The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The past two years when Winter Jam rolled through Rupp Arena, it featured the new incarnation of the Newsboys with now-not-so-new frontman Michael Tait.
Furler famously stepped away from the Newsboys in 2009, with little word as to what was next for him.
“I didn’t leave them to go solo,” Furler says. “It wasn’t the usual story of the singer that wants to get his songs out and wants to make his own style of record. I was already producing the records, writing all the songs and playing a lot of the instruments. I was really fulfilled in my role and loved that time with the lads.”
His leaving was more about needing a break from extensive touring.
He describes it as part of a process of divesting himself of big things that were occupying his attention.
“We kept looking at all the stuff we had and how you had to work not only to get that thing, but to maintain it,” Furler says of himself and wife Summer Andrea LeFevre, daughter of iconic Christian musician Mylon LeFevre.
“It was kind of like getting off a missions trip. You know, people come off a mission trip and they kind of re-evaluate and see how fortunate they are and make a change. For us as Christians, we begin to see practical things in the Bible: ‘Don’t wear yourself out to get rich.’ ‘Have the wisdom to show restraint.’ ‘The borrower is slave to the lender.’ They’re in the Bible, so why do we, just because of the culture we’re in, live completely opposite of that?”
Furler said he and LeFevre had fun getting rid of things, and finding fewer expectations and obligations pulling at him.
But he was never going to lose music. He always would have iconic songs such as Shine, and an ability to write and perform more.
Newsboys may be the comeback story of Christian rock.
I purposely did not qualify that statement with “of the year” or “of the decade.” Christian pop has never been a genre that completely let faded heroes of the past back into the limelight, and just three years ago, Newsboys looked like it was essentially done.
Back then, it would have been hard to belive Newsboys would be headlining the most successful Winter Jam tour ever, as of last night in Rupp Arena, and they’d be putting on a killer show. But Saturday night, before a crowd of 16,431 paying customers, the resurgent quartet showed off the perfect formula for rebirth.
The key ingredient is new frontman Michael Tait. Here in Central Kentucky, we’ve been able to watch him grow into this role a bit as Newsboys played the Lexington area three times in the last year. But last night, he was perfectly at ease exhorting the crowd, playing every part of the stage and drawing from two iconic bands’ catalogs of hits.
That’s part two of the formula: With Tait, Newsboys credibly performs its own catalog and that of his former band, dc talk. That would make this a greatest hits act if not for the third ingredient, some terrific new material like the title track from the new chart-topper, Born Again. It gives Newsboys a cross-generational appeal they might not have otherwise had.
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.
We got a chance to talk to Tim Foreman and Drew Shirley of Switchfoot before their set Thursday night at the Ichthus Festival. Click play to hear our chat. (Btw, the guy who walks through toward the end of the interview is Relient K’s Matt Thiessen.)
By the way, the line-up for Questapalooza was announced this morning, and Switchfoot tops the bill, which includes fellow Ichthus 2010 artists Newsboys, for their third Lexington-area show this year, and last year’s Questapalooza opener Group 1 Crew. The show is Sept. 5, and tickets go on sale July 4.
I admit it. When Newsboys reached the rap in their rendition of Jesus Freak, I was hoping to hear a familiar voice start spitting, “I saw a man with a tat on his big fat belly.”
But it was indeed Michael Tait that saw his new band’s rendition through.
Then, a couple hours later, Tobymac repeated Jesus Freak in his set, delivering the rap in his familiar voice.
One of the first questions that popped into my mind when former dc talk singer Tait joined Newsboys was how he and former talk partner Toby would divvy up the old act’s classics when they shared the same stage.
Wednesday night, we discovered there’s room enough in an evening for two renditions of Jesus Freak. There was no loss of energy in the crowd when Toby launched into the searing guitar break near the end of his show. The earth did not open and swallow the Ichthus Festival for the double dip, and lightning didn’t strike the stage – kinda impressive, considering Toby’s record with Ichthus weather.
The pairing of the old dc talk bandmates was also an interesting study in band dynamics.
