Christian, alt rock artists thunder through Waco

John Mark McMillan put on a compelling and emotional performance at Common Grounds Friday night. Claire Boston | Multimedia Journalist

Molly Atchison | Editor-in-Chief

One of the most well-known concert venues in Waco, Common Grounds Coffee Roasters, has a full lineup for the fall semester, including artists from every corner of the country who are bringing their musical talents to Waco. The most recent of these artists was the Christian rock musician John Mark McMillan as part of his 2018 Body + Ghost tour. During the well-attended show on Friday night, concert goers were not only treated to McMillan’s talent, but also to the creative genius of Detroit-based Mike Mains and the Branches, as well as California transplant Tyson Motsenbocker. The trio of singers showed up with their personal styles in hand, ready to rock the coffee shop and the crowd was all ears.

Gerzon Gomez and a friend drove over an hour from Texas A&M to get to the venue, and said that it was worth it because McMillan always puts on a great show. Fans traveled from all over to see McMillan and his diverse opening acts.

“I really like his [John Mark McMillan] vibe,” Gomez said. “It’s kind of edgy, which is really cool.”

Tyson Motsenbocker started the show out with some humor and sincerity, getting real and honest with the listeners about his trials and tribulations, but also about the fun he has performing in Waco.

“The last time I was here [Waco] the Pizza Hut was dead,” Motsenbocker said. “It seems that since then, they’ve breathed life back into the place.”

Motsenbocker has opened for David Byrne at Common Grounds, and said he was glad to be back in Texas. According to his website, Motsenbocker, who is originally from the Pacific Northwest, moved to California after the death of his mother, and began writing music as a way to process his grief and solidify his relationship with God. Motsenbocker has since devoted his time to making beautiful noise and entertaining crowds across the country. Last night, Motsenbocker blended his humorous anecdotes with the honest simplicity of his music, and left the crowd ready for more.

After Motsenbocker engaged the crowd out with a mellow flow, Mike Mains and the Branches took the stage to really get the ball rolling. The band originated in Texas with couple Mains and his wife Shannon Mains, but is currently based in Detroit, Michigan.

Mike Mains and the Branches immediately snagged control of the crowd with their over-the-top energy and angsty, relatable lyrics. After performing songs off their first album, “Home”, such as their hit “Stereo,” the band moved on to performing some of the songs from their new upcoming EP. Their gritty, hard rock vibe had the entire venue swaying along. Their set bridged the lyrical talent of Motsenbocker with the hard rock sound ahead.

Headliner John Mark McMillan was celebrating the 10-year anniversary of his debut album, “The Medicine” with this tour, and was eager to give his fans his full attention.

“Waco has been a place where we’ve always had a great time, so any time we come through Texas we try to make sure we come in your general area,” McMillan said in an interview prior to the show.

McMillan, who has had a successful career in the music industry over multiple decades, said that his desire to perform has never faded, and that he just wants to keep adding to his story through touring and producing music.

“Back then [when he first started playing] the music industry was just like, selling CD’s out of the trunk of our car, so we did that for years,” McMillan said. “That’s how we first made a living, and we were able to save up enough money to put out the Medicine record.”

With the rerelease of “The Medicine”, McMillan was able to recognize some of the moments that led him to where he is today.

“For me it was just weird to wake up one day and just realize that the record [The Medicine] was 10 years old,” McMillan said.

McMillan and his motley crew of rockers stunned the crowd with their theatrics and loud, proud performance. With flashing lights behind him and the soulful tones of his voice flowing through the air, McMillan carried the show late into Friday night, playing hit songs such as “The Medicine,” as well as some of his more recent releases. McMillan’s energy, his passion and his addition of powerful religious anecdotes to his performance left the crowd high-spirited, and the chatter as the crowd left the Common Grounds backyard was as cacophonous as the banging of the drums on stage. Motsenbocker, Mike Mains and the Branches and McMillan are a few of many artists coming to town this semester — Common Ground’s next concert is this Friday, and will feature a band of former Baylor students, More than Sparrows. Tickets are available on Common Grounds’ website.