What to do tonight: Get rockin' in Garfield
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When Slaves BC plays tonight at Garfield Artworks for their first-ever live performance, they will have one thing working in their favor.
But for the members of Slaves BC, it is much more than faith in the power of their music and their ability to bang out sound that will have everyone in the crowd head-nodding until they're dizzy.
Slaves BC is made up of five hardcore Christians playing hardcore music.
"I think we're the only one around here," said Josh Thieler, 24, who just recently came out from behind the drum kit to be the band's front man. "There are hardcore bands from this area that have Christians in the band, but they don't want that tied to their music, which I can understand.
"But I was raised in it. So to me, they're kind of one and the same. The other guys [in the band], they probably could take it or leave it honestly. But they've played with worship bands, so it's part of the music.
The band started when Mr. Thieler met guitarists Sean Singer and Rick van Newkirk, both of Bellevue, while they were all studying youth ministry at Geneva College. They shared a love of Christ and a love for music.
"We started in December 2010," said Mr. Thieler, who grew up in Greensburg, where his parents played Christian rock. "We've always listened to music, and it usually makes us angry seeing who becomes popular. There are a lot of great bands that people don't know about because [the bands] don't have the opportunity to be heard. People don't know that there is more out there.
"But we didn't know we were going to be a band. We just went down into the basement and started playing."
They added Jason Bantu of Dormont on bass and began stirring things up.
The name of their band -- and the album that they're finishing up -- are both taken from their faith.
"There's a concept in the New Testament that the apostle Paul writes about being a slave to sin and being dead in your transgressions," Mr. Thieler said. "Then he says 'Christ comes into your life and frees you.' So Slaves Before Christ is the full title of the band."
Their first CD, entitled "This World Shall Pass Away," began as a concept album about The Book of Revelation.
"It tells the story of various characters," Mr. Thieler said. "Revelation is kind of depressing and terrifying for the first 19 or 20 chapters, and then the last two chapters, it's one of the most hopeful parts of the entire Bible. Revelation ends with Jesus saying, 'Look, I am coming soon.'
"A lot of Christians don't pay attention to Revelation because it's scary and there's a lot of imagery in it. But the message is that there's not going to be any more pain, no more tears, no more sorrow."
But the Bible is not their only source of inspiration. There's also State Route 28.
"I will be sitting in traffic on 28 and I will get angry," said Mr. Thieler, who lives in Shaler. "I'm always getting inspired on 28. So I will get a guitar riff stuck in my head, and because I don't know how to play guitar, I'll call one of the guys on my cell phone and I'll tell him what to play. Most of the lyrics for our album were written while I was sitting on 28."
The band had posted a few of their songs on their Facebook page when -- out of the proverbial blue -- they received a message from Ted Katta of the hardcore band Cousin Sleaze. The New York City group was heading to Pittsburgh as part of its tour promoting their debut album, "Sick Maniacs," and was lining up acts to share the bill.
"Whenever you're booking this type of tour it's always beneficial to have local bands on the bill that are of a similar ilk," Mr. Katta said. "I did it entirely on my own. It took me six months to find bands online that I thought would be a good fit for us."
But that doesn't mean Cousin Sleaze or the other two bands performing tonight -- oldfears and Save Us From the Archon -- play Christian hardcore.
"We've been labeled in reviews as groove metal," Mr. Katta said. "It's a hybrid. We kind of have our own style. You know, it's very mainstream-approachable, but it also has underground influences that are old-school New York City.
"We've had an amazing response whenever we play outside New York City. People tend to be a lot more friendly, a lot more receptive than they are here.
"It takes time to make the band happen, and it's never more gratifying than when you play somewhere for people who have never heard of you and never seen you before, and if one person comes up and says they liked it, it's worth the five- or six-hour drive between cities."
Mr. Thieler said his group welcomes the chance to play tonight, and admits that they're a little nervous. Partly because they had to quickly recruit a drummer -- Stephen Bickel of Ambridge -- so that Mr. Thieler could focus on the vocals. But also because the reception to their brand of hardcore hasn't always been positive.
"A lot of people don't get us," he said. "We're kind of collectively hated by Christian metal websites because they were looking through our pictures and they saw me smoking a cigarette and saw the language that I used. Meanwhile, there are websites with upside-down crosses all over the world posting that they like our music."
But Mr. Thieler, who has a full-time job as a manager for Giant Eagle, emphasizes that the group doesn't preach from the stage.
"I don't want to go up on stage and do sermons," he said. "I would rather meet people and get to know them, and if they're interested in our way of life, then we can talk about it. We're not up there to push our beliefs. It mostly comes through in the lyrics and our personal lives."
The show starts at 7 p.m. at Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave. There's a $5 cover.
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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it. Contact Dan Majors at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1456.
First Published July 2, 2012 3:40 pm