BRAWLEY – Wiffy Real, 23, was driving home from college in San Diego to his home in Calexico, and as he passed the Golden Acorn Casino he felt an urge inside of him to call the Spirit West Coast booking office. Spirit West Coast is the largest Christian music venue in the United States. It is a three day concert featuring the best of the best Christian bands and 30 or so independent bands.
Wiffy really wanted to play Spirit West Coast. So he pulled into the Golden acorn Casino and called Heidi Frederick, the booking secretary. Two great things happened with that phone call, one the process to take his band to Spirit West Coast had begun, and two, a friendship with Heidi was cemented.
Wiffy had studio recording time for his several CDs, he had a group of professional musicians, although not Christians, who were anxious to play with him in Monterey, California.
So pulling together a resume, an application, and links to his music online were no problem for this industrious young man. However, the newly married youth group leader also needed to sell 30 tickets at $56 a shot to qualify as a Spirit West Coast indie band. On top of that, the concert gave him only two months to sell tickets that totaled over $1500.
Sales weren’t going well for Wiffy, a relative in Northern California had promised to help. Although she had good intentions she didn’t sell a single ticket.
Wiffy had kept his church apprise of this effort to get to two spirit West Coast, but now with time running out, he came in front of his congregation asking for help in selling tickets. To Wiffy’s surprise, an anonymous donor bought all the tickets Wiffy had to sell.
One of the jobs Wiffy had at Valley Baptist Church was leading a Bible study for ladies in Spanish. The ladies offered to cook a spaghetti dinner to help out. These ladies raised $450. Wiffy used this money to hire a drummer friend since his regular drummer had a gig in Monterey, Mexico. The money also rented a booth at spirit West Coast where Wiffy could sell his CDs.
These expenditures left Wiffy back at ground zero, financially that is. As he said, “we had no money, we were walking in faith.”
Jim Shinn, Wiffy’s agent, had tried booking Wiffy and his band at different churches for a concert before leaving for Spirit West Coast. Various reasons kept Wiffy from being able to play locally, until Pastor Walter Colace of Christ Community Church called Wiffy up and said, ”Let’s do it!”
The concert’s love offering brought $1000 for their trip and CD sales gave them more traveling funds.”This was the most CDs we had ever sold up to this point,” Wiffy said. “God knows our van is a gas guzzler!”
Momentum had shifted for Wiffy. His new friend Heidi, the secretary at Spirit West Coast, called to tell him he had won “most tickets sold” above his mandatory allotment. Winning allowed him to open for one of the headline Christian bands.
Spirit West Coast was an exciting time for Wiffy and his band. As they prepared to do their sound check they got to see Jeremy Camp warming up. “It was amazing,” said Wiffy, “I felt we had a peace from God. I was filled with confidence.”
“We had our own sound, separate from everyone else there, it was something different, it was something cool. We felt in our element.”
Wiffy said the sound man came back to them after they had finished. He was excited. He told them, “I have never heard a band like you. You should be a headliner here.”
“The feedback was incredible. Everyone came to get our autographs and buy our CDs.”
Next was their gig on the indie stage where they competed for best indie band as well as best band in their worship category. They watched the bands that played before them and they watched the judges judging. “The judges were very professional, they watched the band, made notes, watched the band some more, and then made more notes.”
Something magical happened to the judges by Wiffy’s third song. The judges forgot to judge and were dancing and clapping and singing along with the rest of the audience. They were the only band that was asked to do an encore. Wiffy decided to let each member shine in their encore song by playing solos and strutting their stuff.
Wiffy said they came off that stage electrified. One judge ran back to the green room to shake their hands. He gave him his card and told them to look him up.
After that, the band manned their booth, sold CDs, and signed autographs. Wiffy said at one point he looked at the next booth and realized it was the hit band, Audio Adrenaline.
Although Spirit West Coast still had another day of music, Wiffy needed to get one of his band members to LAX to catch a plane. So they left without knowing who won. The next week he checked in with his friend, Heidi, to see when the results would be announced. She told her anxious friend to have patience, but she had a little tidbit to tell him.
She said one of the judges belonged to a band from Brazil. He had come by the office after the performance and couldn’t quit talking about Wiffy and his music.
Eventually Wiffy received the e-mail he had long anticipated. It congratulated him for winning best band in his catalog, and best overall independent band.
For Wiffy, winning means getting his message of Jesus out to more people. He also receives $300 of studio time, he will play as a main artist on the main stage at next year’s Spirit West Coast which will be held in San Diego, California. He will be promoted on SWC’s website as last year’s winning independent artist. And perhaps most exciting for Wiffy, he is automatically entered into another band competition and the winner will tour with Christian headliners on a 15 city concert tour.
For now, Wiffy continues to be a youth pastor at Valley Baptist Church in Brawley. He continues to lead Bible studies in Spanish and English, and work with the youth. He is grateful to his church for the support and love they have given him. He says his wife and family are his biggest fans. He knows that God gave him his fellow musicians, and although they didn’t start off as Christians, two have converted, and the others are coming around.
Wiffy says he has a heart for the lost and his music is how he brings Jesus to meet them.