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Live at the Doug Fir Lounge
Portland, Oregon
May 11, 2012

I'm going to tell you to do something you're going to think is half crazy. Go buy the new Alcoholic Faith Mission album, Ask Me This, listen to it and then toss it aside and go see these guys live. I did it backwards. I saw them and then heard the album and wish I would have heard the album first (I could have but was unaware) because what I heard last night at The Doug Fir Lounge was a whole other band than what I heard later on the long drive home. I mean, the people were the same, but... After mulling it over the whole weekend, I have come to the conclusion that Alcoholic Faith Mission is, in fact, two bands--- one which thrives in the studio and one which explodes on stage. The band I saw played the same songs as that album band but with an intensity I have seldom seen. Maybe that is what the “mission” is all about. Maybe they are out to convert us. If so, in my case, they succeeded.

Maybe it is just me or maybe I saw this band at just the right moment but I don't think so. I think--- no, I truly believe--- that what I saw was one of those great moments in music. Like Pink Floyd on The Wall tour. Like The Who on the Tommy tour. Like David Bowie and The Spiders From Mars. Last Friday night, Alcoholic Faith Mission was in the same league and I was not the only one who thought so. Three others were as stunned as I was--- well, almost--- and based upon this one performance, a bond formed between us. Cory lives in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois and was in town for a convention of some kind and the lady with him, Emma, works in Seattle at the PBS station and drove down for a visit. Jonathan is from Kentucky and was visiting a friend who had recently moved to Portland. I couldn't help but wonder if anyone at the show lived in or around Portland, but it didn't really matter. Music doesn't care who you are or where you're from and the music that night bound us all together with our wonder at what we had just experienced.

Obviously, Alcoholic Faith Mission is one of those bands which are so much more than just their music. And given the fact that music is the only means we have as humans to bridge the gap that is growing between us, they are necessary, admit it or not. We are forgetting how to relate to one another, I am afraid. This strange new world is sucking the very life right out of us. Outside of sex, music seems the only chance left. Case in point. I was not the only one there and I was not the only one who realized what an incredible moment we were experiencing. There was an unspoken bond. Music does that sometimes.

Here are the things I learned Friday night: Alcoholic Faith Mission is one hell of a band. Kristine Permild's voice is better live than on record (and it is damn outstanding on record). When six musicians get on the same wavelength and work hard, they sometimes come to a point of synergy--- that point at which there is no resistance--- a musical state of grace. When a band knows what it is doing, the venue matters little. AFM should be playing arenas or stadiums, yet they nailed the sound in a small lounge (thanks in no small part to their sound man, who was freaking amazing). When a band has fun, it is infectious. Music breaks down barriers.

I know that doesn't sound like much, but it is everything. I came out of The Doug Fir Lounge walking on clouds. Not only was I not tired (and I should have been, as ancient as I am), I was wondering if I would be able to sleep at all when I got home. I listened to the copy of Ask Me This the band's road manager gave me all the way home. The sound must have been excellent because it was really loud at times and yet there was no hearing loss at all, no ringing of the ears. I was at first disappointed that the album was not as powerful on record as it was live, but easily adjusted. It is a magnificent album, flowing and powerful at the same time, and soothing and beautiful.

But it isn't live. You have to go see these guys to get that. If you get a chance, do it. They'll blow you away.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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