With the Format and the Honorary Title. Wednesday, October 27, at the Agora Theatre.

The Dwarves, with Bars and Nightbreed Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Boulevard, Cleveland Heights 9 p.m. Thursday, October 21; $12, 216-321-5588
Jon Foreman has heard enough about his band's faith and Christian-rock underpinnings. The Switchfoot front man says that to really understand him as a musician, critics and fans should know that he's a devoted follower of J.C.

We're not talking Mel Gibson's Hollywood savior here. It's that other troublesome demagogue: Johnny Cash.

"In an interview once, Cash responded to a question about what kind of music he played: Was it Christian, country, or rock and roll? He said, 'I'm just writing songs. You call it what you want,'" says Foreman. "It's kind of absurd, really, when people decide you must only be able to do one thing -- it's like when the label 'emo' came along. I mean, who is to say that other types of music are less emotional?"

Foreman's band not only broke out of San Diego with the late 2003 release of its fourth CD, The Beautiful Letdown, and its monstrous modern-rock single "Meant to Live," but it also clawed its way out of the Christian-music ghetto, where the band had dwelt since forming in 1996.

Foreman hardly dismisses his religious music background. After all, who would dare dismiss such rich rewards as a 2001 Grammy nomination in the Best Rock Gospel category, three 2004 Dove Awards, and a gold-selling soundtrack for Mandy Moore's teen flick A Walk to Remember? But the music Switchfoot creates is not church-driven. Instead, he says, it's more faith-based, along the lines of Creed, Live, and Joshua Tree-vintage U2.

"The way my music comes from me is that it's scattered all over the place," he says. "The songs [on Letdown] were written over a couple of years, more like a diary. And we've been very open about how we believe in our faith from the very beginning. So it's a shame to see so many close-minded people put you in some kind of box."

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