The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Audio Adrenaline has taken a page from the Newsboy’s playbook enlisting a former member of iconic Christian rockers dc talk to restart the band, which had for the most part ceased recording and performing in 2006 when vocal problems silence lead singer Mark Stuart.
Last month, Billboard magazine reported that dc talk’s Kevin Max has become the band’s new frontman, and the newly reconstituted group has released a new single, Kings and Queens, and will have a new album in early 2013. Audio A formed in the 1990s at Kentucky Christian College (now University) in Grayson and went on to record some of contemporary Christian music’s greatest hits including Big House and Hands and Feet.
But in the mid-2000′s, Owensboro-native Stuart developed spasmodic dysphonia, which creates spasms around the larynx that have left Stuart unable to sing. After an extended farewell tour, the group disbanded though Stuart and bassist Will McGinniss have continued to be heavily involved with the band’s Hands and Feet orphanage in Haiti and occasionally gave performances to raise awareness of the project, including an appearance at Broadway Christian Church earlier this year.
The reconstituted band is signed to Fair Trade Services. McGinniss is the only member of the band when it disbanded that will be actively performing with the new group. Stuart will continue as a writer and producer. According to Billboard, former members Tyler Burkum and Ben Cissell had moved on and were not interested in joining the new lineup.
That new lineup will include drummer Jared Byers, keyboardist Jason Walker and a familiar face (and hairdo) to Christian rock fans in former Superchick guitarist Dave Ghazarian. When last we saw Ghazarian in Central Kentucky, he was playing in the pickup band for former Newsboys frontman-turened-solo artist Peter Furler.
That brings us back to the Newsboys playbook, as Newsboys are now fronted by another third of dc talk, Michael Tait, who joined the group in 2009.
The other third of the group, Tobymac, has enjoyed a thriving solo career for more than a decade since dc talk went on a seemingly permanent hiatus.
But Christian rock fans have to be imaging the possible supertour of Tobymac, Newsboys and Audio Adrenaline.
Audio Adrenaline was on stage at the Ichthus festival in the early 2000s when Katelyn Perry looked up and saw her dad, the Rev. Ernie Perry, dancing on the stage with his other daughter, Kyleigh, and some friends.
Katelyn and some pals from Southland Christian Church, where Perry was on staff at the time, asked him, “How did you get up there, dancing at Ichthus with Audio Adrenaline?”
Perry replied, “You had to play basketball with them when they were nobodies. You had to know them when they were sleeping on your floor.”
Being on stage at Ichthus was just part of a longstanding friendship that will be renewed once again when Audio Adrenaline plays Broadway Christian Church in Lexington, where Perry has been the senior pastor since February.
That Audio Adrenaline is playing a concert will be a surprise to many Christian music fans who know the band broke up in 2007 after vocal problems left lead singer Mark Stuart unable to perform. While the voice issues still plague the frontman and Owensboro native, Perry says he has seen Audio A do a few performances in recent years as fund- and awareness-raising events for it’s Hands and Feet Project, a charity that supports orphanages in Haiti.
“I’ve seen them do a comparable concert a couple of times,” Perry says, noting one was at Kentucky Christian University, where the group formed in the 1980s. “They’ll do a lot of the old Audio songs, the hits. We told them to bring in the bigger speakers, so they’re going to rock it a bit. Mark is also a great worship songwriter, though some of the worship songs that he has written have come out of some dark, difficult times in his life. So we’ll rock, we’ll worship, and they’re going to tell their story — the history of Audio Adrenaline.”
It is a history that Perry witnessed firsthand when he was just starting out as a minister in Chesapeake, Ohio, just north of Ashland.
He and his wife, Pam, had graduated from Kentucky Christian in 1979, when they went to work with a mission in Chesapeake and ended up being the youth minister at Chesapeake Christian Church. Perry says the group started out small but quickly grew as he and other youth began reaching out to troubled kids in the area.
