What Does an Atheist Give Up for Lent?

Jesus loves me—now why won't Mason Jennings?

What Would Ian MacKaye Do? Punk Vespers: An Alternative Lenten Worship wrapped up Wednesday night after six weeks of live music and unorthodox programming at northeast Minneapolis's Mercy Seat Lutheran Church. The evening services were organized by longtime hardcore fan and seminary student Travis Gerjets.

"My own punk band, Dirty Butter Knife, played original music," Gerjets explains, "and we let several people preach. The idea was to be anti-authoritarian and break down boundaries."

From one point of view, the experiment was a success: "My supervising pastors loved it. They thought it was really raw and authentic." But despite attendance so enthusiastic that the prayer services might be brought back after Easter, Gerjets has one source of disappointment:

"It's mostly people from the neighborhood, kids from other churches, and people who go to Mercy. The punk Christian community hasn't really come out."

This could be the work of Satan—but it might be tied to hangovers from the Triple Rock's ritual Tuesday night two-for-ones.

The vespers also marked a kind of coming-out (ummm, the Christian kind) for Dirty Butter Knife, or DBK. "Now people know we are part of the Christian world. I was worried it wouldn't be something others in the punk community would agree with, but so far there's been lots of questions. Lots of people think Christianity is garbage, especially if they identify it with the Bush administration and the war. But they're still interested in our music."

 

"Holla!" screams a noisy trio of girls standing a few feet to my right.

Delighted with the piercing effect of their combined voices, they count to three and repeat the cry: "Holla!" I think what I'm thinking is the same thing as what the rest of the audience is thinking: There are a lot of acceptable ways to make a spectacle of yourself at First Avenue.

Synchronized, high-pitched shouting of the colloquialism "Holla" at a Mason Jennings concert is not one of them.

It's not folk troubadour Jennings's fault that he's being greeted like the Second Coming of Dave Matthews. But does he have to look so much like honest-and-true Aidan Shaw from Sex and the City? Must he go on about love and hearts with so much g.d. sincerity? Right now, there's no time to answer these questions—Jennings has just sounded the unmistakable opening lines of "Butterfly," and it's imperative that three dozen young women commemorate the moment with a cell-phone picture.

Holla!

 

Sondre Lerche is supposedly from Norway, but he has the slight build and oversized, watery eyes of an extra from a movie about underfed Irish kids. At a sold-out show at the 7th St. Entry Saturday night, Lerche and his band the Faces Down fill the room with spry, charming pop and sexy lounge-swing.

Lerche's set would make the perfect long-playing record for a certain kind of cocktail party, one where bickering between the sexes is conducted with playful archness and resolved with feigned exasperation and knowing bedroom glances.

He starts to croon the opening verse from blossoming-relationship ditty "Modern Love." "Do you have a clue what this is?" he sings, flipping sweat-soaked bangs out of his face. "I don't know," admit a hundred soft voices in response. The song is supposed to be a duet, and for the duration of the song, Lerche's adoring audience sings the entire female vocal part from memory.

"Did you all get together and rehearse before the show?" he teases afterward.

For most of us sinners, this is as close to vespers as we're going to get.

 
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