We’re fortunate to have author Sarah Siegand guest blogging for us again today. Sarah shared her love of Switchfoot with us recently, and now she gives us an inside look at the premiere of the band’s brand-new documentary.

Fading West Review

By Sarah Siegand

“The stage is this bloated, weird place to exist. In the water that’s all washed away.” – Jon Foreman (from the film, Fading West)

Switchfoot On-screen

Fun little on-screen intro from the guys

Switchfoot’s Fading West has been a long-anticipated film/music event—the guys had been talking about making a film to coincide with their next album for years. It promised great music, beautiful global locations, an inside look at the realities of tour life vs. home life, and another great love for the founding three members—surfing.  Of those elements, it did not disappoint. But Fading West went much, much further to deliver something that I will only describe as EPIC, especially for the incredibly loyal fans who have supported the guys for the past 16 years.

I was one of the privileged 600 people to grab Fading West tickets before they quickly sold out at the Franklin Theater in Franklin, Tenn. I honestly wasn’t sure how much live music would accompany the film, but watching the social media feeds, it was clear that there would be at least some, which I was excited for.  I’ve seen Switchfoot live several times before, but this time there was something exceptionally magical in the air. After watching this amazing film, you have an even deeper appreciation for the sacrifices necessary to be where they’re at as a band. Influence like that just doesn’t come cheap. “There’s a cost for everything,” front man Jon Foreman said solemnly in the film.

The movie itself is incredibly well made (mucho kudos to director Matt Katsolis and drummer Chad Butler, producer). You can tell great thought was given to the story arc and emotional pacing of the film. It wasn’t completely serious either, but filled with plenty of Switchfoot antics reminiscent of Switchfoot TV podcasts. Watch for cow-milking escapades, chasing sheep, a giant bat, and more than one instance of Jerome making music with a snake around his neck. It also provides a very rare glimpse into the band members’ personal lives, as well as the moments of frustration that come with any tour experience.

I also gained a newfound perspective in understanding just how these guys have managed so much longevity and success while still remaining emotionally healthy and stable after 16+ years. In the film they made it clear that surfing while on tour has provided a critical outlet to keep the pressures, disappointments, and superficial trappings of the music biz at bay. Drummer Chad Butler put it this way in the film, “If we can just get a few minutes in the ocean, it just hits the reset button.” And Jon mentioned that he didn’t know if they’d still even be a band if they weren’t able to surf. I immediately understood the emotional necessity surfing provided for them… Their sanity requires it. They need that escape from the stage. Surfing means being able to be swallowed up by God’s creation, to be alone, to seek solace in the embrace of beauty that does not depend remotely on oneself.

Switchfoot at Franklin Theatre

Jon leads the fan sing-a-long of “Hello Hurricane” at the Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tenn.

The ironic thing for me as a fan, is that Switchfoot music is for me what surfing is for Jon, Tim, and Chad. It’s my escape—an opportunity to be alone with a melody that has wrapped itself around my heart, while lyrics of truth and hope take their posts in the battlefield of my mind. It’s my reset button. I remember daily walking into a “lemon-into-lemonade” job, with a Switchfoot playlist cranked beyond safe earbud levels. It was an agonizing season for my husband and me as we walked through the aftermath of the greatest personal trauma we had ever endured. There were days where I honestly felt the fires of hell being held back by the lyrical confession of my lips:

Born for the blue skies // We’ll survive the rain

Born for the sunrise // We’ll survive the pain

(lyrics from “Dark Horses” on the Vice Verses album)

All of these memories were swimming in my head as I watched the film and experienced the live set afterwards. I was so thankful for the special live moments Switchfoot deliberately created, like joining the fans on the main floor of the theatre for an incredible acoustic “sing-along” performance of “Hello Hurricane.” As the rest of the band made it back to the stage for “Where We Belong,” Jon stayed in the crowd, standing on chairs to sing. When he finally wove his way back to center stage, he high-fived everyone within reach, including myself. There was so much gratitude in my heart for what this band has meant to my journey, I couldn’t help but think, I just want to hug you. (I didn’t.)

When the final song was sung and the band slipped backstage, my husband and I took a moment to look around the room and reflect. Jesse is not one who tries to be profound, and when emotions are high he is often very quiet. But in that moment, he said something that perfectly stated what my heart was feeling about Switchfoot’s impact on our lives. Shaking his head, with tears in his eyes, he remembered, “Those songs picked me up from the floor and carried me.”

For thousands of us along the fall tour route, Fading West proved to be an unforgettable night. If you were one of the unfortunate souls stuck working, at your cousin’s wedding, or just plain too late to get tickets, have no fear! The film is available as a digital download on December 10 for a measly $12.99 (HD), and both the film and the album (available January 14, 2014) can be pre-ordered on iTunes. I’ve already pre-ordered mine, and I honestly can’t wait to savor the delightful and beautiful moments of the Fading West film again. Trust me, you’ll want to do the same.

Sarah SiegandSarah Siegand is the author of Smart Girl, Stupid World and also a Switchfoot fanatic who lives in Nashville, TN. Find more of her work at www.smartgirlstupidworld.com.

Follow her on Twitter: @SarahSiegand        

On Facebook: SmartGirlStupidWorld