A regional Christian rock music tournament that began last September will conclude Saturday with three lakes area bands competing.
After nine months of competitions, six of the 66 bands who entered the tournament will participate in this last round at The New Union music club in Minneapolis.
The New Union tournament has become a springboard that helps contemporary Christian artists become nationally and internationally known, said Nate Brennan of All Weather Human, one of the three area band finalists.
"There is some great talent in the community and it is very unusual to have three groups (from the same area) reach this level," Brennan said.
Bands to perform in Brainerd
For those who aren't able to see the three Brainerd lakes area bands Saturday in Minneapolis, all three will play at Jumpstart, a B.A.Y. Ministries sponsored summer kickoff event scheduled June 1.
Skate ramps, inflatable games, a battle of the bands and concerts by We3Kings, Donkey's Jawbone and All Weather Human will be featured at the event.
Jumpstart will take place at the Assembly of God Church, just south of Brainerd. For information, call B.A.Y. Ministries at (218) 825-9149.
The other two lakes area semifinalist winners are We3Kings and Donkey's Jawbone.
Steve Adams, Ryan Edberg and Matt Adams are members of the area Christian band We3Kings.
Finalists from other parts of the region include Room 204, a band of five young men from around the Twin Cities; Phaz 3, another five-member, all-male band from the Mankato area; and Matt Patrick, a solo artist from the Twin Cities area.
An outreach of Living Word Christian Center, The New Union is a nonalcoholic, nonprofit ministry -- a smoke-free music club that hosts regional and national Christian bands every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
Since 1990, The New Union has hosted a regional music tournament that begins in September and ends in May, says the organization's Web site. Twenty groups eventually advance to the semifinals (the top five from each category). Each summer the top five tournament bands play at the Sonshine Music Festival in Willmar. And two scores from all categories will play at the Spiritfest Midwest Music Festival in July.
Each group or artist participating in the tournament is entered in one of four music categories. The categories are rock, alternative rock and modern rock; hardcore, rap core, punk, ska (basically rock and roll with horns, such as sax, trumpet and trombone) and EMO (emotional, kind of like a rock ballad, and driving at the same time); pop, praise rock, acoustic, contemporary, country and a cappella; and R&B, hip hop, rap, traditional gospel, blues, jazz and reggae.
Todd Anderson (left), Eric Wickstrom, Chad Katzenberger and Andrew Dirks are part of the area Christian rock band Donkey's Jawbone.
For the last 11 years, the annual tournament has helped groups like PFR (Pray For Rain, an internationally known band also containing Brainerd area members), Clear, Wee Little Kelly (now Charity) and Casting Pearls gain exposure to industry executives and magazines. All were offered solid record deals in connection with the tournament, says The New Union Web site.
Bassist Brennan, whose fellow band members call him "the brains" of the All Weather Human "body," said, "Of six finalists, three are from Brainerd. So it's kind of an anomaly for three bands from the same town, an outstate town at that, being Brainerd, to be finalists out of 60-some bands. For me it feels really good to get all the support. People drive 2 1/2 or three hours to see a band for just a half hour. It's pretty amazing, and I'm really thankful, and usually hear the same thing from all three of the bands. We haven't gotten here just from musical merit, or jaw-dropping performances, but from people hearing you."
Bands get credit, which when added together become votes, for fans who attend tournament nights and name that band at the door as the one they came to see.
"The semifinals and this round, the finals, are judged by people from record companies. So you get exposed to some of the bigger names in the Christian music industry. In other words, it's great exposure for bands who wouldn't otherwise get to play in front of people who are in the industry," Brennan said.
All Weather Human released its second self-produced album in January 2001. The members write all of their own music and perform, usually, in Minnesota and the Midwest. Recently they provided the music for a district youth conference in Duluth for 3,300 high school students.
Their 2001 itinerary includes an Australian tour in November and December.
The All Weather Humans are members of Lakewood Evangelical Free Church in Baxter. The band also includes Nate's brother, Gabe Brennan, the group's drummer. Jared Kramer plays lead guitar. Tim Dobbelmann is lead vocalist and plays rhythm guitar. And Dana Maendel mans the keyboards and percussions. The group has played together for 2 1/2 years.
