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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

X-Nelo At the Wit’s End

Upbeat, perky, and tuneful, described X-Nelo, who played at the Wit’s End last Thursday (2/21). With two guitars, a full drum kit, a keyboard rack, and all the PA equipment one could desire, they just barely squeezed into the Wit’s End, allowing a small but enthusiastic crowd of about two dozen to enjoy the show. (Two dozen may be underestimating, as many students came and went during the hour they played.)

X-Nelo – the promo spelling of the Latin ex nihilo, perhaps – is primarily a cover band, bridging folksy rockers like Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews as well as rock and roll folks like Everclear and Smashmouth. “We play music everybody enjoys,” said frontman Paul Smith.

And the band can play – just about anything. Drummer Tomas Howie lists about a dozen different styles on his c.v., from musical theatre to progressive-rock. Vocalist Teresa Stone’s training includes opera and choral ensembles. Rounding out the band is guitarist Joby Rudolph, John Gaither on keys, and vocalist Diane Kuklinca.

Although together less than a year, the band has seen a lot of road-time: they spent the tail end of January, for example, in Iowa. “It’s family that keeps us together,” said Smith, as he played with his young daughter. “They’re with me on the road seventy-five percent of the time.”

So far, the story of just about every college band out there.

Upbeat, perky, tuneful: they’re the sort of words we’d apply to most radio-worthy bands.

How about – Christian?

Attitudes on the part of students on discovering the band’s Christian origins – they’re part of the Campus Crusade for Christ – ranged from laid-back just-here-to-enjoy-the-music to bemused but negative: “I heard they were giving out free stuff,” an anonymous student said. “I didn’t realize they were giving out Bibles.”

“We’re looking to share our story,” Smith says in an interview after the set. “Places we’ve been, things we’ve been through.” It’s less proselytization and more a demonstration of how to take a lifestyle notorious for its vices – drug abuse and promiscuity – and make it spiritual.

Their website (www.xnelo.com) is slightly more forward: “Through solid, entertaining performances, and a grounding on effective communication skills, X-Nelo builds a bridge between today’s culture and the saving Grace of God.”

Alongside the usual story-of-the-band and publicity photos are stories of the power of Christ to change lives. What’s remarkable is that they are so ordinary: real people, with real problems, and – to this reporter’s amusement – real complaints. “I used to think all Christians were ugly,” one reads, before his eyes are opened.

If there were some on campus who thought Christians couldn’t sing, well, maybe Thursday’s performance changed their mind.

So, how does a full-time rock and roll band – upbeat, perky, tuneful, and/or Christian – end up at the Wit’s End? In X-Nelo’s case, they were invited by a student organization called the Real Life Club. They meet Tuesdays and Fridays at the Interfaith Chapel in the Ryan Lounge, McCormack Third Floor.

And who else can play? Why, just about anybody, says Wit’s End manager Billy Indrisiano. Last fall the Wit’s End hosted guitarist Akil Hashim, undergraduate Casey Abrams, and several other performers throughout the semester. “We’ve still got openings if you’re interested,” said Indrisiano. “Just drop me a line and let me know.”