Stealing Grapes

buryyourbulletsBut one day I’ll be free again to roam these city streets.
You can come along and we will curse the ones we meet.
We won’t overdose this time on peace and love and hope,
‘cuz we all know the man owns our souls.

I think we’ll be just fine.
I think we’ll be just fine.
As long as we’ve got Jesus and these California waves,
I think we’ll be just fine.

Mark Bliss and Dane Gamble don’t fit in at home. They’re both from Johnson County, Kansas, a place famous for its high income per capita. Growing up in a suburban megachurch, they met in a youth group. After graduating high school and (hesitantly) moving on into higher education, Bliss and Gamble began to feel a growing discontentment with their experienced version of Christianity. Being locals of Kansas City, they were well-accustomed with the large amount of ignored homeless people in the Metro. Along with David Van Bebber, the guys started panhandling in downtown Kansas City and giving all of the loose changes rattling around in their guitar cases straight to those often deemed “less fortunate.” They began to build relationships with the men and women of the streets, taking them our for dinner, spending time in their “homes” or providing them with enough money to buy some groceries. This grew into a pseudo-organization known as Panhandlers Ministries.

Their passion for music (and their weekly ritual of playing for hours at a time on street corners) inevitably led to the writing of original songs. Bliss and Gamble began to tinker with their ideas on political situations, social injustices and theology in the form of songs, stories and poems. Their prophetic lyrics and enjoyably typical folk-style make a combination that will have your toe tapping one minute, and your body frozen in shock the next. These two pull no punches in their hopes of communicating their desire for hope and peace in a chaotic world. From disturbing and challenging songs such as “Bury Your Bullets” to satirical rants such as “The Silence in the Soung,” Stealing Grapes calls back the prophetic tradition of singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and CCR, reminding us of how easily we slip back into the comfortable routines and ruts of everyday life. “Oh, Mara” is a song about a girl that embraces intentionally bad rhymes and intentionally worse melodic lines that may at one point been a bad imitation of a kazoo, both in just the right quantities to be hypnotic and fun. Gamble’s poetry, filled with inner rhymes and poignant provocations are both easy to get lost in and tough to hear.

In truth, there may be little chance that Stealing Grapes will ever go much farther than the Metroplex of Kansas City. Their biting lyrics and reminiscent folk sound probably won’t sell. Their blatent criticism of “the man” might even keep them from ever trusting such endeavors. But Bliss and Gamble challenge their tiny tribe in ways beyond words. They dare a bunch of rich kids from Johnson County to reconsider the sea of Starbucks and shopping malls for a vision of hope and change that even Barack Obama can’t provide. Stealing Grapes dares me to be a better human.

Check out Stealing Grapes on myspace.

posted by Matt Gallion, co-architect

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