"An enormous Thank-You!! to the people who came to see us in the Semi's at the New Union," say notes written to fans on the All Weather Human Web site. "It is totally overwhelming to have so many of you there for us. What is crazy is how much you guys have changed the tourney for us -- God has used you to give us confidence. This whole thing is as much yours as it is All Weather Human's. The people from districts (the St. Francis bunch -- loved the shirts), the Brainerd folks ... We could go on and on -- There are lots more of you -- Thanks so much!!! -- Hopefully we'll see you on the 26th (at the tournament finale). love, the humans."
The band's song titles include "When I See Love," "Everything But You," "23," "Long Way Home" and "Stumble After You."
Donkey's Jawbone includes Todd Anderson, bass and background vocals; Eric Wickstrom, gitfiddle and background vocals; Chad Katzenberger, drums; and Andrew Dirks, guitar and vocals. The group also refers to itself as Donkbone and J-Bone. Their style, they say, is "fast, hard, new school, punk rock." Christian punk.
"Not all our songs are about God and stuff, but we're a Christian band and it shows in our songs," Dirks said. "A lot of times people say, 'Well, you're not a Christian band if your songs aren't all about God and we think we can have songs about girls and relationships and other things that are part of life. We have songs about other things but they're all really Christian based," reflecting Christian values.
Song titles include "Abandoned," "December," "Peace," "Singer in a Punk Rock Band," "Transverse" and "There for Me."
"We play kind of all over the state," said Dirks. "We've played in Willmar a lot, and St. Cloud, and Fargo and Alexandria, and Grafton, N.D. ... When we make a contact they come from all over. A big part of promotion is e-mail and Web sites between different bands. And we have some CDs we can send out as promotional kits and stuff. It's a big network of underground music. This person knows that person and helps you get bookings."
By underground, Dirks said, he means all the independent bands in Minnesota and all the venues that support those bands.
Last summer, We3Kings played at the Sonshine Music Festival and in the Brainerd Area Battle of the Bands.
"We took first place," band members said. "When the emcee introduced us he said that we were all born-again Christians. And during our set we even were able to plug in Jesus a little bit. That was so cool. Then we got to play on the float, for the Fourth of July parade."
The We3Kings schedule includes concerts around the state, as well as in Oregon.
"We3Kings is a three-piece band," says one of the band's Web pages. "We are all born-again Christians, and we love the Lord. We have a broad style. All our songs don't fit into one style -- but, to try and describe it, it would be heavy/alternative/rock with some fast vocals here and there, and then we'll throw in a slow song."
How and when did they get together? "We have known each other since we were babies. We all learned our instruments and we started a band."
Members of the band include Matt Adams, drums; Steve Adams, bass; Ryan Edberg, guitar; and Henry Koering, lights and fog. All their song lyrics can be found on their Web site. Titles include "Hurricane," "Shaken," "Survive," "Pride," "Forever," "Time," "Remember Me," "Agape" and "Get a Life." Fans can also download a poster of We3Kings.
"I think it's been like a really, really awesome experience for us," Matt Adams said in an interview, "because we've gotten to be exposed all over the state to top professionals in the business and record labels. And we get to spread God's word to people -- beyond Brainerd."
"We were just hoping to get to semifinals. So we're not really concerned about what happens on Saturday, because we've gotten as far as we really wanted to get. So we're going to just have fun on Saturday," Adams said.
"We do our band full time and this summer we're going on tour for three months to California. ... A manager from a band that has a record label called us and they invited us to go with them" a few weeks ago, Adams said.
The final contest begins at 8 p.m. Saturday at The New Union. Cost of admission is $8. Call or stop by The New Union, at 3141 Central Ave. N.E. in Minneapolis, to reserve tickets for the show, or call (612) 781-8488. The New Union sits at the intersection of Central Avenue and St. Anthony Parkway in northeast Minneapolis, just south of the Columbia golf course.
For more information, visit www.newunion.org.
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