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Christian band ApologetiX finds their calling in being funny

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

J. Jackson, the lead singer and lyricist for ApologetiX, a Christian parody band, is on a mission.

When J. was a kid, he loved writing parodies, reading Mad magazines, listening to novelty records, and rewriting songs for friends and family throughout his grade-school and college days.

“My sister and I even briefly had a singing telegram service where we would custom-rewrite songs for people for special occasions,” he says.

Jackson went the garage-band and bar-band circuit, which “was fun for a while, but it got boring, and it left me empty.” He majored in journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and worked in public relations at Equitable Gas.

Jackson says he “found Jesus Christ and gave up on his old rock 'n' roll dreams” and started writing parodies. “I know music is a powerful memorization tool, and I wrote my first biblical parodies to teach myself the books of the Bible and the names of the Apostles.”

He performed at Bible studies and graduated to Christian coffeehouses, jamming with other performers. The response was more than they dreamed of, and soon the group became an unofficial house band. The invitations to play started to multiply.

The band chose the name ApologetiX in 1992 because “Christian apologetics (the defense of faith) was important to us,” Jackson says. “Apologetics is a field of Christian theology which aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defending the faith against objections. Jackson chose the “X” in the band's name to give it a rock 'n' roll vibe.

The band's diverse repertoire includes — rock, pop, country and even rap. At a concert, fans hear takes on Elvis, “Found God” (for “Hound Dog”); Aerosmith, “Walk His Way” (“Walk This Way”); Steppenwolf, “Born-Again Child” (“Born To Be Wild”); the Beatles, “Yes, Today” (“Yesterday”); the Beach Boys, “Baa! We're Lambs” (“Barbara Ann”); Nickelback, “Rocky Start” (“Rockstar”); and Toby Keith, “Choose Your Daddy” (“Who's Your Daddy”) to name a few.

“People are surprised when they first hear us and that Apologetix can pull off popular songs with Biblical lyrics,” Jackson says.

The band loves to engage fans at concerts, “like a Springsteen concert,” Jackson says. “They realize we're genuine and what you see onstage is what you see off stage.”

The band has played more than 21 years, with more than 1,400 concerts in all 50 states. Radio stations worldwide play their song parodies. They've been on “The Howard Stern Show,” Billy Graham's “Decision Today,” “The 700 Club” and featured in the Los Angeles Times, Wireless Age and USA Today. The band has played at NBA and Major League Baseball games and major Christian music festivals such as Alive, Cornerstone, God-Stock and Powerfest.

Band members include J. Jackson, lead singer-lyricist; Tom Tincha, lead guitarist; Keith Haynie, bassist; and Jimmy “Vegas” Tanner, percussionist. Keyboardist Chris VonBartheld of Lower Burrell just joined the band late in June. All are fathers and family men and have 15 children total.

The band released its 21st CD “Hot Potato Soup” in March.

Jackson says “the band should have a big bumper sticker on it that says, ‘One day at a time.'”

Not too long ago, a man about 48 years old came up to Jackson after a show and told him he saw them for the first time last year. “He had tears in his eyes and said the concert totally changed his life,” Jackson recalls. “It's not us,” Jackson says, “It's the message.”

Mary Lynn Davidek Alpino is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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