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Published: Saturday, 5/5/2007

Highlands Venue offers safe, fun concert series

PETERSBURG, Mich. - Good music in a safe place for teens and young adults - that's the goal of local Christian rock promoter Jason Rockhill.

Mr. Rockhill, 26, of Deerfield, Mich., has organized a series of monthly concerts at a Petersburg, Mich., church, including one tonight.

Eleventyseven, a Greenville, S.C., trio headlining tonight's concert, is known for playing Christian punk/pop music. The band's debut disc, "The Land of Fake Believe," was released last year on Flicker Records.

Mr. Rockhill said the concert offers high-quality music in a low-key Christian environment.

"I want to provide a Christian-based background where they're not going to be introduced to drugs and alcohol, and they're not going to be condemned or looked down upon because they're either Christian or not Christian, and they're not going to get browbeaten by the Bible," he said.

Mr. Rockhill calls the monthly music series Highlands Venue, which marked its one-year anniversary last month with a concert by This Beautiful Republic, a Toledo band that released its first CD on the national ForeFront label, "Even Heroes Need a Parachute," in March.

"Last year, it was almost all local acts with the exception of Stellar Kart," Mr. Rockhill said. "This year we're flipping the table with mostly national acts, with just a few local acts."

The concerts are held at New Life Tabernacle and the youth-oriented series has drawn the support of several local churches of various Christian denominations, he said.

"We've got five or six youth groups from different churches coming this week," Mr. Rockhill said. "We've built relationships with churches from Tecumseh to Bowling Green."

Putting on concerts comes easily to Mr. Rockhill, who said he's been doing it since he was 15. In addition to shows by local artists, he has staged concerts by the Elms, the Channel Surfers, Big Tent Revival, and Dead Poetics.

"I've seen dozens of kids come to the Lord at concerts, and I minister but I don't do it real pushy," said Mr. Rockhill, who has a certificate in Bible theology. "That's what all these kids have said: They don't want to go to church because they get too pushy with Christ. So we don't really shove it down their throats."

The Indiana native said he grew up in a family that did not teach him much about Jesus.

"When I was 12, a friend of mine asked me to go to church with him and I got saved," he said. "Back in 1994, '95 I went to my first Christian rock show. When I walked in there and saw Geoff Moore, I thought, 'Wow, this guy is cool!' "

Now he strives to give young people that same sense of excitement with the concerts at Highlands Venue.

Tonight's concert starts at 7 p.m. with Bearsmith, Fighting Flight, and Willet opening for Eleventyseven at New Life Tabernacle, 6023 Summerfield Rd., Petersburg, Mich. Tickets are $10 at the door.

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