Toto's began life as a discotheque,
a place to see and be seen. It's been re-decorated for the post-industrial
world in black and maroon, chain-link fence panels, steel girders and siding.
There are three bars, a decent stage, and good sight lines. There are plenty
of ashtrays, waitresses, security guards and garbage cans for the empties,
plus no chicken-wire in front of the stage. Not a bad place for a $22/ticket
5 Minute Walk Records
Friday, September 13, 1996
Sponsored by: St. Xavier's radio station WXRV & Wasteland Productions
Lineup: Random 88, Dime Store, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Shari Lloyd and I were here to listen to and
interview Dime Store Prophets of 5 Minute Walk Records. They had second
billing to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. The leather-clad crowd was really
here to see Joan, but they gave the opening acts a fair hearing.
DSP is a Christian band that knows what to
do in a club: play tight with a strong, rolling beat, keep the introductions
brief, and let the songs speak for themselves. Toss in a few choruses of
"YMCA," "Jungle Boogie," and "Stayin' Alive" to get the audience moving.
Play well. Coordinate those jumps. Clown. Emote. Come through with another
great show, breakdown fast, and get out of the headliner's way! Words like
"savior" and "righteous" just happen to be in the material.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts began their
set and, without apology, the Prophets grabbed ring-side seats and listened
to their colleagues. DSP are not touring with Joan and appreciated the
opportunity to see a legend as much as anyone. She put on a good show.
Later, we were able to sit down with Masaki
Liu (producer, guitarist, back-up vocalist), Sam Hernandez (bass player
and back-up vocals), Justin Stevens (lead singer and guitarist), and drummer
Joel Metzler to find out what Dime Store Prophets is all about.
The band was on West Coast time,
fresh off a plane and a successful gig, and enjoying good treatment at
the hands of the promoters. They didn't seem to mind the lateness of the
hour, so the discussion went on far into the night. Justine Stevens, the
band's frontman, was the last to join the group. I asked him if he minded
us speaking to everyone at length, "All the members of this band have brains;
they can speak for themselves." (See sidebar for his enlightening song
Based in the San Francisco
Bay Area, Dime Store Prophets are gifted to be a commercial, entertaining
club band. They regularly open for big-name alternative acts like Mudhoney,
Better Than Ezra, and Chris Isaak because of their reputation among local
promoters as reliable entertainers. This is something not every Christian
band can pull off. The standards are much higher there, the audiences more
critical, the bookings more competitive, the core message less likely to
be favorably received.
I asked them how the typical
club-goer is going to differentiate between a godless and godly band in
the same setting. Masaki thinks the difference is "hope." It would be a
disservice in these settings to be preachy, to push a religious-right cultural
agenda. Their songs have a contemporary message, built on a consistent,
coherent foundation that exposes the listener to the gospel in a culturally
relevant way. When it works, the listener should go away thinking, "There's
something different about these guys. I wonder what?"
Playing in a weekend traveling
band means continual sacrifice. Joel Metzler has side-tracked education
plans and moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco to pursue the dream of
a full-time musical career. For now, he paints houses during the week to
pay the bills. Even with the aggravation of traveling every weekend, counting
on losing a piece of luggage or equipment whenever they fly, he doesn't
question their calling to be a Christian band in the secular club scene.
Joel has been playing with the group since October, 1995, just after their
debut album Love is Against the Grain was cut. The original drummer,
Phil Meads, left to pursue ministry full-time. Joel is looking forward
to the band's next album, slated for production in January, and playing
songs that he had a part in developing.
Like most young bands, DSP
is continually evolving. Sam Hernandez is currently learning how to "act"
on stage. He's an introvert who thought it was fine to just be himself
and play. But he's learning how to get a little more of himself out where
people can see it.
Masaki is the primary producer
for 5 Minute Walk Records. In addition to producing Dime Store Prophets
and his other band, Rivulets and Violets, he recently completed debut projects
for ska band Five Iron Frenzy and San Diego-based Dryve in his studio.
5 Minute Walk is a unique
record company. 5 Minute Walk tours are meant to be more than just a good
time; each one has a ministerial purpose as well. They are preparing now
for the 20,000 Jackets tour this October and November with Black Eyed Sceva
and Dryve. None of the band members see the other bands on the label as
competition. They work together as a team, supporting their fellow community
members. DSP just returned from 5 Minute Walk Record's semi-annual retreat.
Forty-five people associated with the label--all the bands, their wives,
and the front-office staff--converged for a week of fellowship, reflection,
When is 5 Minute Walk moving
to Nashville? Never. Nice place to visit, but why leave the best climate
and restaurant scene in the world?
DSP is a nice group of guys--the
kind of buddies you might see at your local evangelical church. They have
a lot of interests, pay their bills, are polite, good listeners, focused,
and dedicated to representing Christ wherever He leads them, not what you
expect to run into after midnight in an aging discotheque with a shooting
or two in its past. If this is the future of Christian rock 'n roll, I'm
looking forward to it.