The life of the average teenage boy is full of overwhelming contradictions. You want to fit in with everyone else, but you want to “be yourself”. You want to be treated like an adult, but you don’t want to take out the garbage or clean your room. You want to attract a girlfriend but you don’t want to use deodorant or change your socks. These are just a few of the complicated issues you have to wade through on a daily basis during those tumultuous teenage years. Throw a burgeoning spiritual identity and an awakening faith life into the works and you’re guaranteed to have an incredibly interesting mess on your hands.
All of that having been said there is no greater time of wonder and discovery than adolescence. Every experience means something. Friendships are intense and turbulent, but also deeply engaging and real. Life and death hang in the balance with every minute decision. Everything you have ever been taught to believe can and will be questioned as you begin to form your own passionately held beliefs. Of course these beliefs usually change every few weeks… but that’s half the fun. There is something sacred about this brief and fleeting moment between youth and adulthood. There is a freedom to it.
It was with that freewheeling spirit and reckless abandon that I began to further immerse myself in the waters of Christian rock. I still have the “Simply Xcellent New Music Sampler” that I bought for a buck ninety-nine at the Sonshine Shop at the beginning of my 8th grade year. Thanks to that CD I discovered some amazing bands like Seven Day Jesus, Bleach, Skillet, and The Waiting among others. Oh, and there was also some brand new surf rock band with a song called “Underwater” on there as well… for historical reference. I still think that may have been the greatest CCM compilation album of all time. (You can grab a copy for a penny plus shipping on Amazon right now!)
It was also through this sampler that I would be introduced to the second of Christian rock’s Big Three. The first had been taken care of when I attended DC Talk’s Supernatural Tour. Number two would be little a band called The Newsboys. The Simply Xcellent album included samples from The Boys brand new bombshell of a record called “Step Up to the Microphone”… which I of course promptly went out and bought (the lost art of “buying music” is another topic for another time).
That album was chock full of hits with an amazingly creative take on the sugary 90’s pop/rock sound which was the order of the day. They managed in fact to attain near pop perfection with cuts like ‘Deep End’ and ‘Entertaining Angels’. If you’ve ever heard the track I’d be willing to bet money that you are now singing the chorus in your head at its mere mention… it’s that good. Suffice to say, I was totally stoked.
I used to love to crank up my CD player to full volume and rock out to that album. I would pretend that I was up on stage playing to hordes of screaming youth group kids. That is, of course, until my mom or dad would have “enough of the racket” and start banging on the door of The Drum Room (as my little practice/hangout space in the basement was called), and tell me to “Shut it down.” It was during one of these fantasy jam sessions, while playing along to “Everybody Gets A Shot” on my candy apple red Ludwig drum set, that I was suddenly struck with the idea… Why can’t I start a Christian rock band too?
Now this could be something. Starting a band could be a chance for self expression, the sharing of thoughts and ideas with others, an outlet for creativity and energy, a chance to reinvent your image, a way make close friends with shared interests… and to have a relevant medium with which to present a growing faith in God.
At the time the big question wasn’t just, “Who in the world am I going to find in such a small town that wants to play music on a consistent basis?” but also, “Who shares the same interest in doing so with a Christian message?” Little did I know someone who matched those requirements was about to drop into my life. As things would turn out, it would be my discovery of the last member of The Big Three that would be the key to our initial connection. A connection that would be the cornerstone of a rock and roll adventure that would last for more than ten years.
Secular or Christian, in 1999 pop rock did not get any better than this.