This CD/DVD captures a particular moment in time. It’s more than just a band recording. It captures a typical “church service” at the time, with active participation by the congregation. Unfortunately, it’s no longer a place you can visit in person, as the lease on the building expired long ago. But it captures what was and is still possible…
The alternative name for this album is Live From The Loft, and there's quite a story about how it came about. The short version is that David & Anita Ruis moved to the Los Angeles area to work with the southern California Vineyard church. After getting a special dispensation (official exemption) from Vineyard's leadership, so they wouldn't have to rigidly follow the Vineyard church planting guidelines, they started what was quite a rule-breaking church called Basileia Community in Hollywood. It was made up from the combination of those swirling around the Ruis' prayer meetings at their house, an implosion of another church in Hollywood at the time, and key members from the Pasadena International House of Prayer (PIHOP). So what had started in the Ruis' living room, moved to an undertaker's basement (with a rather large garbage disposal in the floor), then went on to The Gig nightclub on Melrose Blvd., landing at what everyone called The Loft, the top floor of an industrial building in what used to be Glendale Air Force base. Basileia moved on again to other locations, but The Loft is where When Justice Shines was recorded.
The Loft's claim to fame was that it used to be Pink Floyd's rehearsal space back in the 1970's, and much of their Wish You Were Here album was written there. The ceiling track from their soundproofing curtains was still there. Since that time, it has been used as an artist(s) studio, as well as living space, as well as a nightclub. Basileia took over the lease on the top floor, which included a fully stocked bar and a significant amount of catering equipment. The first communion came out of the keg, which I took upon my sacred duty to maintain, and because you're now itching to know, let me tell you right now that alcohol was not consumed during services.
That almost sets the scene. Except there's a few more details. There was already a stage set up at one end of the Loft, but in the true spirit of an experimental church, it was quickly dismantled. I'd previously visited another church somewhere in the Calabasas/Ventura area, with David Ruis, that met in an old auto workshop that had their staging area in the center. It was set up like a nightclub with round tables. People got up, went to the center, did their thing, and then came back, and sat down again. It turned the usual church "one to many" paradigm on its head, and provided a much better experience of community. And that's exactly how we set the Loft up. We built a round center stage out of sections, and that's why you see the band in the middle of the room in the video. One interesting decision was that the band all faced each other in the round, which allowed them to visually communicate. More importantly, it also provided the feeling of the band being the front row of the congregation, leading the rest of the congregation.
As you might have gathered, Basileia had the arts very much hard coded into its DNA. So music, painting, sculpting, dancing, etc. were all very much encouraged before, during, and after services. You're going to see all these activities taking place around the room in the video. So now the scene is set. The first video here is the promotional "bootleg" video for the album/DVD/project that I assembled for the project:
The band consisted of David Ruis on vocals/keyboard/loops, Bob Hartry on guitar, Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and Doug Mathews on drums. Jason Belt and Haiti Harrison provided backing vocals on different tracks. Together they formed Indigika, and described themselves as "the fusion of acoustic and indigenous sounds with the loops and swirls of the guitar rock". Additional keyboard/loop programming was by Jason Halbert.
Darrell Smith was the FOH engineer for the recording, and his first question to me was where was the power in the building, so I walked him over to the main breaker panel. He promptly proceeded to disassemble it, and create a suitable electrical feed for the main house PA system. Great, now the event won't risk burning down the building using wall outlets of questionable capacity.
The audio was captured by Jeff Dykehouse in Pro Tools, and a 4 camera team captured the video that ended up on the DVD. Still photography was captured by Lee Dralle.
Rich Renken mixed the audio for CD/DVD, and Gavin Lurssen mastered it. Rich has made the entire evening available on his Youtube channel, now that ION Worship are no longer in business.
The opening blessing on the DVD was performed by renowned Vineyard pastor/theologian Don Williams.
The painter up on the scaffolding is Rachel Ford, and the painter working on the tree/yield sign is Andy Visser. The big sculture was by Chad Shelton. The dancers were Alexandra Hayes and Chrystal Loszchuk.
The event coordinator was Sheri McConnell, who isn't really credited for all her hard work. She was the invisible hand that kept Basileia ticking along.
My role for the evening was as guitar tech to Bob Hartry, and I spent the recording making sure his guitars were all clean and in tune. We'd swap guitars out at song breaks, allowing Bob to join in with the ambient intro of the next song.
“The journey of building christian community in Los Angeles has been quite the saga. Navigating life in the urban sprawl of a city like LA is challenging to say the least. For a nine month window during this continuing quest we discovered an oasis and a space to settle. It became known as the LOFT - a 5,000 square foot, lofted ceiling second story hang, it emerged into a vibrant place where we would join with other friends on the journey to worship, express our art, eat, pray - and for the most part just be. With a full service bar (the industrial espresso machine included) running down one end of the room, and a 15 foot scaffolding for painting on the walls at the other, we built a staging system in the very center the space. The band would play facing each other with people gathered all around us ... quite an amazing vibe! It was in this space that this project was captured. More than just documenting some of the songs that were birthed during this leg of the journey, we really recorded some of the essence of what our community adventure is all about. Through the DVD experience that just went up another level. Although we did have a few artists join us from other cities, for the most part what you see and hear is what would happen when we gathered. We didn't ‘do it up’ for the project. This is what our space was all the time. If you showed up for a party or any gathering at the LOFT, this is what you would experience. The dream is still very much alive and we are excited to see what will re-emerge here in LA in the future.” - David Ruis
We later had a visit from Tim Hughes and his band, and he wrote a blog entry about his visit to The Loft. If I ever find it again, I’ll reference it, but he was so moved by his experience that he attempted to make his church at the time, Holy Trinity Brompton, into the round. That’s a large Anglican (Church of England) church in central London. [Update: I've heard back from Tim's staff at his current church and it seems the old blog is gone for all time.]