Scratching the Niche: The Militia Group’s Massive Year, 10 Years Later

Author’s Note:

Initially, this blog post was a ten year retrospective of the 2005 indie/alt rock music scene, like a reunion of sorts. I was going to pun Gross Point Blank and we would’ve had a great time. Kings of Leon, Acceptance, and Bright Eyes were all going to be on this list. But when I finalized my top ten choices, I realized that five out of ten albums all came from the same indie record label: The Militia Group. So here we are.

Let’s reminisce, shall we?

Scratching the Niche

Once upon a time — when Dashboard Confessional ruled the earth — there was an edgy little record label out of Orange County, CA called The Militia Group (TMG). Their roster of bands lay somewhere in between what you’d hear on, say, Drive-Thru Records and Tooth & Nail.

For their origin story, you can visit Wikipedia (or this blog). What is appropriate is this: TMG started signing bands and releasing records in 2000-2001: Rufio, The Lindsay Diaries and Noise Ratchet (a personal favorite) were some of these early artists.

Most of TMG’s roster is now gone and left forgotten in the used bin of your favorite closed-down record store, but you might recognize some of the bands that hit major label success: Copeland, Cartel, Acceptance. Back then, there was an intensity in the music that TMG was signing. Noise Ratchet, for instance, was angst-fueled and Christian emo, i.e., perfect. Unlike the deliciously glossy (Sprinkled) Tooth & Nail releases, TMG was a little more unrefined, a little riskier.

They broke into my scene with Copeland’s debut record, Beneath Medicine Tree. We had known of love songs, and of rock songs. We had worn our hearts on our sleeves. But back then, when I was in high school, there wasn’t a better record you could buy. Beneath Medicine Tree did everything we wanted in an album, including the stuff we were afraid to admit we wanted: it taught us about the beauty in pain. It was thought-provoking and refreshingly transparent.

TMG was gaining momentum and we were all paying attention. When 2005 hit, this tiny record label stepped up big. It was a perfect storm and the timing was right.  (more…)


Interview: Gar Mickelson, Kaleidoscope Community Services

I walk into 2nd Street Commons, a nondescript building in downtown Coeur d’Alene (CDA), Idaho, sandwiched between a dive bar and a closed gun shop. Once inside the first thing I realize is that I have no idea how to categorize the premises, though I try: a coffee shop without a coffee bar, a living room without a TV, a pub without the liquored smell of vomit, a church without a program. There is no schema that fits, and I love it.

People are simply scattered. They look weary, but comfortable, at ease, respite. Some folks relax on the couch while others bustle up and down hallways, in and out of the kitchen.

It is here where I meet Gar Mickelson. He wears a bright smile, gives a big hug, and introduces me to everyone. “This is my friend Kevin,” he says. And everyone I meet makes me feel like family. They, too, give hugs and handshakes.

Gar gives a tour of the facility. As we walk along I continue to meet people, a mix of volunteers and visitors. Some are cooking, cleaning, painting, hauling. The volunteers are passionate and dedicated. Because I am cynical this is all odd for me. I’m waiting for the hook, the agenda, the money making scheme, something to take me out of this fairy tale of genuine coexistence.

We walk into a new room, “Excuse the camping gear,” Gar says. “We’re holding that for someone who was forced to leave his camp site.”

“For free?” I ask. “You’re holding it for free?”

“That’s what we’re all about here, Kevin. ‘Come and be for free.'”

I really want to give Gar another hug, but that would be too weird. So instead, we head into his office, and I ask him a few questions about how Kaleidoscope Community Services started, when it started, and what the heck this place even is.

What is Kaleidoscope Community Services? What is 2nd Street Commons, and how long has the CDA location been established?

Kaleidoscope Community Services is a private, faith-based non-profit corporation based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. KCS exists to bridge the gap between community needs and community resources, and we do this in a variety of ways.

KCS opened the 2nd Street Commons at the end of January, 2014. Since that time we’ve had over 100 volunteers from 10 different churches, served almost 500 gallons of coffee, served almost 1000 meals, and have gone through approximately 6 miles of toilet paper…  (more…)

New Year’s ResoWINtions (or, I’m More Resolute Than You Are)

New Year’s Resolutions have a bad wrap. To be fair, the word “lose” is implied in the name. I prefer resoWINtions (I’m a crafty wordsmither, no?). Pastors, blogs, magazines, everyday folks, they all clamber resolution warnings. No doubt, your ear-holes and eye-balls have been plagued with a mess of conflicting messages. Christians, I’ve found, like to shrug off New Years Resolutions. Maybe they see it as shallow. I don’t know. Some folks, maybe, don’t like to be reminded how susceptible to failure they are.

As for me, I’m a fan of new challenges. I like them all year-round. Once, I only used chopsticks for three months or so.

SIDE NOTE: Hands down, salad is best eaten with chopsticks. (more…)

Saturday Skit: Give ‘Em God

The following is a scene from a larger one-act play I’m writing called GIVE ‘EM GOD. It’s about my experiences leading worship and growing up inside the church (very much still a work in progress). I’m hoping to have it finished as a final project for my playwright course in a couple weeks.

GIVE ‘EM GOD: Scene 5

College Nights

(Spotlight over YOUNG TAD and YOUNG DEBORAH, sitting on the floor in the corner. They are outside. YOUNG TAD is smoking. The Moonglows’ “Ten Commandments of Love” plays quietly in the background, repeating if necessary.)

