The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Ichthus stayed true to the form of recent years, ending the festival on a worshipful note Saturday with the Main Stage pairing of Casting Crowns and BarlowGirl.
One of the things many people were commenting on over the weekend was the strong pairings of evening headliners – the rock night of Skillet and Red, modern rock of Switchfoot and Relient K -and the Saturday night duo had sort of a worship/traditional contemporary Christian music vibe.
Saturday’s headliners had tough acts to follow.
TobyMac and Switchfoot fielded big, lively bands Wednesday and Thursday respectively, and then Skillet came with that and Fourth of July-worthy pyrotechnic show.
Crowns, by comparison, put most of the responsibility for filling the amphitheater on the shoulders of lead singer Mark Hall. Barlow Girl, which in previous daytime Main Stage outings (they were one of the bands that braved the snow day in 2005) was packed to the center of the stage by the equipment of later acts, seemed a little lost spread out across the entire main stage, Saturday night.
Sanctus Real, playing earlier in the afternoon, delivered the most lively set I got to sample on the Main Stage Saturday.
For those who wanted to rock a little more before going home, there were offerings on other stages such as Disciple and Pillar on the Deep End, and many took in those shows. This year, the Deep End really did claim the title of Main Stage Jr. as much as it ever has.
And this was as complete a festival as Ichthus has put together. From this perspective, it was a little like going to New York: Not enough time to do everything you want to do, even with the extra day. It hardly feels like a weekend in rural Kentucky, until you look around at the hills and cows – and we don’t mean the Chik-fil-a cow.
Photos by Rich Copley | LexGo.com
The main stage at the Ichthus Festival is about as loaded as it has been in several years, with a good variety of artists from the contemporary worship sounds of Casting Crowns to the pyrotechnic rock of Skillet. So, we’re curious who the masses are dying to see here.
Please take the poll below or, if your favorite is not listed – Vizu allows a maximum of 10 answers, so I just listed the evening acts – please reply below or direct message @copiousnotes on Twitter.
There’s plenty of pressure in performing in a battle of the bands in front of top record executives for the chance to play on the main stage at Ichthus and go on to another competition that could put you in line for a deal with a major label.
Add to that being woken up at 4:30 in the morning by a severe thunderstorm that makes you throw all of your stuff in plastic bags and sleep — if you can call it that — in your car for the rest of the night.
“Our campsite was flattened,” said Christina Conyers, one of the singers in CrossLife, one of the nine bands that competed in the Ascenxion Scout Competition Thursday morning at Ichthus.
Jones Beene, guitarist for Athens, Tenn. band Calling Glory, was in an actual home. But still, the thunder roused him around 5 a.m., and he decided to go ahead and get up.
But that is not all the competing bands had to deal with. Since the campsite was closed due to weather issues until after 10 a.m., the competition, which was supposed to start at 9 a.m., was moved to one of the worship stages in the campground and didn’t start until nearly 10:30.
“The good thing was we were too busy running around to get to the new place to have any time to get nervous,” said Eric Draine of Versailles based Eyesuponus.
The competition did offer up a variety of Christian pop styles, from the worship set of CrossLife, to the atmospheric sounds of Calling Glory, to the metal of Elizabethtown-based Wisdom’s Call.
The bravery award had to go to 16-year-old Allison Stafford of Radfordville, who took the stage and said, “I don’t have a band, but I’m going to get up here and sing anyway.”
She was a lone girl with a guitar in the middle of a bunch of dudes with bands, and she confessed it did intimidate her, but, “I knew God was with me.”
Stafford said she had been inspired by seeing BarlowGirl at Ichthus a few years ago, and she said, “I want to do that.”
She got onto the Ichthus stage via an online competition that narrowed the field down for the live showdown, that was really cordial for something billed as a, “battle.”
The ultimate winner was the Lee Roessler Band out of Alexandria, in Northern Kentucky.
“It’s great,” said Roessler, the head of the trio. “But I don’t view it as a competition. We’re all out here just praising God.”
It was a competition with a prize. Roessler will play the Ichthus main stage at noon Friday. Calling Glory, the runners up, will play the Edge Stage at 6:20 p.m. Saturday, and third place finisher’s Wisdom’s Call will play the Edge at 3:10 p.m. Friday.
Nov25Filed under: album review, American Idol, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture; Tagged as: American Idol, Amy Grant, Annie Moses Band, BarlowGirl, Casting Cowns, Christmas, Fernando Ortega, Lenny LeBlanc, Mandisa, Point of Grace, Sara Groves, Shane and Shane, Sixpence None the Richer, Travis Cottrell, Wayne Kirkpatrick
Why do recording artists make new Christmas albums?
Seriously, three-quarters of them are usually full of songs that have been recorded a quarter-of-a-million times already, and the rest are attempts at new seasonal tunes that are in reality what is known as filler.
So, what does a current recording artist bring to the table that’s any better than what Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby did decades ago?
Well, first off, like the rest of us, pop stars like to sing Christmas songs. So, if you can put your own twist on O Holy Night, and your fans will probably buy it, why not?
And new tunes sometimes take root, which comes to mind listening to Casting Crowns’ take on Wayne Kirkpatrick’s God is with Us. And new artists come with new points of view, be it the classical colors of the Annie Moses Band or Sara Groves’ brand of Americana.
Yes, my eyes do roll when the newest Christmas discs start arriving on my desk, usually somewhere in the middle of August. But there are sounds and songs on albums that will define the year, and I’ll pull them out every year like tinsel.
So here’s a look at the best of 2008’s Christmas packages from the contemporary Christian crowd.
Sara Groves, O Holy Night – Critics’ darling, thy name is Sara Groves, and we will not vary from that here. O Holy Night is a wide ranging Christmas package that starts off sounding like it will be a rootsy exploration of songs about the sacred evening, but slowly begins to fold in other experiences such as To Be with You, a sentimental look at family Christmases, and Toy Packaging, an unsentimental look at that which sends many a parent’s blood pressure soaring at Christmastime. The sonic centerpiece is a Silent Night arrangement that spirals into reverberating electric guitars that create a sublime effect, like a sky filled with shooting stars.
Casting Crowns, Peace on Earth – The unassuming superstars’ Christmas disc succeeds the same way the band succeeds, by being relevant to its audience and thoughtfully made. While You Were Sleeping is a prime example, telling the Christmas story of a town that went down in history as having no room and asking if that’s how America will be remembered. There is an amped-up Joy to the World, giving the DeVevos, guitarist Juan and violinist Melodee, a little room to jam, and a beautiful cover of Wayne Kirkpatrick’s underrated God is with Us, with Megan Garrett delivering a vocal that has Mary Chapin Carpenter-like intimacy.
Mandisa, It’s Christmas – Whether you’re looking for skillful pop-song styling or American Idol-style earnestness, former Idol contestant Mandisa delivers with a classic contemporary Christmas record. Of all the discs in this roundup, ‘Disa’s is probably the best one to spin at your Christmas party.
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