Go Fish is coming to Southeast Christian Church on the 5th and 6th of this month for the annual "Jingle Blast" event.
For most people, a room filled with thousands of screaming children goes into the category of nightmare, but for the guys in Go Fish, it sounds like music to their ears - a dream come true.
Jamie Statema, Jason Folkmann and Andy Selness - Go Fish - are arguably one of the most unusual groups in the music industry. Not only do they make music for children and families, but they create unusual, perhaps peculiar, sounds with just their voices and percussion.
For children, Go Fish may be their first real concert experience, complete with lights, backdrops and fog machines. It's a rock and roll show, says the group, tailor-made for kids. "There's a misconception out there of what children's music has to be," says Andy. "Quite honestly, it doesn't have to be simple. You don't have to dumb down music for kids. Because of that, parents really enjoy this music as well."
No gimmicks, either - which is a relief to parents who are up to their ears in big red cars, purple dinosaurs and backpacks. Just great songs, most written by Jamie, that creatively communicate biblical values. "Parents are important," adds Jamie. "We want them to enjoy this with their kids and not have Dad sitting in the audience thinking, 'Oh, I'm just totally taking one for the team now.'"
"The most common remark we hear from parents is, 'Go Fish CDs are the only ones that our entire family can agree to listen to in the car. Please don't stop what you're doing!'" says Jason. "That sums up why we do what we do - to have the opportunity to make music that brings entire families together."
Following a string of successful independent recordings and two projects with the inpop label, Go Fish focused their energy on creating music for kids and families, releasing Splash in 2003, followed by Superstarin 2004 and Snooze in 2006, as well as the Showtime DVD and Christmas project, Snow, in 2006.
"There is a spiritual and cultural war going on for our kids and we need to counter the messages they're being bombarded with in the world today," Jamie says. "Children need to accurately hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They can handle topics like sin, judgment, heaven, hell, the need for forgiveness and the cross."
Snazzy features a new spin on a classic Sunday school activity - memorizing the books of the Bible. The aptly titled "Bible Book Bop" is designed to teach both the order and pronunciation of all 66 books in a three-and-a-half minute song. In addition, selections like the patriotic "American Kid" and "Superhero" - which points listeners to the ultimate Savior, Jesus - urge kids to stand firm beyond the church's doors.
Snazzy also finds Go Fish honoring some of their most important fans - moms. "The Mom Song" was inspired by the group's participation at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) conventions. "Moms have an incredibly hard job and they rarely get the credit they so deserve," Jamie says. "'The Mom Song' pays tribute to the hardest working ladies on the planet...moms! Like the song says, If you love your mom let me hear you say Woo-Hoo!"
Go Fish has celebrated numerous benchmarks in their career, including coverage on NBC's "Today" Show; drawing more than 14,000 people to a concert at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota; a Focus on the Family Magazine cover story; and the group's popular annual Christmas tour, which sells-out each year in nearly every city it hits.
From the start, founding member Jamie Statema knew he wanted to be involved in something unique. And although he struggled between his musical aspirations and youth ministry, he ultimately found that special something in a concert over a decade ago, when a Canadian band called The Nylons visited St. Paul.
It was the first time he'd seen an a cappella group perform - just great vocals and percussion, but with real pop production. They were a mainstream band, but Jamie was inspired to bring some of the same elements to Christian music. With that foundation, he formed Go Fish in 1993. The group recorded their first independent project in 1996, which has gone on to sell more than 100,000 units. Andy and Jason joined the group in 1998 and Go Fish began to come into its own.
The trio quickly developed a strong following throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North and South Dakota. Wanting to breakout into other areas of the country, they sought the help of the Nashville-based inpop label, recording two albums and making headway at radio with a more pop-oriented sound.
"We were an a cappella group until that point," recalls Jamie. "Then after signing with inpop, we added instruments and went a different direction. In the process, we learned that we already had a good grasp of what we were doing and who we were called to be both musically and spiritually."
After parting ways with inpop, the trio formed their own label, gfk Records. Coming full-circle helped them confirm a desire to get back to vocal music. And along with that came the realization that they'd always had families coming to their shows, from toddlers to grandparents.
In 2003 Go Fish decided to swing things differently by recording Splash, an a cappella children's record. The response was immediate, with nearly 8,000 people - many under the age of 5 - attending their first six shows.
"If this was all over today, I would look back and remember the first weekend we did our kids' concerts," reflects Jamie. "Because after eight years of doing Go Fish, we all knew what those years were for - without a doubt, we knew where God wanted us. All the ups and downs - it was a crazy journey to get to that place, but so clear how necessary those years were to prepare us for what we're doing now."
"I would love to say that we were these smart marketing guys, that we knew we could have a potential career doing this - but that's not it at all!" he laughs. "We're not in this as a stepping stone to something else. This is where God wants us and it feels pretty important."
With research citing that most Christians today come to faith before the age of 14, the mission of Go Fish is clear. "We're talking about leaving a legacy - not just doing something different musically, but making an impact on lives, especially children," says Andy. "We want to instill values in the home again, by bringing it back to the basic foundation of the Bible. We're targeting the kids because they are the next generation of influential people."
"Long after we are gone, we hope that the music speaks for itself," adds Jason. "Not only the quality and creativity, but the lasting effect it can have in the hearts of those who enjoy it."
With all three members married - and now parents - that outreach is even more personal. "When you have children, you want to protect them with everything you have - but you can't," says Jamie. "And so, when you open that door and let someone else play a part in the life of your child, that is a huge thing, especially when that person is talking about principles for living. We take that responsibility extremely seriously, even in the little things. When I see a dad come through the autograph line with his little boy, I think,' If I was that dad, what would I want this performer to do for my son that would just make his day?'"
I've had a chance to work with these guys in the past and they are really good at what they do. If you are looking for something to do with the kids-forget taking them to the movies. Take them to Jingle Blast instead. The church is located at 920 Blankenbaker Parkway. Tickets are only $3 and available at the church's registration table on the weekend, or online at Southeastchristian.org.