YOUNG DEBORAH: I guess… I never really thought about it.


YOUNG DEBORAH: Yeah. You know. You grow up in the church and learn not to question things. Certain things.

YOUNG TAD: So you just—

YOUNG DEBORAH: Shut it out, really.

YOUNG TAD: And here you are in college, and your professors tell you differently.

YOUNG DEBORAH: I guess so.

YOUNG TAD: Before you didn’t think much about it.  Now you have to think about it. That right?

YOUNG DEBORAH: It scares me. What if they’re right and biology and evolution and big bang and… explains all this? It’s Santa Claus all over again. How fashionable… lying to children. Somedays I do feel I’ve lost my faith. But I look everywhere for it. The cupboards, the closet, under the bathroom mat. The toaster if I’m hungry. Lord. Somedays I don’t find it.  (more…)

I Hate Critical Christians (and Their Skinny Jeans, Too!)

It’s best to come to terms with who you are. I’m a critical sonuvagun by nature. In the blogosphere my kind are welcome, for sure, but on Sunday, in church, it’s different. Recently, I read through Hebrews, and in Chapter 12 the writer (somewhat) says, “Pay no attention to that critical guy, stirring up trouble. He’s just a bully with a blog.” Awkward, right?

So, fellow critical Christianers, what do we do? Show up, shut up, sit down? Maybe.

SIDE NOTE: If the pastor shortened his or her sermon, then the church could afford interactive Q&A from the congregation afterwards.

The older I get, and the more I read the Bible, the more I consider the mainstream’s misinterpretation and misapplication of verses—like the one from Hebrews 12—that suggest I shouldn’t speak my mind, or be who I am, in the church (like, say, a critical, tight-jeans-wearin’ hipster).

This isn’t me, be tee dubs.


Guest Post: Delight in Disorder

The following is a guest post from my dear friend (and author!), Tony Roberts. Give him your full attention, class. To find out more about his new memoir, Delight in Disorder, click on the book-cover at the bottom. 

Still Relevant After All These Years

TonyBookCover2My name is Tony Roberts.  I am a balding middle-age Midwesterner.

Some people having a midlife crisis buy Harleys. Some open meth labs. I blog.

As I approach the half-century mark of riding this roller-coaster called life, I look for signs that I’m still relevant.  At the top of my list of “Proof-positive that I am still hip” are three things –
  1. Write a song for Mumford & Sons and accompany them on lead guitar in a world-wide tour.
  2. Co-star with Jennifer Lawrence in a re-make of Silver Linings Playbook that replaces the sappy Hollywood ending with something delightfully disordered.
  3. Guest-blog on The Number Kevin.

While waiting for stage and screen, I got an invitation from Kevin — proving I’ve still got it.

Who Am I and What Am I Doing Here

I am a man with an unquiet mind and I have “A Way With Words.”  I’ve been following The Number Kevin for almost a year now.  I was here before Kevin’s rise to “Freshly Pressed” fame, back when he was a young pup sniffing his way around the blogosphere, writing with wit and raising compelling questions about life and faith.

While I like nearly everything Kevin writes, I have been particularly drawn to his clarion calls for Christians to be who we are called to be.  Having served nearly two decades in the Church, I’ve seen some of the best and worst she has to offer.  While I strongly believe we need the body of Christ to keep us alive in faith, the Church also needs to become better at honoring distinct body parts for their essential value and vital function.

Ministry and Madness

In February of 1995, while climbing up the ecclesiastical ladder, I was struck by an apocalyptic vision.  Unlike John of Patmos, mine wasn’t from God.  It was a medication-induced psychotic episode and it landed me on a psych ward where I was told I’d never work in ministry again, my wife would divorce me, and I would spend the rest of my life in and out of hospitals.  Then, to boost my spirits, they handed me a crayon and encouraged me to “draw anything you want.

By the grace of God, and with the faithful support of countless friends and family, I served another dozen years in ministry.  My wife and I have been married (for better and for worse) over 23 years.  And I have come to enjoy a fruitful period of what my psychiatrist calls, “maintenance remission.”

A Memoir and A Mission

Having served in ministry with madness, I now have a mission – to join God at work in the world breaking down barriers and building bridges between the faith community and people wrestling with mental illness.  Many folks with mental illness are angry at God and have abandoned faith.  Some have been turned away by insensitive church folks who lack a compassionate Christian understanding of mental illness.  I live in both worlds and have experienced divine delight in the disorder of mind.  Now, I aim to share the hope I’ve found in Christ and foster a community of care embracing folks like me.

The first step of my mission is to share my story.  I have written a spiritual memoir.  With the help of editor Leanne Sype and graphic artist Nicole Miller, we are conducting an indiegogo campaign to raise funds for publication, increase awareness, and promote prayer for our mission.  We are well on our way to reaching our goal.  More importantly, beyond the numbers, God is doing great things to break down barriers and build bridges.

To learn more about my memoir and our mission, visit our indiegogo site – Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission.  Be sure to watch the video and listen to the music of Kevin’s band “The Function.”

UnknownNow, in the spirit of The Number Kevin, let me ask you….

How might we best offer hope to those battling mental illness?

What obstacles do you see in the faith community that keep us from reaching out?