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Basilica Block Party: Crisis of Faith

9 Jul

Catholicism WOW! or Hanginaround the Holy Water with my Little Hoodrat Friends
I have never understood the Basilica Block Party. Doesn’t rock and roll have a standing agreement with Satan, and don’t Catholics have a vested interest in the overthrow of Satan, or at least maintaining the equilibrium of divine good and worldly evil? What do they do at the Block Party to maintain this balance? Is the beer spiked with holy water? I just imagine poor little CYO kids handing out tracts and nuns hawking t-shirt and rosary 2-for-1s. The whole thing kind of has an air of inviting the money changers back into the temple, not to mention the ramifications for my less-then-devout sensibilities. Does it matter that I voted for Kerry (remember, that whole abortion/communion thing)? Can I wear my NOW shirt? Is my Muslim friend welcome? I am probably overthinking this, but that is not unusual.

These wild imaginings mean I have never gone, a decision made easier by the ticket prices, weird advertising (those blockheads last year were especially aggressively creepy) and the fact that I have never liked any of the bands on the bill. There is no way in hell (pardon, h-e-double hockeysticks) I would pay $70 for Gin Blossoms or Gavin Rossdale.

But here I am with a dilemma in 2009. The headliners this year are pretty good, a mix of nostalgia, solid rock and bar-room passions with Black Crowes, Counting Crows, Jayhawks and The Hold Steady. It is almost as though they got some of those hip fathers who burned draftcards or nuns who get themselves arrested protesting the School of the Americas to hook up the bands. Also, why all the bird band names this year? Does it have something to do with the Holy Spirit? Despite the asinine scheduling of the headliners simultaneously (Jayhawks vs. Black Crowes Friday, The Hold Steady vs. Counting Crows Saturday) the bill alone might make a man want to get religion.

The tipping point may be this: the Basilica Choir sang the music of the Block Party headliners. Listen to it on the website, or you can get their version of The Hold Steady’s “Lord I’m Discouraged” here. This feels wholly inappropriate- the only fortified wine on church premises should be fortified with Christ, and the listening to very choral strains belting out tunes about drug deals and dealing with the hangover leave me in no mood to contemplate transubstantiation and salvation. Granted, “Lord I’m Discouraged” is a song about faith in the unseen and piety in the face of adversity, but it’s not uplifting pulpit material. Maybe it should be. If Christ hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors, he could sure hang out with addict musicians and strung out scene kids nowadays. But as Craig Finn, a mixed spokesperson for Catholicism at best, notes elsewhere, “I’m not saying we could save you. But we could put you in a place where you could save yourself. If you don’t get born again at least you’ll get high as hell.” That’s probably not as dogmatic as the institution of the church would like, but at least is honest about a personal commitment to something greater than oneself.

If anything, the choral versions of these songs make me long for real ones, which is why I will end up going. That and to cover it on a press pass. But don’t ask me to review the choir performances. The Church has an long arm that extends past the here and now.

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