The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Nov5Filed under: album review, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion, Reviews; Tagged as: Amy Grant, Benediction, Children of God, Dan Haseltine, Jars of Clay, Jars of Clay presents The Shelter, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mac Powell, Make Your Move, Matt Odmark, Michael W. Smith, NFL, Questapalooza, review, Stephen Mason, The Staples Singers, Third Day
Little more than a decade ago, Third Day and Jars of Clay were the young guns of Christian rock, acts working around the edges of a burgeoning genre.
It was a little hard to figure out what to make of Third Day, a Georgia band whose lead singer ran through a curious lineup of hairstyles and whose sound variously echoed gospel, Southern rock and grunge. Like many a young band, they were looking for a voice.
Jars came through loud and clear out of the gate, curiously landing its debut single, Flood, on mainstream alt-rock charts. To this day, that is the group’s most famous song, and the Indiana-born act still commands healthy mainstream respect.
And in Christian rock, both bands, which shared the stage at the 2009 Questapalooza concert, are now the establishment.
They also have new albums this fall that help define their places in the genre.
Third Day’s Mac Powell walked into enemy territory Saturday night.
Stepping up to the microphone in the home of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, he admitted, “I’m a big Alabama Crimson Tide fan,” to a hearty round of boos.
“How can you boo me when you destroyed my team?” he asked, referring to Friday’s 73-67 UK victory over ‘Bama in the SEC Tournament. “You gotta admit we drained y’all. You barely beat Tennessee,” he added, to laughs from a crowd well aware the Cats pasted the Vols by 29 points Saturday afternoon.
Powell moved toward common ground saying, “Can we all agree that Tennessee orange is just nasty? Well tonight, everybody’s on the same team. We all love Jesus, right?”
With that, the Christian Southern rockers launched into Born Again from Revelation, the Georgia band’s latest chart topper. And Third Day topped the bill at Winter Jam 2010 which rolled into Rupp Arena Saturday night for the third straight year.
This year’s edition attracted 14,756 fans to Rupp for a show that featured Central Kentucky’s first chance to see Newsboys with Michael Tait as the lead singer. The band’s set featured Tait working all sides of the stage and a catwalk that took him to the center of the arena, where he briefly took flight on Jesus Freak, a monster hit for his old band, dc talk. The new Newsboys’ set included the hit Something Beautiful, new material from the band’s forthcoming album Born Again and classics like Shine.
Both Tait and Newsboys, now nearly a year into their partnership, seemed to be invigorated by the new act. At the end of their set, Tait introduced his bandmates ending by saying somewhat emphatically, “My name is Michael, and we are the Newsboys.”
Rounding out the lineup were Fireflight, delivering their smash, Unbreakable, and stuff from their new album, For Those Who Wait; Tenth Avenue North setting the stage for Third Day with a set from their debut album Over and Underneath, and Newsong once again playing host to the event.
Winter Jam has one more Kentucky stop in Louisville March 28, which will close the tour.
Mar6Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: Born Again, Breakfast, dc talk, Duncan Phillips, Fireflight, Ichthus Festival, In the Light, Jeff Frankenstein, Jody Davis, Mac Powell, Michael Tait, Newsboys, Peter Furler, Rupp Arena, Shine, Something Beautiful, Tenth Avenue North, Third Day, TobyMac, Winter Jam
Last winter, Christian music fans received some of the most shocking news in the genre’s history: Newsboys frontman Peter Furler was stepping down from the microphone, and former dc Talk singer Michael Tait was taking over.
Third Day frontman Mac Powell said the move, fusing two of the biggest bands in Christian rock history, was like McDonald’s joining Burger King.
Tait was as surprised as anyone when he got the call.
“It was a pretty heavy mantle,” Tait, 43, recalls. “They said, Peter wants to step down and spend more time with his family — his mom and dad are getting older, living in Australia. But the Newsboys don’t want to quit, and you’re at the top of a very short list of able cats. I thought, ‘Oh boy.’ Newsboys were my old competitors, if you will, back in the day.
“So I prayed about it, and thought about it and said, ‘This could be fun. Let’s see what happens.’ But to tell the truth, I went into it with one eye open thinking, we’ll see how it goes.’
“Now, 130 shows later, I freaking love it.”
The singer says it’s like being in a garage band without the hassle of hauling amplifiers and sleeping in the back of a van.
Central Kentucky audiences have their first chance to see the Tait-fronted Newsboys on March 13, when the band plays the annual Winter Jam concert that is stopping at Rupp Arena for the third straight year.
They’ll be joined by headliners Third Day and supporting acts such as Fireflight and Tenth Avenue North.
Out of all those acts, Newsboys definitely sports the biggest curiosity factor, particularly since it has not released a new album since Tait took over. Read the rest of this entry »
Sep7Filed under: Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: 2009, Blanca Reyes, Charlie Lowell, David Carr, Group 1 Crew, Jars of Clay, Jason Sankovitch, Mac Powell, Manwell Reyes, Mark Lee, Pablo Villatoro, Pete Hise, Quest Community Church, Questapalooza, Rich Copley, Scotty Wilbanks, Steve Mason, Tai Anderson, Third Day
Slide show photos by Jason Sankovitch and Rich Copley.
