Salvation Sings

The Avett Brothers concert I went to Friday night was a spiritual experience.

I was moved in all 3 planes of the existential axis: mind, body, and soul.



The Avett Brothers play at Pier Six Pavillion in Baltimore on Friday. I don’t remember which song this was, but check out those seats!

The psychologist William James was influential in shaping the spiritual program of Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact, he’s credited in Appendix 2 of the Big Book for classifying an educational variety of spiritual experience that occurs as learning over time. A spiritual experience requires a mental shift.

Many Avett songs teach lessons. Songs that change the way you think. Take one sang Friday:

For all I know there’s more I don’t,

Oh the little I have learned.

For every year of knowledge gained,

Is a negative year I’ve earned.”

“Backwards with Time” is a little ditty packed with wisdom. As we grow old, our reasonable lives gray the colorful dreams of our youth. The post “Story Time” and poem “Screen-less Dreams” reflected on this. A child’s purposeful imagination is a beautiful thing.

It is sound advice to stay young at heart, and a spiritual experience must move the mind.


According to the Book of Acts, Saul’s conversion to the Apostle Paul began when he was thrown from his horse. I won’t claim the same sacredness occurred at Friday’s concert. I doubt the Avetts would appreciate such a claim either, as they sing from “pride that my mother had, and not like the kind in the Bible that turns you bad.”

I only reference the road to Damascus to make the point that a physical movement exists in spiritual experiences.

My step-brother-in-law (our genealogy resembles a bush, not a tree; I lose track of the branches) scored us front row tickets. It was a physical experience; we danced, we sang, we sweat. I even caught Seth Avett staring at me while I sang along. He smiled. At the end of the song, he said “we sure appreciate y’all singing along with us tonight.”

We were so close that when the band threw memorabilia into the crowd after the concert ended, they pelted my step-nephew-in-law (is that the right branch?) in the temple with a crumpled-up copy of the set list.

The set list, de-crumpled, no longer projectile and proof of that the we physically engaged with the music.

The set list, de-crumpled, no longer a projectile, and proof that we were physically engaged with the music.

A spiritual experience moves the body.


The hardest existential axis to describe is the soul. It’s kind of like the word cool: often used but rarely defined. I’ll turn to poet Khalil Gibran. In The Prophet, the character Almustafa was asked to describe self-knowledge:

Say not, ‘I have found the path of the soul,’ Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path.’

For the soul walks upon all paths.”

The music of the Avett Brothers helped bring my wife and me together. We’ve filled car rides with dueling interpretations of lyrics. She sees “And It Spread” as a narrative on losing one love then finding another, whereas I see it as a testimony to the way joy expands us past our isolation.

She can’t understand how my favorite Avett’s song is “Color Show.” I don’t know why her favorite is “The Ballad of Love and Hate.”

While we are on unique paths, I cannot separate my soul from hers. The physical proof is in these children we’re raising. They share our attributes while growing into their unique little selves.

My wife reveals my soul. I have “met the soul walking upon my path.”

On the car ride home, we reeled from the spiritual high of a front-row Avett concert. It was a soul-fest.

And, of course, a spiritual experience must move the soul.

There was a drunk man in the second row causing a scene during the first few songs. Everyone was relieved when he passed out. He slept for the duration of the concert and served as a great reminder. I am no different from him after all.

Only sober am I able to mark the growth of my soul. Only sober do I experience the miracle of the mundane.

6 Responses to “Salvation Sings

  • Great review! They put on an awesome show. My “claim to fame” (tongue firmly in cheek) is that a good friend of mine is good friends with Joe Kwon. I remember my first concert sober: My Morning Jacket. I was amazed at NOT spending the evening in the beer or urinal lines. Euphoria!

    • HD! I love my morning jacket. We’ll have a lot to talk about tomorrow! Averts a group that is better live than on record. Just as crisp but still improvisational. And… The energy is INSANE. Thats a great claim to fame. Send your friend my link! I sent up a prayer that the band might read this. That’d make my day!

  • I don’t know the band, but I can relate with your experience. I think your essay is quite profound, actually. The mind-body-spirit connection has been something people have long pondered; I imagine many prophets did such pondering to music. It’s interesting—listening to (good) music is the closest thing I know that comes to using drugs (the “good” parts). What I mean is that good music can move me outside of myself. It is, in every sense of the term, ecstatic. I’m glad you encouraged me to read this piece. (I have trouble keeping up sometimes.)

    Your time at the concert certainly seems to have moved you . . . perhaps even put you “under the influence” of something greater than yourself! (And in a completely drug- and alcohol-free way too.)

    Nicely written, Mark. Thank you.

    – DDM

  • I and Love and You (both)

  • I love this!
    I am more in love with my husband of almost 40 years, now that I am sober.
    I did meet him on a path…in 11th grade of high school!

    • Wow, that story-the high school romance-is less and less common it seems. That is something to absolutely cherish!

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