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.’”
Sep28Filed under: Arts administration, Balagula Theatre, Classical Music, Current Affairs, Discuss, Downtown Arts Center, Kentucky Theatre, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Music, Musicals, Norton Center for the Arts, Opera, Paragon Music Theatre, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Studio Players, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, Woodford County Theatre; Tagged as: Balagula Theatre, Guignol Theatre, Haggin Auditorium, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Quest Community Church, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts
What do you think of Lexington’s inventory of theaters and other venues for live performances?
Currently, leaving aside our behemoth of Rupp Arena, our major arts and entertainment venues are the Singletary Center for the Arts, which seats about 1,500, and the Lexington Opera House, which accomodates just under 1,000. Then, in the seats-a-few-hundred category, you have the black box theater in the Downtown Arts Center, the Lyric Theatre, which is currently being rennovated, and the Kentucky Theatre. There are also venues such as Studio Players’ Carriage House Theatre and the Lexington Children’s Theatre that are almost exclusively used by the groups that occupy them, and University spaces such as the University of Kentucky’s Guignol Theatre and Transylvania University’s Haggin Auditorium that are primarily used by the institutions.
Am I leaving any Big Kahunas out?
So, is that a good inventory. What do we lack?
Some lament we never got the major performing arts center that was supposed to happen where the courthouses now stand at Main and Limestone. Others say Lexington isn’t ready for a venue of that caliber. Others look at smaller spaces such as the Woodford Theatre’s venue in Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center and wonder why Lexington couldn’t have something like that for groups that may see the Opera House as too big for their needs.
Still others say creativity trumps venues, and point to places such as Charleston, S.C., that have built vibrant performing arts scenes without an ideal inventory of venues. Here, we have examples such as Balagula Theatre at Natasha’s Bistro and Bar and the chamber music festivals that bookend the summer taking place in an old tobacco barn at Shaker Village and Fasig-Tipton’s horse sales pavilion showing a creative use of non-traditional spaces in town.
Here’s another fly I’ll throw in the ointment: I just attended a concert last week in a new, state of the art 2,400-seat Lexington venue that would have been the envy of many area arts groups: Quest Community Church’s new sanctuary. If there is a desire for a new theater or theaters in town, do you need to have public funds to build it, or can the arts community come together to make something happen like, oh, Quest or a little baseball park near Broadway and New Circle that was built with private funds.
That’s sort of a distillation of conversations and thoughts I’ve had over the last several years about Lexington’s theater space.
So, what do you think? Hit the comment button and let’s talk.
After nearly an hour of performing rousing rock ‘n’ roll (and encouraging the audience to “dance like nerds” with him), ballads and worship, Jeremy Camp sat down at an upright piano Thursday night and sang a spiritual.
“Give me Jesus, give me Jesus,” he sang, bathed in lavender light. “You can have all of this world. Give me Jesus.”
Hunched over the keyboard, his face shielded from the crowd, Camp’s voice filled the room with the same kind of power that seemed to exist in his biceps — toned by px90 workouts — and simultaneously had the tremor of a young man who’s already endured some trials, including losing a wife to cancer and an unborn child in a miscarriage.
Whether in recordings or on stage, there is nary an un-genuine moment from Jeremy Camp, which is a big part of why he can so seamlessly rock, worship and sing empathetic ballads — I’ll Take You Back is still his best tune, which he performed Thursday with a bit more fire than some acoustic renditions he’s delivered in the past.
The new sanctuary at Quest Community Church proved to be an ideal venue for Camp, as the 2,400 seat auditorium would probably be great for any artist seeking a midsized room. That describes a lot of Christian artists. It’s not clear whether Quest intends to use its facility as a Christian concert hall — this show was booked by an outside promoter — but you have to think word will get out about the room, which you had to keep reminding yourself is a church.
And there were two other artists on the bill to testify for it. Natalie Grant played right before Camp with a more rock oriented show than you might expect and a moving rendition of God of This City, and Bebo Norman opened the night flanked by a superior sideman in Gabe Scott, who flipped between guitar, keyboards and hammer dulcimer.
Sep7Filed under: Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: 2009, Blanca Reyes, Charlie Lowell, David Carr, Group 1 Crew, Jars of Clay, Jason Sankovitch, Mac Powell, Manwell Reyes, Mark Lee, Pablo Villatoro, Pete Hise, Quest Community Church, Questapalooza, Rich Copley, Scotty Wilbanks, Steve Mason, Tai Anderson, Third Day
Slide show photos by Jason Sankovitch and Rich Copley.
