By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight, USS Peleliu Public Affairs
U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY – Alternative rock band Anberlin performed for Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), Jan. 21. The event was organized by Navy Entertainment in coordination with Peleliu’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation committee.
During their day and a half aboard, the band toured the ship and dined in both the wardroom and the mess decks. Anberlin took to the stage, which was created for them using a seven and one-half ton troop truck and a smaller platform, and performed a concert in the ship’s hangar bay. The next morning, they held a photo and autograph session for the crew.
“It’s one of those things where, otherwise, we never would get this kind of experience,” said Joseph Milligan, Anberlin’s lead guitarist. “We would never get this chance to be on an active ship and meet everybody. [We] get a chance to play for everyone and show how much we care about what you guys are doing here.”
The band performed their hit songs “Feel Good Drag,” “Paperthin Hymn,” and “Impossible” in a crowd-packed hangar bay.
“The crowd was really into it. Everyone seemed to be having a really good time and was into the music,” said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Jenna Wilson, of combat systems department. “It was good to see that they sound just as good live as they do on their albums.”
The Peleliu was Anberlin’s last stop in a string of four shows for the military. They performed in Bahrain and Djibouti before flying out to the ship. This was the band’s first ever performance on board a Navy ship.
“[This] was the craziest out of the military shows that we’ve played,” Milligan said. “It was, for sure, the most energetic.”
Christian McAlhaney, backup guitarist, added, “It was awesome. A very unique experience, for sure.”
For the crew, it was a much needed break from everyday shipboard life, a reminder of home and a morale boost.
“I think it helped morale of the ship overall. Some people were skeptical [about the band], but they heard the music and really let loose and had fun,” said Ensign Brooke Besche, one of Peleliu’s operations department division officers. “It’s something that we will talk about for a long time and it shows us that people do really care about us being out here.”
The members of the band interacted with the crew during their downtime as well as before and after the concert.
“It has been pretty amazing, honestly,” said McAlhaney. “We’ve been talking to a lot of the crew, and they may or may not know of our band, or may not even like rock music, but they were just happy for some sort of taste of home.”
The performance had a positive influence on the band as well.
“I’ve been thanked a lot by a lot of people, but I’m more thankful for what you guys are doing,” said McAlhaney. “Everyone wants to put the importance on us, and us coming here, but you guys sacrifice a lot to be here, your own lives and your families. We kind of get a taste of that on tour, but it’s a lot different. This has been an amazing experience and I have a new found respect, honestly. I think most people stateside rarely get to see what really goes on and the lives you live.”
Anberlin formed in Central Florida in 2002 and within a year signed with Tooth and Nail Records to release their debut album, “Blueprints for the Black Market”, in May. The band broke through with their third album in 2007, “Cities”, selling 34,000 copies in the first week and reached the top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart. In August 2007, the band signed with their first major label, Universal Republic, and following up in 2008 with “New Surrender”, which topped at number 13 on the Billboard 200 chart. The band is currently on tour in the United Kingdom in support of their sixth studio album, “Vital.”
The band is currently comprised of lead singer Stephen Christian, bass guitarist Deon Rexroat, guitarists Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney and drummer Nathan Young, who have been together for five years.
“We’re all very thankful for this experience. Honestly, it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” McAlhaney concluded. “The whole thing has been almost overwhelming at times. It’s been a series of life firsts for all of us: flying in on a helicopter, being on a ship at sea, getting the tour and really getting a peek at what goes on, on the ship, meeting with officers, eating in the mess hall. It’s just been an amazing day and a half and I don’t think we’ll ever forget it.”
Peleliu is the flagship for the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.