Originally created 08/06/99

Money not top priority for Summer Jam



Eddie Carswell laughs at the notion that he's the Perry Ferrell or Sarah McLachlan of the contemporary Christian music world.

But his group, NewSong, has taken the multiartist touring show concept popularized by Mr. Farrell's Lollapalooza and perfected by Ms. McLachlan's Lilith Fair and made it work for the genre.

For example, January Jam drew 15,000 to the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, S.C., earlier this year, according the group's publicist, Turning Point Media Relations.

A summer version, the multi-act Summer Jam '99 tour, headlined by NewSong, rolls into the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center at 7 tonight. Performers include NewSong, Clay Crosse, Margaret Becker, Natalie Grant and father-son group Jeoffrey and Aaron Benward.

The knock on contemporary Christian music is that it's a commercial venture masked by religious precepts. But with a $5 ticket price, nobody can accuse the artists of money-grubbing.

The cheap fare still arouses suspicion, Mr. Carswell said in a recent phone interview. "We've been accused of `under-pricing.' They think we're up to something," he said.

Mr. Carswell said his band mates are good enough to make it in mainstream pop music -- and they could have made more money -- but they were compelled to share their religious beliefs through their music.

"This is what God wanted us to do with our lives," he said. "We all feel called to do it."

In their 17-year career, NewSong has scored 14 No. 1 singles on Contemporary Christian charts. Their signature songs include Arise, My Love, Light Your World and Miracles.

"If you listen to Christian radio at all, you've heard some of these songs," Mr. Carswell said.

A preconcert tailgate party, with live musical performances, product giveaways and interactive games, will begin outside at 4:30 p.m. The tailgate party was conceived to give concertgoers something to do while they line up outside the venue to get tickets or wait for the doors to open.

"It's kind of a preconcert fun time," said Mr. Carswell.

What: Summer Jam '99 featuring NewSong, Clay Crosse, Margaret Becker, Aaron & Jeoffrey and Natalie Grant

When: 7 tonight

Where: Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, 601 Seventh St.

How much: $5

Phone: 722-3521