Listen to the new album from Sarah Sparks!
Listen to the new album from Sarah Sparks!

JFH Staff Blog | July 2016

Sunday, July 31, 2016

JFH 20 Retrospective Part 3 - The Long, Hard Road, by John DiBiase

We certainly take music’s relationship with the internet for granted now. Previously, we had to wait until we could take a trip to a local Christian bookstore or music seller to pick up an album on release day. Now, we can buy the album digitally on our computer or phone at midnight of release day from literally anywhere -- as long as our phone has a signal or we have internet access. 

And back in the late 90’s, record labels were still trying to figure out what to do with online media. At one point, someone at a label (and unfortunately, I can’t really recall which one) told me they couldn’t send us music as often as we needed it because they didn’t believe the internet was an legitimate form of media. 

Ha, times have changed, haven’t they?

But the first record label to really take note of JFH was Forefront Records (home to DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline, Rebecca St. James, DeGarmo & Key, Bleach, etc), and we started up a friendship with the label that would last a few years. In the summer of 1998, while I was helping out the label’s street team (called “The Buzz”) at Creation East Festival, the head of the team offered to help us migrate the site to an official dotcom with server space on NetCentral in exchange for JFH helping to do grassroots promotion for DC Talk’s brand new “Supernatural” album. They'd cover the costs to help us get going and give us any server space we needed. It was a dream come true for a broke 18-year-old Christian music enthusiast fresh out of high school… and since we’re all Christians here, it just couldn’t get any better… right?

JFH front page in August, 2004

Aside from stating the obvious that promises that had been made were not kept, I’ll just say that the experience was a life lesson and an unfortunate one. However, the silver lining to the whole mishegas was that it did help us get the site onto Jesusfreakhideout.com officially (and… by 2001 -- almost three years later -- I was able to fianlly get the ownership rights back to it…).

Life for me has changed drastically since being a 16-year-old kid with a minimal social life who started a very time-intensive website in JFH. I started college in the fall of 1998 and majored in Advertising/Design. And after 5 semesters there, all I knew is that I’d wanted to just work on JFH full-time. I took a part-time job doing web support type work at a local company in 2000, got engaged to my girlfriend in 2001, married in 2003, bought our condominium in 2006, quit that job later that year, and finally took JFH full-time. In 2010, our son Will was born (after a miscarriage the year before), and life changed dramatically yet again. All the while, the music industry was going through its own growth spurts… and then deep dives. Twenty years in, JFH is a part-time project once again and the time I’ve had to spend on it has been cut down drastically from a decade ago. But thanks to the incredible staff of volunteers who help out on a regular basis, JFH prevails. And hopefully it will continue to do so for as long as God allows or wants it to.

So, with that said… here’s to whatever the future holds in store next for Jesus Freak Hideout! Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years!

 -- John DiBiase (JFH founder / Editor / Writer)

 

 

 

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

JFH 20 Retrospective Part 2 - The Birth of 'The Jesus FREAK Hideout' by John DiBiase

In early 1996, my family got the internet at home for the very first time (dial-up! Ugh…), and I used to love scouring the new sites on the web dedicated to the individual bands or record labels and the few existing Christian music media sites at the time, like CCM Magazine or a pretty cool little independent one called The electronic Lighthouse Magazine (or “TeLM”). But I remember visiting artist sites and wondering what was newly added to the site, as they didn’t always list what was changed, so I had to spend time browsing multiple pages in an effort to find something new.

On August 13th, 1996, a couple hours before my family was going to take us to a Jars of Clay / Duncan Sheik concert at Tink’s Entertainment Complex in Scranton, PA, I read a tutorial on basic HTML on Angelfire.com and started my own website. I still remember sitting in the car, on the way to the concert, and turning to my dad who was at the wheel and telling him “I started a website today!”

Who knew?

My goal for the site was a one-stop place for all things Christian music. If you wanted the latest news, it’d be there. Tour dates? Sure, I’ll copy them from every artist site I could find and paste them onto one page. (THAT time-consuming idea was short-lived. Ha!) The Yankees won the World Series? (My dad’s favorite baseball team) Sure, I’d slap that on the front page. Why not? It was just a little webpage, but there were no rules as to what had to or didn’t have to be on there.

But that name, “The Jesus FREAK Hideout.” What’s the deal?

