Every two years Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, puts on a great little conference/party called The Festival of Faith and Music. It's three days of hanging out with people who are serious about their faith and who love music, and the intersection of those two consuming passions. This year we'll get to hear The Hold Steady, Lupe Fiasco, Over the Rhine, Vic Chesnutt, Julie Lee, Baby Dee, Kenneth Thomas, and David Bazan (Pedro the Lion). And those are just the musicians. The speakers/presenters are equally impressive. You should check it out.
As we did two years ago, Michael Kaufmann (director of Asthmatic Kitty Records) and I are currently listening to a batch of new songs recorded by various performers/bands who are trying to win a contest called Bandspotting. The winner gets to perform at the conference. The good news: the music is, almost uniformly, amazing. The bad news: we have to pick a winner. This is, in all honesty, far more difficult than writing a feature article or an album review. There's great indie rock here. There's outstanding chamber folk. There's superb singer/songwriter fare. There's a guy who howls the Psalms to an unholy racket, and I mean that in the best possible sense since it seems unlikely to me that the guy who wrote these sacred blues laments was doing so to the accompaniment of saccharine pop music. I know it's a cliche to state that everyone's a winner. In this case, it happens to be true. It is such a heartening experience. And damn difficult, too.