The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Saturday night at the Ichthus Festival, I arrived in the photo pit at the Deep End stage and saw a familiar face on the front row: Jenny Green, a teen from Crawfordsville, Ind., who I had met the day before hanging out at the front row fence at the main stage.
Friday, she had arrived at the big stage at 10:30 a.m. to stake out a spot for Skillet and Family Force Five. But Saturday night, with a lineup including Disciple and The Almost, Jenny assured me that the Deep End was the place to be.
For her, at least.
The main stage had not closed Saturday. There were in fact thousands of people gathered for festival closers Matthew West and Chris Tomlin. But the worship artists were not going to make your ears bleed and pop your eyes out with pyrotechnics, as cool as How Great is Our God might be punctuated with some fireworks.
But the shifting stages and fan bases were part of why this year’s Ichthus demonstrated something serious Christian music fans have known for a long time: You cannot neatly categorize Christian music under one heading, though that is what the music industry has long tried to do.
Jun3Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: Anberlin, Britt Nicole, Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin, Community Day, Hillsong United, Ichthus Festival, Mark Vermilion, Matthew West, Night of Worship, Phil Keaggy, Quest Community Church, Questapalooza, Rupp Arena, Switchfoot, The Almost, the Newsboys, TobyMac, wilmore, Winter Jam
The Ichthus Festival is focusing on a new market: Central Kentucky.
During the past four decades, the Wilmore Christian pop music festival has drawn fans from all over the Eastern United States and even farther away.
Ichthus CEO Mark Vermilion points to the festival’s heyday 10 years ago, when entire sections of the camping area would be made up of people from Michigan. Now, just a handful of the event’s more than 10,000 patrons are from the Great Lake State.
And the same is true of Georgia, Illinois, Virginia and other areas more than half a day’s drive from Wilmore.
“Our market has shrunk to a 200-, maximum 250-mile radius of Wilmore,” Vermilion said.
Two big factors contribute to that.
First, there’s everyone’s favorite headline: gas prices. If you think your SUV can drink up the fuel, wait until you try filling up a church van.
Also, the number of festivals and similar opportunities to see Christian bands has increased, so audiences are finding they don’t have to travel as far to see favorite bands. Even in Central Kentucky, where Ichthus used to be the sole annual Christian music event, other attractions such as two one-day festivals in Lexington — September’s Questapalooza at Quest Community Church and March’s Winter Jam at Rupp Arena — have given music fans other opportunities to see many of the same acts.
And in some ways, while there is still free camping on site and four straight days of rock at Ichthus Farm, the event is marketing itself to locals as an attraction similar to those one-nighters.
It started last year with a festival-opening “Community Night” featuring chart-topping artists TobyMac and the Newsboys. This year, Ichthus is offering two days geared toward locals. The festival will open June 15 with a Night of Worship featuring praise superstars Hillsong United. Three days later, it will close with Community Day, letting single-day attendees access the festival for a discounted price.
Both days are $25 each, if tickets are purchased by June 10, or a Night of Worship/Community Day package is $40.
“There will always be people who want to come for the full three- and four-day experience, and we believe that’s where real community happens,” Vermilion said. “But we also want the people from Central Kentucky to look at Community Day and say, ‘That’s my day.’”
Dec31Filed under: Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: Aaron Gillespie, Anberlin, Britt Nicole, Chris August, Disciple, Family Force 5, Fireflight, For Today, Francesca Battistelli, Ichthus Festival, Jason Castro, Josh Garrels, Josh Wilson, KJ-52, Kutless, LeCrae, Living Sacrifice, MikesChair, Newsboys, NewSong, Project 86, Red, Remedy Drive, Rupp Arena, Sidewalk Prophets, Skillet, Sleeping Giant, Superchick, The Almost, the David Crowder Band, The Letter Black, Trip Lee, Winter Jam, Underoath
The new year hasn’t started, but we already can tell Christian music fans about a few things to look forward to in Central Kentucky in 2011.
Chief among them is, of course, the Ichthus Festival, which already has started releasing the lineup for the event, which will be June 15 to 18 in Wilmore.
