Audiofeed X Preview: The Heart of Citizens

By Ryan G

When I joined the booking team for Audiofeed Festival, my foremost goal was to book acts that would bring a new audience to the festival. Not just a new audience, but a new generation of Christian misfits looking for a place to call home – who are disillusioned with CCM status quo. Citizens by all intents and purposes seem to be one such band occupying this space.

Citizens on paper are a worship band, but they chart their own way. In 2013 I started listening to their self-titled record. My first exposure was the music video for “I Am Living In A Land of Death” – a song that’s hardly the stereotypical beacon of redemptive hope if you pass judgements based on song titles. But the message is there if you listen. That realness is what my generation and Gen Z is yearning for in the church. Shortly after that time, my home church, Veritas Community Church in Columbus, OH added “Hail the King” to regular rotation in their Sunday worship (yo, can we bring that back, please?).

Later, with the band’s temporary rebranding to Citizens and Saints, I found myself identifying with their music even more. My own theory about their rebranding has to do with a short lived act out of the UK who called themselves “Citizens!” that I actually had the opportunity to review for another site. I haven’t heard anything about the UK band since, but I digress.

It was on the record A Mirror Dimly that the band really hit their stride with Yours Truly. It’s just now hitting me that the album’s title may be inspired by this classic hymn: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus / Look full in His wonderful face / and the things of this earth will grow strongly dim / in the light of His glory and grace.” Is this connection a stretch? Possibly. But it seems worth pointing out even if it’s just a music blogger’s word association game.

A Mirror Dimly contains what may be my favorite song by the band. “Madness” has one of the most poignant choruses out there: “Your mysteries are madness / Yet still they keep me captive / The more that I discover / The more that I’m in wonder!” I’ve felt this madness at lot at times these past couple of years. A creative drive in me that seems to be in sync with, yet simultaneously in opposition to what I have going on around me. Yet, the circumstances always seem to work out in a way that I hadn’t considered. On a timeline in which hindsight is 20/20. I can’t help then but to worship along with the chorus:

Your ways (Your ways)
Your ways are not my ways
Your thoughts (Your thoughts)
Your thoughts are not my thoughts
I want to understand
But I cannot comprehend
I’m so lost, I’m so lost

In recent years, a song that has struck a big chord within me is “Everything and More,” released last year. Unsurprisingly, there’s use of synth in this song – a persistent theme in Ryan Getz’s listening habits since the pandemic. This effect goes beyond simple personal preference though. The “warm blanket effect” that this synth has in the production reflects something I once read about the presence of God feeling like a strange warmth. It’s just a feel good worship song and while I’ve only felt that a few times in my life I hope to feel it a lot more.

So, what can we expect to see Citizens play in a festival setting? It appears Audiofeed is the band’s only festival appearance in 2024. It’s anyone’s guess. (Please play “Madness” though 😉 ). Setlist.FM drops some clues – which I will not spoil.

As I type this, I find “what if” thoughts entering my head. What if the audience isn’t receptive? What if there are technical difficulties? (Secret Thoughts of a Festival Booker: Revealed!) In the midst of the noise I can sense God’s gentle reassurance and also have a sense that these songs are meant to be means of communicating these truths to me – even in this very unique circumstance. That I know. I will expect the best outcome. How awesome that God is the source of music and the antidote to worry – not a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind!

I hope you’ll take some time next Saturday night July 6th to join us in an assembly hall at the Champaign County Fairgrounds in Urbana, IL for an evening of worship, celebration, community, and creativity. We are all misfits. Let’s revel in it. Tickets are available here. And, make sure to pick up your Festival Program 10 Years and Running (guess the reference).

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