John Mark McMillan Performs Secret Concert at King's

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Empire State Building, NEW YORK– About 70 King’s students and other New Yorkers gathered Sunday, Mar. 18 in the basement of the Empire State Building for a secret show by Christian musician John Mark McMillan through the college's worship group, The Tent.

Among McMillan's work is the song "How He Loves," popularized in churches globally by artists such as David Crowder.

McMillan wrote the song the day after his friend Stephen died in a car accident. The day of the accident, Stephen had said in a prayer meeting, “If it would shake the youth of a nation, I will give my life today.” McMillan also posted a video on his Vimeo account about the song’s story.

The concert, part of a tour McMillan and his band have been on for the past three weeks, was held in the City Room in the Lower Lobby. The tour began at the University of Kentucky, then continued to Cincinnati, Chicago and Cleveland before New York. Tickets sold online came with a free download of a previously unrecorded song. Jude Moses, a band on tour with McMillan, opened the show.

McMillan explained his albums are based on conversations he has with people and thoughts that go through his mind. His first song of the night, Daylight, is the second track on his new album Economy, released in November 2011.

"I’ve always said if I sing about Jesus, it’s because I think Jesus is worth singing about," McMillan said. "It’s not because I feel like I have to, or because I’m supposed to.”

In January, The Tent leader Josh Encinias ('12) heard about a concert in New York McMillan would play over Spring Break at a 21 and up venue, The Mercury Lounge. He emailed McMillan's manager, hoping for an opportunity to make King's a venue for McMillan to play to fans who weren't yet 21. After a two-month discussion on whether it could happen, the concert was finalized the Friday before, and Encinias and Tent members rushed to make it happen.

"The whole Tent crew was immediately interested and on board,” Encinias said. “They made it happen.”

Encinias credits Tent members Brian Fancher (’14), Zachary Chambers (’15), Travis Aldrich (’15), Dustin Swan (’15) and Jeremy Hinen (’15) for the night’s success. "I would’ve gone crazy if it weren’t for them,” Encinias said. He admits the concert was much harder to organize than the previous Josh Garrels show put on by The Tent but also says, "It was definitely worth it, because the show was awesome, and at the end of the day, we got to say that we had John Mark McMillan there.”

McMillan and his wife are expecting a third child in the coming months, so he is splitting up the tour into different legs. As part of the second leg of the tour, McMillan and his band hope to travel to the western U.S. this fall, including Seattle, a favorite venue for McMillan.

While he says he doesn't write often about specific events, McMillan does say his family inspires some of his songs. After the baby is born this spring or early summer, he hopes to record songs he's written about his wife.

"I don’t usually write super topically—I write more about feel, I guess, so I don’t usually have a specific thing in mind when I’m writing a song, but they [his family] definitely inspire the way I’ve written," McMillan said. "I wrote some songs about watching relationships that didn’t work out. It makes you think, well, we have a relationship. Can we stand the test of time?"

McMillan says finishing The Medicine was a turning point in his career.

"When I finished The Medicine, I feel like that was a defining moment for me. Because of the time, the independent release to me felt like I’d made a complete album—the first time I’d made something that’s complete," McMillan said. "The Song Inside the Sounds had cool songs on it, but The Medicine to me felt like a whole thing."

Just as The Medicine marked a significant point in McMillan’s career, Encinias says McMillan's playing at Tent marks a significant point in the organization's history, due to both McMillan's renown and the audience present. Tent events like this are "strategic" because they involve inviting "artists who people really care about" to "have kind of a chill space at Tent to do ... more low key, acoustic-type events," Encinas said.

"Just bringing him in was great for the organization, because it brought in people from all over the city, just like the Josh Garrels show," Encinias said. "I think Tent is starting to begin to live out the mission of the college through these type of events. And it’s bringing in different people, and different people are being ministered to."

Even ESB security guards and New Yorkers not affiliated with King’s have been coming to events and meetings put on by The Tent, including one guard who received support from King’s students after the recent loss of his brother.

"I can see that one part that we’re engaging with the mission is with this reaching out into the city, which gives even King’s students a different perspective on the space that we use, and why we do what we do at Tent,” Encinias said. “Like any people you become like a fish, you grow to your own environment. So you stop asking questions, you stop thinking about it, stop valuing it, and having events like this makes people think about those things again."

After playing in Vienna, Virginia on Mar. 20, Annapolis, Maryland Mar. 21, Columbia, South Carolina Mar. 23, and Charlotte, North Carolina Mar. 24, McMillan and band will play throughout North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

CampusRebecca Jacobson