Courage and Risk

Music and Healing

Is it worth the risk?

Am I willing to be hurt?

Am I willing to be judged?

These, my friends, are important questions. And these self-reflective inquiries relate directly to artists and the creative process. In fact, I would say, the fact that my artist friends are willing to wade through these questions, make their art, and have the courage to put it out there is part of why I admire them so much. Sharing your creative expression involves risk. It just does, especially if that expression is personal and honest.

Why is this case? Why does sharing art put the artist at risk? It’s pretty simple actually. Honest artistic expression is the artist putting an element of themselves out on display. It is revealing a piece of their hearts for other folks to see… and perhaps judge or scrutinize. Yeah, creating honest art is risky business.

I think of Derek Webb, an artist and entrepreneur that has had an incredible impact on me personally. While he would tell you he has certainly made his share of mistakes, he has been willing to take risk after risk musically, lyrically, career-wise, and more. He pushed the boundaries of “Christian music” and sang about things that other “Christian” artists wouldn’t touch, even though he knew it would impact his bottom line and the breadth of his fan base. Courage.

I think of Field Report’s Chris Porterfield and his raw, soul-bearing songwriting. You can hear the brokenness, the personal folly, and the pain throughout Field Report’s self-titled debut album. Porterfield was willing to put all of that out there in a permanent record for anyone’s perusal and/or scrutiny. Courage.

I think of Sayth, the preeminent locally-rooted rapper here in the Valley. He has used his immense talent to share his story of struggle and pain. He has been explicit about his homosexuality and the grief and sorrow he has experienced at the hands of folks who have hated him for it. Courage.

I am not an artist, at least not in the classical sense. But, I can relate to that risk. In fact, in various ways, I’m sure you can too. Any time you choose to speak up, you take the risk. Whenever you cultivate a new idea and choose to share it, you take the risk. That time you’re called on to present information, yes, that can involve the same risk. And, in each of those circumstances, it takes courage to step up to the plate, meet the challenge, and take the risk.

I am a risk taker by nature. It’s just part of who I am. But, I’ve been burnt enough times to know the risk really well… intimately, painfully well. And yet, when I am faced with taking the risk, oftentimes it is the artist than inspires me to move forward. It is the self-revelatory bravery from artists like Field Report, Derek Webb, and Sayth that push me to “screw my courage to the sticking place,” buck up, and do what I need to do… what I am built to do… what my heart longs to do.

Feeling Fine and Being Fine

Music and Healing

I’ve read between the lines,

And I have been wrong every time,

Been burned up on the altar,

But I am fine

For some reason, these lyrics from Field Report‘s I Am Not Waiting Anymore have always resonated with me. I’ve been drawn to the irony of describing how wrong you can be, being consumed in flames, and yet being (not necessarily feeling) fine at the same time. While these words have always been poignant and provocative for me, they have taken on a measure of personal connection with me as I reflect on 2015 thus far.

This has been a tumultuous year in not only my life, but in the lives of so many people I care deeply about. The faith community that I’ve been a part of for eight years imploded in February, and the aftershocks just keep coming. Relationships have been lost. Things we thought we knew have been called into question. Motives have come under fire. People have left. Leaders have abandoned the folks they were charged to care for.

When the implosion started, I was terribly disoriented. I felt like what had felt like a solid bedrock foundation had all of the sudden become shaky. In fact, at times, it felt like I was standing in quicksand. With all of that uncertainty, it was easy for me to sit back and try to make sense of what was happening. This is natural, of course, especially because solid information was hard to come by back then. And even now, even with some solid information, there are folks, due to their loyalties to this person or that person, who dispute the validity of what seems pretty obviously and objectively true.

I’ve read between the lines,

And I have been wrong every time

In the middle of such tumult, I have made assumptions about people, including the ones I just described. As I’ve tried to draw conclusions based on snippets and stories, it has been easy at times to assign motive and intent to those involved, whether I’m thinking of the leaders who left or people who are still around who have chosen sides in our conflicts. In other words, “I’ve read between the lines…” Now, maybe I haven’t been wrong “every time,” but I’m quite sure I’ve been wrong a lot. And, the main point is that I cannot actually know anyone’s motives or intent for anything they say or do. This is just the truth. God is the only One who really knows our motives. Geez, I have to admit that my own motives are mixed sometimes, and I can so easily delude myself into thinking otherwise that I can’t even trust that I know my own motives at times.

