When a band canceled within hours of show time, Vic Cuccia, owner of the Warehouse in Lexington, S.C., was in a jam.
And then he remembered Matt Malpass' offer to play if he ever needed a band. Mr. Malpass, an Augusta guitar player with a Christian ska band, Skadaddles, made good on his offer. He got the band to Lexington in three hours, in time to play its first-ever concert.
"They had been practicing, but they had never played before," said Mr. Cuccia, who remembers that the group did OK on its debut. It didn't hurt that the audience took a liking to Skuter Malpass, the band's then-11-year-old bass player and Matt's brother, he said.
Since then the band has matured, and Mr. Cuccia signed the group this year for a CD project, the first for his new company, DTS Records. The band will finish recording in about a week, with release planned for the end of May.
DTS will market the CD through Christian bookstores and independent record stores for $11.99.
Skadaddles is a spiritually based band with a distinct message to youth, he said.
The band will tour two weeks this summer. Mr. Cuccia also will promote them at Cornerstone, a July 4 Christian festival at Peoria, Ill. The event draws about 25,000 people each year, he said.
Skadaddles is one of three bands with ties to New Hope Church of God, said Scott Franklin, youth minister. The eight-member band has an unusual mixture of sounds, combining modern rock with a horn section.
"It's that trendy thing we call ska," said Charles "Coop" Cooper, a lyricist and member of Whitman's Mold, another New Hope band. "It's like reggae and rock had a kid, and they called it ska."
Mr. Cooper's band plays groove core, a name they coined for their own hybrid. "It's alternative, rap, real hard core, punk, ska -- if you come and hear us, you are guaranteed to like something."
Whitman's Mold won the battle of the bands at Greenbrier High School in December. The band has been performing regularly in the Carolinas.
The band is targeting young people, but it is developing a following among adults as well, according to Mr. Cooper. "It's crowd-participation time with Whitman's Mold. People don't really slam dance. It's a lot of just jumping, skank."
For CD buyers, finding good bands depends on word of mouth, said David Pope, 17, who plays rhythm guitar with Cornerstone. The band got its start about a year ago at Warren Baptist Church.
"It is really tough to make it big in Christian music," he said. "The point is to get the message out." The music is second.
Otherwise, buyers have to be willing to go to racks and take a chance, he said.
Like the other bands, Cornerstone's music is original. "Most of the lyrics are written by Jamie Pierce, but we all tend to contribute to the songwriting part," he said.
It is their way of witnessing, to let others know how much fun it is to be a Christian, he said. "We use our talents for God."