June 6-14 • 21st Century Waterfront, Chattanooga, TN
• What: TobyMac
• When: 9 p.m. tonight
• Where: Coca-Cola Stage
• Admission: Riverbend 9-day wristband ($50); one-day wristband ($26)
• 8:45 p.m. TobyMac
Bud Light Stage
• 4:45 p.m. Standing Against the Odds
• 6 p.m. Ten Mile
• 7:30 p.m. Cody McCarver
• 4:45 p.m. Coley Nicole Jones
• 5:45 p.m. Victory Praise Team
• 7:15 p.m. Robert Streets
Sift through reviews of TobyMac's concerts, and you're likely to walk away with a significantly altered vocabulary for describing Christian music:
"Two days later, and I'm still sore from dancing."
"The bass actually shook our bodies."
"The energy was through the roof."
Born Toby McKeehan, TobyMac began making waves in the Christian music community in the late '80s when he and a pair of fellow Liberty University students founded the Grammy Award-winning vocal trio DC Talk.
Even in those early days, his stage presence exuded a vitality and energy that probably surprised listeners unfamiliar with the concept of hip-hop evangelism, says Ted Gocke, an on-air personality with local Christian radio station WLLJ-FM J-103.
"As he's grown in popularity and exposure and has more resources behind him, his show has gotten much bigger with the production value and the special effects that come with it," Gocke says.
Every year, J-103 compiles a list of popular Christian artists to help guide Riverbend organizer Friends of the Festival in the search for a headliner to take the stage during the Tuesday evening performance known as Faith and Family Night. TobyMac was an easy recommendation to headline this year, Gocke says, even as a followup to last year's well-received, energetic show by Australian Christian pop/rockers Newsboys, who are fronted by McKeehan's former DC Talk bandmate Michael Tait.
"Imagine that [show] on steroids," Gocke says. "In terms of high-energy shows out there right now, Toby's it.
"There will be dancers there, and they'll be flipping off the speakers. I've been joking on the morning show about how many times they'll have to fish him out of the river from jumping off the speakers and missing his mark."
Despite coming out of a band described by the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music as "the most popular overtly Christian act of all time," McKeehan's solo career has stacked up its own pile of accolades and honors. He is one of only three Christian artists to have a song -- "Eye on It" -- land atop Billboard's Top 200 chart. He has released five studio albums, the first three of which sold more than 500,000 copies and earned Grammy Award nominations.
Between his solo career and his stint with DC Talk, McKeehan has sold more than 10 million albums. At his home in Franklin, Tenn., his trophy cabinet is packed with an American Music Award, two Billboard Music Awards, three Grammys and 18 Dove Music Awards.
For their part, local TobyMac fans say they're excited that Riverbend has booked an artist whose music can reach fans of mainstream rock, pop and hip-hop while simultaneously spreading a positive message of Christian faith.
"I'm a big TobyMac fan," says Chattanooga photographer Ricky Davis. "He's led the way in Christian music to make it relevant and current. Christian music used to stay a few years behind the current music scene, and Toby has helped to bridge that gap.
"He's been a leader in the Christian hip-hop scene and that's really opened the doors for amazing artists such as Lecrae, Trip Lee and Tedashii to come forward. I think he's a great artist for Riverbend and Chattanooga."
Contact Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.