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article // tonex out of the box dvd release party

          Well, It's 1:30 AM and I'm back from Tonex's first public DVD release party held in Baltimore. I went to the event with "Majeye" who runs http://www.aphire.com/ so that we could interview Tonex and see what this DVD release is all about.

We left for the event early to make sure we checked in for our press badges on time. It was at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore and I'd never been there. We found the place pretty well but we did have a little detour before hand. I accidentally motioned for Majeye to turn down an alley that I thought was the street (hey, it looked right!). There's a little more to the story, but I'll save it.

We parked, went in and took our reserved press seats in the front row (pretty nice VIP treatment). The church itself is a cavernous sanctuary with a full balcony and large stage backed by an even larger choir section. There were 3 large movie screens, 5 TV cameras in the sanctuary and it was certainly bigger than it looked from the outside.

The forcasted rain held off just long enough to keep the entering crowd dry. People filed in steadily and I realized that the whole lower level and some of the upper level would soon be filled. I don’t have an accurate count but I’d estimate at least 1,500 people were present. The air was filled with eager anticipation.

Denise Hill-Smith, better known as “The Gospel Lady” (on Washington DC’s WKYS Sunday Morning Gospel show) was the MC for the night, and welcomed everyone to the premier showing of “Out The Box: The Movie“. After that, the action really got started.

For those who already own or have heard the CD, you know that it was recorded live in one night. Well, this DVD is the presentation of that one night, and much more. Essentially, it combines the live recording with behind the scenes footage, commentary, preaching interludes and digital effects. It is part music video, part documentary and part live concert to put it simply. Camera angles are cut together like a music video and images are altered or highlighted with special effects to accentuate this high energy DVD.

I’ll venture to speak for everyone at the event by saying, once the music started, the whole audience was transported back to September 29th, 2003 in San Diego to relive the excitement and energy of that night of live recording. When there was prayer on the DVD, people said “Amen” in the back row. When Tonex said to clap, we all clapped. Throughout the movie there was applause, laughing, hollers, yells and dancing right in step with the movie. We weren’t watching a DVD, we were AT that concert in San Diego!

The DVD followed the double CD’s track listing, keeping true, yet adding a whole new dimension to the musical experience. After the 2nd segment of apparently 6 on the DVD the lights came on and an emotional Tonex took the stage. Later, during the interview, he said that he was surprised at how much energy the audience had while watching. Over a year of effort led to this moment of its first public showing and he was humbled by the results.

When Tonex took to the stage in person, the crowd erupted. I don’t think they reacted simply because they thought a budding “Gospel Superstar” was in the house. I believe that after seeing the talent, diversity and dedication of the man Tonex in the movie, they had a clearer vision of what he is all about. I’d venture to say that they applauded the sacrifice and heart of a man called to change gospel music.

There was more to come from Tonex this night, however. After singing two songs, Tonex proceeded to “Have some CHURCH!”. You know what I’m talking about too. There was singing, dancing, preaching and praying for the following two hours of a scale not soon to be rivaled.
The nights program was altered due to the long praise and worship session and no more of the DVD was shown but I don’t believe many people minded. Majeye and I went into the green room, where a tired Tonex relaxed for a few moments after the concert, and conducted an interview session. The interview will be posted on http://www.aphire.com/ soon so I won‘t get into it here. Tonex then headed out to sign autographs and chat with the large line of people waiting for him.

Overall, I’m glad I went. I enjoyed the DVD. As Tonex said, it’s something “the whole family can enjoy”. The production and behind the scenes footage is interesting and the music and dancing is great. (Oh, did I forget to mention that Tonex dances the whole time, has a full band, a full choir and a dance team on stage? Sorry, I’ll try to fit that in next time)

To be completely candid, I listen to mainly hip-hop and occasionally enjoy gospel music. I picked up Tonex’s first CD “Pronounced toe-nay” in ’97 when it first came out and have kept an eye on him since. I think this DVD would make a good stocking stuffer this Christmas season for fans of gospel music. I’m glad I was able to see and speak with Tonex. He’s grown a lot over the years, as has my appreciation for the work he’s doing to change the face of Gospel music.

Written by Seth "Nomad" Wallace


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