Local Current Blog

‘If Jimmy Swaggart fronted Joy Division’: Greycoats plan televangelism-inspired ‘CHARISMA!’

A publicity image for 'CHARISMA!' (courtesy the artists)


That’s what’s coming to the Southern Theater this Sept. 20-23, presented by Minneapolis indie-rockers Greycoats. Known in the past for their melodramatic music and spectacularly out-of-the-box album releases that have included film pairings, art exhibitions, and a MIDI-controlled spaceship, Greycoats are taking CHARISMA to the next level in that its release will be part theater, part rock show, and part film.

CHARISMA without an exclamation point and CHARISMA! with an exclamation point. That punctuation is the only thing that distinguishes the album from the live show. The two are nearly one and the same: intertwining, inspiring, and building off one another in all stages of their creation.

Frontman Jon Reine says that this idea really blossomed after he read a book about Jimmy Swaggart, leading Reine to read more and more about televangelists. As he began writing CHARISMA in 2016, thinking about televangelism and the political climate at the time, it only seemed right to bring the album’s characters to life.

Reine says the album “felt very large and very cinematic,” and that ultimately “the production informed the album, but the album was definitely first. The ultimate shape of what it became was sort of just the back and forth between the two.”

The storyline of the album follows Reine’s character — Reverend Jonny, a Pentecostal televangelist preaching an apocalyptic gospel — and his wife, Serena. The music draws largely from the post-punk of the ’80s, the golden age of televangelism, and the band describes it in their Facebook bio as if “Jimmy Swaggart fronted Joy Division.” Upon early listening, their genre descriptor is dead-on: the tracks “Strangers Under Cover” and “In My Car,” sound like they could have been extras from The Head On The Door.

CHARISMA! is a three-act play set to open on Sept. 20 at the Southern Theater and run through the weekend. The show will include original film shot and directed by Kevin Horn that will run in both the background of the live music part as well as interspersed with the live scenes. St. Paul theater writer and director Seth Bockley directed and co-created the live theater portion of CHARISMA!

The Friday night show will feature a theater talkback after the performance, and Sunday’s show is a pick-your-price ticket special.