Newsboys has some colorful characters, particularly in super cool guitarist guitarst Jody Davis and clown prince drummer Duncan Phillips. And what can you say about a keyboardist named Frankenstein, Jeff Frankenstein? But this is clearly Michael Tait’s band now. He was the expressive, emotional leader, he had command of the tunes, he was running the show.
Toby also was running his show while developing one of the most colorful bands on the road. It sort of brought to mind Black Eyed Peas in terms of a diversity of voices and fun.
Ichthus has to deem its first “community night” a success. The hillside in the amphitheater was packed and locals seemed to respond to the deeply discounted opening night set. Ichthus executive director Jeff James indicated last night there will be a community night next year.
- Look for a slide show from community night later this morning.
WILMORE – The Ichthus Festival got started a day early this year, but the hillside in the amphitheater at Ichthus Farm made it look like Friday night as locals and out-of-towners gathered for the event’s first ever community night.
“It gives people a chance to see what Ichthus is all about,” said Karen Mills of London, who has attended the entire festival before but was only taking in community night this year because of her schedule.
Community night goers got a pretty sweet deal in concert terms: Two of Christian rock’s top acts Tobymac and Newsboys for $20. And people who bought tickets before May 31 paid only $10.
“It had every potential for us to lose our shirts, when you compare the cost of bringing these guys in to the bargain basement price we were charging,” Ichthus Ministries executive director Jeff James said Wednesday evening as fans filed in to the festival site. “But for this being the first year, it’s going great.”
Festival organizers said 3,000 people bought tickets for the community night concert as of last week, and walk-up tickets were doing brisk business at the box office, one of the few areas covered by shade. The number of walk-up ticket buyers was not available at press time.
People who had bought weekend passes for the festival were also admitted to the community night. Wednesday afternoon, they were pitching tents and preparing for a lineup of Christian rock luminaries including Switchfoot and Skillet.
And they were all for adding an extra night to the 41st edition of the oldest Christian pop music festival.
“It makes it more like camp,” said Taylor Dooley, 15, who was psyched to experience her first mosh pit at one of the metal concerts.
Spencer Dorman, a 21-year-old Ichthus first timer from Somerset said, “I’m going to have a mean sunburn by Saturday.”
Of course, the four-day run may be the hardest on the youth leaders who have to heard kids all weekend.
Jeff Walker, the youth leader at Oasis Community Church, which meets at Lexington Christian Academy, said he was feeling wonderful coming into the festival, but added, “ask me how I’m feeling again on Saturday.”
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.
Central Kentucky, this one’s for you.
The Ichthus Festival gets started early this year with its “Community Night” on Wednesday, featuring something of a historic bill: Newsboys and TobyMac.
With Michael Tait stepping up to Newsboys’ lead microphone recently, that show will give the audience two-thirds of the iconic Christian rock trio dc Talk.
“Ichthus has been known as a festival that reaches most of the eastern United States for a long time,” Ichthus spokeswoman Tina Pugel said. “We decided we wanted to reach out to our own back yard with a low-cost, one-night experience.”
One-night tickets for the show were $10 until May 31; they are now $20 at the gate. People who have bought a festival pass also will be admitted to the concert.
Pugel said about 3,000 individual tickets have been bought for the event.
Festival organizers want the Community Night to help charitable organizations in the area and are asking participants to bring the following donations:
■ For the Hope Center: a sandwich bag filled with shampoo, lotions, razors, lip balm and any toiletry items that will fit.
■ For God’s Pantry: non-perishable food items such as canned goods, cereal, soup, macaroni and cheese, flour or money (for every $1 received, God’s Pantry can buy $10 worth of food for those in need).
■ For All God’s Children: diapers (sizes 4 and 5), baby wipes, lotion, paper towels, wrapping paper, pens, laundry detergent, masking tape.
There will be collection barrels at the festival entrance and in the Community Night tent, just inside the festival entrance.
Overall, Pugel said, festival ticket sales are up 60 percent from this time last year. She attributed the surge to a strong lineup of musical acts and lower ticket prices. The past several years, full festival adult tickets had been well above $100. This year, festival passes started at $69 in December and will be $99 at the gate.
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