The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Jan7Filed under: Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion, Uncategorized; Tagged as: 2012 Christian albums, 2012 Christian rock albums, 2012 contemporary Christian albums, Abandon Progress, Believer, Brian "Head" Welch, David Crowder Band, Demon Hunter, Diamond, Fireflight, Give Us Rest or (a requiem mass in c [the happiest of all keys]), Jaci Velasquez, Kutless, Lights Go Down, Now, P.O.D., Scars and Stories, Superchick, The Fray
It has been the season for Top 10 lists, but now is the time to start building new ones for the new year.
Now that the holidays are in the rear view, here is one last list of 10: Christian pop albums that are coming in 2012 and I look forward to hearing.
David Crowder Band, Give Us Rest or (a requiem mass in c [the happiest of all keys]). You won’t have to wait long for the final album from the David Crowder Band: It drops Tuesday. It will bring to a close the career of one of the best, most literate and adventurous bands of the past decade, and it pulled off the rare feat of putting its own mark on worship music. And leave it to Crowder to bow out with an album title as hard to memorize as a verse of Shakespeare.
The Fray, Scars and Stories. With crossover hits in How to Save a Life and You Found Me, The Fray is a hugely important act to the Christian market. And this will be an important album because after the smashing success of 2005′s How to Save a Life, the band’s eponymous 2009 album received a mostly cool critical reception. The Feb. 7 release will say a lot about The Fray’s sustained importance.
Jaci Velasquez, Diamond. Velasquez was one of the big stars the early 21st century in contemporary Christian music but then faded from prominence. Her 2008 release, Love Out Loud, boasted a few hits, so maybe she can build back some momentum, particularly in the contemporary market, if the Feb. 7 release lives up to its name.
Fireflight, Now. Will the new album have another great anthem, like Unbreakable? As the band releases its fourth album, Fireflight has gone from breakout star to the establishment, and fourth albums are usually significant in the careers of artists with enduring careers. File this March 6 release under “highly anticipated.”
SuperChick, untitled. We can see on the band’s Web site, Superchickonline.com, that the Brock sisters and their insanely talented bandmates have been in the studio quite a bit. The album is promised this spring.
Brian “Head” Welch, untitled. The former Korn guitarist and co-founder has been in the studio with producer Jasen Rauch (Red and Pillar) readying a new EP for release early this year. It will be his second album since he converted to Christianity, and he’ll be bringing the tunes to Wilmore’s Ichthus Festival in June.
Demon Hunter, untitled. The band with the best name in Christian rock has promised its most aggressive album to date, which is really saying something for Demon Hunter. Giving some serious heft to frontman Ryan Clark’s promise is the return of producer Aaron Sprinkle. It also will be the band’s first album with Living Sacrifice and Showdown guitarist Jeremiah Scott. Push play with an oven mitt.
P.O.D., untitled. A recent listen to 2001′s Satellite reaffirmed my firm belief that it is the best Christian rock record ever. Period. The boys from the South have had several releases since then, but none had that record’s visceral charge. Will a 2012 release under the guidance of Howard Benson recapture the fire?
Lights Go Down, Abandon Progress. Hawk Nelson frontman Jason Dunn is spending his Canadian winter in the studio, readying the debut of his new side project. No release date has been announced, but Dunn has been posting a lot of music on the Lights Go Down Facebook page (Facebook.com/lightsgodown). As Jon Foreman’s forays in recent years have shown, these enterprises can often be refreshing to both the solo artist and his primary act.
Mar11Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion, Rupp Arena; Tagged as: Anthony Armstrong, Break Me Down, C.S. Lewis, Chris August, Conan, Faceless, Feed the Machine, Francesca Battistelli, Ichthus Festival, iTunes, Jason Castro, Joe Rickard, KJ-52, Kutless, Michael Barnes, Newsboys, NewSong, Randy Armstrong, reathe Into Me, Red, Rupp Arena, Sidewalk Prophets, Skillet, TBS, the David Crowder Band, Till We Have Faces, Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Until We Have Faces, Winter Jam
In 2006, the band Red released its debut album, hoping someone would listen.