Before I started the site, I would frequent the Christian chat rooms at NetCentral.net, and at one point, they offered free private chat rooms. I used to use the handle “Jesus FREAK” in chat rooms, and then got sick of the “Are you a male or female?” questions every time I met someone, so I changed it to “mR. Jesus FREAK” (which didn’t stop some people from asking, of course). When I created a free chat room, I called it “The Jesus FREAK Hideout.” It seemed fitting. I ended up never using it, but when it came time to naming my new little free web page on Angelfire.com, “The Jesus FREAK Hideout” just kinda seemed to work for me.

The following year, in 1997, the site had started grabbing the attention of publicists. I remember the very first press kit we ever received -- it was for the band Eager, which featured one of the original members of one of my favorite bands, PFR. But in addition to PR, the JFH started also getting the attention of record labels. And the very first label to contact us would change the course of the site’s history forever…

 -- John DiBiase (JFH founder / Editor / Writer)

 

 

 

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

JFH 20 Retrospective Part 1, by John DiBiase

Twenty years. It’s kind of amazing to even think about doing ANYthing for two decades. I’m hesitant to say “any job,” because Jesus Freak Hideout was born out of a passion for something and was never meant to be a job – even if that’s what it did become for some time.

I had always grown up with a knowledge of Jesus and what He meant to us, but I didn’t really invite him into my life as my Lord and Savior until the early 1990s. And then, my mom’s love for the classic rock act Foreigner and a list of “If you like this artist, then try this Christian artist” in a magazine called “YOU” lead us to a Christian bookstore where we could listen to demos of Christian music and pick out music we were interested in.

It all started with a band called Idle Cure. They were popular in the early 90s for being a Foreigner sound-a-like with an overtly Christian message (and it’s a slightly guilty pleasure to revisit those albums from time to time ;) ). After we exhausted the Idle Cure discography, return trips to the bookstore cultivated a love and appreciation for Christian music we’d discover – not on the radio, mind you – but via demos and magazine articles and advertisements (and endcap displays at the store). I also loved a Christian music video show called “Signal Exchange” (which was hosted by the super talented Cory Edwards, who went on to direct an animated film called Hoodwinked years later). It was through that show that I’d see music videos by artists like Audio Adrenaline, Dakoda Motor Co and Switchfoot and would soon fall in love with each of those – and many more.

I’ll save you ever minute detail in my personal history of being introduced to Christian music, but the fact is, these artists – and a burgeoning love for Jesus – sparked a passion that still remains today (although it’s certainly changed).

Which was the first CCM artist you ever heard (that introduced you to Christian music)?

 

-- John DiBiase (JFH founder / Editor / Writer)

 

 

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Look At The Lyrics Of Jon Foreman, Part 2

No Cheap Inspiration Here

A Look At The Lyrics Of Jon Foreman, Part 2

 
 

In September, I released Part 1 of a look at the lyrics of Jon Foreman and Switchfoot. With Switchfoot just about to release their 10th album, Where The Light Shines Through, and Foreman having released a steady stream of great EP’s over the last few years--and to honor such a prolific and heartfelt songwriter--I’d like to examine the Jon Foreman songs and lyrics that mean the most to me. This is part two of a multi-essay (okay “blog”) effort to wrestle with the life of the mind, with what happens when other’s art and your own heart collide. You can read part one of this series here

 
This Is Your Life (From The Beautiful Letdown) 
 
“This is your life / Are you who you want to be?”
  
Socrates is reputed to have said "the unexamined life is not worth living." Yet so much of the time I'm not really giving much thought to why I do what I do. It's all too easy to fall into familiar patterns or let my desires control what I do. Some call it "the chasing of the belly and the bowl." And all that unexamined life can lead you to being the shell of a person, broken and wondering how you got here, shipwrecked. "Where did it all go wrong?" you think.
 
That may be overly dramatic, but so is breaking down on the roadside after you've been ignoring the "check engine" light for a month. You knew there was trouble, all the signs were there, but there were just other things to do. (And sometime, in my younger years, I would just turn up the music if my car was making a funny sound.)
 
But asking yourself hard questions is important. There are only so many days in your life left, and if I want to “live them well.” I have to ask the questions and pray the hard prayers. “Lord, search me, is there more you have for me?”
 
I’m about to hit the big “four-oh”, and asking myself this question everyday is critical.  
 
