When was there a concert in Madison where the musician laid down a percussion track by tapping on the official Madison city bird with a wooden spoon? It happened, Sunday morning, June 12 at the Mitch McVicker concert at Metro Believers Church.
McVicker, a talented songwriter and performer, worked with two microphones. One was connected to a loop sequencer that recorded and played back audio loops, sometimes recording McVicker’s vocal effects or a kazoo but more often a litany of percussion effects. These were made by tapping on such unrelated household items as a toilet seat, a pitcher or even a plastic flamingo (Madison’s official city bird-seriously), crushing a just-emptied plastic water bottle, squeezing a squeaky pink pig plush toy or a rubber chicken, or banging together the two pieces of a princess touch-tone phone, all grabbed from the table behind him.
Sounds strange, looks weird, but surprisingly effective in providing an instrumental background to McVicker’s songs, further accompanied by guitar, harmonica, banjo or ukulele.
McVicker tours extensively (2200 concerts in 49 states and 13 foreign countries according to his website). His current tour started the previous day in Black River Falls and features 37 concerts in 22 states through the end of August.
In addition to his musicianship, McVicker is remembered in Christian music circles for the extensive injuries he suffered in a 1997 motor vehicle accident on an Interstate highway in central Illinois that was fatal for his friend and musical collaborator Rich Mullins. I was returning from a New Orleans conference the following day with my WNWC radio colleague Mark Croom and remember at some point passing the accident scene, although it had been totally cleared by that time. I wondered what he would say about the accident.
To begin his second song, McVicker laid down his percussion with a plastic sprinkling can, a metal hubcap, a book and several other items, then launched into “My Deliverer,” a song that he had co-written with Mullins which became the GMA Dove Award Song of the Year in 1999. By the end of the song he had the audience singing the repetitive chorus, “My Deliverer is coming, My Deliverer is standing by.”
He talked briefly about their friendship as he introduced the song. “And then I was in a car wreck that killed Rich,” he said. “A lot of people miss him.”
After the song he talked further about the loss of his friend and the long recovery from his own injuries.
“None of it made sense to me,” he said. “But God isn’t concerned about making sense. God is about his purposes. God takes us through that which we would never choose on our own. God’s faithfulness remains.”
It’s not too common for a church to give away its whole Sunday service for a concert from a visiting musician but McVicker’s observations between songs were sermon-worthy. Reflecting on the mobiles that had been placed over his children’s cribs when they were little to lull them to sleep he added, “We get numb and are lulled to sleep” often as adults by the activity swirling around us.
Later he cautioned about seeing the world as made up of the lost and found, the saint and the sinner rather than “the Gospel of And, the Gospel of God’s entirety,” and about seeing Jesus as “the friend of sinners,” not those sinners but us sinners.
Metro Believers Church is a non-denominational, evangelical, charismatic church that began in Madison 21 years ago. After meeting in a gym at the westside Princeton Club for many years, the congregation moved across the beltline last fall to 575 D’Onofrio Drive. After the McVicker concert, the congregation was invited to a taco lunch from the Sabor Regio taco truck.