Which Voice?

Christian rock is booming right now, in both the commercial and the creative senses of the word (or perhaps the Word). As former Spin scribe Andrew Beaujon writes in his revealing new book, Body Piercing Saved My Life, the community (if a multibillion-dollar industry can be considered a community) is bigger and more self-reliant than ever, but it's simultaneously making its most meaningful strides yet toward a mainstream crossover: The secular attention earned lately by Christian acts such as Sufjan Stevens and Switchfoot is good news indeed for youth-group members harboring dreams of someday rocking nightclubs, not churches.

This weekend's three-day One Voice festival brings to Six Flags some of the scene's highest-profile artists: former DC Talk member TobyMac, grimacing alt-rockers Third Day, longtime Christian-music heavyweight Steven Curtis Chapman. Much of this music is better than past trespasses would lead you to believe. The genuinely funky pop-rap on TobyMac's 2004 hit Welcome to Diverse City, for example, wouldn't embarrass Snoop Dogg (or Bootsy Collins, who actually makes a guest appearance). And anyone who's trekked to Red Rocks to swoon to Dave Matthews' roots-pop could probably stand the trip to Arlington to hear Waco-based worship star David Crowder. (Other attractions include scrubbed-clean sludge-metallers Pillar and handsome-guy balladeer Jeremy Camp.)

Despite the secular venue (and musical quality), One Voice isn't really about crossover. It's about consolidation of a core; hit Six Flags and you'll hear music about the wisdom of making the choice you've already made. Head to the Cavern on Friday night after Third Day's set, on the other hand, and you might hear something else from two Philly-based indie acts--drifty post-rock guys Saxon Shore and emo-folk troubadour Denison Witmer--for whom Christianity seems like a beginning, not an end. Of course, ambivalence often works better on the page than the stage, which presents Christian rock's real quandary: To take over America the way Christianity itself has, it needs someone capable of expressing uncertainty with some certainty.


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