Concerts

Through and Through Gospel Review, Crescent Ballroom, 7/14/12

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Marquard sang "Born on the Edge of a Sword" with Waxman, and the intimacy of the moment set the stage for the revelry that would follow. Finishing with "When the Lord Came Down," Gospel Claws drummer Scott Hall joined the crew on stage to smash a glass pane framed by a rickety wood structure of Marquard's design. As Marquard banged on pots and pans, Hall smashed at the glass, protected by eyewear and draped in white towels.

The crowd cheered for more, but that was it. "Peaceful Valley," a harmonious recording Marquard's father made in 1967, piped in from the speakers, and made for a disorienting walk into the lounge, where DJ Sean Watson was in the midst of his bumping Kismet set. The parallels and clashes played in my head during the ride home. Like electro or dance, gospel music is at its core pop music. Not in a top 40 sense, but in a "music of the people" way. Those hymns -- the Fanny J. Crosby compositions that so clearly inspired Marquard's own makeshift God-fearing odes -- were the words of the people, singing in unity about common things, things they shared and aspirations for redemption and transcendence.

I wonder if any of our own pop music will ring as true in 50 years. Will the records we pick for our best of 2012 lists and the MP3s we pass around our social networks, still sound resolute in the light of changed culture and progression? I'm going to be optimistic and say that, yeah, a few of them will. The truly good ones, not beholden to any time or place, not wrapped up in a stylistic trend, songs willing to face the big truths -- faith, fear, death, hope, love -- without winking irony or bleary sentimentality, will live on. They are rare songs, these hymns to the unknown, but they speak through us and for us, and that's really all we can ask them to do.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.