Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lil' Smokies, Brett Favre, and Purple Pride

I want to use the napkins and the plates. Not just any ones, mind you, the purple and gold I bought 11 years ago. It was 1998, the Vikings were headed to the Super Bowl and I wad headed to the party store. As a lifelong Vikings fan, I was going to be ready when they won. I picked up some napkins and plates with the team logo on them, so I could eat my nachos and lil' smokies with purple pride.

With Cris Carter, Randy Moss, and Robert Smith, they were going to wipe out years of frustration, finally winning the big game. And then it happened. The most dependable kicker in football missed.

As a Vikings fan I should have known better. Of course Gary Anderson was going to miss. After all, he's gotten our hopes up by completing a perfect season until that NFC title game.

Now it's just another footnote on Wikipedia, another sign of this team's failure, along with those four Super Bowl losses, the Herschel Walker trade, and the Love Boat scandal.

But while we've had great offenses and great defenses, the one thing Vikings fans haven't had since Fran Tarkenton is a great quarterback.

We've suffered through guys like Tommy Kramer, Wade Wilson, Sean Salisbury, Rich Gannon, Jeff George, Brad Johnson and Tarvaris Jackson. Along the way there were also forgettable guys like Spergon Wynn and even St. Cloud State's own Todd Bouman.

Sure some of those guys put together a good season here or there, but arguably only one quarterback in that stretch put together a string of success, as Daunte Culpepper gave us glimmers of hope.

Tarvaris Jackson is a tremendous athlete with a strong arm and quick legs. But he hasn't shown he can win consistently. Brett Favre to the rescue -- he could have been the bona fide Hall of Fame quarterback the team has lacked.

But now that too is just another story in this team's ongoing saga of losing.

Guess I don't have to dig up those plates and napkins this season. There's always next year.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is "Christian" music dying?

tobyMac, originally uploaded by echobase_2000.

If you look at the headliners at some of this summer's Christian music festivals, you may wonder what year it is -- 2009 or 1999.

The top tier of Christian bands is largely unchanged over the last decade. Sure dc Talk is no longer together, but frontman tobyMac (pictured) keeps the Talk train moving. Another dc Talker now fronts the Newsboys.

Both acts will be playing this year's Sonshine Festival in Minnesota, a prime example of what's changed, and what hasn't.

Sonshine's headliners include Switchfoot, Skillet, and Relient K, all bands that are well-known in Christian circles.

That's not to say there aren't up and coming bands led by faith-fueled musicians. There are tons of them. It's just they're not following the path of the Newsboys. Like Switchfoot and Relient K, the new bands would rather be market of the general market music scene, not pigeonholed as Christian.

That's great for a festival like Cornerstone that I've been a part of. Cornerstone is more on the fringes of Christian music, and this year played host to plenty of bands that don't neatly fall in the confines of "Christian" music. Bands like Anberlin, Los Lonely Boys, Shiny Toy Guns, Underoath, and Family Force 5.

They're all bands you can download on iTunes, or if you still want a CD you can get it at Target or Best Buy. That's a big change from the '90s where new Christian acts had to get their CDs into Christian book stores.

For more than the last decade, many of the young bands whose members are Christians have gone around the Christian music industry.

That's why the headliners at festivals like Sonshine haven't changed much. New bands don't want to take their place as the top Christian bands. They'd rather be like Switchfoot with hits on pop radio.

Take Anberlin. They play the late night talk shows and chart on alternative rock radio. Or Underoath, a screamo band with plenty of mainstream credibility. They'll top the Billboard albums chart, headline the Warped Tour all summer, only taking a single pit stop to play Cornerstone.

That's the new paradigm. Make music not for the choir but music that goes to the corners of the earth, competing right alongside mainstream bands.

The Christian music industry may still have a place, if nothing else for worship music for the church. But it's probably not going to be what it was. That's not to say Christians aren't still making music. They are, and will. And we'll be better for it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Anberlin, originally uploaded by echobase_2000.

Here's one of my favorite shots from last week at Cornerstone.