy. felling good about life, myself and situation. In a world designed to bring discontentment on so many levels, to find something that brings you joy and happiness is a rare enough feat. never mind seeing them live in concert.

Danielson isn’t got or liked by all. But I get it, and it gets me good.

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Upcoming Gigs

This winter season i will mostly be attending

King Tuts Wah Wah Hut – 30th October 06 – 8.30 til 12midnight

Danielson plays his/their first gig in Scotland ever. The Album ships is awesome. not sure if it’s a full family outing or solo show but to be honest i don’t really care.

Bruce Cockburn
ABC – 19th January 07

No need to remind anyone but in order to celebrate my 30th birthday, The mighty bruce cockburn has decided to play a concert in my honour. thats nice of him.
(But if anyone else asks you can just say it’s the first night of his european tour.)

others I would quite like to see but probably will not include
amusment parks on fire – still on of the best named bands around.
betty curse – am i the only person getting her album?
Nick Harper – what a guitarist
Josh Ritter
Neko Case
Ron Sexsmith
Primal Scream

it you attend or are planning to attend these gigs (And I do/should know you) let me know.


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Categories: music