“Our youth group was made of misfits,” Perry says. “Kids from broken homes, dysfunctional homes. They had stuff in their ears and eyes and nose long before that was the cool thing to do — we’re talking the mid-’80s here.”
Perry gets choked up a few times filpping through a photo album from those days. Several times guitars and drums show up in the pictures; this was a group that liked to rock hard. That made them open to a group of Kentucky Christian kids who were forming a band.
Perry stayed in touch with the school working with its annual student conference, Summer in the Son. That’s how he met the guys that would become Audio Adrenaline, originally formed as A-180 in 1986.
“They liked our kids and related to our kids,” Perry recalls. “They came to Chesapeake, Ohio, and rented an old dilapidated house, and they were so poor — college students.”
The youth group chipped in to give the group silverware and furniture. They went to Perry’s office for devotions and to use the phone.
“They’d say, ‘Hey, Ernie, can we use your phone? We need to find a truck to get to the show tonight,’” Perry recalls. “I’d say, ‘Are you serious? Tonight?’”
The relationship ranged from business such as helping the band find gigs to spiritual counseling to pure friendship. One summer a youth group member played bass on tour with the band when Will McGinniss couldn’t travel due to an illness in his family.
“Mark Stuart and his girlfriend would baby-sit our daughter sometimes,” Perry says. “She’ll brag that Mark Stuart changed her diapers.”
And it’s a friendship that endured through the band being signed to Forefront Records, changing its name to Audio Adrenaline and recording hits such as Big House and Hands and Feet.
As Stuart’s vocal distress grew, Perry says he saw the band go through the difficult decision to call it a day.
“There are going to be a lot of people there Saturday night who remember them from back in Chesapeake and Ashland and have watched them through the years,” Perry says.
Afterall, though they became rock stars, they never stopped being Kentuckians.
Note: Admission to Saturday’s Audio Adrenaline concert is first-come, first-served. Doors will open at 6 p.m.
Jun5Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture; Tagged as: 7:13, Aaron Morgan, Audio Adrenaline, Datum Point, Hearts of Saints, Hillsong Live, Ichthus Festival, Irela, Lee Roessler Band, Live Fish, Mightier Than I, Rookie, Seabird, Set Sights Forward, Southland Christian Church
In recent years, the Ichthus Festival has become a showcase for Kentucky-based Christian rock talent, be they chart toppers Audio Adrenaline or newcomers, such as the Lee Roessler Band, which won last year’s battle of the bands at Ichthus.
This year is no exception.
Topping the local bill will be Northern Kentucky rockers Seabird, who will play the festival main stage at 1 p.m. June 19.
The band, which came out of the Cincinnati music scene, is riding the success of its second album, Rocks Into Rivers, and the hit single Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful. Seabird, led by keyboardist Aaron Morgan, has enjoyed crossover success: Songs from its first album, 2008′s ‘Til We See the Shore, were picked for the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. Last fall, Seabird played dates at Southland Christian Church, opening for the David Crowder Band, and downtown nightspot Buster’s Billiards and Backroom within a few weeks of each other.
This will be Seabird’s Ichthus debut.
There are quite a few Bluegrass State acts on independent stages, including that battle of the bands winner, Lee Roessler, who filled the amphitheater at the main stage with his genial, poppy tunes on the final day of last year’s Ichthus. He plays Indie Stage 1 at 3:30 June 17.
■ Disciple does not bill itself as a Kentucky band, but lead singer Kevin Young does make his home in the Bluegrass. The group plays the Deep End at 9:20 p.m. June 19.
■ Florence-based Irela delivers a trio of tracks on its MySpace page that showed a tendency for smooth tunes based on gentle guitar riffs, and an ability to deliver some speedy pop. The group is on twice: 10:20 p.m. June 17 on Indie Stage 2 and 11 p.m. June 18 on Indie 1.