The group wasn’t even on a label at the time, but slowly people tuned in to the hard-rock sounds of the disc, which spawned the hits Breathe Into Me, Break Me Down and a couple of other chart-toppers. The album ended up nominated for the Grammy Award for best rock or rap gospel record.
Five years later, Red doesn’t release albums quietly.
Quickly after the Feb. 1 release of Until We Have Faces, Red was hovering near No. 1 on iTunes’ sales charts, and the band was booked on TBS’s Conan and NBC’s Tonight Show With Jay Leno, national television debuts for the band.
“We can’t even believe the numbers that are coming in,” guitarist Anthony Armstrong said a few days after the album’s release. “Some amazing things are happening.”
For Central Kentucky fans of Red, one of those things is a slot on the Winter Jam tour, which comes to Rupp Arena on March 12. The bill is topped by the resurgent Newsboys, the David Crowder Band, Kutless, Francesca Battistelli, Jason Castro, Chris August, Sidewalk Prophets, KJ-52 and tour hosts NewSong.
But Red is easily the hottest band at the moment on the show, like many other bands successfully crossing the line between mainstream and Christian venues.
“We try to play the same way whether we are playing in a church or a bar,” Armstrong said at last summer’s Ichthus Festival. “We want people who see us to say, ‘Those guys are the same no matter where they play. They’re not putting on an act or trying to hide anything.’”
One thing Red showed very well at Ichthus, where it was the Friday evening main stage opener for Skillet, was that it could play to a huge crowd — sort of like the one it will see in Rupp Arena, where last year’s Winter Jam drew 14,756 fans.
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.
After four years, you can safely say that if it is the Sunday before Labor Day, it’s time to party at Quest Community Church.
Questapalooza started in 2006 on a modest-but-ambitious scale, inviting ex-dc talker-now-Newsboy Tait in to headline a day of music and youthful fun at the church grounds off Reynolds Road. Each year since, the event has upped the ante, bringing in bigger acts that attract bigger crowds.
This year, two legitimate headliners and Christian music icons in their own right, Third Day and Jars of Clay, top the bill as well as up-and-coming vocal act Group 1 Crew.
The wildcard is that you could open for Third Day.
Questapalooza will feature the finals of The Fame, an American Idol-like singing contest that has been going on around town for several weeks and will culminate in semifinals on the main stage and the winner singing right before Third Day. Last year’s festival included a Guitar Hero competition, and winner Henry Shrader got to school Kutless guitarist Nick De Partee in the video game on the main stage.
“We wanted to give more of the community a way to participate,” Quest assistant pastor Justin McCarty says. There will be a chance to audition for the contest on the festival grounds early Sunday.
“Early,” this year, will be a little later than in the past.
While Although Questapalooza is getting bigger headliners and bigger crowds – more than 6,000 turned out last year – the event will actually dial back its hours, starting at 4 p.m. instead of 2, this year.
“We’ve found that period between 2 and 4 is the grayest part of the day,” McCarty says, meaning the crowd is smaller and activities aren’t quite as focused. “Moving it back gets us past the main heat of the day. We wanted to offer people the full experience for the whole time.”
Day two of the 40th annual Ichthus Festival started of soggy and chilly but soon warmed up and ended in an explosive (literally and figuratively) set from Skillet. Photos by Gabriel B. Tait and Rich Copley.
Two of the last three acts on the schedule for Friday’s Ichthus main stage lineup were scheduled to perform on Friday of last year, one of Ichthus’ infamous days of cancelled shows due to bad weather.
“This is actually our Ichthus debut,” Stellar Kart lead singer Adam Agee said from the stage yesterday.