Because of that, making such assumptions, reading between the lines if you will, bears no good fruit. All it does is create suspicion and the feeling that folks are out to get you. And, ultimately, when such dynamics are in place, relationships are broken. So, even if the substance of my assumptions have not necessarily “been wrong every time,” the very fact that I’m harboring assumptions is, in fact, wrong, every time.

Been burned up at the altar…

When things started going south quickly, I stepped in to help where I could. I am built to lead and care for people. And we were so hurt and disoriented that it only made sense to me to jump into the fray. And, it was my pleasure to do so. I felt like it was a divine calling, in fact. I had several opportunities to speak on Sunday mornings. More importantly, I was able to sit with lots of people who were hurting and hear their stories. At times, the pain was almost overwhelming… consuming even. At times, I felt like I was being “burned up on the altar” as I was processing my own pain while helping others walk through theirs. In fact, this whole narrative, which is still very much in progress/process can still be consuming. I still can very much feel like I’m being burned on the altar. In those moments, I would be lying if I said that I felt fine.

But I am fine…

Thankfully, feeling fine and being fine are two different things. “Feeling fine” has been fairly rare, especially early on. There has been a lot of grief, anger, sorrow, and overall pain. And yet, in the middle of all of that, I have been fine. One of the elements of these lyrics that I love is that the songwriter doesn’t say he is feeling fine. He says, despite being wrong, despite being burned, “I am fine.”

For me, that is the truth as well. Despite all of the pain, I am fine. I have my beautiful family. I have wonderful friends. I live in a great city. I have a place to lay my head, food on the table, and so, so much more. More important than all that, my faith is intact. In fact, it has grown stronger through all this. So, even though my feelings have said otherwise at times, I am fine. I am actually better than fine.

The Emotive, Provocative Music of Field Report

Artist Focus, Live Shows, Music and Healing, Poignant Songs, TS10


I’m spending some time with Field Report’s new album, Marigolden, this morning. This is a new relationship and I’m just becoming acquainted with the album, but I think we’re going to be good friends. It is rich, full, provocative, and emotive. And Christopher Porterfield’s odd analogies and word pictures are ever present.

I will never forget the first time I heard Field Report. In February of 2013, Kalispell, Shane Leonard’s project, was set to play a backstage concert at the State Theater here in Eau Claire. I was super excited about this show, as Shane’s music and friendship has played a central role in the beginning of my personal passion for and investment in locally-rooted music. As the day of the concert approached, Field Report was added to the show as the headliner. I was actually pretty disappointed. I didn’t know who they were and I wanted Shane to have the longest set that night. Thankfully, I was in for a very pleasant surprise that night.

From the time Porterfield and the rest of the band took the stage, they owned it. And, it wasn’t about showmanship. It was about the honesty and vulnerability of their music. As my wife said after the show, Porterfield has a lot to say, and he has no problem saying it. And these things he has to say are filled with passion, pain, suffering, and emotion. He also has a creative and descriptive way of saying them. The first time I heard him sing “pound that pussy (as in, “full of puss,” to be clear), bloody cyst off with a weather-treated two by four”(parentheses mine), that image grabbed a spot in my brain and it’s still there. I’m not sure why that 2X4 has to be weather-treated, or why it is the best prescription for that nasty cyst. However, that imagery has obviously stuck with me, even impacted me.

Those lyrics are from Chico the American, from Field Report’s debut, self-titled album, which is featured on this week’s TS10. After hearing them play at the State that night, I began listening to that album non-stop. It is home to so many poignant songs. Some are quite painful just to listen to… Porterfield’s lyrics are transparently honest and vulnerable. He has no problem baring his shortcomings for the listener, letting us in to his complex emotional world. That kind of vulnerability is, in my mind, Field Report’s biggest draw. I have been challenged, provoked, and saddened by what he has to share.

As much as I have fallen in love with that first record and songs like Fergus Falls, I Am Not Waiting Anymore, Taking Alcatraz, and Chico the American, I am really excited about the new album, Marigolden. As I listen this morning, I am again drawn into the gritty vulnerability. The lyrics and musical moods are still emotive, still painful, still brutally honest. Porterfield’s creative word and image choices are still there. And yet, it feels like there is a musical progression from the Field Report album. The music feels a little richer, deeper. While I  cannot comment on the technical reasons why this may be, I can definitively say that the band seems to have brought something of themselves to this album that wasn’t there on the first one. I am eager to become better acquainted with what lies in Marigolden.

