ANAHEIM, CA—Controversy has erupted throughout the Christian Contemporary music scene in the wake of last Friday's allegations that the Anaheim-area Christian rock trio Wÿtness "kicks ass."
All three members of Wÿtness, which has released five albums on the Redeemer Records label since its inception in 1992, vehemently denied the charges, which were made by two fans following a Wÿtness performance opening for Seraphim at the Joyful Noize Music Festival in San Diego.
"It really hurts me that anybody would say that about us," said Wÿtness drummer Walt Shep, 26. "Yes, our music may 'rock' to some extent, but it's certainly not about kicking ass—it's about transcending earthly sin."
The fans were overheard making the allegations shortly after leaving Wÿtness' 40-minute set, describing the rock group's heavy-metal performance as "way cool" and repeating "that kicked ass" several times before wandering off in the direction of a pamphlet stand.
If found guilty of ass-kicking, Wÿtness could face stiff penalties, including exclusion from October's much-hyped Kreation '97 festival at the Christ-O-Dome in Jackson, MS, as well as possible divine retribution in the afterlife.
"Wÿtness needs to rock a little bit less and glorify Christ's true kingdom on Earth a little bit more," said Dan Lovell, road manager for the Christian rock band Petra. Lovell suggested that a greater reliance on soaring power keyboard chords rather than electric guitar might be a step in the right direction.
"These guys have gone just a little too far," agreed Roy Hill, lead guitarist for Praiser, whose Resurrockin'! album is currently number one on the Contemporary Christian charts.
Wÿtness is no stranger to controversy. For years, concerned parents and church authorities have also complained that the band's outrageous look—including heavily permed and sprayed hair, glittering, rhinestone-bedecked costume jewelry and elaborate stage decorations—suggest susceptibility toward the sins of Pride and Idolatry. Further, their tight-fitting, codpiece-hugging spandex outfits have been described on more than one occasion as inappropriate for fostering an atmosphere of pious, reverent self-abasement before God.
According to Wÿtness lead guitarist Darrell Hilo, who joined the band last year when guitarist Mark Vinson left to devote his life to Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship Ministry, no ass-kicking has ever taken place.
"We can't deny there are a lot of rock bands within the secular arena that do kick ass. Europe, Winger and Night Ranger have all kicked serious ass throughout their careers, with such killer anthems as 'The Final Countdown,' 'Seventeen' and 'You Can Still Rock In America' just the first few songs that come to mind. And yes, I do admit to jamming out to music of this variety when I was very young, before my parents took to drink and were divorced, and I was born again in the light of the Lord and Savior Christ Jesus the Lamb. But that's all part of my past. Honest. I haven't listened to those records since my youth group and I burned them all in 1988."
Wÿtness lead vocalist Eddy Fye, former lead singer of Edify and co-host of the cable public-access program Teens Talk About Sin, agreed with Hilo.
"We would never intentionally kick ass during a show, especially not with so many young people in the audience," Fye said. "It's very important not to rock too hard. If these kids get too pumped up, their loins may become engorged with a lustful desire to touch themselves and others in an impure manner. And that only distracts from the real purpose of the band: celebrating and consecrating our love for the Lord Almighty Jesus Christ in Heaven, who died on the cross for our sins so that we may be free."
When asked about rumors that Wÿtness was deliberately kicking ass to meet women, Fye was equally dismissive. "I don't see what playing guitar has to do with meeting a devout church-going woman, settling down into matrimonial partnership, and raising a family," he said. "That's a matter best left to the good advice of family members, clergy and a great deal of intense, soul-searching prayer."
Wÿtness is not the first Christian rock act to be accused of ass-kicking. In the '80s, the soaring power-ballads and monster riffs of Stryper were condemned as kick-ass by many parents' groups, eventually leading to the band's decision to drop Christianity from its image in 1990. The Rez Band's "When The Love Comes Down" was also widely criticized within Christian circles for its blues-based power chords, though the charges were eventually dropped.
Chris Ward, a Laguna Beach teen who attended Monday's Wÿtness concert, defended the band. "They did rock, but nothing ever went beyond the limits of propriety," he said. "Except maybe for that drum solo. That may have kicked just a little ass."