Christian Rock Grows in North Texas
Modern Christian music has established a following and a creative base in North Texas that few other regions of the country can match — with radio stations, clubs and recording studios catering to the new Christian sound.
Case in point: Blisse, a Dallas-based alternative rock band, made up of four twenty-something Christian men who write and perform all-Christian music.
“It’s not conservative Christian stuff, it’s new, it’s fresh, it’s exciting, and it’s really turning some heads,” said Brad Wigg, bass guitarist for the band.
They spent a late night recently recording a new compact disc at The Playroom, an all-Christian recording studio in Wylie.
“Bands are just popping, they’re just coming out of the woodwork. I mean, I’m never at a shortage, people are calling me all the time to do stuff,” said Joel Cameron, the studio’s owner.
Blisse hopes to have a second CD out later this month.
“Within the past 10 years or so, the taboo’s been taken away, and people have realized that it’s a great ministry tool, and it’s a great thing all around,” noted Joshua Havens, the band’s lead singer.
So great, in fact, that contemporary Christian music has become a $450 million a year industry, with cutting-edge videos and young Christian acts like the Newsboys, which drew a near-capacity crowd on Good Friday at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.
“Christian music has really gotten a lot better over the past few years,” said 16-year-old Newsboys fan Melanie Carter.
“Christian music makes sense, and I’m sure that’s why there’s such a surge, because the music today, coming out of the Christian culture, is good music, and solid,” said Dwayne Watson, a young father who came to the concert with his wife and children. “It’s not wishy-washy anymore. There’s really some important God-centered material there, and it draws the kids into it.”
North Texas even has one of the nation’s only all-Christian alternative rock radio stations.
KTPW 89.7 Power FM has been on the air for a year-and-a-half so far, commercial-free, thanks to listener support.
“I just knew, in my heart, that we would develop a following, and that we would have a great opportunity to reach people, playing this style of music,” said program director Chris Goodwin.
It’s a music style that sells CDs, too.
In fact, Christian music is now the fifth-largest category in the entire recording industry, behind rhythm and blues, alternative rock, rap and country.
The Christian Family SuperStore in Irving has more floorspace devoted to Christian music than any other retailer in North Texas.
“A lot of bands are good enough that they are able to cross over into the secular market,” said Kim Lumpkin, a sales manager at the store.
Christian alternative rock is not alone. There’s also Christian industrial rock, Goth, Christian punk, and Christian rap.
In Duncanville, another group of devoted disciples prepares to record a new CD.
The Disciples of God, or D.O.G. Squad, are writing and rehearsing for a specific target audience. “The little teenage kids that’s listening to Snoop Dog, and all this other stuff,” explained the group’s Clement Ray Jr. “[They’re} not gonna come to church, so we’ve got to go to them.”
The D.O.G. Squad often perform at street concerts in Houston, San Antonio, and in North Texas. “We’re just modern-day apostles, that’s it,” said Paul Valenzuela, another member of the rap group.
And as for the live music scene, Dallas’ Deep Ellum has its own club catering to the modern beat of Christian music: The Door, on the south end of Elm Street, directly across from a Bank of America drive-up branch.
The Door permits no alcohol, no smoking, no drugs, and no bad language.
Club owner Russell Hobbs opened The Door three years ago as a musical ministry on a shoestring budget.
“Just working with all these bands and artists is very fulfilling to me,” Hobbs said. “God provides enough money to keep us going and growing.”
Local bands like Blisse play at the club on a regular basis, drawing crowds of several hundred — often including parents like Barry Havens.
“It’s a great place for them to hang out in a clean environment, and their parents usually let them come because it’s a safe space,” said Havens, who came with his wife and Joshua’s younger brother and sister to hear Blisse perform.
“It’s a positive message, it’s nice to hear,” noted Nate Rehlander, a first-time patron at The Door. “It’s nice to come in and not have to hear someone swearing at you every few minutes between songs, or in the songs.”
They are the songs that are becoming the new sound for a new generation of believers.
More quotes on Christian rock:
“Why is it happening?” asked News 8 reporter Jeff Brady. “I think God’s doing it. I think he’s making a change in people’s lives, and that’s spilling over, into their interests. And people who have bands are doing Christian music,” said owner of The Playroom Studio Joel Cameron.
“It took the general public at-large a while to figure out that Christian music was cool. Or maybe it took a while for it to become cool.”
“I think the Christian community really made a mistake back in the 1970s when they really made rock music a taboo thing. It seems like since then, we’ve been playing catch-up,” Blisse band member Josh Haven.
“People just like different kinds of sounds. Just like individual people have their own individual tastes in music. And in order to reach everybody, if I’m to be a fisher of men, I have to have a lot of bait in my tacklebox,” said Christopher Goodwin, program director for 89.7.
“We’re filling a void in society, between the church and the bar, and the mall, and the movie-theater. People want to go out, see great original music, and artists that deal with God and such, and so, we’re not making a bunch of money, but we’re growing,” said The Door owner Russell Hobbs.
“So they can know that they don’t have to do to gangs, that you can serve Christ and have fun, you know, it ain’t gotta be the gang violence, and you ain’t got to give up all this, when you change,” said D.O.G Squad band member Clement Ray, Jr.