Rocking, hip-hopping to a Christian beat

Oct 18, 2003 08:25 PM EDT

Thousands will stand up and shout during Shoutfest 2003 -- a touring Christian music festival geared toward teens, young adults and families -- in an open field in northwest Miami-Dade County next Saturday.

''Our goal is to reach the youth of South Florida,'' said promoter Tracy Mendola.

``We're trying to give them positive type music -- positive rap, positive rock, pop and hip-hop. There is positive music geared toward teens and young adults. It's telling them they can be better and build up their self-esteem -- be all they want to be and achieve excellence.''

ZOEgirl, Tait, Skillet, Tree 63, Nate Sallie, Overflow, Tinman Jones, Detour 180, Lil iROCC and Verbs (Knowdaverbs) offer their own brand of pop, rock, hip-hop and rap in a lyrically Christian format.

''We come together -- different church denominations and ethnic groups -- in unity,'' said Mendola.

The event not only features music but also Xtreme sports games with an obstacle course, rock climbing and padded gladiator jousting.

''Musically, the event is definitely geared toward the younger crowd,'' said James Sheppard, on-air personality for WMCU 89.7 Spirit FM, ``but it is a family event from the festival nature of it all.''

This marks the second consecutive year Shoutfest ( has stopped in Miami. The two-month tour also visits Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia.

A number of top groups will perform:

• Pop group ZOEgirl -- Chrissy Conway, Alisa Girard, Kristin Swinford -- burst onto the scene three years ago with the fastest-selling debut album in Sparrow Records' 25-year history. Since then, this Dove award-winning trio has sold more than 1 million records and toured with many major artists.

''Our music is geared toward kids from church, the youth group and young adults,'' Girard said in a telephone interview, ``but if someone from the secular market hears our music, they will find it is done in a nonthreatening and nonpreachy way.''

ZOEgirl pens its own songs and bases its writings on female issues, offering messages of hope.

''All of us are in our mid-20s, and we've been through a lot of things girls have gone through and will go through,'' Girard said.

``I have a very melancholy personality and have gone through a lot of depression. I had my heart broken. As I grew up and got older, you learn how to deal with that. I write a lot from that space when I'm down and sad and pull the most from that and find answers.''

• The modern rock group Tait is headed by Michael Tait, a mainstay with multi-platinum Grammy winning dc Talk.

• Skillet delivers an edgy style of heavy alt rock and aggressive live shows since debuting in 1996. It headlines its own Alien Youth Tour.