There’s no quick way to explain why this one drive last weekend was so awesome, so you’re going to have to bear with me.
I have been a fan of the band Switchfoot since the late 1990s, when I saw them in concert as an opening act. They have released something like ten albums and I’ve liked every one of them. The only musician with more songs on my iPhone is Springsteen (Nobody tops the Boss).
I don’t like the Christian music industry. I find most contemporary Christian music to be stale, derivative and banal. Switchfoot is different. Their appeal, other than that I like their style of music, is their honesty and sincerity. Front man Jon Foreman is a gifted songwriter. His voice works as well in driving rock anthems as it does in passionate ballads. Switchfoot doesn’t even appear on strictly Christian labels.
What I like most is that Switchfoot isn’t about writing songs that appeal exclusively to the Christian market. They aren’t so much a Christian band as a band that happens to be made up of Christians. They make good music which is influenced by who they are. This seems to me very different from bands who set out to make exclusively Christian music for the Christian market¹. Jon Foreman is a Christian song-writer rather than a Christian-song writer.
And they aren’t afraid to take stands on social issues. They address race relations and the dangerous lure of materialism in the American Dream. They run an annual weekend event in San Diego they call the Bro Am that involves music and a surfing competition. It’s grown into a massively popular weekend shindig. All proceeds go to help homeless kids in the area.
Basically, I’m a big fan, got it?
Now, Jim and Leslie Alkire are good friends. My wife and I first met them years ago at our church here in Virginia Beach. They moved to San Diego many years ago, where they became close friends with Drew and Jenna Shirley. Drew is a guitarist for Switchfoot.
To our delight, the Alkires moved back here to Hampton Roads several years ago. Our family friendship has grown ever since.
Last weekend Leslie celebrated her birthday by renting a house at Sandbridge and inviting her California friends, including the Shirleys, to fly out and join them. My wife and I got invited too. The getaway was fortuitously planned for a weekend when Switchfoot was in concert here in Virginia. That meant Drew would be able to join his wife and the Alkires. He just needed a ride from Richmond after the concert.
So, of course, Leslie turned to her only Uber-driving friend to meet this transportation need. I got a free ticket to the concert and drove Drew the two hours from Richmond to Sandbridge.
I’m too old to be a giddy fanboy, but it was a thrill to meet a member of a band I have enjoyed listening to for so long.
The concert was great as always, even though the crowd seemed a bit tepid. I think it had to do with the venue, which was a very beautiful but formal restored old theater. It was too fancy for a rock concert. But it was still an excellent show.
I didn’t drive my Uber vehicle. It needed some work done, so I rented a car for the weekend. The rental place was out of the kind of car I had reserved, so they gave me a 2016 Mustang as a free upgrade. I didn’t do it to impress Drew, I promise. But it was a sweet ride and much nicer than my crummy old Corolla.
My conversation with Drew was thoroughly enjoyable. He was gracious after what must have been an exhausting performance and tolerated my many questions. We both are fathers of four daughters, though his are much younger than mine. So we talked some about parenting girls.
We talked about politics and what is happening in the Church in this election. We both agreed that something historic may be going on as American Christians try to sort through our role in American politics.
And happily, we talked about music. About how he ended up in the band. About Jon’s unique passion for music, songwriting, and performing. About the relationships among band members and other bands they have toured with.
I was able to communicate my appreciation for Switchfoot’s music over the years and to encourage him about the importance of music in people’s lives.
“It’s more than just entertainment, you know. Music has incredible power. It’s art and art is important. What you do matters more than you realize.”
“It’s true,” he said. “It’s amazing to me the things we hear. People tell us all the time these crazy stories. ‘This song literally saved my life. I was thinking about killing myself until I heard it and it gave me hope.’ That kind of thing happens regularly.”
“Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. Your music gives people hope.”
I liked Drew a lot. He is humble and smart and easy to talk to. He seemed as interested in me as I was in him. He had none of the hubris or cool detachment you might expect in celebrities. Actually, this didn’t surprise me. Jim and Leslie have been telling me for years what a great guy Drew is, but it was still nice to witness myself.
Technically, this wasn’t an Uber ride. I didn’t charge for it, of course. But it was as memorable as any ride I’ve ever given.
¹A friend once pointed out that the word Christian only ever appears as a noun in Scripture. I prefer to avoid using the word as an adjective to describe anything other than a person.