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Jars of Clay and the Goat's Head Club

  • 1999 14 Jan
Jars of Clay and the Goat's Head Club
"We try to make people think about Christ. They're having an encounter with Christianity that isn't what they've believed for so long. It isn't what they've been running away from. It's really different and in many ways is very appealing to them."
--Dan Haseltine

by Mike Nappa for the Music Channel at

They had second thoughts when they saw the bouncer standing at the door wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed, "666 is my favorite number." Still, the four guys in {{Jars of Clay}} (Dan Haseltine, Steve Mason, Charlie Lowell, and Matt Odmark) had made a commitment to play in this San Francisco club, and they intended to keep it.

Until they walked inside, about an hour before midnight, and saw a big goat's head right above the stage. Sometimes a ritualistic symbol of sacrifice, the goat's head has often been adopted as a freak display of rock-n-roll rebellion.

They laugh about it now, but at the time they weren't sure how to react. Haseltine says, "We were all pretty naive to the club scene. We didn't know what to expect... [The goat's head] showed us that this is not a place where Christians frequent! I think we were all really scared about how people were going to react to what we were doing and things we were singing."

Undaunted, they guys began their set. Then, barely into the first song, a fight broke out in the bar. Lowell jokes, "I threw a keyboard at this guy...." before Haseltine resumes the story.

"By the end of the set, the transformation that took place from the beginning of the show to the end of the show was so obvious," he says. "From our perspective, we could watch the faces turn from very stone cold, to transparent. It was intense that night."

Mason picks up, "We were so afraid and there were so many variables involved. It was obvious this was one of those places where God wanted us to trust Him...We were kind of ill at ease because we knew we were right there where the Word and the world were colliding and we were watching it happen."

So how did four then-single guys (all are now married) making Christian music wind up at a club like this in the first place?

It all started in 1993 when the guys got together at Greenville College and formed the band. Then, they won the Gospel Music Association's Spotlight talent competition in 1994, and by 1996 had toured with {{PFR}}and {{Michael W. Smith}}, topped both Christian music and mainstream music charts, and even graced the cover of Christian Single magazine.

Two years ago, Haseltine told CS, "Sometimes I wish it [fame] were happening to someone else, because it would be much easier to have a ministry in a local church where you don't have to deal with fans singing, 'I want to fall in love with you' to me instead of to God. That's infuriating."

Over the past two years, Jars of Clay has had a few more infuriating experiences as well. Their determination to reach out to non-Christian audiences by playing venues like the Goat's Head Club (the band's nickname for that establishment) and by including non-Christian bands on stage with them has not been without criticism.

Mason reports that a couple of years ago, one Christian radio station refused to air announcements that Jars of Clay was coming in concert. "They chose not to tell people because we were playing in a theater... [and] we had two other bands on the bill that were opening that weren't Christian. So it was really frustrating."

The band was also subjected to rumors that they'd given up their Christianity, were smoking pot on stage, and drinking alcohol. What hurt most wasn't so much the false accusations, but that those rumors were started in the church.

Masons sighs, "We felt abandoned [at times] by some groups of Christians because of what we were feeling called to do. Felt like we were hanging in the air." He shrugs, "It was a frustrating time."

In spite of that, Jars of Clay has remained determined to follow their calling. Says Mason, "We've grown in our excitement for more people to hear our message."

Haseltine agrees saying, "We try to make people think about Christ. They're having an encounter with Christianity that isn't what they've believed for so long. It isn't what they've been running away from. It's really different and in many ways is very appealing to them."

"It's bridge-building. We're ground-softeners," adds Mason.

Then Odmark smiles as he remembers a story of one teenager who got hold of their debut album, ==Jars of Clay==. It so piqued his curiosity in the gospel, he pulled a Christian friend out of a party just so he could hear how to give his life to Jesus.

Odmark finishes up by saying, "It was really encouraging to hear there are at least a few stories like that."

And it's that kind of encouragement that makes {{Jars of Clay}} still willing to risk a concert at the Goat's Head Club.