Show Review: To Write Love On Her Arms – ‘Heavy And Light’

TWLOHA event

Venue – House Of Blues
Location – Orlando, FL
Date – January 31st, 2015

“Your story is important. No one else can play your part.”

For anyone who has ever attended a ‘Heavy And Light‘ show, you know it’s not your average concert. The event is hosted by To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit organization founded in 2006, which aims to present hope for people who may be struggling with depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts, among other things.

I truly was completely unsure what to expect from the event, I was excited at the fact that one of my all time favorite vocalists and lyricists was performing, but I had little to no idea at what we were all in store for.

The night began with an introductory video describing what tonight was about, reading “This is not a benefit show, this is not “come on out for a good cause”, we aren’t here to “raise awareness”. This is an attempt to move you.”. After the video ended, the crowd was greeted by spoken word poet, Sierra DeMulder who proceeded by reading three poems to the crowd. I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by spoken word poetry, and at how the poet is able to provoke such extreme emotion from the audience. What Sierra DeMulder did was more than just tell poems, she projected a variety of images and emotions with nothing more than words on paper. The *show* itself hadn’t even started, and I was already intrigued and anxious to see what was still to come.

The first musical artist of the night was singer/songwriter, Matthew Perryman Jones. I truthfully was not very familiar with Jones’ music at all, I had never actually heard anything other than the mention of his name once or twice before seeing him perform. Jones had a somewhat interesting southern-like twist to his brand of indie/folk music, in fact if someone told me he sang country music on the side I would not be surprised in the least bit. While Jones’ music isn’t exactly my preferred style, I definitely enjoyed his set, and after looking up some of his songs I’ve come to admire and respect his lyrical style.

When Jones finished his set, TWLOHA founder Jamie Tworkowski came out on stage and addressed the crowd, as well as thanking them for coming out. After a few moments he was joined by his nephew Landon, who very enthusiastically introduced the next musical act to perform, The Summer Set.

The Summer Set are one of those bands whose name I had heard hundreds of times over the years, but for whatever reason never took the time to listen too. Truthfully I’m not a fan of pop rock music whatsoever, a lot of it having to do with the subject/lyrical matter that’s usually portrayed. However, there was something different with The Summer Set, their music actually felt genuine to me, which is something I rarely find with other bands/artists in the genre. The Summer Set were very obviously a favorite in Orlando, as I could see the crowd dancing and singing along to every word of every song. In the end the thing that won me over was the band ending their song with a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror”. To me, there are usually certain artists I think shouldn’t be covered, because their music is so unique and monumental, that an cover would be a waste. I’ve never found a Michael Jackson cover performed by any band I’ve ever enjoyed, at least up until this point, The Summer Set absolutely nailed the cover in almost every aspect, it was by far one of the highlights of the event for the entire crowd.

Up next was one of my personal favorite musicians, Dustin Kensrue. Words cannot describe just how anxious and excited I was to see Kensrue perform, most people know him best as the singer for the band Thrice, who are one of the main reasons why I started writing and playing music. This is was my fourth time seeing him perform live, but it was the first time as a solo artist, the last being Thrice’s ‘farewell’ tour 3 years prior in the same venue. There are very few singers, and musicians in general who can write as well as, and in the way that he does. A lot of Kensrue’s lyrics are Christian oriented, but one of my favorite things about his music is that even if you completely disagree with what he’s saying, you can’t help but admire and respect the way in which he writes it. Even with his ‘worship’ music, it’s never held back to fit a set standard for church services, it’s still ‘music’ in itself. Kensrue started his set with the opening track to his solo album, ‘Pistol’, which was a great way to start off, considering how enthusiastic the crowd got when his harmonica parts were going on. One of the most interesting parts of the entire night, was Kensrue’s choice of covering ‘Buzzcut Season’ by Lorde, and despite me being the farthest thing in the world to a Lorde fan, I was still intrigued by his spin on the song. But by far the absolute highlight of the night for me, was when he played the Thrice song, ‘Words In The Water’, which is one of my favorite songs ever written. To me, the song is perfect balance between darkness and beauty. Kensrue announced during his set that his long awaited solo album, ‘Carry The Fire’ will be released on April 21st. Which reminds me………… it April 21st yet?

At this time, founder Jamie Tworkowski came back out to the stage to speak with the crowd one last time. He followed by talking about the organization’s real life movie which is going to come out on March 1st, and then proceeded to show the movie trailer, as well as a sneak peak of one of the scenes. After the scene ended, he said a few final words, and then introduced the final musical performer of the night, Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot.

I honestly was never really much of a Switchfoot fan personally, but I always respected them. I liked that even though they were a Christian band, their music still reached out farther than that, which I personally find to be just as, if not more important. It was blatantly obvious the Orlando crowd holds a lot of love for Foreman and Switchfoot, it isn’t very often that I’ve seen such a strong connection between an artist and the crowd they’re performing for, that extra spark. About midway through their set the band played the Switchfoot song, ‘Dare You To Move’, which was by far the most lively the crowd was the entire night, there wasn’t a person in the crowd I didn’t see singing along to the words. Foreman’s band finished their set with a cover of Bill Withers’ ‘Lean On Me’, which thinking back now, was an appropriate way to finish.

A minute or so after Jon Foreman’s band finished their set, they came back out on stage, inviting all of the artists who had performed throughout the night to join them on stage for a final cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Learning To Fly. For those last five minutes or so, there wasn’t a single person in the venue who was standing still, or who wasn’t smiling, it was the absolute perfect way to end the evening. And with one final bow, the musicians, TWLOHA owner and staff thanked the crowd, and exited the stage.

Overall this was one of the most fun concerts/events I’ve ever attended, and I thoroughly recommend anyone who reads this to think about attending the next time one is announced.

But as great as the music was, and as much fun as the whole night was, it’s not the main purpose behind these events. No one ever likes to talk about dark things like depression, addiction, suicide, self harm, but to quote Dustin Kensrue, “Sometimes we have to bring out the dark to truly see the light.”.

Jon Foreman setlist

1)Before Our Time
2)Resurrect Me
3)Only Hope (Switchfoot cover)
5)Dare You To Move (Switchfoot cover)
7)Royal (Lorde cover)
8)You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are
9)Your Love Is Strong
10)Lean On Me (Bill Withers cover)
11)Learning To Fly (Tom Petty cover/ final jam)

Dustin Kensrue setlist

2)A Song For Milly Michaelson (Thrice cover)
3)I Knew You Before
4)Buzzcut Season (Lorde cover)
5)There’s Something Dark Inside Of Me
6)Words In The Water (Thrice cover)
7)Down There By The Train (Tom Waits Cover)

Matthew Perryman Jones setlist

1)Top Of The World (Patty Griffin cover)
2)Can’t Get It Right
3)O Theo
4)Save You