The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
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.’”
Before Thursday night’s concerts, we talked to members of Switchfoot and Relient K – audio from those chats will be coming soon – and both groups talked about how gratifying it is to hear a crowd sing their songs back to them.
It can also be pretty gratifying for the audience.
Switchfoot’s performance, in particular, demonstrated how much having songs the crowd has taken to heart can create an intimate atmosphere, even in an amphitheater packed with thousands of people.
We heard how well the crowd knew the Switchfoot catalog when frontman Jon Foreman turned the microphone over to the audience during Dare You to Move and the crowd called it back to him crisply. Relient K’s set demonstrated the same familiarity, unintentionally, when frontman Matt Thiessen’s microphone briefly failed, and the audience picked up the lead.
Members of Switchfoot, which has bounced between mainstream and Christian markets, like to say they are not preaching or performing with an agenda. But Foreman delivers plenty of exhortations from the stage, and a talk about civil rights leader John M. Perkins and comments such as “Works cannot be separated from faith, my friends” seemed to be taken to heart by an audience that knew exactly where he was coming from.
Music spread out across the festival site Thursday, including the new Galleria stage, which is billed as an acoustic stage, though acts such as Bluetree and Phil Keaggy plugged in. Keaggy reportedly commanded an audience of musicians and festival officials created an impromptu autograph session after one of his sets.
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 Festival fans finally got a warm, sunny day June 13, to play, pack up and enjoy a few final shows. Among the closing acts were Israel Houghton and New Breed and Delirious.
Cheyenne Taylor’s Freedom Church youth group from Owassa, Okla., nearly went to a different event from Ichthus.
But they came, and it was good for Cheyenne, because she won a singing competition held during the festival that put her on the main stage to sing Amazing Grace Saturday afternoon, backed up by none other than Phil Keaggy and the Ascenxion Band.
“It was the most surreal experience, stepping out and seeing the crowd,” said Taylor, 17, who hopes to pursue a career in music. “It was the experience of a lifetime.”
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