After The Beautiful Letdown
Writer breaks silence, emerging with a story from Los Angeles.
My apologies for the extended silence. I didn’t mean to go quiet for nearly a month. I’ll spare you the excuses and instead do my best to bring you up to speed.
All You Need Is Water went down at the beginning of this month. It was a workshop dedicated to public speaking, which is something I’ve been doing for over 15 years, but this event was my first time offering something focused on the subject. The whole thing ended up going great, with a dozen of us gathering on Zoom over the course of two days. We definitely talked about public speaking, splitting the time between stories and ideas that I had planned to share, plus Q&A / discussion with the group. What surprised me was how much the workshop ended up reminding me, or feeling like, the small-group conversations I’ve been leading for the last 15 months.
The word that comes to mind is once again connection, which is how I tend to sum up the small-group conversations. I’ve come to expect it in those spaces but I didn’t expect to find so much of it in the workshop, with the focus being public speaking and with me talking more than I do in the small groups.
We ended up going deep. We talked about identity, finding and using our voice in the midst of so much noise. We talked about imposter’s syndrome, confidence, and fear. We talked about thoughts of suicide, as one person shared the darkness of the last year. Because this depth and vulnerability was met with presence, empathy, compassion, and encouragement—connection happened. New friendships were formed. The feedback was great and I walked away feeling so good that another workshop will happen in December. I Love That Kid will focus on creativity. The title is about reconnecting with that younger version of you, the one who loved to write or paint or take pictures or perform, that kid who loved to create. Join me December 15 & 16. Learn more.
A few days after All You Need Is Water, I cashed in a bunch of miles and booked a last-minute trip to California. Staying with my sister Emily in Los Angeles has been a big highlight this year. We were able to see Noah Gundersen’s show at Lodge Room, during the final stretch of his If This Is The End tour, and then two nights later we were at the Wiltern for the final night of Switchfoot’s tour celebrating 20 years of The Beautiful Letdown.
Switchfoot had come to Florida for three shows, but I was in Las Vegas. (It takes something big for me to miss a Switchfoot show. An invitation to see U2 at Sphere qualifies as something big. Thanks again Brian!) Switchfoot means a lot to me and The Beautiful Letdown means a lot to me. I was glad that this LA trip would allow me to catch one of the shows. I would have been happy to see them anywhere, any city along the way. It didn’t really hit me until I was there, the significance of this LA show.
A couple funny things happened before I even made it to the venue, or before and when I made it to the venue. As you may know, I lead a group on Sunday nights. We meet on Zoom and we always start at 7pm eastern. The Switchfoot show was on a Sunday. Luckily 7pm eastern means 4pm pacific. I could pull off both, but it would be close. Everyone would have understood and been supportive if I wanted to leave early but at the same time I care a lot about the group, so I decided to stay for the whole thing. I also decided to take a shower. Looking back I really wish I would have showered earlier in the day because when Jon dedicated Love Is The Movement to me during the band’s surprise opening set, I was definitely in an Uber on my way. Meaning I definitely missed a special moment.
I was disappointed, kicking myself for not getting there earlier, but then I thought about the title of the night, the theme that we were gathering to celebrate. The Beautiful Letdown. It made me smile. This was definitely a beautiful letdown.
When I arrived at the Wiltern and found my way to Will Call, there was definitely not a ticket waiting for me. There was nothing in my name. The show had been sold out for weeks, the band was on stage, and my sister was busy selling merch. I wasn’t sure what to do. I laughed out loud. Another beautiful letdown. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced what happened next. The woman working the Will Call window simply handed me a ticket. Apparently she believed me when I told her I was supposed to be on the guest list. Someone had left an extra, one they didn’t need. (Thank You mystery person!) And with that, I was in.
There were so many subplots to the night. Getting to be there with my sister Emily. Getting to say hello to Steven Hykes, who is an Ever Get Home subscriber. Getting to see friends from the extended Switchfoot family—Ryan and Radar and Josh and Ethan and Keith, along with the band’s actual families who I’ve gotten to know across more than two decades of friendship. I got to stand behind Mark & Jan Foreman, who are Mom & Dad to Jon & Tim. I ran into my buddy Matt Mugford, who I had not seen in years. Near the end of Switchfoot’s set, I watched as all of their kids, meaning all of the kids whose dads play in the band, walked on stage with a plaque commemorating that The Beautiful Letdown had sold three million albums. The guys were blown away. Some of them cried. Chad thought his family was in San Francisco. The whole thing had been a surprise, executed perfectly. Chad’s son Evan, the oldest of the Switchfoot kids, took the mic and gave an amazing speech.
After the show, when I was standing by the merch table, a woman walked up to say hello. She told me she’s had the TWLOHA license plate in Idaho for the last 14 years. I said that seeing me must be a sign and now she had to renew it for at least another year.
With this being Los Angeles, and the last night of the tour, and because the Switchfoot guys live a couple hours south in San Diego, I figured the night would be beyond busy for them. I pictured a super-hectic backstage followed by everyone jumping in cars to get home. I didn’t even know if I would get to say hello, but I wanted to be there regardless.
Things turned out completely different. Rather than leaving in a hurry after they played, the guys decided to take their time. They would ride the bus back to San Diego the next morning. It sounded like they knew this would be a special night, the end of a special tour, and they wanted to be present for the whole thing.
An hour after the final concert of The Beautiful Letdown Tour, if you would have walked into the green room at the Wiltern, the scene was pretty quiet. Jon, Tim, and Chad, my sister Emily, and me, sitting on some couches, reflecting on the night and on two decades of friendship.
At one point my friend Josh Pheiffer walked into the room. Josh is in charge of merch for Switchfoot and has toured with them for years. He said, “That was the best show I’ve ever been a part of.”
The next day Emily and Chris Hess and I drove down to Orange County to have dinner with our friends Shadlie and Dustin and their kids. This has become something of a tradition whenever I’m in California. The next morning I woke up with a sore throat and I ended up being sick for the next 10 days. Which is part of why things have been so quiet here. But now I’m well and now I’m back and I will see you soon. Thanks for being here.
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Join me Friday (12/1) for the next Magical Mystery Talk. This small-group conversation means you bring your own topic. We solve the mystery by finding common threads and common ground. We see where the night takes us. Starts at 7pm eastern.
And then one week from tonight (Tuesday, 12/5) it’s “I’m in a Season of Change.” If you’re navigating grief or loss, a career shift, move, or some other significant transition, please consider joining us. Learn more.
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