The future seems to be very bright for Field Report. Marigolden has been met with much critical acclaim. They already have a national following that is continually growing. Just this morning, the band announced that they will be touring with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy in Europe beginning in January, which is no small thing.

As their popularity grows, the likelihood of them playing small, local venues continues to ebb. That’s why YOU should get out and see them this Friday night at House of Rock. Aero Flynn and another band (TBD) will be supporting them. The show starts at 9:30 and is only $10 in advance. You can purchase tickets here. If you can make it out, you will NOT regret it!


Field Report’s "Taking Alcatraz"… To Simply Exist or to Truly Live?

Poignant Songs
Christopher PorterfieldChristopher Porterfield is a gifted storyteller, weaving grit with vibrant imagery throughout Field Report’s self-titled album. My favorite song on that record is “Taking Alcatraz.” Now, to be honest, I’m not quite sure what the song is really all about. It feels, however, like there is the consistent element of a desire to cause a little trouble, to take a risk. The first verse refers to a potential effort to conquer Alcatraz. The second verse describes the singer’s desire to tick off some bikers and “see what happens then.”
While all of this trouble-making talk is fun, it’s the bridge and the chorus that really speaks to me.
And if we die here, at least we’ll make the choice
 and if we’re fine here, we can tell the boys
that a line in the sand don’t matter if you don’t care;
that a bird in the hand is worthless if you’re too scared.
“…if we die here, at least we’ll make the choice…” There is something in this sentiment that speaks deeply to me. It’s better to die than to not really live in the first place… to play it safe and not take a risk. I love this. It feels like I experience, time and again, these crossroads moments in life in which I have to choose the safe, known path or the unknown path that leads to deeper fulfillment, to a fuller life. Yes, the choice of the unknown involves risk. Yeah, it can be scary. But, the alternative is to stay stuck, stay safe, and never experience all that life can be.
“…and if we’re fine here, we can tell the boys that…” After the risk is taken, after the fear is faced, a testimony is born. Now, the person taking the risk can help others see the value in taking a risk, in living dangerously from time to time.
And then there are my favorite two lines in the song… “a line in the sand don’t matter, if you don’t care… a bird in the hand is worthless if you’re too scared.” There is deep, deep truth here for the listener. Daily life involves choices. Each choice is an opportunity to be fully engaged in life or to find a way to isolate and disengage emotionally. Many choices will involve a safe option and a risky option. Not caring and being too scared are choices that lead to death, honestly. There is no real life in those two choices. Full life comes from caring deeply and taking risks.
I don’t know if Porterfield waxed philosophic like this when he was writing “Taking Alcatraz.” I do know, however, that the lyrics stir me up. They encourage me. They resonate with my desire to live big, to take risks, to not settle for less than the full life I was built to live.

An Introduction

General Thoughts


Three summers ago, my family and I had the opportunity to hear Adelyn Rose play a set at Volume One’s  Sounds Like Summer series at Phoenix Park. That experience, quite literally, changed my life. I was immediately taken in by the emotional intensity of their music. They were unique. They were special. I became a fan instantly.

As great as that performance was, it wasn’t their music, instrumentation, presentation, or lyrical content that profoundly affected me, even though I enjoyed all of those things immensely. No, it was that, for the first time in my time in Eau Claire, I caught a glimpse of the incredible musical talent that resides here. Adelyn Rose’s performance that warm summer day served as a gateway for me, a gateway that would open the way for me to experience other bands like Kalispell, The Daredevil Christopher Wright, Bon Iver, and Field Report.

In 2012, I began writing posts for the Visit Eau Claire blog ( and Volume One ( Much of what I have written has been focused on local musicians or musical events. As I have done these pieces and connected with local musicians, my passion for the music scene here in the Chippewa Valley has only increased… dramatically.

This site, Tomme Suab, is an outgrowth of that passion. I want you to hear what I hear. I want you to be surprised by the unpredictability of The Daredevil Christopher Wright’s album, “The


Nature of Things”. I want you to hear the intense, sometimes brooding quality of Addie Strei’s vocals in Adelyn Rose’s work. I want you to feel the warmth and appreciate the craftsmanship of Kalispell’s “Westbound” (which has become one of my favorite albums of all time). There is so much talent here and my heart is for gifted local artists to have the opportunity to be heard by as large an audience as possible.

So, here we are. In upcoming posts, I intend to share about upcoming events and record releases, as well as other local music-oriented subjects. Occasionally, I’ll throw in something about a non-local band or record, but the main emphasis here will be on the wealth of talent that lives right here.