Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Impact Church musical all-stars: If they aren't the best unheard of band in Arizona, you are unforgiven

Maybe 100 yards from the Impact Church complex, you can hear the music. It's in the wind. But then another jet goes by, zoom! When that din dies again the audio broadcasted through speakers placed outside get more and more audible as you get closer. It sounds like more than one track is being played at once. Then you go by greeters, people handing out the flyer for the day, and then, after maybe coffee of many kinds from a machine, more donuts available than recommended safe by the FDA, you enter the main auditorium and are led to a seat, like you have just arrived just a tad late for the opera.

Sure, the vanilla cappucino is gone. Tapped. Kaput. So are the men who were all quite here the weekend before. But the Arizona Cardinals are playing on the road right now. That means the crowd this weekend, mainly female, is hardcore present. Which is good for that messianic, not-part-of-this-world vibe. There's fruit too to pick from this tree. Apples, bananas ... as well as Scottsdale Police officers in full body gear, hanging out ... but the main thing at the beginning of this last set of four shows is the 10-piece band, drums. two keyboards, bass, three guitars and three background singers. Then pastor Travis Hearn moves in for the kill with some vry basic, tree-stump humorist-slash-preacher rael sang for the common man.

But the band is tearing it up right now. It barely matters what the lyrics are since all rock'n'soul comes from gospel and the blues, anyway, all going back to Africa. But the visuals, oh, it's all so overwhelming. Two large video screens on either side of the stage, blasting the message of this medium: That God rocks. Jesus loves the Beatles. You rock for being here. Please broadcast that to the rest of the world, via social media. The images and messages keep coming as the lyrics sung go by on the screen, then more prompts "Instagram your #Impact Church" or "Culture Shock," or watch this at "" And then, there's the red star, as opposed to a cross with Jesus on it, to focus the mind's eye on. Yeah, Impact Church is well named. This is some kind of new set of sensory overload commandments. Enter, and try to resist its power and glory.

"It's all very missional," says band leader Jordan Coleman. "We are aimed at people who are unchurched, or people who were burned by the church. We are trying to help people who haven't been there for a while."

Kept very simple, it is. People only have some much time, so much bandwidth left, by Sunday each week in America. It's just good communications theory. Story old as ... let's face it, the Christians took over the Mediterranean region due to one important fact, superior marketing and the kind of motivational ethos causing one to go out and conquer the world, burn down libraries, fight lions, vanquish evil doers, with swords or words, even go out and live on some desert island, making a prisoner of thou-out-of-this-world self, eating only locusts, hummock bread, and pouring water on oneself to keep cool and refreshed so you can scribe historically inspired texts now treated as prophecy since it's all so poetic and timeless ... Jeesh, maybe just the explanation of what inspired the star logo on the stage and in the media material will suffice, from Phillipians 2:15: " that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.'Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky."

This is heady stuff for any generation, but for one raised on everything from Hal Lindsey's doomsday prophecies to the millenials hatched by "American Idol," you put the good news in front of someone with music played by puritan angels -- for example, Coleman has never had a sip of alcohol in his life ("I have never tasted alcohol. At communion we only did grape juice") -- and what you've go is an army of all kinds of people in the Valley with bumper stickers that say "Impact Church" in white lettering and black backgrounds.

"We are not trying to have church," Coleman says. "We are trying to be the Church."

At the age of 31, Coleman was born in Page, up in the stark expanse of broad waters, sand-carved stone and incredible cultural isolation, the son of an Assemblies of God pastor. "We were raised Pentecostal, but I was only there as a baby," he says. "We kept moving every two years, spent seven years in Ohio, a couple of years in Tennessee, then we moved to Austin, Texas." And so, his path followed the soul train of the heartland sound, and therefore, in terms of being a musician, he says, "I never really had any choice."

So when the lights go down at noon in the stagey cathedral, the musicians come out first. Coleman wears a blue shirt, baggy plack pants, white sheakers with black straps. These are clothes for aerobics. And rock stars. After a straightforward Christian rock song, most likely an original from some member of the band built on collaboration, they play a truncated version of the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life," and it works. He sings in a high tenor and his comment on what can best be described as a Van Morrison-like channeling leaves one to be amazed at how self-critical artists can be: "I joke that I have the voice of a woman," Coleman says.

Naturally, the woman singer follows next with what takes on a lioness power reminding one of Florence and the Machine. Especially when she raises her hand in the air, a real Bonoism, and that hopping on her feet as if she could get airborne right along with the Lear Jets unheard outside. That is his wife, Manuela Coleman, up there, and anyone can see how married they are, emotionally and musically. One happy couple, yes they are. And the band, with four shows like some Las Vegas act, is tight.

"We collaborate with the arrangement of the songs," and then he pauses when asked about his management style, "I have the final say. I try to encourage the musicians to do their own songs. They are all better at their instruments than I am. They are so gifted. And we have a rotation of (maybe 30 people). The crazy thing about Arizona is its the most musician-connected place I've ever witnessed."

~ A shorter version of this article can be found in the October 2017 edition of The Scottsdale Airpark News.

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