GMA Week Journal: The Changing of the Guard

Relient K: The new face of Christian music?

When I was a little girl, my family lived in Falls Church, VA, a suburb of Washington, DC. Since we were so close to our nation’s capitol, my parents made sure we saw all the great historic sites and monuments. I remember one cold winter’s day, standing with my family in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as we waited to witness the changing of the guard.
That image came to mind at Gospel Music Week this year as one band after another passed me in the halls, comprised of skinny young men in (frequently black) t-shirts and blue jeans with modern hair styles. They all looked alike, they were everywhere, and I often couldn’t tell one band from another. I realized I was witnessing the changing of the guard as the Christian Music Industry was morphing right in front of my eyes!

John David Webster and band mates from Indianapolis are modern rockers.

The Waiting 4 Isaac Band at one of the Indie Showcases (and there were a LOT of Indie Showcases this year!).

Pivitplex was interviewed by a TV station in the exhibition area.

Overflow performed a set on The Logan stage in front of the Renaissance ballroom.
Earlier this year I wrote the article 2006: The Year of the Farewell Tour? in light of the numerous press releases I had received about various artists departing the Christian Music Industry. Familiar faces are leaving as a flock of young male bands takes the stage. Yet in the midst of all the youthful testosterone, there were quite a few veteran artists returning to the music scene to carve another notch in their belts.

Petra’s Louie Weaver is back and he brought some friends with him! Viktor is comprised of veterans Weaver, Jimi Bennett (King James), Terry McCollam (Ruscha), Shane Regal (Messiah Prophet) and Tommy Brown. Their debut CD, produced by Petra’s John Lawry, drops this fall. The guys tell me to look for a modern rock sound that does not sound like Petra!

The Original First Call is recording again after a couple of incarnations without Mel Tunney. Tunney has rejoined Bonnie Keen and Marty McCall to record their first full-length project together in over 15 years – the group’s first Hymns project, and it will be a cappella. Based on what the group did over a decade ago, expect some tight harmonies from this project.

Michelle Pillar who had a successful solo career in the 80’s is back, performing in the new musical Magdalene. Michelle performs the role of Mary Magdalene’s mother and I had the opportunity to experience her rich voice again when she sang one of the songs at the Magdalene press conference.
Amy Grant, the First Lady of ccm music, along with producer Brown Bannister, took home a Dove for Inspirational Album of the Year with Rock of Ages…Hymns & Faith (Word Records).

Geoff Moore was backstage at the Doves, and he paused for a photo op with The Afters (they share the same manager) in the photo pit.
Earlier in the week, one trendy 30-something young industry professional who should have known better made a comment to me about “scary-looking old guys in rock ‘n roll outfits trying to look cool.” The staggering fact that these “old guys” founded some of CCM’s most noteworthy bands somehow escaped him. The fact that they have more talent and more experience to bring to the table than most of the new bands somehow went right past him. The fact that overwhelming numbers of Christian baby boomers prefer an eclectic mix of music with a hefty percentage of classic rock in the mix just didn’t register.
Change is often a good thing as a new band can introduce a fresh sound that energizes the industry. Stellar Kart, Pivitplex, and New Artist of the Year winners The Afters represent the new guard of musicians and the sea of new faces seen at this year’s GMA Week. But the old guard set the standard for the industry when CCM was just a new sound called “Jesus Music.” It’s wonderful that there are so many young bands in the wings ready to advance Christian music, but to this writer at least, it is an equally wonderful thing that so many of the experienced artists and bands, who helped make contemporary Christian music what it is, are still on hand to share their experience and their talent.
Related Articles:
2006 GMA Awards Winners
Who’s Who at GMA Week 2006
GMA Week Journal Tuesday, April 4
GMA Week Journal Monday, April 3
GMA Week Journal – Sunday, April 2
GMA Week Journal – Saturday, April 1
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