■ Wilmore’s Rookie, which got a big boost at last year’s fest, is back at 3:30 p.m. June 19 on the Edge Stage.
■ Lexington-based This Season’s Color leads worship at Porter Memorial Baptist Church and will play the Edge Stage at 1 p.m. June 19.
■ Hopkinsville’s Hearts of Saints brings an anthemic dance-pop groove to the festival at 9:30 p.m. June 17 on Indie 2.
■ The first track on the MySpace page for Paintsville’s 7:13 is Sing to the Lord, an intriguing little hybrid of praise chorus and distorted guitar. 7:13 does lean on the worship side of things, and you can see them at 2 p.m. June 18 on Indie 1.
■ Mightier Than I has only three demos on its MySpace page, but the London band’s tracks are fairly fully produced rock offerings. Hear more at 2 p.m. June 19 on Indie 1.
■ If you’re in a metal mood, the Cincinnati area’s Datum Point delivers the heavy stuff at 3:30 p.m. June 19 on Indie 2.
■ There are three, count-’em, three chances to hear the metal stylings of the Cincinnati area’s Set Sights Forward: 8:05 p.m. June 17 on Indie 1, 5:30 p.m. June 18 on Indie 2 and 2 p.m. June 19 on Indie 2.
■ And Somerset favorites Live Fish return to Ichthus at 2 p.m. June 17 on Indie 1.
Look for more Ichthus coverage in coming weeks in the Herald-Leader, including a chat with Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman in the June 13 Life+Arts section, and look for even more at LexGo.com.
Worship pioneers coming in July
After Ichthus, there’s another big Christian music event coming down Harrodsburg Road. Australian worship trendsetter Hillsong Live will bring its first U.S. tour to Southland Christian Church at 7:30 p.m. July 26. Tickets are $25 and are available at www.itickets.com.
Owensboro native and Audio Adrenaline frontman Mark Stuart was visiting the orphanage in Haiti that is the center of the band’s Hands and Feet Project when Tuesday’s catastrophic earthquakes struck.
“The Haitian people are numb, and sadly, very used to death,” Stuart wrote in an e-mail distributed by Hands and Feet. “However, this has created what seems to be a hypnotic state. I’ve never been in a situation where you feel SO helpless, fearful, and small. The tremors are coming again as I type this.”
While most news has been coming out of the Hatian capitol of Port Au Prince, Stuart said there was substantial damage and loss of life near the orphanage in Cyvadier, on Haiti’s south coast. He recounted a teenage nanny at the orphanage who escaped her school because she was near the door when the quake struck but lost many classmates as the building collapsed. At the orphanage, the project’s website reported cracks in the building and that all occupants are staying outside, even at night.
The Hands and Feet Project was started in 2004 by Audio Adrenaline, which formed at Kentucky Christian College in Grayson. It was named after the band’s song “Hands and Feet,” widely considered a Christian rock classic. Hands and Feet is seeking donations in the wake of Tuesday’s tragedy.
Ichthus, has it really been 10 years?
The first year I covered the Ichthus Festival was 1999. The festival, which returns next week with its 40th edition, had just made the move out from the campground in Wilmore to the Ichthus Farm on U.S. 68, just outside town. It was still primarily run by student volunteers from Asbury College and seminary, and Christian pop was in the midst of tasting a steady stream of mainstream success.
In the ensuing 10 years, a lot of bands have crossed the stage: That’s about 30 headliners over the past decade, and lots of acts on the under-cards that certainly made a mark. So, with this personal anniversary and 10 years at the farm in mind, here’s my list of best-and-or most memorable performances at Ichthus over the past decade.
1. P.O.D., 2000: Before Satellite put P.O.D. atop the rock charts in 2001, the San Diego band came to Ichthus to play a late Friday afternoon set. Many people knew who they were before the set, but everyone was aware by the time it was over.
We said the Boys from the South played “the kind of show that makes you wonder whether the performers dropped dead when they walked off the stage.”
