By Brenda Lorenz, Photos by Tracy May
The doors opened at The Floridian Social Club at 7:00 Saturday night (8/6/22) for the third of a three-night appearance. At 6:15, the line was forming in the rain outside. The band they are all here to see is Anberlin. I met a few people outside that were fans. One woman said she had seen them nine times before! Another couple had been listening to their music for 20 years and this was their first time seeing them live. Several people were wearing Anberlin tee shirts. Once inside, the activity and anticipation kept building as it got closer to show time.
The opening band, 68, kicked things off at 8:00. Hailing from Atlanta, this band was not what you might expect. They sounded like four or five guys, but it was just two. Dressed in coats and ties, playing what they describe as “noise punk rock”, you might see where the “unexpected” part would come in. They are Josh Scogin (vocals and guitar) and Nikko Yamada (drummer). The energy these two amazingly talented musicians play with is undeniable! The interaction between the two on stage adds a theatrical touch at times. At one point in their performance, Josh starts disassembling Nikko’s drum set – but he keeps intensely playing on the parts that are left – but Josh keeps removing sections – and it comes down to Nikko playing one last piece! And he was still intensely playing that last piece! I can’t say I’ve ever seen that before! After their set, I briefly spoke with the drummer, Nikko. He told me the name “68” was actually a car. Josh used to work on a ’68 Camaro with his father and this keeps that memory alive.
The Anberlin fans were ready! Some have attended all three performances and this was the final night. Each night was a different album performed in its entirety but not necessarily in the order that’s on the album. Thursday was “Never Take Friendship Personal”, Friday was “Cities” and tonight it’s “New Surrender”. Before beginning, Stephen Christian, the lead vocalist, took a moment to thank everyone for coming out adding that he came up with the name for this album in a coffee shop across the street from Jannus Landing (now Jannus Live). “You are all so much a part of all of this! Its not just you singing along or buying the record, but all that is awesome too but it’s about you being here right now in this moment! Thank you very much!”
All that built-up anticipation exploded with the first song. The beginning music of “Retrace” drew a roar from the crowd. Stephen then talked about a conversation he had with their manager, Kyle, that he didn’t feel like they had a grasp on this album (during the writing process). “I need to just go away to New Orleans for a while so I can create the best version of this record”. His girlfriend at the time, Julia, went with him to New Orleans and not only did he write this song there, he turned to Julia saying, “Well, since we’re here, you just want to marry me right now?” The rest is history and they have been married for 14 years!
“Feel Good Drag” was the next song but needed no introduction as, again, the beginning music gave it away immediately! Next up, was one of my favorites, “Breathe”. “Younglife” came next, again, not the same order as the album.
The standing crowd had Rock n Roll hand signs and fist pumps in the air most of the night for this band they know, love, and appreciate!
Stephen Christian – lead vocals
Christian McAlhaney – rhythm guitar
Joey Milligan – lead guitar
Deon Rexroat – bass guitar
Nate Young – drummer
Performing all 12 songs on the album “New Surrender” including “The Resistance”, “Blame Me”, “Retrace”, “Breathe”, and “Soft Skeletons”, they threw in a few others from other albums as well. To end the evening, they performed, “Circles” from their just released EP, Silverline.
In speaking to Stephen before the show, he gave me some background on the band. Anberlin originally started in 2002 so this is their 20th anniversary! They did break up at one point in 2015. The band members all had different lives, goals, passions and dreams, just going in different directions and it became more of a “job” with deadlines that just kind of sucked the excitement away. Then slowly, around 2019, they said, “well, what if we do one more show”, then that turned into one more record, then one more tour. Adding, they were not back together as far as it being their occupation, but are back to it being a passion. Stephen explained it this way:
“When you start with a hobby (maybe as a kid), then it turns into a passion, and it becomes a profession, something gets lost because now you “have” to do it to pay the bills, and take care of your family and future. Bringing in the deadlines and demands just kind of sucked away the excitement and joy of doing it. So this is us going in reverse – We are reverting back to it being a passion – not a job. We are doing what we want to do, and doing it at our pace – not at the pace a record label tell us. We can put out an album if we want, or not! We can do an EP or two if we want, or not! Before it just became too much, but now we’re back to just having a great time!”
People have asked and speculated if Anberlin is a “Christian band”. I asked him his thoughts on that. “I’m actually a pastor at Grace Family Church and I love my job and I love my faith, but I can’t “label” us a “Christian band”. We’ve never toured in the Christian market or advertised ourselves as that and would not want to because I’m afraid that might close the door to some people that say ‘oh I don’t like Christian music’, just like if you don’t like country, you won’t listen to country, or folk, or whatever the case may be. I just want people to listen to the music and let the music speak as it will.”
Stephen is from Winter Haven and all the band members live within a 20-mile radius. “It’s great to play “home” shows because at the end of the night, we just drive home – not to a hotel!”
Anberlin currently has seven albums with two EPs coming out. I asked how they decided which three albums to perform for these three nights. “We listened to the fans. We are able to see the stats on the different music platforms to see what people are listening to the most and we found that people are playing songs on these three albums the most so that’s how we decided.”
To see where they are going next, check out their website at Anberlin.com.