At 3:40 p.m., three Wheaton students staked out their spot in line for the 7:30 concert. An hour later, a man joined them after driving six hours from Ohio to see Josh Garrels in the Edman Chapel auditorium last Saturday. Several others from outside Wheaton formed a small line within the barricades. Wheaton students brought their friends food and blankets while the Garrels fans waited in line for hours.
As the sky turned from a clear, light blue to dark, the line for College Union’s second concert this fall expanded. Starting around 6 p.m., it grew rapidly, snaking around Edman Plaza and along North Washington Street until the doors opened at 7 p.m.. Chatter filled the auditorium as about 2,000 people, most of whom were in their 20s and came from outside Wheaton College, filed in and found their seats. They filled the floor and trickled up into the balcony. Anticipation filled the room.
The audience erupted in applause at 7:42 when Will Reagan and his wife Andrea, who are both part of United Pursuit, took the stage with cellist Yoosung Lee. Preceding Garrels, Reagan and his band led a worshipful six songs focusing on God’s love. His wife played keyboard and harmonized in a delicate, husky voice. The crowd joined in, and the cello trilled along.
When Garrels performed afterwards, the clapping increased but the audience’s vocal participation decreased. He began with several solo songs, the first one performed on a Peruvian instrument called a charango. The crowd stood as Garrels sang, growled and moved into falsetto. He uttered gutteral sounds as well as high melismata.
A melisma, plural melismata, is when one word is sung with several different notes rather than one note for every syllable. For example, Garrel played with the word “rise” among many others in his song “Flood Waters.”
Fans murmured along to songs such as “Beyond the Blue,” and they shouted out their favorites when Garrels paused.
Garrels entertained the audience not only by his music and guitar work but also by his facial expressions, in which he grimaced and stretched his face in every direction. One fan said he looked like he was going to cry. The other band members bobbed their heads and rocked out next to him.
After one-to-two hours and 13 songs, the band exited the stage. A moment later, Garrels surprised his audience by returning with an encore of three extra songs, two of which were new.
“The lobby was packed after the show ended with people waiting to talk to Josh. He was gracious and kind with his time, giving autographs as well,” said public relations director for College Union senior Susannah Sullivan.
Garrels gulped a mixture of throat-coat tea, apple cider vinegar and honey before the show began and between songs. According to Richard Gandy, who replied to an email about Garrels, Garrels heard about this drink from Robbie Seay while playing a few shows with him. Garrels implemented it this past February.
“After trying it, Josh noticed a difference in his voice recovery time,” Gandy said. While he drank his recovery beverage during the show, the crowd munched pizza and drank Starbucks brought in from outside.
All Garrels’s band members are originally from Indiana, but Garrels himself moved to Portland, Oregon.
“Although a lot of his shows are solo acoustic, he has played with several bands and musicians around the country, including Mason Jar Music, with whom he collaborated on the documentary ‘The Sea In Between.’ This was the first tour with these specific musicians and I know it was special to him, as he’s been friends with those guys for many years,” Gandy said. The band had not rehearsed together until the day before their tour, of which Wheaton was the third and last stop.
According to Gandy, “(Garrels) typically only does three shows at a time because he values being home with his family and he is very protective of his time at home. He only does about 15-20 shows per year.”
Fitting with the worshipful and folksy music styles of the two Christian bands, the concert was calm. Much of the audience had traveled to attend the concert, and they admired the artists from their standing position in the rows of seats, murmuring lyrics and making conversation with their friends between songs.