The Benjamin Gate

What to do ’bout The Benjamin Gate.

It’s tough to market bands with ecclesiastical tendencies into the mainstream. In the United States, there’s that canyon-sized gulf between the so-called Christian music world and the secular one, something the South African band is not accustomed to. Back where the Gate comes from, it could rock out in front of anyone.

Creed and P.O.D. are the standard bearers for slyly moving from being labeled “Christian” bands to just plain ol’ bands. The Benjamin Gate’s challenge is the same. At least one recent review of its second album, Contact, questioned why the Gate isn’t already at the same level as those bands.

Instead, they’re at the Ford V-10 level. The quintet is currently traveling in the van, trekking with the Festival Con Dios tour, sleeping in hotel rooms the headliners use only for showers before heading back to their tour buses.

“In our hearts, we know we have to play these gigs,” singer Adrienne Liesching told POLLSTAR. “We want to break into the mainstream market as well and, if we want to do that, we have to start all over again, playing 20-minute sets in front of people who don’t want to listen to the music. As long as the band is growing and playing, we’ll have to deal with the frustrations of that.”

The group recently sat across a table from Nat Burgess and Keith Naisbitt at Agency For The Performing Arts. APA is the mainstream partner for the Gate’s agency, Jeff Roberts & Associates, and books Roberts’ Christian acts into secular venues.

“APA was definitely impressed with the band in terms of what they heard and what they’d seen,” said Gate manager Marc “Thux” Theodosiou. “They were definitely extremely positive and would see what could be done in 2003 in finding the correct places to put the band.”

As far as Liesching’s wish list for next year, it included opening for a No Doubt or a Lenny Kravitz, certainly for a mainstream theatre tour in general.

“We’re looking at options,” Jeff Roberts told POLLSTAR. “We may even put a tour together that would be The Benjamin Gate and a couple other bands, kind of a smaller club tour, but the verdict is still out. We’re shopping the marketplace to see what we can come up with. … I know it’s their vision to be on mainstream tours with bands like Creed or Lifehouse or people like that.”

Roberts was honest, saying the band didn’t knock his socks off when he first saw them a couple years ago after sponsoring their visas from South Africa. But, a few months ago at a concert in Knoxville, Tenn., Roberts got a chance to upgrade his thoughts.

“Right now, I can tell you that’s a real good band that has played 120 dates this last year.

The Benjamin Gate

I think we’re poised for this band to go to even bigger heights,” Roberts said, adding that the word was that The Benjamin Gate was “winning well” on the Con Dios tour, along with two of his other acts, Pillar and Tree 63, the latter also from South Africa.

“When I work with overseas bands, sometimes they’re not quite prepared to really road- dog it out there,” Roberts said. “They’re not used to as large a country and doing all the driving.

The thing with the Gate that impresses me is I’ve ran them hard out there these last 18 months and they’ve survived. They’ve actually gotten stronger.”

Right now, the Gate’s management office is a “mobile headquarters,” as Thux called it, consisting mainly of a laptop, a cell phone with a Nashville area code and “a lot of merchandise.”

“I suppose over the next six months, you’ll see us setting up a lot more shows in the States,” Theodosiou said. “But, as time goes on, we might like to branch out and see if we can set up something stable in Europe as well. We’ll see how it goes.”

The band actually had to soften its single from Contact, “The Calling,” for Christian radio (saving the original version as a bonus track). Their sound is sort of unclassifiable

certainly there’s a Euro element, whatever that means. They’re no wimps, though, especially live.

One of the oft-asked questions is how the petite Liesching could own a voice three times her size.

“I get asked that all the time,” she said. “Where does my voice come from? I’d have to say my alter ego. … The music is so emotional, so passionate, that when I’m onstage I just try to do everything, everything you can’t do in normal life emotionally.”

There was a rumor that if Christian bands ministered onstage in South Africa, they’d get cabbage thrown at them.

“I don’t know if they’ll throw stuff at you,” Liesching said, laughing. “But, for most people, they like bands to be bands, you know what I mean? We’re just Christians in a band; it’s just a different school of thought.”