Questapalooza 2009 did more with less Sunday: less time and less sun.
The absence of much — if any — sun made for a relatively cool afternoon and evening, and rolling back the start time made for a faster-moving event with main stage action from start to finish. If you were working the festival, say as a volunteer or a journalist, moving the start time back from 2 to 4 p.m. may have put a little more pressure on you. But for 8,500 festival goers, it meant there was always something happening on the main stage and you had a variety of things to catch when their wasn’t.
Like needtobreathe last year, Group 1 Crew made the most of its opening set, electrifying the crowd with a dynamic performance. One thing that has really evolved with the group since we first saw them in Winchester in May 2007 was greater involvement of the band, giving singers Manwell Reyes, Blanca Reyes and Pablo Villatoro more to play off of.
I didn’t get to hear too much of Jars of Clay’s set because I was busy working on our story for Monday’s paper, but it did strike me how seamlessly the band let its latest release, The Long Fall Back to Earth, color its whole set, while not slavishly delivering an overdose of the album. Jars is a band with a vast catalog of hits, and favorites such as Revolution and Love Song for a Savior were all there.
Third Day also has an extensive catalog to draw from, but the feel of it’s set was straight out of the Southern Rock-drenched Revelation album. If anyone came to Questapalooza wondering why these guys are regarded as one of the iconic bands in Christian rock, that question had to be answered a few songs in.
This was the first time I’ve seen Third Day since the departure of guitarist Brad Avery, and it was striking that this set seemed a bit more static than previous 3D shows with one less person to interact with and lead singer Mac Powell appearing to take on more guitar duties than in the past. But he sang with no-less conviction, and the band torched through a tasteful selection including Thief, God of Wonders and the band’s nuclear rendition of Rich Mullins’ Creed.
Quest Community Church continues to build Questapalooza into a signature event, and this is the one where they showed they understood bigger is not always better — in some ways.
Apr10Filed under: album review, Central Kentucky Arts News, dance, Film, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Uncategorized; Tagged as: B.B. King, David Carr, Jars of Clay, Jon Foreman, Liquid, Live Revelations, Mac Powell, Mark Lee, Revelation, review, Robert Randolph, Switchfoot, Tai Anderson, Thief, Third Day, U2
There is probably more video footage of Third Day out on the market than any other band in Christian rock.
The guys popped out one of the first really noteworthy Christian concert DVDs back in 2001 with Third Day Live: The Offerings Experience, and the band has offered numerous DVDs since, including the video accompaniments to the their 2007 two-disc greatest hits package. If this were just a bunch of concert videos, it could get a bit stale. What has made the band’s videos fresh is they are not “just concert videos,” and we don’t get the same things twice.
That is true on the band’s latest DVD Live Revelations, which comes packaged with a concise live CD, including several concert versions of songs from last year’s Revelation album and a cover of U2 and B.B. King’s When Love Comes to Town, performed by Third Day, Jars of Clay, Switchfoot and Robert Randolph.
The footage for the DVD was shot during a Southeastern swing of the Music Builds tour with that mind-blowing quartet of acts, though the focus is squarely on the quartet of musicians who make up Third Day.
Yes, there is concert footage, and if you set this DVD next to that 2001 effort, you’d say, they’ve come a long way, baby. That first disc was great, but it was a few fairly static cameras, including one set behind David Carr’s drumkit that kind of bounced to the beat. This footage is sharp, sweeping and up-close, like an early shot from the foot of the stage of guitarist Mark Lee and bassist Tai Anderson jamming. It’s great concert videography.
But the two things you will remember about Live Revelations are the trip home to the band’s home in Atlanta and the trip to Houston after the devastation of Hurricane Ike, last Fall. The Atlanta footage is striking in how its takes the guys out of the spotlight and really puts them at home with their families. Driving from the tour bus to see his family, Carr talks to his wife in a disjointed cell phone call trying to figure out if he should head home or to his kid’s soccer game. We see Lee at the park with his children and feeding his eight-week-old daughter a bottle.
They are scenes any overworked mom or dad who’s come home from work not to a hug but an equally overworked spouse holding out the baby and saying, “take this,” could appreciate. And you appreciate that these wives are left at home alone for days and weeks at a time while their rock-star husbands are on the road. It takes a little effort to feel sorry for rock stars, but Jonathan and Andrew Erwin’s homecoming footage definitely stirs up some empathy.
