Perhaps he was distracted – the looming certainty that big things were on the horizon. A new website with up to date photos, blogs, information dissemination, and portals to all manner of places (not to mention rumored panning capabilities…); A live album and DVD; The unexpected but undeniable truth that veteran cyclist Christian Vande Velde was holding steady in the top five overall classification of the Tour De France. It could have been any of these things that caused it. Or it could have been none of them.
Regardless, the fact remained that something happened on a dry and breezy night in Minnesota that could only be classified in one of two very different ways: David Crowder did something that was either extremely advanced or was a colossal meltdown of nuclear proportions.
We (the band) had made our way through the set in such a way that was, in a word, ordinary. Not many surprises. Sort of the typical thing we had done all summer long. To kick things up a notch, we had started doing this little surprise song at the very end of the set – 45 seconds or so of the old hymn "This is the Day" played at a blisteringly punk rock tempo. It caught people a little off guard, but the general response was smiles and cheers. We enjoyed it as well, even though we hadn't quite got it perfect yet. Ideally, the song is played in the key of E major, an important fact that becomes more important shortly.
So there we are, at the end of the set, sort of trash-canning out of the end of "Sing Like" and making a general racket.* It is at this point that David picked up his electric guitar and started in on the opening chords of the final number. Immediately, I (Hogan) knew that something was amiss. I knew, in the very fiber of my being, that this was not the right key.
A little back-story – This happened once before. Instead of playing the song in E, he accidentally started playing in D. It was not a huge deal, and we were able to regroup in a timely and nearly professional fashion. There was no train wreck. There were no casualties.
This, however, was different, and we knew it. For one, it didn't sound like the key of D. It sounded like something else entirely. But if history was any indication, D was a logical place to start playing, which is what I did. It wasn't right. Then David began singing, and this is where things got really complicated. He was playing in one (mystery) key but singing in another (mystery) key.
Let me say that again. He was playing in one key, and singing in another. This should be nearly impossible – but there it was. Right there for all of us to witness. And here I was in a third key. Now, by the time we realized what was going on, the song was half over. The drums came in, pounding away like there is no tomorrow. I began to doubt my decision, and returned to the key of E, thinking maybe I was wrong all along. I wasn't. I was still wrong, and I was now completely lost and just sawing away. But a band is not just two people. (Clarification – some bands are in fact just two people.) Jack was lost as well, and decided his best course of action was to split the difference and play in E flat. For some reason Mark began to chug away in the key of F. Mike D just gave up and quit playing. Back at the soundboard, unbeknownst to us on stage, the sound guy for Toby Mac turned to our sound guy and asked, "Dude, what did you just do?" Later that night, when the dust had cleared, Crowder confessed that he was playing in F sharp.
We never figured out what key he was singing in.
Now lets look at this. By my count we managed to cover between five and six keys all at the same time, one of which was and is still a mystery. Back in the early days of the twentieth century a guy by the name of Arnold Schoenberg got the idea that he wanted to abolish the accepted system of tonality that all of us in the Western world declare as truth. To do this he developed something called the 12-tone system, which consisted more of mathematical equations and patterns than it did of actual melody. Truth be told, it is almost devoid of melody and nearly unlistenable, even if it is elegant in its execution. It took him years to develop, and to this day music students suffer untold misery trying to analyze his compositions. But this is where the advanced part comes in – We managed to pull it off with no planning in a mere 45 seconds.
Was it a meltdown of epic scope, or was it the most advanced thing we ever did? Who knows? But it will all make sense in the future.
* A trashcan ending is where everyone makes a bunch of noise all at the same time with little regard to rhythm or time signature in order to punctuate the end of a song or a show. It can also serve as a transition into another song, which is its purpose in this scenario.