When Your First Concert was Carman: Sapphira’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Sapphira” is a pseudonym.

It’s always a really awkward question for me: “What was your first concert?”

For context, my husband owns a record store. This question is typically asked by someone after we’ve been discussing great hardcore, punk, or indie shows that we’ve recently attended.

Well… my first stadium concert was Carman.

[insert crickets chirping noise here].

Well, I’m pretty sure it was Carman, unless, wait, I think maybe I saw Twila Paris and my family was so excited because Mike Warnke – you know – the comedian — was opening for her. Who was your favorite rap artist in the 80’s…. Steven Wiley was rated highly… no one? Anyone? Any Michael W. Smith fans out there? Amy Grant (obviously pre-selling out and going secular)?

My evangelical musical background is not the cool kind of obscure the kids are typically looking for…

When my family converted, they went all in, they burned their old rock music, gave away our evil toys (thank you Turmoil in the Toybox for that trauma), smashed the TV, tossed out the VCR and shifted us over to only “wholesome” toys and music. Homeschooling followed soon thereafter.

I was starting 3rd grade when they pulled me out. I remember my oldest brother (10 years older) having a really hard time adjusting. He tried to trade in his Bon Jovi, Poison, and White Snake for Crumbächer and Stryper, but they just didn’t quite cut it. Plus, it didn’t matter because soon those bands were seen as “gateway” bands and they were also removed from the acceptable playlists.

Eventually it was a very small list of approved music and that is how I ended up at my first Carman concert, being enthralled by a ridiculous song about Lazarus. There would be many more Carman concerts, waiting in line to see The Newsboys, getting super excited to see Tooth & Nail bands, youth group trips to the Christian music festival at Great America, and then reaching the pinnacle of homeschool kid cool – joining the super hip praise dance crew at church and learning choreographed, very modest, dance moves to all of these bands and more to be performed at our outreach missionary programs.

There is nothing quite like boys and girls in baggy modest clothing doing very repetitive choreography to Audio Adrenaline or DC Talk to really get the crowd pumped.

What I always found especially amazing was the ability of some homeschool parents to find something sinister about even these ridiculously over-the-top super Christian bands. For example, my friend’s parents took her copy of DC Talk and recorded over the song “I Don’t Want It” – for those who weren’t DC Talk loving Jesus Freaks…note the lyrics to the first verse:

“S-E-X is test when I’m pressed

So back up off with less of that zest

Impress this brother with a life of virtue

The innocence that’s spent is gonna hurt you

Safe is the way they say to play

Then again safe ain’t safe at all today

So just wait for the mate that’s straight from God

Don’t have sex ’til you tie the knot” (Full lyrics available here)

This song has it all…. It’s perfectly aligned with the I Kissed Dating Goodbye lectures we were getting at youth group…women are the guardians of virtue and the temptresses, the most important thing is to guard your purity, safe sex is a lie, it continues on like this for the entire catchy song.

Yet it was too taboo for my homeschool crew.

About 50% of us were allowed to listen to it as long as we were over 16, the remainder had it removed from their tapes. It’s always amazed me that even though my family are two to three standard deviations away from the norm in their over the top hyper-controlled and restrictive practice of evangelical Christianity, I always had friends with even more restrictive and punitive parents that made my experience seem almost moderate. It was only after breaking away (and finding community in the hardcore/punk/feminist music scenes) that I was able to see how restrictive my family was and was able to begin to chart my own course.

At least it’s been easier to catch up on the music I missed out on…

That whole “unlearning pretend science” and “learning actual science” once I got to college thing was quite a bit more challenging.