When I first heard about this show called “TWLOHA presents: Heavy and Light,” all I knew was that Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Dustin Kensrue of Thrice were somehow going to play the same show. That was enough to pique my interest since I love both of their respective bands. Since they play totally different styles of music, I couldn’t help but wonder how they were going to pull this one off. It didn’t even occur to me, however, that this was going to be so much more than the usual concert format.
In case you haven’t heard of TWLOHA, it means “To Write Love On Her Arms.” It’s a non-profit organization that aims to help people who are struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts by initiating inspiring conversations of hope. If you didn’t know, that’s okay, because I didn’t know about it either honestly, but it’s been around for almost a decade now and it’s been doing some really great things for humanity, including this tour.
I wasn’t sure at first if I was going to fit into the crowd because I don’t really have a drug addiction or thoughts of suicide and I don’t intentionally hurt myself, but I discovered after listening to TWLOHA’s founder, Jamie Tworkowski, that I could relate on many levels to the conversation. I was definitely in the right place.
As it turns out, this gathering was intended for everyone. We all struggle at some point or another with the trials of being human. Life isn’t always a piece of cake. I mean, I get depressed occasionally, and at times, life even takes me to a place where I feel trapped and alone. I’m sure most of us experience that from time to time, but it’s easy to bottle it up and let it build to a point where it’s unbearable. It’s easy to forget that, just by sharing our feelings with each another, we can help ease those troubles by relating our stories in conversation. That’s exactly what this event was made for—coming together and supporting each other as one big human family—because we’re all sharing the same basic reality.
The first performance I caught of this amazing night was from a band called the Summer Set, and though their style of pop rock wasn’t something I would normally listen to these days, I could appreciate the positive energy radiating from their lyrics and stage presence. Particularly, their final song, a unique take on Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” really impressed me. I remember frontman, Brian Logan Dales, saying that he hoped to incite the feelings of youth and wonder like the story of Peter Pan. That was certainly a good way to characterize their uplifting set.
After that, Sierra DeMulder came out alone to center stage and shared some of her beautiful poems with us. I don’t think I had ever heard poetry at a show before, but the words she used evoked just about the whole spectrum of emotions for me. I mostly recall her poem about the heartbreak she experienced when she fell in love with someone who put her in the “friend zone.” My eyes glossed a little bit as she told us about how she had to endure the pain of watching the man of her dreams fall head over heels for someone else while still trying to be there for him as his best friend. I could relate.
Sierra also told us about a friend she had that was all kinds of crazy. But even though her friend was really eccentric and awkward, she was someone you just had to love because of her perfectly imperfect flaws. I’ve had friends kind of like that, too. We couldn’t help but laugh as Sierra humored us with the crudeness of those little things that reminded us of our crazy friends that we love so much. All in all, it was a wonderful way to lighten the mood, but with an impact that hit home.
We were given a nice talk and some helpful resources from a local support organization afterward. Then, Dustin Kensrue took the stage with his acoustic guitar and harmonica. This was my first time seeing the frontman of Thrice perform a solo set and I was very pleased from the outset. He played some Thrice songs and some new material from his upcoming album, Carry the Fire, slated for release in April 2015. Although he didn’t have a band to back him up, he showed that he can hold his own with his western-sounding, folk-rock style, and that powerful voice we know and love. He also threw in some awesome cover songs in: “Buzzcut Season” by Lorde and “Down There by the Train” by Tom Waits. Everything was excellent!
Then Jamie Tworkowski came out to talk to us after Dustin finished his set and he explained why he has continued his charitable mission with TWLOHA each year. It really put everything into perspective and gave the music more meaning for me. I could see that the artists and songs chosen for the tour all had careful reasoning to them. The whole show was part of this guided “conversation” we were having. They were meant to encourage us to talk, listen, realize our similarities, and take care of each other. Sometimes all we need to find light in the darkness is for someone to listen and give us feedback.
And on that note, Jamie introduced the main event of the night: Jon Foreman and his band, consisting simply of cello player, Keith Tutt II, and drummer, Aaron Redfield. As soon as they started playing I got chills. I had been wanting to see Switchfoot for a few years before this moment, but I think this might have been even better than any other experience I could have had before. This was the minimalist, bare essence of their music; it was the beating heart at its core.
They began with a song called “Before Our Time,” which had lyrics that resonated the existential feels of our precious, fleeting human experience.
“January, February, March / The days are marching forward / April, May, June and July / They fly like a hummingbird … Time is illusion / Time is a curse / Time is all these things and worse … Let us sing before our time runs out”
I’m glad someone was able to capture this. Please enjoy.
I just thought about how I should strive to live my life to the fullest. It seems the older I get, the faster time flies. We can all relate to that. We are all on this journey with our lives sifting away like an hourglass.
This song in particular, (which Foreman said was the first time it had ever been performed) “Terminal,” really hammered that point in. It reminded me that tomorrow is never a promise. “Don’t let your spirit die before your body does,” he sang. “We are the living soul with terminal hearts, terminal hearts, flickering like candles.” Such a powerful rush of emotions washed over me from those words and chords. I need to remember to keep this truth in mind.
That punched me in a good place. I felt so alive, awake. Does it get much better? The answer is yes. The highlights of the rest of the night were when the band invited Brian Logan Dales of the Summer Set back to the stage to help them cover an incredible rendition of “Royals” by Lorde. They nailed it so hard! (Wow, two Lorde songs in one night. Awesome.)
We also got to hear a beautiful cover of Mandy Moore’s heart-string-tugging song, “Only Hope,” and Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move,” (one of my favorites) among others. But the real highlights of the night were when they played Bill Withers’ iconic song, “Lean on Me.” This song was one of the best things I’ve ever heard in my life. He encouraged us all to find our neighbors and lean on each other. The crowd became a swaying sea of love! It worked! We all sang the words with such spirit that we held it together multiple times, even when the band stopped playing. What a breathtaking experience! Admittedly, my eyes watered again from the overflow of compassion in the room.
And that was his last song. Or was it? No, it wasn’t. Of course not. The band came back out and Jon Foreman invited all of the musicians of the night to join them in performing “Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. What an absolutely stunning display of raw talent it was! The arrangement was so good! They took turns on all of the parts, and even cellist, Keith Tutt II, showed off his stunning vocal talents.
Those lyrics though.. “I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings / Coming down is the hardest thing.” Indeed it is. I didn’t want this night to end, but I couldn’t have imagined a better way to finish it out. I originally didn’t plan to go to this show, but it kind of spontaneously came into my life when I was asked to review it. This was truly a blessed experience for me. I’m humbled and grateful that it happened and I was there there to bare witness.
I hope after reading this that you will want to go to next year’s Heavy and Light performances by TWLOHA. You will more than likely fall in love with it just as I have.
TWLOHA Heavy And Light Live Review & Photos by Sean Dorsett.
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