Two Christian tours keep winter spirits high

Christmas is starting to feel like a faint memory. But the spirit shines on at Philips Arena and the Gwinnett Center this month with two popular Christian events aiming to deliver upbeat messages along with music and entertainment.

Winter Jam

This night of 10 recording artists began in 1995 as a concert meant to give Christian music fans a break from the one-note format of religious radio at holiday time.

“It was really just a concert in a neutral venue for our band,” said Eddie Carswell, founder of Winter Jam and member of the Georgia-based NewSong. “And then we realized there was a big void there. People had been listening to Christmas music since Thanksgiving.”

Winter Jam used to be called January Jam, but it has added more tour dates and more acts every year. This year, the tour hits 47 cities well beyond the winter season and may be in need of rebranding again soon. In 2010, 400,000 people attended.

The show is a cross between an arena rock concert and a church service, with a focus on promoting children’s causes through Holt International.

The bill this year includes David Crowder Band, Kutless, KJ-52, Francesca Battistelli, speaker Tony Nolan and American Idol finalist Chris Sligh.

Little planning is required to attend. Just show up and pay $10 for 10 bands. Anyone who can’t pay is admitted for free.

“It’s a suggested donation, Carswell said. “Our attitude is that anyone who wants to come should be able to come. We’ve tried to be open to that and let the money thing take care of itself.

The event draws multi denominations and has a family-friendly appeal.

“It’s a lot of different things that happen in one night,” said Jeff Frankenstein of Newsboys, the headlining act. “Christians and churches can be in their own little bubble all year. They get out of that and join together in one room. It’s a different style of a worship service and not something you see every day.”

Revolve Tour

This two-day event is all about reaching out to teen girls through performances, speakers and workshops. Launched in 2005, the tour is a pop-culture savvy, teen equivalent of the Women of Faith tour.

The lineup includes faith-based recording artists, actors, authors and speakers. The bill this year features singer-songwriter Britt Nicole, author Jenna Lucado Bishop, rappers Group 1 Crew, band Hawk Nelson, “So You Think You can Dance?” participant Kathryn McCormick, and Atlanta’s Jamie-Grace Harper.

Harper may well be the face of the Revolve Tour. The Lithonia resident has been attending Revolve since 2006 and said it helped her overcome the issues she faced dealing with Tourette Syndrome.

Harper’s funny, self-aware brand of talent won fame with her self-parody of common perceptions of homeschoolers in the YouTube hit “Escape from Homeschool.” She’s since been acting on TBN’s “iShine Knect,” and as part of a vow to get signed to a record label, she records a song a day on YouTube with her guitar or ukulele covering everything from Bill Withers to Alicia Keyes, She & Him and the Jonas Brothers. She recently got a record deal but can’t yet say with whom.

Moving from  the audience onto the stage at Revolve is something of a milestone for Harper. She wants other girls to be able to learn from the experiences she struggles with.

“Tourette Syndrome is a neurological condition that causes you to make sounds and movements you can’t control,” she said. "In everyone’s life you’re going to have things you can’t control. But I want to talk to young women about what they can control, and about choosing to dream on.”

Winter Jam. 6 p.m. Jan. 16. Philips Arena. $10 door only. 404-878-3000.

The Revolve Tour. 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 28. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 29. The Arena at Gwinnett Center. $69 per person. 877-973-8658.