How David Bazan Cracked My Heart Open

David Bazan and the Passenger String Quartet.

On Saturday, my husband and I met up with some friends who were in town from South Bend to see a singer-songwriter perform a concert at the Ladies Literary Club here in Grand Rapids.

I'd never heard of David Bazan, a Seattle-based indie musician, but apparently he's been performing shows in town for 16 years, throughout all the stages of his career, first as frontman for Pedro the Lion, then as his solo singer-songwriter career developed.

Bazan currently is touring with the Passenger String Quartet, a neo-classical outfit of two violins, viola and cello that have backed acts such as Suzanne Vega and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on tour. They're now on the road with Bazan, playing songs from their new album together.

The music cracked my heart open as I sat spellbound, eyes glued to the stage. Bazan's writing deals with themes of faith, doubt and bitterness. He is honest on his website about his struggles with alcoholism and his personal faith crisis from 2006 and beyond.

What I appreciate about Bazan is his unwillingness to tidily resolve these struggles in two verses and a chorus. The open-endedness in his music is heart-wrenching but resonant for me, a person for whom faith and joy do not come easily.

It's funny to note that despite its deep melancholy, his music brought me so much comfort. I felt, "Yes! This guy gets it. I'm not alone."

As he says on his website, "It's like my guts are on display in a museum, and I'm willing to keep paying admission night after night."

Here are two of the songs that struck the deepest chords for me:

"The Fleecing"

Deep green hills whose shoulders fade
Into the gray tall wet grass
Whose flesh makes fools of grazing sheep
Whose fleecing makes a fool of me

And who shall I blame for this sweet and heavy trouble?
For every stupid struggle, I don't know
I could buy you a drink, I could tell you all about it
I could tell you why I doubt it, and why I don't believe

But I can't say it like I sing it
And I can't sing it like I think it
And I can't think it like I feel it
And I don't feel a thing, oh no, I don't feel a thing

And who shall I blame for this sweet and heavy trouble?
For every stupid struggle, I don't know
I could buy you a drink, I could tell you all about it
I could tell you why I doubt it and why I don't believe it

And why I need it and what the pharisees don't see
And we'd have more drinks, we'd speak of so many things
But I don't know you and you don't know me

"Hard to Be"

You've heard the story, you know how it goes
Once upon a garden we were lovers with no clothes
Fresh from the soil we were beautiful and true
In control of our emotions 'til we ate the poison fruit

And now it's...

Hard to be
Hard to be
Hard to be
A decent human being

Wait just a minute
You expect me to believe
that all this misbehaving grew from one enchanted tree
And helpless to fight it we should all be satisfied
With the magical explanation for why the living die

And why it’s...


Childbirth is painful toil to grow our food
Ignorance made us hungry
Information made us no good
Every burden misunderstood

I swung my tassel to the left side of my cap
Knowing after graduation there would be no going back
and no congratulations from my faithful family
some of whom are already fasting to intercede for me

Because it’s...


Buy Bazan's newest album

If you like what you hear, you can buy the David Bazan + Passenger String Quartet album on Amazon or on his website.

Read more posts in the Groovy Tuesday series here.

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