photo by Alyssa Schukar
by Clay Masters
“Does anybody have any questions at this point in the show?” asked David Bazan to about 45 people in my living room in Lincoln, Neb., on Thursday night.
This is the most common sentence to hear out of Bazan’s mouth at any of his shows, and it really depends on the venue as to what kind of questions the concertgoers ask. For example, a David Bazan show at Omaha’s The Waiting Room in November yielded these less than intelligent questions: “What’s your favorite color?” “Why isn’t anyone besides me dancing?”
But for about the last three years Bazan’s been touring living rooms across the country, a venue that yields more intelligent audience participation.
This nontraditional touring method starts on Bazan’s website with a list of cities he wants to play. If you’re interested in hosting about 40 to 50 people in your living room, you contact his manager with a photo of where he’ll play and they book a show at your house.
Since the shows aren’t heavily advertised, they attract a more committed fan. Almost everyone in attendance knows that until 2005, Bazan led Pedro the Lion … a band that explored Christian themes. Music writers were going as far as calling him the first crossover Christian indie rock musician. He grew up in a very evangelical home and over the years began questioning the God he grew up on. It took him five years after his last Pedro record — and wrestling with alcohol addiction — to release 2009’s Curse Your Branches. Many called it his breakup album with God.
In a setting like a living room he’s able to field questions about the writing process of that album and make the creative process more open to his fans. He also spent a fair amount of time talking about the “This American Life” retraction incident, why he thinks Lowell Bergman is awesome and Rupert Murdoch should die, his love for Nebraska musicians like Steve Pedersen and Conor Oberst and the Chinese children that probably made his cheap Epiphone SG.
— David Bazan (@davidbazan) March 24, 2012
Bazan admits Branches was a really hard record to write. But now he’s on a roll. For 2011’s Strange Negotiations, he explored the contradictions in what he calls the tie between Christianity and the political right-wing — most blatantly sung about in the album’s first track, “Wolves At the Door.” He started the show with the tune and it felt like a completely different song in a solo setting than the loud abrasive cut on the album.
Halfway through his set a heavy rain fell and a cool rainy breeze swept through the open windows in my house as Bazan played the dark and intimate version of “Priests and Paramedics” off 2002’s Pedro the Lion album, Control.
Bazan also said he was going to start to record a new album when he returned to his home in Seattle. He didn’t play anything new or say what themes he plans to explore, just that he’s “stripping it down to the studs.” That might be the result of playing these stripped-down living room shows.
Bazan played and answered questions for about an hour and a half, then stuck around for about another half an hour to talk with the fans.
I was reluctant moving my television back in the room where Bazan stood. It never asks me if I have any questions.
Wolves at the Door
Cold Beer and Cigarettes
That’s How I Remember
Priests and Paramedics
Hard to Be
Bless This Mess
Clay Masters is a reporter for Nebraska Public Radio/Television and Harvest Public Media. He filed this story for NPR last year on Bazan’s 2011 living room tour. Follow Clay on Twitter @claytonmasters.