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Published: Saturday, 7/31/2004

Christian rockers saying farewell to the road

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
From left, Sam Barnhart, Jared Byers, Jerry Morrison, Davy Baysinger, and Milam Byers make up Bleach. From left, Sam Barnhart, Jared Byers, Jerry Morrison, Davy Baysinger, and Milam Byers make up Bleach.
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They've been best friends for years. They've had fun traveling the country, playing music, and letting their faith shine through by their actions rather than through lip service.

But after nine years as a Christian rock band, Bleach is starting to fade away. The group is bidding its fans adieu with a farewell tour that comes to Toledo Friday night at the Mill.

"We're all pretty sad. It's been a good trip," said Davy Baysinger, Bleach's lead singer. "But I'm excited to know there's more good stuff to come. And I'm definitely excited to be home with my wife more."

Known for its upbeat, guitar-powered rock, Bleach has released five CDs since 1996, starting with "Space" and ending with "Astronomy" in 2003. The group's memorable singles include such songs as "Epidermis Girl," "Cannonball," "Breathe Your Breath," and "We Are Tomorrow."

But while the musicians love the creative side of the business, they have become disenchanted with some of the other aspects of being in the Christian music business, Mr. Baysinger said in an interview from his home near Nashville.

"As a band, we always talk about trying to be real with people. And our whole thing is kind of anti-rock star, kind of anti all that stuff," said Mr. Baysinger, a native of Martinsville, Ind. "We just kind of want to see past that whole thing. I think it's kind of stupid to be pretending to be something you're not."

He and guitarists Sam Barnhart and Milam Byers, bassist Jerry Morrison, and drummer Jared Byers will remain friends and probably continue making music in some form, he said, and all are looking forward to not having to travel so much. Waking up in a new city every day, performing more than 150 concerts a year, takes a toll on family life, Mr. Baysinger said.

Adding to Bleach's woes was the tragic news of July 23, 2003, when U.S. Army Capt. Josh Byers, brother of Bleach's Milam and Jared Byers, was killed in action in Iraq. A remote-controlled bomb was detonated beneath his vehicle, killing the soldier and wounding several of his colleagues.

"All of a sudden you're forced to face life and the frailty of it," Mr. Baysinger said. "It's a time when you really search and figure out what it's all about, what's the purpose. The conclusions you come to are good. You can find that all the things you've been living for don't really matter."

It was Mr. Baysinger who broached the subject of taking a break. But after discussing their options, the musicians decided it should be all or nothing.

Hence the farewell tour, which winds up with a concert in Nashville Aug. 29.

Mr. Baysinger said he'll write and record solo material but doesn't have many specific career plans. One thing he does know is that he and Jared Byers will continue their hobby of making honey.

"I worked for a beekeeper

when I was in high school, and Jared's grandpa was a beekeeper. So we started as a hobby and have four or five hives," Mr. Baysinger said, adding that fresh, locally made honey helps fight allergies and contains virtually all of the essential vitamins and minerals.

Bleach, which started when the musicians were students at Kentucky Christian College, has played all the big Christian festivals including Creation, Cornerstone, and Sonshine; appeared on MTV's Tough Enough, and contributed songs to such WB Network shows as Dawson's Creek and Party of Five.

But looking back, Mr. Baysinger said the highlights he remembers most are the letters, comments, and e-mails from fans who say the music touched their lives.

While Bleach never let its lyrics get too preachy, the musicians hoped their behavior and comments have testified to their spiritual beliefs.

"All of us are Christian guys, but we don't try to force that on anybody," Mr. Baysinger said. "At the same time, I think the best ministry is just living it with your life. And that's what we try to do. And it's been awesome when you see God move. When we try to do it on our own, that's when we've fallen."

Bleach will be at the Mill, 5115 Glendale Ave., at 6:30 p.m. Friday with The Evan Anthem, House of Heroes, and Pawn opening. Admission is $10. 419-725-6455.



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