God and metal: scenes from a hardcore Christian music festival | World news

At the beginning of July, I photographed Audiofeed, a Christian rock and metal festival in Illinois.

This was a bit of a reunion for me. As a teenager growing up in the evangelical subculture, I was a huge fan of Christian hard rock and metal in the early 2000s. The music helped me feel adventurous and unique, and it was an important way for me to craft an identity. I lost track of the scene after going to college, but I never stopped enjoying the music.

Since 1984, every Christian punk’s dream was to play at a festival called Cornerstone – a weeklong bohemian campout commonly likened to a Christian Woodstock. Cornerstone went defunct in 2012, and Audiofeed is in part an attempt to reunite the Cornerstone crowd, some of whom have moved on from Christian rock or from evangelical Christianity altogether. One of this year’s headliners, David Bazan, is a vocal ex-evangelical.

I came to this festival to get a clearer picture of what the next generation of post-culture war evangelicals will look like. A veteran of the festival recalled the days he couldn’t wear his Slayer T-shirt in church. Attending this festival made me wonder what kinds of things the current generation of evangelicals may be more tolerant of in, say, 20 years.

What I found was a surprisingly diverse cross section of evangelicalism: a predictable share of conservatives and charismatics, but also a vocal contingent of progressive evangelicals, including a transgender teen who claims to have both come to Christ and come out as trans at this festival. I also found many who have left the faith but who still see members of the Christian hardcore scene as their closest family.



Photograph: KC McGinnis

“You know how people describe home? I never felt that until going here.” Landon Zettelmier of Champaign, Illinois, a 17-year-old transgender teen, watches as Dave Bazan performs. Zettelmier said he came to Christ in a mosh pit at Audiofeed in 2015, and came out as transgender at Audiofeed in 2016. Bazan, one of the festival’s headliners, is a vocal ex-Evangelical.

“I’m not in the wilderness about the Gospel.” Josh Haynes submerges himself in a pool made out of a pickup bed. The party was later broken up by security; Audiofeed is an alcohol-free festival. Haynes is an Urban Ministries major at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. “With Moody I’ve learned that homosexuality, sex, drinking and marijuana have been demonized.”



Photograph: KC McGinnis

Josh Haynes submerges himself in a pool made out of a pickup bed. The party was later broken up by security; Audiofeed is an alcohol-free festival. Haynes is an Urban Ministries major at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. “With Moody I’ve learned that homosexuality, sex, drinking and marijuana have been demonized.”

“Sometimes I don’t want to tell people I’m Christian because of what it represents.” Heather Vaught plays with her daughter Maybelle. Vaught’s Southern Baptist church in Evansville, Indiana, hosts punk shows in its basement.



Photograph: KC McGinnis

“Sometimes I don’t want to tell people I’m Christian because of what it represents.” Heather Vaught plays with her daughter, Maybelle. Vaught’s southern Baptist church in Evansville, Indiana, hosts punk shows in its basement.

Tripp Durden shows off some of his tattoos.



Photograph: KC McGinnis

Tripp Durden shows off some of his tattoos.

A fan takes a selfie with Christian metal band Grave Robber.



Photograph: KC McGinnis

A fan takes a selfie with Christian metal band Grave Robber.

“I thought being Christian gave me a chance at family. Now I feel like I was exploited for my emotions.” Chris Lane performs with hardcore band Headrush at an impromptu stage. Lane left his evangelical faith in 2012, but continues to see the Christian hardcore scene as family.



Photograph: KC McGinnis

“I thought being Christian gave me a chance at family. Now I feel like I was exploited for my emotions.” Chris Lane performs with hardcore band Headrush at an impromptu stage. Lane left his evangelical faith in 2012, but continues to see the Christian hardcore scene as family.

A member of the Blood & Ink record label gets dunked in a dunk tank.



Photograph: KC McGinnis

A member of the Blood & Ink record label gets dunked in a dunk tank.

Lucas Wright washes makeup off of his face.



Photograph: KC McGinnis

Lucas Wright washes makeup off of his face.

Donnie and Nancy Loughney of Akron, Ohio pose for a picture. The Loughneys have been attending Christian hardcore and metal festivals since the 1980s.



Photograph: KC McGinnis

Donnie and Nancy Loughney of Akron, Ohio, pose for a picture. The Loughneys have been attending Christian hardcore and metal festivals since the 1980s.

Rachel Wolgamuth of Grand Rapids, Michigan holds her daughter Stella.



Photograph: KC McGinnis

Rachel Wolgamuth of Grand Rapids, Michigan, holds her daughter Stella.

Sunlight leaks through a tent wall.



Photograph: KC McGinnis

Sunlight leaks through a tent wall.


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