IF YOU GO
When: 9:30-11 p.m. tonight
Where: Coca-Cola Stage
SEE NEWSBOYS UP CLOSE
Several fans will get to be seated down front for the Newsboys' concert if they stop by the WLLJ-FM J103 booth to pick up a sticker to wear during the evening. If they are wearing a sticker and are picked out by the radio station's secret spotters, they'll get a prime view.
Unless you're a Newsboys fan who's new to Chattanooga, you've likely seen the Australian contemporary Christian band here in the Scenic City.
And if you're a fan, you probably can't see them too often.
Newsboys, which has played a venue in Chattanooga at least 10 times since 1995, will headline the Coca-Cola Stage on Riverbend's Family Night tonight. The multiple Grammy Award-nominated and Dove Award-nominated band was previously here for Riverbend in 2005, but it also has played its worship anthems and songs in several of the Christian-music-oriented Winter Jam tours, in several headlining concerts at Memorial Auditorium, once at Festival con Dios at Camp Jordan and even once at an inflatable stadium in Hamilton Place mall.
"Everybody asks for them," says Ted Gocke, morning show host and director of development for WLLJ-FM J103. "They're so high-energy on stage. [Their show] grabs your attention.
"[The band members] are full of ministry, their lyrics, their message -- they know what the most important thing is," he says. "People leave the shows having so much fun, so excited, loving the Lord, craving the [Holy] Spirit."
The band's live shows often include a revolving drum set and machinery that lifts other band members out over the audience, Gocke says, but those may or may not be doable at Riverbend because of its barge stage.
Newsboys' local popularity is so strong that more than 30 of its songs remain in J103's library, with more than two-thirds of them in regular airplay.
The Newsboys' last release was 2011's "God's Not Dead," but the band presently is working on the album "Restart." It will include the single "Live With Abandon," which will be released on iTunes on June 25 and elsewhere on Sept. 10.
"They always have new songs," says Gocke. "They're always edgy, always ahead of the game. They're trailblazers."
Lead singer Michael Tait has been with the band for four years, having replaced original lead singer Peter Furler in 2009. Tait was previously with the band dc Talk, which disbanded.
FIRST RESPONDERS APPRECIATION
Today is First Responders Appreciation Day at the festival. All first responders, such as police, fire and EMTs with valid identification, can get in free. Active and retired military veterans with a valid ID get in free as well.
The usual band also includes original members Jeff Frankenstein and Duncan Phillips, along with Jody Davis.
"They didn't miss a beat," Gocke says. "When Michael left dc Talk, he did his own thing for a while and put out some great music. When I heard he was with Newsboys, I said, 'Are you kidding me? How is that going to sound?' But each [band member] is unique. And they've had so many great songs since."
Tait says in a news release on the band's website that Newsboys "really are a band of brothers," but he's most proud that the group's "music always shares the gospel outright. The message is unchanging whether you look at a song as rock or worship.
"Yeah, I love the music," the lead singer says in a news release, "but I find myself looking for the end of the song now because I'm so anxious to share the message. At the end of the day, because I have been through some things, I just want people to get it so bad. The black guy over here, the white girl over there: I just want them to get it."
Local fan John Spalding agrees.
"The Newsboys have always been unashamed of the good news found in the life story of Jesus Christ," he says.
Longtime Newsboys manager and ministry partner Wes Campbell says Tait wasn't always that way.
"When he joined the band," he says, "Michael was naturally nervous about captaining the Newsboys' ship and taking on the preacher-type role, not having been that guy in dc Talk. But a couple of years into this, veteran Christian event promoters are telling me, 'That's the best presentation of the gospel I've ever heard.' He takes crowds from laughter to silence with his testimony: A sister taken by AIDS, a brother in prison. People see he's not a star on stage, just a real-life guy who needs a savior like everyone else."
Spalding says he's partial to an older Newsboys hit, "Spirit Thing," but he has appreciated the lead singer's talent since he sang "Jesus Freak" in his dc Talk days.
"Michael Tait is awesome," he says.
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...