The Church of Martin Sexton
“Are you livin the life that you always dreamed of?”
Welcome to Brother Martin’s traveling salvation show.
Worship services are commonly held in a theater. Last weekend I was blessed to have attended twice: at the Majestic in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Fitzgerald in St. Paul, Minnesota.
We rocked and rolled and filled our souls.
As far as I can tell, the main tenets of the Church of Martin are Peace and Love, Unity, Freedom, and Dreams.
Chasing your dreams.
Dreams of freedom?
We give thanks to failure in the Church of Martin, for it can make dreams come true. The dreams that choose me and you.
Brother Martin calls out to Jesus, Allah, the Higher Power, and the Universe to help us in our journey.
He gives us this meditation: Hop the dog!
You gotta hop the dog.
Say it for about three hours straight, so you can equate: Hop the doggy!
Can you feel it? Hop the dog!
Hop the dog-gy!
“Know what I’m talking about? When I say, ‘hop the doggy?’”
“Sometimes, we get these little hurdles in our way. You gotta hop the dog, (yeah I say), you gotta hop the dog, (yeah I say), you gotta hop the doggy, and then, everything will be okay now!”
On Sunday, Martin called on us to remember the dreams we had as children. He said his first dream was to be a fireman. And his second, to be a singer.
When I was young, I remember saying I wanted to be a cowboy or an author. Maybe I also wanted to be an astronaut?
Collections in the Church of Martin aren’t too onerous. Reasonably-priced concert tickets from $20-$35. Thin $25 t-shirts that you’ll wear with pride. Every couple of years you put a few bucks in the plate for a new record. The record gives you back far more than it costs. It will make you feel good although it may make you ache with the dream of freedom and the desire to share something as beautiful in turn.
Your baptism is your first live show. When Martin walks out on that stage, you can feel the love and adoration filling the room. He has presence.
Following the teachings of Martin… I want to quit my job and “live out of a VW bus for a year or two”… Well, not that second part, necessarily, but for sure the first part. The corporate job I have right now is far from my dream. It just pays the bills. It provides some small amount of security and comfort. And that’s what responsible people do, right? They grind along for thirty to forty years, paying the bills.
who made all these rules anyway?they play us for foolsbut some of us break freewhen you grow up what will you be?
I want to be a writer.
I am a writer, but I want to make a living with my words.
When I saw that Martin Sexton was coming through the Midwest on his Sugarcoating tour, there was no question I’d go to the Twin Cities show. And then seeing he was playing in Madison the night before, I told my most favorite cousin Feffer that she should go see the show. She was not familiar with The Word, and was skeptical, so I had to drive 300 miles in the rain to attend to the proselytization in person.
What made this tour even more exciting was that the Ryan Montbleau Band was opening and backing Martin. I became a fan when Ryan opened solo for Martin in 2008 at the Fitzgerald, and went to shows twice in 2009 when they came through Minneapolis. Even braving zombies to see the guys play.
Martin, RMB, and visiting my most favorite cousin Fef made it totally worthwhile to drive out for one night. The shows always go by so fast, what with the testifying and the speaking in tongues and all, that it would be good to get a double dose.
Here are acolytes of Brother Martin, the Ryan Montbleau Band, opening at the Majestic Theater:
They played okay that night. I wasn’t swept away. The sound wasn’t the best for me. Expectations too high? I over-think things and focus on distractions and get all wrapped up in my head. It wasn’t a bad performance. The crowd was into it and I enjoyed it.
I’d picked up a new mantra the night before from a fortune cookie: “Let reality be reality…,” and thinking about that helped to get me into the moment more as the night went on, but I didn’t dig the opening invocation as much as I hoped. (Sorry, guys.)
The next night in the Fitzgerald, they sounded fantastic in the opening set. Crystal clear. Almost all different songs, which was cool for the variety (although note they didn’t play “Variety” on either night), and it was wonderful.
(I made an embarrassing mistake in the litany during “75 and Sunny,” but I’m sure it will be forgiven.)
And then… Brother Marty.
Here he is in front of some rapturous followers at the Majestic:
I love this man and his music. He has an amazing, supernatural gift.
Both shows were transcendental. Two nice, different theaters, with different crowds and vibes. RMB performed beautifully in their backing role. They jammed together so well on tunes like Station Man, Beast in Me, and Diggin’ Me. I loved hearing some interstitial Zeppelin on both nights.
I think I managed to get lost in the moment more on the first night in Madison, although I liked the Fitzgerald stage and sound more.
At the Fitzgerald, I was distracted by heretics sitting next to me in the front row. Two guys, they seemed to be snickering about one thing or another through the show. They weren’t worshiping appropriately. It took me out of it a little bit. Remember that I get distracted by petty things. My annoyance was in discord with Brother Martin’s message of unity and harmony.
I still had a great time and enjoyed the show very much, and it went by far too fast. He’s such an entertainer. He had us laughing when he kept stumbling on one of the new songs, “Long Haul.” I couldn’t tell if the “mistakes” were intentional or not, but he cracked us up with a story about how he was distracted thinking about some truckers at Mickey’s Diner and how they had all ordered the same thing for dinner, and then he transformed the song into a soul version. The night before he had played it straight in the country style of the album. I loved both renditions, and the fun he had with the crowd.
(I meant: the congregation.)
I’ve observed in live shows and on YouTube that there always seems to be a lava lamp on the stage/altar. I’m not sure what the significance of this votive offering is, but it happens that while I was away in Madison, my wife had picked up a small lava lamp to use as a night light for our daughter. “Seeing the light” at home and at the show again in St. Paul led me to get one for my writing altar. I don’t think it’s required of the faithful, and I don’t know that it has magic powers of freedom, but it certainly is a groovy cool thing to look at, right? And it reminds me of why I’m sitting at this desk. Of the dream I gotta learn to chase.
I couldn’t find a way to fit this smoothly into the narrative of this post, but I wanted to share this prayer that I didn’t appreciate until chanting it in church in both services:
Take hold of me Blessed powers that be Love keep us together
And close with Martin’s call for peace and love to you all, and this dream of freedom from the new album:
on the edge of a cliff I’m standing staring into the clear blue sky and I feel the wind take hold of me and I just take off and fly