Five Iron Frenzy: Punk rock with God and a horn section

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2001

David Johnson's rock 'n' roll dream comes true this weekend. Johnson, 19, is producing two concerts featuring contemporary rock bands. Slick Shoes from Southern California and Five Iron Frenzy from Denver will play Friday and Saturday nights in Centennial Hall.

"They're top-notch Christian bands," Johnson said. "Slick Shoes is like punk rock, sounds like MXPX, Blink 182 or Green Day, that feel. Five Iron Frenzy plays ska music. It's happy music. It's a lot like punk rock with a horn section."

Johnson graduated last year from Juneau-Douglas High School. Growing up in Juneau, he said he thought that youth are often excluded from concerts because of cost or age restrictions, and he wanted this event to be youth-oriented. He also wanted admission to be free.

"The focus is for young people," he said. "We're not going to exclude people, but we're doing it for young people."

Nels Sanford, a JuneauDouglas junior, is a fan of both bands and a friend of Johnson from the Auke Bay Bible Church. He said he doesn't think of these groups as overtly religious.

"You don't have to be a Christian to go," Sanford said. "Basically it's a punk rock show for kids, whatever they believe in."

Johnson was inspired to produce the concerts after he attended a Christian rally last fall with evangelist Ralph Bell. Johnson wanted a Christian outreach element to the event, but he didn't want a revival. He wanted to bring some rock bands he and his friends would want to see.

"We wanted to have a lot less pressure on kids, so they didn't have to feel like they were coming to a Christian event. They could feel like they were just coming to a concert," he said. "We wanted them to be able to stand up, not sit in chairs."

Johnson said after the concert each night the lead singer of Five Iron Frenzy will give a short gospel message.

"There will be a few high school kids and youth pastors back there if people want more information about stuff afterwards," Johnson said.

Johnson's flexible schedule as a substitute teacher allowed him to devote time to fundraising and organizing the concerts. He wants middle-school age students to be able to walk in without tickets, and that required fund raising to pay for the bands, their transportation and rental of Centennial Hall. He received help from local businesses and the Juneau Christian Youth Council, but much of the financial support has come from his peers.

"We had a bunch of kids in youth groups around town tithe their PFD's," he said. "That all went through their parents. We had $200 from a bunch of kids. It's a neat idea that kids around town had supported it for their friends."

In another recognition of potential parental concern, Johnson has arranged to have the concert broadcast live on Channel 12, the community access channel. The broadcast will begin at 8 p.m. and run the duration of the concerts, until about 11:15 p.m..

"If parents want to know what's going on, they can watch it," he said.

Slick Shoes will open each night's concert with an hour- to hour-and-a-half-long set. Five Iron Frenzy will follow.

Five Iron Frenzy is an eight-piece band that has four CDs out and tours nationally. Its latest CD, "All the Hype That Money Can Buy," was released last year. Slick Shoes has four members and has released three CDs.

Sanford compared the two bands.

"Slick Shoes is fast, but not hardcore (punk). Five Iron Frenzy is a little more poppy," he said. "They're amazing. I have three or four of their albums - their live album is my favorite. They're awesome live. I've wanted to see them for a long time."

Sanford said if someone didn't pay attention to the lyrics, it would not be apparent the band is Christian.

"Slick Shoes is pretty much straight punk," Johnson said. "Some of their songs have to do with Christian stuff. Others are about girls."

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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