That mannequin challenge I saw on Facebook was fresh. Fresh, bearded and built, Pastor Paul was on point. The prelude to that yearly event was dope. My waka to TBS for The Experience 2016 was also interesting. Although this would be my first attendance, I anticipated a rush at the venue. So I bought unleavened bread for dinner at Ojuelegba, but I didn’t expect alubosa (onion) in my shawarma. Well, I ate the modified unleavened bread like that. That’s what the Bible says at least. Humility. I got in the BRT only to be asked (as old as I am) by a teenager to stand up for his girlfriend who was standing. I looked at the girl. I looked at the boy. Before I could say “Abi…”, the Yoruba boy sitting beside me helped my matter. “The guy is so dumb!” He said. What more should I say?
The crowd strolling outside TBS was a shadow of the turn-up inside. Security was replete throughout the area. We raised our hands above our head to aid inspection as we squeezed ourselves through wide entrances. There was no stampede. I chose to go against the advice of a bouncer who pleaded that we should proceed to the race court- an expansive spillover arena where there was still space. I climbed up the stairs to enter the main bowl of the TBS. Alas, I could barely see people on the other side of the bowl. It was filled to the brim with some standing and sitting on dangerous ledges. I made my way back down. But I saw one thing. People were hold disposable cups and queing for a drink. I thought it was punch. But as I got closer, it was Orijin. Yes, Orijin zero. The non-alcoholic brand. It was free.
At first it felt like I was just going to be spectator here. That wasn’t my intention. I don’t attend gatherings just to look, clap and scream at performances. At least Christian gatherings. Race course was a good distance from the stage and people there were just sitting and looking at the screen. I thought to go back home. But that would mean that I did not achieve my intention. I imagined the woman who bled for twelve years must have pressed herself through such humongous crowd just to touch Jesus. I wasn’t gonna be deterred by the overwhelming crowd. I can be fed even if we were a million. He is an all-sufficient God. I pushed my way into the main bowl closer to the platform, perceiving different body odors, my shirt was literarily drenched in sweats.
Frank Edwards came on stage with a cute haircut, rendering some hit songs (going by the huge reception in the audience. I haven’t quite listened to him to know his songs) and a sweet combo with the 66 year-old gospel maestro himself Donald James Moen who raised the spiritual atmosphere more with his evergreens when he took the mic singly. His simplicity is endearing to me. He doesn’t try to sing high pitch or dramatize with his voice. He just sings. He sang Arise and I remembered the day I led a large group of campus believers in the Southwest at Unilorin in an impromptu spiritlifting worship session singing that song. I immediately felt like I have backslidden (Have I?). He endeared most people I guess, as one man beside me said “Once he takes the mic, everything changes“. Everything changed. But not in the minds of two young girls who started fighting beside me. Reason? One didn’t want the other to stand in front of her. I was speechless. I moved away. One cold breeze blew across my face. I thought it was going to rain. Blood of Jesus! No.
Politicians lit the venue. Femi Pedro, who delivered Gov Ambode’s brief speech (can’t remember what he said, sorry), Jimi Agbaje, some heads of parastatals, and the VP Prof Osinbajo who humbly, I suppose, came to worship. He didn’t deliver any speech. That made me think that he came unannounced because Ambode would have come himself had he known. Jimi Agbaje was caught on screen mumbling dissociatively to the lyrics of Don Moen. Wicked cameraman. Lol. It’s not easy to be in the limelight. Top Pastors were there; The Adeyemi brothers, PFN president… A louder cheer was given to a certain Nigerian Pastor from Atlanta. He isn’t near as popular as our own here. Nigerians can be religious sha. By the way I didn’t intend to write a report of the event but my writer instinct kicked in midway. Moreso it was too big not to write about (might be the largest single music concert gathering ever). Almost unpardonable.
So it went on with comedy skits in between, Akpororo, MC Abbey (who “messed” up the Bible) and two clowns; who preached and translated hilariously. I saw one male musikcian from America wearing earring . My Lagos mind said it doesn’t mean anything. But my church mind rebelled (I was brought up in very conservative setting). Cece Winans hit high notes and struck spiritual cords just as Donnie Mclurkin, a Pastor and singer sang to the heavens with his ever passionate voice after doing backup for the former. After standing 4hours, I retired to the race course which was now filled to capacity and took a space on the grass to rest my aching back.
I cannot end this write up without particularly appreciating Sister Chioma. She looked serious as she appeared on stage. Don’t mind those comedians, her shoulders were level. No shoulder pads. It was when she showed up that I knew that my Igbo brethren at Mandillas had not gone home. They were gleefully all around me and they danced with joy. But as she ministered, my carnal mind remembered Kenny blaq, that comedian who tells us how Igbo gospel artists prolong songs. Sister Chioma somehow counted from one to fifteen each having a call-and -response. But her testimony was heart warming and humbling. She did encourage me. It seemed the organizers saved tiwantiwa Tope Alabi for the last. Her voice was 1 terabyte. She roused the crowd once more as I made my way out of the venue. It was dawn. It was truly an experience.