Dwight and the Bikers is a unique traveling worship ensemble. Advertising their music as “Heavy Metal Hymnody in the Anglican Tradition”, they travel across the country, visiting Catholic churches seemingly at random, and bring them the beauty of classic Anglican hymns with the energy and power of heavy metal music. They strike without warning; usually the first sign a parish has of an impending visit is the roar of Dwight’s Harley Davidson as he rides up to the front door of the church, clad in a lace cotta over a black leather cassock, and pulls off his helmet to reveal his trademark black biretta. The rest of the Bikers soon follow, and proceed to take over from the choir in the minutes before the start of mass.
Cry Woof had an opportunity to talk with Dwight this week:
Cry Woof: Isn’t it difficult riding a motorcycle in a full cassock?
Dwight: You wouldn’t believe how often people ask me that. It takes some doing, I admit, and of course you have to ride side-saddle. I’ve had lots of practice, and now I think I could almost do it standing on my head.
Cry Woof: I’d pay to see that. So, how do people usually respond to heavy metal hymnody?
Dwight: Well, they are surprised at first. Most folks, though, are quite taken by the beauty of the hymns we play. Once a couple of years ago, one pastor called the police on us. We went quietly. (smile) The overall response is usually quite positive.
Cry Woof: Is it possible that they are just too intimidated by your manner to respond, um, negatively?
Dwight: Now why would you say a thing like that?
Cry Woof: Ah. Well, are some hymns consistent favorites?
Dwight: We often start with “Sleepers, Wake,” especially at the early masses; it really gets people on their feet. And “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” is always a crowd pleaser. We bring in a Hammond organ just for that one number.Cry Woof: And why Anglican hymns, in particular?
Dwight: I was an Anglican for many years before I became Catholic; and if there’s one thing the Anglicans do well it’s the hymnody. When I converted, I promised to share it with everyone in my new communion.
Cry Woof: That makes sense. But why heavy metal? It seems a bit irreverent.
Dwight: It’s the energy. We Catholics are too sleepy, too sedentary. I want to wake people up, get them moving. And then there’s the whole motorcycle thing, of course. I like motorcycles, and heavy metal and motorcycles is a natural pairing.
Cry Woof: Do you get many complaints?
Dwight: Occasionally. Some folks simply aren’t ready for heavy metal at mass. And some of the older ladies complain about the head banging at the Sign of Peace. (grin) That’s what the biretta is for, you know. The pompom makes a good shock absorber.
Cry Woof: I see. And one last question: has a parish ever invited you back?
Dwight: Yes, quite often. We never do go back, though. There are too many parishes to visit, too many sleepers to wake.
Dwight and the Bikers have recorded several albums, including Leather and Lace, Mufflers and Maniples, Heavy Metal Wonder, and Born to be Mild as Doves, Wise as Serpents. They are currently working on a new album, Not Your Father’s Folk Mass. More information is available at the ensemble’s web site, and quite possibly at a parish near you.