There are two types of people who come out to see Stryper. There are cute, clean-cut conservative Christians from 13 to 40, and there are middle-aged mullet boys in Judas Priest and Motley Crüe shirts who just wanna drink a couple Buds and remember their Dial-MTV days. It's fun to assume all Stryperites have a bunch of Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith CDs next to their copy of To Hell with the Devil (and lots do), but most freely mix the sacred and sacrilegious.
This leads to the question, couldn't courting both metalheads and Charlie Church lead to some dangerous intermingling? To find out, CityBeat got in touch with a Stryper superfan.
Scott "the sickest Stryper fan in the world" Dunbar (just to clear up any doubt in case you think you're the sickest Stryper fan in the world: Dunbar's seen the band a few dozen times, flown to Costa Rica for a single show, raked leaves "for like five hours" to save enough money to buy To Hell with the Devil and has an insurance policy on his Stryper memorabilia collection) clearly has his finger on the pulse of Stryper and says there's never any friction between the two groups of fans.
"Everyone gets along really well," says Dunbar. "Everyone just minds their own business and is real respectful of the other fans. People just agree to disagree. We're all just into the band. All that matters is that they rock."
There seems to be few disadvantages to wooing the secular and the spiritual. In fact, it's a model rock 'n' roll business plan. You bring together people who come from two of the world's most blindly devoted fan bases-Christians who usually find rock music too offensive and metalheads who just want to see a righteous twin-guitar attack. Scores of Stryperites open their wallets every night of the "Reborn Tour" for $25 tickets, $20 CDs and a $15 meet-and-greet after the show.
Not even the boys in the band are bothered by this seemingly unholy intersection of rock, commerce, sin and salvation.
"We grew up playing with Motley Crüe, Poison, Guns N' Roses and everybody else. We weren't really different from those other bands," says drummer Robert Sweet. "I think the first time Michael [Sweet] and I played in Hollywood, I was 19 and he was 16. We were playing with the guys in RATT before they were RATT. We played places like the Troubadour or the Roxy.
"The only the difference was we were throwing Bibles into the crowd. The bartenders would look at us and shake their heads."
But Sweet wants to be clear: his band isn't a novelty.
"Our music is just as serious as anybody's," he says.
Hair metal isn't usually considered serious music, but the band's 22-year-old live show backs up his boast. Stryper is still a highly polished band. Sweet's a drummer in the Alex Van Halen vein, guitarist Oz Fox (who fans call Oz, as if that metal moniker wasn't already taken) has solid chops and Michael Sweet sings like Styx's Dennis DeYoung, plays guitar like Mick Mars and writes hooks like Bon Jovi.
But as serious as these guys are about their music, their main priority is always JC. They praise God in song, they still stop the show to toss out their Bibles covered in Stryper stickers and, in case there's any ambiguity, Oz tells the crowd at every show:
"We want you all to know that we love and serve Jesus Christ and we'll never stop telling people about that."
During this speech half the fans cheer and the other half heads to be bar for another Bud.
Stryper plays at the House of Blues, 8 p.m. on Nov. 15. $22-$25. 619-299-BLUE.