The Phantom Tollbooth Archive preserves some of the great articles from the Tollbooth’s 22-year run. Here’s a review from 2002 of The Violet Burning’s sets from that year’s Cornerstone music festival.
The Violet Burning
Thursday, July 4 / Saturday, July 6
By Trae Cadenhead
Being a fan of The Violet Burning isn’t always easy. It’s almost impossible to see the band live until it’s time for Cornerstone and the treat is at hand. Michael Pritzl, Andy Prickett, Herb Grimaud, and Sam West got together and had the stage set up by 12:30 AM on the night of July 4 (technically July 5). Indeed, the hour was late, but I certainly didn’t mind and I assume everyone in attendance would agree. Something about the late show made the music seem even more meaningful.
Even while setting things up, Michael Pritzl was talking to the Audience. He kept our attention as the technical difficulties dragged the preparations out. Before starting, Pritzl prayed and things were off. The opening song, “Clean,” a heartfelt worship tune from the Faith and Devotions of a Satellite Heart album. As soon as that song finished, the band broke into a brand new song from The Gravity Show CD called “Dreadful.” The catchy, vibey rock tune should have been enough to convince everyone to rush to the merch tent and pick up The Gravity Show’s Fabulous, Like You. Michael Pritzl’s songwriting abilities have done nothing but improve over the years. A trio of songs from Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic followed, giving the band a chance to rock and the lead guitar of Andy Prickett a chance to soar. Throughout the night we heard a good mix of new songs and old, well-appreciated favorites.
Toward the second half of the set, The Violet Burning started pulling out classics like “Undone,” “There Is Nowhere Else,” and “Underwater.” There was a short pause after “Underwater” so that Andy Prickett could have “story time.” He told how he first came to join the Violet Burning. While recording with the Prayer Chain, he heard Michael Pritzl playing in a nearby room. Upon hearing that first song he decided that Pritzl needed a lead guitar player so he volunteered his services. That song was “Goldmine.” Pritzl added that originally he got a lot of negative feedback on the song, but it all became worthwhile when he heard about marriages that had been restored as a result of people hearing the song. “Gorgeous” was the last song played before the band left the stage. Though the song was probably written as a love song, its tone was very worshipful. This is an anomaly that permeates most of Michael Pritzl’s songwriting. No matter what he writes about it always seems to have worshipful overtones. That is a big reason why the music is so powerful.
Thankfully, an encore was in order. The band came back to play the classic “Silver.” There was one final “story time” before the closing song. Prickett told of the first song he ever heard from The Violet Burning, “Song of the Harlot.” He said every time he hears it the song just tears him up. The band proceeded to play “Song of the Harlot” as their finale and indeed it was very special. After the song finished and Pritzl prayed again, another encore was cheered for, but it didn’t happen. I glanced at my watch and realized how late the time was. Time didn’t stand still while The Violet Burning played, even though it seemed to at the time.
Full Band Set List:
The Only One or Llost Without You Near Me
Radio Jesus Superstar
Gone Gone Gone
There Is Nowhere Else
Fabulous, Like You
Song Of The Harlot/My God, My Strength
I thought I had seen the last of The Violet Burning for the year, but it turned out I was wrong. When Adore cancelled their set on the acoustic stage two days later, Michael Pritzl was asked to fill their slot. Armed solely with acoustic guitar, Pritzl present VB songs in their stripped down forms, beautiful as always. Once again, the earthy honesty of Pritzl and his music was infectious. The set was composed of audience requests and there was not a bad song in the bunch. The acoustic version of the favorite “As I Am” was an especially special moment. The closer was a new song from The Gravity Show, “Halo”, which gave a glimpse of the great things on the way from Pritzl and company.
Acoustic Set List:
Maker of the Stars
All Right [Adam Again]
As I Am
The Violet Burning is a fantastic band with a great history, but things are only getting better for the band. Now is a great time to jump on the bandwagon to enjoy some of the best music being fashioned today.