christian rock bands team up for scholarship benefit concert

January 29, 2010


The Road Less Traveled     

PLAINVIEW – Area Christian rock bands will join forces to entertain audiences while raising money for a worthy cause on Saturday, Feb. 6 at Wayland Baptist University.

              Lubbock-based band A Road Less Traveled will be joined by Thousand Year Reign and The Unlikely, both based in Portales, N.M., for the 6 p.m. concert in Harral Auditorium. Proceeds from the concert will help establish a scholarship fund at Wayland in memory of Ashleah Richards, a former WBU volleyball player who was killed in an automobile accident on Oct. 11, 2009, by a drunk driver.

              Jake Richards, who is lead singer for The Unlikely and is Ashleah’s cousin, had the idea to join bands together to speak out against drinking and driving and help leave a scholarship legacy in Ashleah’s name that would impact WBU students for generations to come. Her brother-in-law, Micah Howard, has helped organize the effort.

              Tickets for the concert are $10 and are available at the door. Donations will also be taken toward the scholarship.

              A Road Less Traveled has been rocking together as friends for several years, winning the title “Best Independent Band of 2007 in CCM Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards. The past few years have intensified both their performance schedule and their success.

              The band is comprised of Zach Dietz on rhythm electric guitar and lead vocals, Kuhrt Cowan on drums and background vocals, Chris Brown on bass, Michael Murry on MIDI/programming and background vocals and Shawn Anglin on electric guitar. A Borger native, Anglin is also a graduate of Wayland.

              “Our music is encompassed by a fresh alternative rock sound that promotes hope, change, and love in a world that can feel stagnant. Connecting with our audience takes more than a powerful stage performance, but rather is dependent on meeting each person face-to-face before and after each show,” the band’s Web page reads. Dietz gives more detail.

              “These songs dive deeper into the struggles and triumphs we have as a band and as individuals. The main goal is to create songs that people love, and love to sing along with,” said Dietz. “We’ve always had compassion for the struggles that people go through day-to-day, and we won’t waiver from that passion – but this album will show that same concern in a different light, and slightly different sound.”

              The group released its debut album “Rescue” in 2008, with two songs gaining national airplay. The year 2009 saw the second album released, titled “Of a Captive Heart” in the fall, and the music is already gaining more attention. The group signed with JMA Music, Inc., owned by former Pillar bandmates Michael Wittig and Joey Avalos, a move that strengthened their front in the Christian rock music arena.

              “I was highly impressed with the professionalism of A Road Less Traveled the first time I saw them. Since then, they have proven to be one of the more creative and harder working bands I know. These guys are great at creating an environment for God to move,” said Wittig.

              A Road Less Traveled participated in the Nov 2008 “Rock What You Got Tour” with artists Superchick, Stellar Kart and Article One. The nationwide circuit ended in West Palm Beach, Fla., with a festival featuring Toby Mac, Family Force 5 and Reliant K. That, along with more and more concert bookings over the past years, has built the band’s momentum and solidied a strong and loyal fan base.

              It’s a great feeling and quite humbling to have fans like we do that support us in every step,” said Anglin. “Every city we went to we had fans there to see us and support us, and that was a great feeling.”

Thousand Year Reign began as a solo acoustic act by Jake Archuleta of Portales. Wanting to offer more variety in his shows, Jake enlisted help from drummer Cassie Paden and friends Dan Greathouse and Jake Tayler on guitars and keyboards. Victoria Payen also provides vocals for the band, which based its name on the verse in Revelation 20:6 about Christians reigning with Jesus for 1000 years as priests of God.

              “After we all realized that bringing people to the Lord was the most important thing in this life, we decided to keep producing our emotional sounds,” the band’s Web site said. “Starting with one member and gaining others one at a time, we have become a band that glorifies God in everything we do.  We not only care about what is in our hearts, but what is in the hearts of all people.  Leading others to God is our job and it is what God has placed in our hearts to do.”

              The band released its first album in April 2009, called “Home Sweet Home.”

              Also based in Portales, N.M., The Unlikely includes Jake Richards on rhythm guitar and vocals, Jake Jones on lead guitar and vocals, Randy Van Leuven on percussion and Anne Luna on bass. The group’s music combines the sound of blues, rock, pop and modern worship.

              Originally called The Unlikely for the Unusual, the group shorted its moniker to The Unlikely recently but noted the meaning is still the same. They noted that many times in the Bible, God has used unlikely individuals to accomplish unusual tasks for his glory, such as David and Goliath. Shortened TUFTU among the band’s fans, the group released its first self-titled, seven-song album in April 2009, featuring a blend of both up-tempo and slower tunes. The popular single “Written in Red” was released for radio play in June 2009.

              The concert will also feature a performance by Ashleah’s cousin Gabriel Montoya, a rap singer from New Mexico known as PhantaC, who will sing a song he wrote in her memory titled “When I See Your Face.”

              The Richards family wants the event to memorialize Ashleah by creating a scholarship in her name at Wayland. But they also want to use the platform to remind audience members of the dangers of drinking and driving and the importance of a life well lived.

              “Any time I have a chance to talk about her life and how special she was and what she gave to this earth as far as love and compassion for others, I will,” said Mark Richards, Ashleah’s father.