The Erwin Brothers also capture some of the intent of the tour, and the fact the band considers its work a ministry, following the musicians as well as their tour mates to a Habitat for Humanity build in Nashville and then through the struggle to figure out how to handle that theme in devastated Houston. We see a conversation between Carr and Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman as they discuss how its hard to tell someone who just lost their home they need to go build homes for other people. That story comes back into the arena as the concert is dubbed Music Rebuilds, with all proceeds going to rebuilding efforts, and frontman Mac Powell sings the Hurricane Katrina anthem Cry Out to Jesus for America’s latest natural disaster victims.
It’s all a lot more extra-musical emotion than you’d ever expect from a concert video, and there are also insights into a band struggling to figure out how to present its newest music on tour.
Yes, there is also some levity and great music, so don’t avoid this thinking it’s a video of lamentations. But it is also an insightful documentary. When The Offerings Experience came out, Third Day was still a band on the rise, not yet established at the upper echelon of Christian rock. Now, they are there, and Live Revelations unveils the artistry, skill and sacrifices it took to get there.
Note: This being Good Friday, I should mention there is a wonderful rendition of Thief, the band’s great account of the crucifixion of Jesus told from the point of view of the thief who declared faith in Christ while dying next to him, on the DVD. I also always think of Jars of Clay’s Liquid as a great Easter-time Christian rock song.
Feb27Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: American Idol, Danny Gokey, David Carr, Dove Awards, Ichthus Festival, Jon Weece, Kris Allen, Mac Powell, Mark Lee, Michael Sarver, Paula Stefanovich, Pete Hise, Quest Community Church, Questapalooza, Southland Christian Church, Tai Anderson, The Hoppers, Third Day
The Georgia-based band will play the event Sept. 6 on the field adjacent to Quest’s complex behind Meijer on Reynolds Road. Ticket information has not been announced yet.
Third Day’s last major Central Kentucky appearance was at the Ichthus Festival in June 2007. Since then, the band has added another hit album, Revelation, to its catalog and parted ways with guitarist Brad Avery. The group now performs as a quartet: frontman Mac Powell, guitarist Mark Lee, bassist Tai Anderson and drummer David Carr.
Questapalooza has not announced other acts for the event, which has featured lineups of three bands, all playing full sets, as well as games, carnival rides, outdoor baptisms and a message from Pastor Pete Hise.
In related news: The Ichthus lineup, which we previewed Tuesday, will include Hise the evening of June 13 and Southland Christian Church pastor John Weece that afternoon in a sort of Lexington megachurch doubleheader.
And in a little extra Dove Awards news: Lexington’s own Paula Stefanovich is up for Southern Gospel Recorded song for writing Yaweh, a hit for The Hoppers.
Idol chatter: This is really interesting. Beliefnet’s Joanne Brokaw points out three of the six current American Idol finalists are church worship leaders: Danny Gokey, Michael Sarver and Kris Allen.
Review: Grits – Reiterate
As much as the rock ‘n’ roll side of contemporary Christian music has grown, one of the genre’s embarrassments has been the inability to develop a strong set of hip-hop acts and the audience for them.
It’s not for a total lack of artists. Tobymac and KJ-52 have developed significant followings, and acts such as Verbs (sometimes known as Knowdaverbs) have made waves. Kirk Franklin has thrived performing gospel with a strong hip hop sensibility. But in terms of successful pure rap acts in Christian pop, Grits stands alone. Grits are part of contemporary Christian music’s establishment, and like several other prominent Christian acts in the last couple of years, the rap duo have left their label for an independent career on its own label, Revolution Art.
The result is Reiterate, an inspired, smooth effort that we’ve already named as one of the best Christian albums of 2008. Reiterate is an interesting title, because in one way, we are reminded of the vocal interplay and wordplay that have made Stacy “Coffee” Jones and Teron “Bonafide” Carter too good for Christian rock to ignore. But there’s also a clear progression here, with the duo indulging jazzy, cool grooves that show this act maturing gracefully. Seeming to affirm a senior act status, the album features several members of Christian rock royalty: Jars of Clay’s Dan Haseltine, Third Day’s Mac Powell and TobyMac, who discoved the pair when they were dancers for dc talk and signed them to his Gotee label. Producer Mo Henderson shows particular skill in working the guests into the mix, as opposed to showy guest shouts. The best result is Powell’s soulful wail on Fly Away a mix of Southern rock and rap maybe we should expect from a group whose name is also a Southern breakfast staple.
With Reiterate, Grits’ music is as good as ever. Christian pop just needs more acts like these guys.
Speaking of our Top 10: Thanks to numerous newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for running our year-end feature.
Newsboys’ news: For a few years, Newsboys had a pseudo-supergroup vibe with established solo artist Paul Colman playing guitar for the venerable band. Newsboys announced Monday that guitarist Jody Davis is returning to the band after a five year hiatus, and Colman is departing to return to his solo career. And return he will, quickly.
Colman’s new album, History, drops Jan. 27, and we will review it here. Before joining Newsboys, Colman and his Paul Colman Trio were some of the strongest acts in Christian rock.
Newsboys are releasing a new single, In the Hands of God, Jan. 16 in advance of the band’s next album, due in May.
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