The band, which usually tours with hard-core mainstream metal bands, played an impassioned set, primarily from the album The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, seemingly fueled by the embrace of a Christian crowd.
2. Michael W. Smith, 2005: This was the final set on the day that changed Ichthus forever. Friday of the 2005 fest was warm and sunny until the evening, when severe thunderstorms ripped through, shredding the campsite and scuttling an evening lineup of TobyMac and Audio Adrenaline. The next day, temperatures plunged into the low 40s.
By the time Smith took the stage, snow was falling over Ichthus.
He was playing piano wearing gloves with the fingertips clipped off and a winter cap from his merchandise table. The worship set with Watermark was seen by few, but will never be forgotten by those who stuck it out.
The next year, Ichthus moved to June.
3. Audio Adrenaline, 2006: After this show, Audio A made one more Central Kentucky stop, at Rupp Arena, before breaking up for good in 2007. But this was the last time we saw together the core of the group, which formed at Kentucky Christian College.
Ichthus was Audio Adrenline’s first festival when the band was starting out, looking to be heard. Many, many hit songs later, playing the festival-closing main-stage gig, it was clear that the band remembered where it came from and appreciated that playing Ichthus for the last time was closing a major chapter in its career.
4. TobyMac, 2002: Up until this year, Toby has played every Ichthus since releasing his first solo album — well, he’s been scheduled to play, as he’s been rained out twice. Those have included some great sets such as a Saturday night throwdown in 2007.
But his first solo gig at Ichthus, under chilly rainy skies with fans standing ankle deep in mud, was noteworthy in its scrappiness.
Not too far removed from his headlining days with dc talk, this slot and these circumstances could have seemed like a comedown to Toby. But he and his band attacked their set with an energy that warmed the soggy amphitheater. Giving it up for crowds like this is probably a big reason why Toby has returned to headliner status.
5. The Ascenxion Band, 2006: Contemporary Christian music fans known so much about everyone on stage at Ichthus, it is rare to find an act that can totally catch you by surprise. But that’s what Ascenxion did when they took the stage at Ichthus 2006.
The “all-star” act of Nashville session players was basically a set of unknowns to festivalgoers. But they quickly had everybody’s attention with stellar musicianship.
Ascenxion has returned to the fest each year since and delivered fabulous performances. But the surprise of that first outing made that set unforgettable.
6. Switchfoot and Relient K, 2007: A dream lineup of crossover acts topped the ’07 fest with sets that showed why the bands have such broad appeal. Striking in the showcases were often goofy Relient K’s virtuosity and how clearly Switchfoot’s social justice and personal responsibility messages rang through the rock ’n’ roll.
7. Jennifer Knapp, 2001: The bluesy rocker’s amazing Ichthus set is one of the main reasons I keep wondering whatever happened to her.
8. David Crowder Band, 2008: Is there a group better tailored to bring worship music to a crowd of 18,000?
What’s amazing is how Crowder can have you laughing at a keytar (one of those guitar-looking contraptions with a keyboard) one minute and lost in a song like O Praise Him the next.
9. OC Supertones, 2001: The ’Tones were a big act in ’01, big enough that they were invited to play the Dove Awards that year. Problem was, the Supertones were also booked to headline Ichthus the same night.
They played the Doves, but the next night, they came to play Ichthus. There was no room on the main stage, so they played the second stage (there was only one, back then) giving fans as intimate a Supertones show as they could ask for, back then.
10. Family Force 5, 2008: What better band for a Saturday afternoon party than the boys from Marietta, Ga. The band that has quickly become a fan favorite put an any early punctuation mark on Ichthus ’08 with its late afternoon set featuring bright renditions of well-worn tracks from its album Business Up Front, Party in the Back and some new stuff.
This year, FF5 closes out the proceedings Thursday night. Will it be another set for the decades?
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich