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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Christian band Switchfoot greets secular audiencecomment (0)

January 1, 2004

By Grace Thornton


Wondering how you could possibly learn anything from four San Diego surfer boys gone MTV2 Top 20 rock band? Rather stay away?
   
You’d better not. Your teenagers don’t.
   
In fact, the band drew many young Alabama Baptists to join a capacity crowd at a secular club on Birmingham’s Southside Oct. 27.
 
There at Workplay Theatre, packed as tightly as fire codes would allow, the huge captive audience absorbed an explosive two-hour concert by Switchfoot, a Christian band now burning up the secular charts.
   
They’ve learned the art of connecting with the 25-and-younger crowd. And there could have been more.
   
“We could have sold out two shows had we had them scheduled,” said Shelly Green, Workplay’s public relations director. “Once we announced it, the fans were on it before we could even promote it locally. It was almost instantaneously sold out.”
   
“This is one of the elites,” she said.
   
“Elite” is just one of many stereotypes the surfers and preacher’s kids have let roll off their backs, including the newest addition — “crossover band.”
   
“We’re Christian by faith, not genre,” said Switchfoot bassist Tim Foreman in a recent feature by Rolling Stone.
   
The members of Switchfoot don’t try to break out of or bend to the stereotypes.
   
Instead, they simply are who they are — and the stereotypes mix nicely into an explosive blend of faith and fame.
   
“From the start we wanted to be genuine — the same people on and off stage. However, wearing your heart on your sleeve in front of an audience is a huge risk — strings break, the power goes out, fingers and memories malfunction,” said Jon Foreman, Tim’s brother and Switchfoot lead singer, in an article posted on MTV.com.
   
However, he added, somewhere “the risk of playing live became a fuel to burn,” and honesty became the band’s strength.
   
The honest faith of Switchfoot wasn’t lost when their fourth and most recent CD, “The Beautiful Letdown,” was snatched up by secular label Columbia Records, or when the band made the controversial crossover into secular radio play.
   
The bleached blonde hair has been kept, the guitars are played with the same fervor and, most importantly, the deep, burning spiritual messages embedded in the band’s lyrics have not been watered down.
   
“I’ve been a fan since their first album, ‘Legend of Chin,’” said Tim Bedi, a senior at Samford University who was at the Oct. 27 concert. “They’re great musicians, and they’ve done incredible work since then. They have very deep lyrics — none that are surface-level.”
   
The music keeps getting better, Bedi said, and the message is still solid.
   
“I’ve always had trouble writing the caffeinated chorus that pretends to be something that I’m not,” Jon Foreman said on MTV’s Web site. “I try to be honest in my songs and in my life as I wrestle with the tension of ‘how it is and how it should be.’”
   
Foreman said he wants the listener to wrestle too and “come toe to toe with the truth about ourselves and our world.”
   
Hope means nothing at all, he said, if it doesn’t “reach to the core of our need.”
   
This “one hope and one salvation” is what he proclaimed through music from the stage to the Birmingham crowd. Some were Baptist. Many were Christian.
   
But here’s the beauty of it — many weren’t.
   
“Although many non-Christians may become fans of the band because of its original sound or look, they will eventually see Switchfoot’s faith through the lyrics,” said Amy Bufkin, a graduate student from Chattanooga, Tenn., who was also at the concert.
   
Each song, Bufkin said, is penetrated with a love for Christ and a yearning to be more like Him than like the world.
   
The message is the same now for Switchfoot as it was seven years ago. Now they simply have a bigger microphone.
   
“The more people Switchfoot’s lyrics touch, the more their ministry widens to encompass both Christians and non-Christians,” Bufkin said. “It shouldn’t matter if they play under the banner of ‘Christian Artist’ if they are convincing people of the power of Christ’s love.”
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