After the show, Agee said that the band has played around and through bad weather at festival shows, but last year’s Ichthus was the first time the group had ever had a show cancelled due to the weather. And they were ready to go.
“We had all our gear on stage,” Agee said.
And then, while GRITS was performing mid-afternoon, a storm blew in that even took down a portion of a merchandise tent.
“We waited a while, and then found out we weren’t going to perform,” Agee said, “and then we hoped we’d at least get to see Kutless and TobyMac, and then they got cancelled.”
Kutless frontman Jon Micah Sumrall initially addressed his band’s cancellation last year in a prayer, thanking God for, “no tornadoes,” and then referred several times to Kutless’ bad weather luck at the festival.
Both acts made the most of eventually getting a chance to perform, Stellar Kart hosting a spirited late afternoon party and Kutless playing a heavily nuanced set, including delivering a flavor of its forthcoming worship album.
Feb24Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture; Tagged as: Chris Tomlin, Delirious, Disciple, Dove Awards, Family Force 5, Fireflight, Francesca Battistelli, Gospel Music Channel, Hawk Nelson, Ichthus Festival, Israel Houghton and New Breed, Justin Lookadoo, Kutless, Natalie Grant, Shane Claiborne, Skillet, Stellar Kart, The Afters, TobyMac
The Ichthus Festival is still working on the overall schedule for its 40th edition, but it has locked in the headliners.
The nighttime pairings bring distinct flavors to each evening. June 11 is very youthful, dancy rock with Family Force 5 and Hawk Nelson. June 12 looks to be rock night with Skillet and Kutless, and then things get worshipful on the closing night with Israel Houghton and New Breed and Delirious. Festival director Jeff James says they plan to make a big deal out of the Delirious set, as it will be the band’s last festival appearance. The groundbreaking worship band is splitting up later this year.
Other bands already announced include Fireflight, Disciple, Stellar Kart, and The Afters. We’ll let you know when acts are added.
Speakers already announced include Justin Lookadoo, whose Saturday talk last year included a skydiver, and Shane Claiborne, a Philadelphia-based minister whose Ordinary Radicals ministry was profiled in a film by the same name, which played at the Kentucky Theatre last year.
If you’re already planning to go, there are just a couple of weeks left before the next ticket price increase, March 14.
Ichthus and Winter Jam: Ichthus is also partnering with Winter Jam, which comes to Rupp Arena March 7, to round up volunteers. According to an Ichthus e-mail, the volunteer period would be from 3:30 p.m. until the end of the evening. If you’re interested, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Winter Jam features TobyMac, Hawk Nelson and others. We had a good interview with Toby that we’ll bring you next week here and in the paper.
Dove nominations: Late last week, the Gospel Music Association announced nominees for the 2009 Dove Awards, and once again, Chris Tomlin leads the pack. His most recent effort, Hello Love, helped him garner seven nominations and further solidifies his place as his generation’s Michael W. Smith. Close behind the Texan are Natalie Grant and newcomer Francesca Battistelli, with five each.
Battistelli, by the way, is on the Winter Jam lineup. She made a big splash last year with I’m Letting Go.
This year, the awards are letting viewers weigh in on two key categories: Artist of the Year and New Artist of the Year. Voting in these categories will begin Feb. 26 and go through the broadcast at 8 p.m. April 23. The fan vote will count as one-third of the overall vote in those categories. Here are those nominees:
- Artist of the Year: Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, Fireflight, Marvin Sapp, Third Day, TobyMac, and Chris Tomlin.
- New Artist of the Year: Addison Road, Francesca Battistelli, Fee, Jonathan Nelson, Remedy Drive, Chris Sligh, and Tenth Avenue North.
Once again, the Doves will be carried on the Gospel Music Channel, which is not available in Lexington on Insight cable. It is available on Dish Network at Channel 338. Click here if you’d like to send Insight a notice that you’d like to see GMC added to the lineup. Gospel Music Channel is available on other Central Kentucky cable systems.
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