Some of the new names coming to the main stage include longtime fan favorites Anberlin and newcomers The Letter Black, along with mainstage returns by Family Force 5 and Disciple, who weren’t there last year. There are a number of returns from last year, including Skillet, Superchick, Red and LeCrae, who brought some highly credible hip-hop to the main stage last year.
Christian music has had trouble embracing hip-hop over the years, but this year’s festival will be further evidence that hard rock is having no trouble finding its way in the genre, with heavier acts on the main stage and the growing prominence of the Deep End stage, which will feature acts including Project 86 and The Almost, Aaron Gillespie’s Underoath side project, which has grown into a substantial act in its own right.
Ichthus 2011 will again open on Wednesday night, with a community concert like last year’s Tobymac, Newsboys lineup, and it will include the acoustic Galleria stage. In years past, Ichthus had a grand lineup announcement, but now organizers trickle it out primarily on their Facebook page (Facebook.com/ichthus).
In addition to the acts mentioned above, the lineup thus far includes Jason Castro, Fireflight, Remedy Drive, Mikeschair, Chris August, Sleeping Giant, For Today, Josh Wilson, Josh Garrels, Living Sacrifice, Trip Lee and Britt Nicole.
Tickets for Ichthus 2011 are on sale at Ichthusfestival.org. (If you are reading this Dec. 31, you can still get in on bargain basement rates if you buy before the new year.)
Long before that, when the weather will be more like it is now, Winter Jam will hit Rupp Arena for the fourth straight year. And for the third straight year, it will be a Saturday night. On March 12, the set will feature Newsboys, the David Crowder Band, Red, Kutless, Francesca Battistelli, NewSong, KJ-52, Sidewalk Prophets and Chris August. Newsboys were here last year in their reconstituted lineup featuring Michael Tait, and event hosts NewSong and Francesca Battistelli have been at the Rupp event before. But the rest of the lineup is new to the event, including the Crowder Band, a onetime Ichthus staple whose last big local date was a fall 2009 show at Southland Christian Church.
As in previous years, admission for Winter Jam is $10 and only at the door. For more information, go to Hearitfirst.com/winterjam.
There was a time at Ichthus when the Main Stage headliner would finish, and a speaker from the stage would send everyone back to the camp site, often mentioning a lights out time.
Now, they say stick around for the late night program. And oh, there are bands going until the wee hours on many side stages.
Friday night, a crowd stretched out across the lawn in front of the Deep End Stage for an 11 p.m. performance by The Devil Wears Prada that actually started around 11:45. When the show got started, lead vocalist Mike Hranica wasted no time whipping the crowd into a moshing frenzy.
Back on the Main Stage, the White Collar Sideshow delivered its theatrical take on addiction and redemption.
And the festival doesn’t actually end until Sunday morning, with the Doorpost Project Film Festival winners on the main stage and bands such as Anberlin and The Showdown playing after midnight.
Jun15Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Uncategorized; Tagged as: Aaron Gillespie, Anberlin, Ascenxion Band, Day of Fire, Deep End Stage, Edge Stage, Galleria Stage, Haste the Day, Ichthus Festival, Knapsackheroes, Me in Motion, Phil Keaggy, The Devil Wears Prada, The Showdown
One thing that is striking about the Ichthus Festival’s secondary stages this year is how many hitmakers and acts that have appeared on the main stage are booked for the Deep End, the Edge and others. Saturday night’s Deep End lineup is particularly striking: Decyfer Down, Disciple, Pillar, and Anberlin.
So, like the main stage survey yesterday, please pick the secondary stage act you are most excited about seeing at Ichthus. I know this poll is even more open to people liking someone I can’t list with only 10 poll answers, so put your write ins in comments, direct message @copiousnotes on Twitter or if you see this on a Facebook page, put it in the comments.
Ichthus 2010 will boast a four-night mainstage lineup featuring the return of Switchfoot, which will top a Thursday night schedule that also includes Relient K.
The 2009 festival had a subdued schedule with organizers keeping the tight economy in mind and wanting to put an emphasis on teaching. But the lineup for this year’s event, June 16-19, is loaded with star power, and organizers say they are still putting it together.
And they are providing a fourth night of music. Since moving to the summertime in 2006, the festival has started quietly with a free set for early arrivals by smaller artists on the Deep End stage. But you don’t start quietly with TobyMac. He leads the headliner lineup Wednesday, followed by Switchfoot Thursday, Skillet Friday and Casting Crowns Saturday.
