Lord Huron, Longing, and Presence

Live a three-dimensioned life;   
stay away from screens.   
Stay away from anything   
that obscures the place it is in.   
There are no unsacred places;   
there are only sacred places   
and desecrated places.
–Wendell Berry, “How to Be a Poet”

One of my favorite bands, Lord Huron, opened their tour last night in Grand Rapids for their new album, “Vide Noir”. My wife bought us tickets for Valentine’s day so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the show all spring. They did not disappoint.

“Lost in time and space, aimless drifting in a far off place, Hurtling through the vast unknown, staring straight into the pure, black void” – Lost in Time & Space

Lord Huron’s music is always a rich and dense experience. They have a rare ability to transport you to “far off places” through introspective lyrics and ambient folk-rock melodies. Their previous albums, Lonesome Dreams and Strange Trails provoke a deep sense of longing for far off lands “that were meant for our eyes to see” and a profound sense of searching for our place in the cosmos. Lyrics constantly oscillate between the transcendent bigness of the universe and deeply imminent dynamics of love, longing, and finitude. The lead singer, Ben Schneider, is a brilliant lyricist that takes you on journeys through profoundly layered concept albums–that is–if you let him.

“To the ends of the earth would you follow me? There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see.” – Ends of the Earth

This new tour’s production value is out of this world–while staying in it. Scenes of stars, rivers, flowers, and leaves, played behind the band as Ben sang his many Michigan inspired lyrics about travels, shores, love, ancient paths, and distant lands.

Which is why I was so bothered by all of the screens.

Lord Huron played to a sold-out crowd of 1700 people–half of whom weren’t even there. Many concert-goers experienced the journey mediated through a screen… which rubs against the very point of Lord Huron’s project. Several individuals around me had cell phones out and social media apps on for the vast majority of the show. To echo Wendell Berry’s poem in the opening of the post, “stay away from anything that obscures the place that it is in.” There is something allusively transcendent about the performance of live music that is meant to be encountered in an unmediated fashion. What separates last night from your Instagram and Snapchat stories? Your being. We’ll never be back in that room experiencing that event again. Lord Huron’s music begs us to be present to what is happening. There is something profoundly ironic about sending a Snapchat video of a song that cries, “You never loved me, I came all the way through time and space to take you away and out of this place.”

This struck me as I reflected on the show’s overall effect while my ears were ringing in my bed last night. What does Lord Huron’s music do to me? I think their most significant contribution is to help provide language for my longing for a distant place. This is something that by design screens deliberately destroy. We were all there, but I fear half of us missed it.

As a Christian, I resonate with Lord Huron’s music because they help to draw out a universal human longing for distant shores that our age of distraction, limited attention spans, and screens, diligently suppress. The music reminds me that there is more to this life than the “imminent frame” of our “secular age” as Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor says. And it reminds me that I long for a “world that was meant for our eyes to see”.

A dear friend once wrote a song that says, “Isn’t it strange that we miss a place we’ve never even seen?” We all long for Eden because it echoes in the human soul. It reminds us that something is missing. A longing for God, redemption, and restoration. And we’ll be haunted by those Ghosts and whispers until we reckon with this inner longing of the human condition.

“I had all and then most of you
Some and now none of you
Take me back to the night we met
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do
Haunted by the ghost of you
Take me back to the night we met”

-“The Night We Met”

I loved the show last night. But as we all know, “Love is Like Ghosts, oh few have seen it, but everyone talks”. Lord Huron was polished musically and took us for a lyrical journey on “strange trails” through the cosmos and human experience. I just hope my fellow concert goers were living a three-dimensional enough of a life to come along for the ride.
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