 
“Live It Well” (From Where The Light Shines Through)
 
 
“Life is short / I want to live it well”
 
“Teach us to number our days” the Psalmist says. The clock is ticking down, and all those years you thought you had are drifting away, minute by minute. My life is short (especially measured against that rock my daughter found on our hike the other day, or that massive oak tree we passed).
 
Foreman hits this theme time and time again over the course of his band’s albums, but he never ceases to find new ways to say it. If you combine that important sentiment against the swelling, U2-like structure of the song, and you get an anthem that not only uplifts, but challenges. Theme songs don’t come much better than this. It’s the soundtrack to my days this summer; getting in shape, loving my family well, working hard at the gifts God has blessed me with.
 
May we all “live it well”.
 
 
“Company Car” (From New Way To Be Human
 
“I've got the company car / I'm the one swinging at two below par
Yeah, I've become one with the ones / that I've never believed in
But I've got the company car”
 
 
In college, I had the nicest car I will probably ever own. It was a sporty black Saab that was completely ridiculous and bought with trust fund money that should have been spent on something more practical, and modest, to drive. I stood out like a sore thumb at my Bible college, where most ministry majors were driving beat up cars and focusing on more important issues.
 
But I thought I needed to have it. In my insecurity about who I was, a flashy car seemed like some kind of answer, and since I could buy it outright, why not?
 
What you drive is a measure of success here in the U.S., and Foreman’s lyrics about a person who thinks they’ve made it because they are driving the company car (most likely a car that is nicer than one they could afford) speaks to the vanity and confusion of our times. A nice car is nothing to live for. It rusts eventually. The motor goes south and all you have left is the payments. 
 
Foreman has long made status symbols a theme of his writing, with terms like “Lexus cages” sprinkled throughout. On each album, you can count on at least a song or two where Foreman is urging his audience to live for more, and it’s a theme that cannot be overstated. Life is about so much more…
 
 
“Adding To The Noise” (From The Beautiful Letdown)
 
“If we're adding to the noise / turn off this song 
If we're adding to the noise / turn off your stereo, radio, video…”
 
The 21st century is sure noisy. And it’s become even more so in the 12-plus years since this song came out in 2003. There was no social media then (not in the way there is today) and there was still music on MTV. But Foreman got this right. If the stuff we consume just adds to the chaos of our lives, it’s time to turn it off.
 
Silence is going to be the great currency in the future, the thing that people crave and will seek out. And the reality is that the Lord’s still small voice comes through best in silence. Elijah in the cave sat through a tornado, an earthquake and a forest fire, but the Lord was not in those things. I listen to music a great deal, and much of it is music that relates to my faith directly. But turning it off to listen is imperative now and again.
 
 
Learning To Breathe (from Learning To Breathe)
 
"Hello, good morning, how you do? / What makes your rising sun so new?
I could use a fresh beginning too / All of my regrets are nothing new
So this is the way that I say I need You / This is the way that I'm learning to breathe"
 
A fresh beginning is another constant theme with Foreman. “Dare You To Move” (“I dare you to move like today never happened“) and “Always” (“every breath is a second chance”) hint at this theme too, and show Foreman to be a man who is in touch with his sinful nature. 
 
And there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t need a new beginning too. Grace says that there is always a fresh start, always a cleared path ahead of you if you will only ask for it. Sometimes it's easy to get in a funk when personal failure and you are intimate friends. But as the book of Proverbs says “a righteous man gets up seven times”. It’s about the getting up and not the falling down. Because falling down is pretty much guaranteed. It’s those who finish the course that change things. 
 
Grace says “get up”, I’ve got this, you just keep going.” And as I grow as a believer, I realized that grace is the constant wind in my sail that I forget is even there. Growth is realizing how free I am because of Christ‘s death on the cross, free to fail, free to get back up again. It’s not up to me, so why pretend that it is.
 
It’s like breathing, sometimes you have to remember to do it. Learning to live in grace is learning to breathe, learning to do something naturally. If I lived in grace, and showed it in everything I do, if I reflected the grace I’ve been shown, how would that change things, my relationships, my work?
 
It would change everything…
 
Thank you, Jon Foreman for constantly making me think, reflect and sing along at the same time. I’m looking forward to seeing you in concert this summer.
 

 -- Alex Caldwell, Jesusfreakhideout.com staff writer

 

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