Also scheduled are Thousand Foot Krutch, SuperChick, DecemberRadio and Stellar Kart Thursday. Friday includes Red and Fireflight, whose “For Those Who Wait,” is due Feb. 9. Saturday’s lineup will also include BarlowGirl.
The festival is also putting headliners on the Deep End Stage. The Devil Wears Prada Friday night and Anberlin Saturday have been announced already. Like we said, the schedule is still being made, so it could get even better.
Until the end of the month, weekend tickets are $69 adults, $34 ages 7-10. Ichthus is billing these as the lowest ticket prices in six years.
A few decades ago, Christian rock pioneer Steve Taylor penned a line that is exceedingly appropriate to faith-based pop: “If your music’s saying nothing, save it for the dentist’s chair.”
It is the last weekend of the year, and we are here to talk about the best contemporary Christian music of 2008. And this year, the best was definitely music that said something. We hope Steve’s happy.
1. Jon Foreman’s seasonal EPs – In the past half decade, Switchfoot has released some of the most thoughtful rock in the marketplace, Christian or mainstream. Left to his own devices, frontman Jon Foreman plumbs new depths — meaning, he’s deep. Foreman spent the past year releasing four solo EP’s of six-songs each, Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. (The hot links take you to the original album reviews.) Individually and together, they speak to the life of a 21st Century person of faith in a way few others have. His work includes thoughts on justice, money, sin and faith with bold statements like Instead of a Show, an indictment of ostentatious faith that lacks substance, to House of God Forever, a beautiful meditation on Psalm 23. We love Switchfoot, but solo Foreman is also something to treasure. Here’s hoping they continue to co-exist in harmony.
2. Grits, Reiterate – In 2008, the Tennessee duo of Coffee and Bonafide left their longtime home of Gotee Records for the independent market and released their most diverse album in recent memory. The disc dabbles in soulful and jazzy influences and benefits from guest appearances by Christian stars showing the duo to be simultaneously individual and part of a greater community. (I haven’t reviewed this for le blog yet, but will in a few weeks.)
3. Underoath, Lost in the Sound of Separation – Underoath continued to defy status as a niche artist by making a very accessible metalcore album. The band’s greatest asset is an ability to craft the torrent of sound it produces into memorable and even melodic pieces that attest the majesty of this genre.
4. Seabird, ‘Til We See the Shore – No, I’m not giving this Northern Kentucky act a high post because I’m a homer. I’m putting Seabird up here because its debut is one fresh, compelling piece of piano-based pop. There was a common theme of triumph over struggle in Aaron Morgan’s songwriting which was literate and evocative, highlighted by standout track Cottonmouth (Jargon).
5. Fireflight, Unbreakable – The title track was my favorite single of the year, an arresting testament from the adulterous woman Jesus saved from stoning. But Unbreakable was hardly a one-hit album, with more great power chord rock and ballads such and You Made Me a Promise, all delivered by one of Christian rock’s strongest frontwomen, Dawn Richardson.
6. Delirious, Kingdom of Comfort – Taking a cue from their previous hit, Our God Reigns, the British worship leaders have evolved into contemplative songwriters. Too bad they’re calling it quits, for now, after releasing this standout.
7. Andy Hunter, Colour – I have always been a fan of Hunter’s mix of faith with electronica and dance music and wished he made more albums. Usually he’s preoccupied with soundtracks and such, but this is a satisfying, if rare, experience.
8. Anberlin, New Surrender – New Surrender opened a new chapter for Anberlin, making a leap to a major label with an album that showed its individual, literate personality with a slightly more pop sound, including a new duo-guitar attack.
9. Superchick, Rock What You Got – Producer and band member Max Hzu has crafted Superchick’s sound into a fine concoction. While I would like to see a little more growth in lyrical content, it’s undeniable that nobody does female-fronted, punky power pop as well as the Brock sisters and their band.
10. Third Day, Revelation – That the title is not a Biblical reference, but a request for more insight from God, speaks to the mature, thoughtful voice this Georgia band brings to Christian pop. And they can rip a Southern rocker with the best of them too.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich