Priest=Aura: A Colorado Story of The Church
The band provided the soundtrack to an effort to push back against the drug war.
The Australian band The Church, which recently toured Colorado, helped provide the soundtrack to an effort to (re)legalize marijuana here.
Years ago, I helped work on Sheriff Bill Masters’s book critical of the drug war, Drug War Addiction (2001). This was right during the time when marijuana became legal in the state for medical reasons but not more widely. (Masters is still the sheriff out of San Miguel County, which includes Telluride.)
The driving force behind the project, other than Masters, was Richard Lamping, who was a Church fan. His motto for our effort was “Priest Equals Aura.” That comes from the 1992 Church album “Priest=Aura.” I'm not sure exactly what that phrase means in the lead song, but, to Richard, it meant that a person can acquire a sort of authority to influence the surrounding culture. If anyone had a priestly aura it was Masters.
That is how I became a Church fan, and my first Church album was "Priest=Aura."
Interestingly, I was a Church fan for some time before I realized that “Under the Milky Way” is the band’s song. Of course to a lot of people that song is The Church.
I’m glad I’ve spent the time to dig much deeper into The Church’s catalog. The band’s last two offerings, “Further/Deeper” (2014) and “Man Woman Life Death Infinity” (2017) are among my favorite albums.
To my mind, The Church is among the most underrated rock groups of our times.
Recently I saw the group perform back-to-back in Fort Collins (Washington’s, May 8) and Boulder (Fox Theater, May 9).
I liked Washington’s as a venue. It’s beautiful and well-kept, not at all like the typical small music bar. Security and vaccine policy were very tight—they checked bags and vaccine cards and required everyone to wear masks. The Fox, on the other hand, had lax security and no Covid policy. I went with the flow in both cases.
A silver lining to The Church not being more popular than they are, but still popular enough to tour, is that getting into a show and getting a good position is easy. Still, this band should be playing venues ten times the size. I’d love to see them at Red Rocks.
True, The Church is not the band it once was. But it remains worthy of carrying Theseus. Of the original members, Steve Kilbey remains. He’s the core of the group, and he owns the stage. Guitarist Peter Koppes left the band in 2020, and I’m glad I got to see previous Church tours that included him. The “new” guy, Ashley Naylor, is great. Ian Haug and Jeffrey Cain also are amazing musicians and performers. Everyone in the band has a deep musical resume. After the drummer Tim Powles suffered a leg injury and the replacement drummer couldn’t get into the U.S., a last-minute replacement joined the band (I didn’t catch his name [update: it’s Barton Price]). He did a fine job especially considering the challenging circumstances.
The band played a set list of sixteen songs that included three from their forthcoming album. It’s a mistake to think of The Church as a band only of the past.
I doubt the members of The Church ever heard of Bill Masters. I’m not sure Masters knew what the heck Lamping was talking about with his peculiar recitation of rock lyrics, but he tolerated his assistants’ oddities. Still, for a brief time, all of our auras touched.