Questapalooza 2009 did more with less Sunday: less time and less sun.
The absence of much — if any — sun made for a relatively cool afternoon and evening, and rolling back the start time made for a faster-moving event with main stage action from start to finish. If you were working the festival, say as a volunteer or a journalist, moving the start time back from 2 to 4 p.m. may have put a little more pressure on you. But for 8,500 festival goers, it meant there was always something happening on the main stage and you had a variety of things to catch when their wasn’t.
Like needtobreathe last year, Group 1 Crew made the most of its opening set, electrifying the crowd with a dynamic performance. One thing that has really evolved with the group since we first saw them in Winchester in May 2007 was greater involvement of the band, giving singers Manwell Reyes, Blanca Reyes and Pablo Villatoro more to play off of.
I didn’t get to hear too much of Jars of Clay’s set because I was busy working on our story for Monday’s paper, but it did strike me how seamlessly the band let its latest release, The Long Fall Back to Earth, color its whole set, while not slavishly delivering an overdose of the album. Jars is a band with a vast catalog of hits, and favorites such as Revolution and Love Song for a Savior were all there.
Third Day also has an extensive catalog to draw from, but the feel of it’s set was straight out of the Southern Rock-drenched Revelation album. If anyone came to Questapalooza wondering why these guys are regarded as one of the iconic bands in Christian rock, that question had to be answered a few songs in.
This was the first time I’ve seen Third Day since the departure of guitarist Brad Avery, and it was striking that this set seemed a bit more static than previous 3D shows with one less person to interact with and lead singer Mac Powell appearing to take on more guitar duties than in the past. But he sang with no-less conviction, and the band torched through a tasteful selection including Thief, God of Wonders and the band’s nuclear rendition of Rich Mullins’ Creed.
Quest Community Church continues to build Questapalooza into a signature event, and this is the one where they showed they understood bigger is not always better — in some ways.
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.”
In February, Quest Community Church announced Third Day will headline the fourth annual Questapalooza, Sept. 6 at the church off Reynolds Road. Today, the Questapalooza 2009 lineup was completed with the announcement Jars of Clay and Group 1 Crew will also play the event, again giving Quest something to top next year.
Jars is an interesting choice, because last year, they played an event at Lexington Christian Academy, across Reynolds Road from Quest, the night before Questapalooza, which featured Kirk Franklin and Kutless in 2008. Since then, they have released another critically acclaimed album, The Long Fall Back to Earth. Group 1 Crew has played around the area numerous times, including Winter Jam in 2008.
Quest will have a busy month, because a few weeks later, Jeremy Camp, Natalie Grant and Bebo Norman will play the church on Sept. 24.
Jun17Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion, Uncategorized; Tagged as: Abe Parker, Allison Stafford, Amaris Blevins, Ascenxion Scout Competition, Centenary United Methodist, Disciple, Grant Ebright, Jonathan Mckeowen, Kevin Young, Landon Cunningham, Quest Community Church, Rookie, Shane Tracy Project, Southern Acres, Southland Christian Church, The Lee Roessler Band, Too Many Drummers
WILMORE — The trio Rookie did a lot of the right things when they started performing together.
They picked bandmates they liked hanging out with. They defined a sort of jazzy edge to their sound that they say makes them different from most other Christian rock acts. They jettisoned a meaningless name, Auburn, for one that said something: Rookie, they say, is a commentary on the clumsiness with which most people go about their faith.
And they got the director of the Ichthus Festival to come see their show.
OK, that last element isn’t necessarily part of the prescription for most bands. And a few years ago, it might not have yielded much.
But, while Ichthus’ calling card is still chart-topping international Christian bands such as Skillet and Family Force 5, Kentucky musicians have had a growing role in the festival, whether it’s competitors in the fest’s 3-year-old battle of the bands, local rockers invited to perform on secondary stages, area church leaders playing during late-afternoon worship sessions, or the occasional national artist who resides right here in the Bluegrass.
“My family got to come out,” Disciple frontman and Central Kentucky resident Kevin Young said of the band’s Thursday main-stage set. “That’s why I like Ichthus a lot, because I actually get to do this and my family is close by. My daughter is 81/2 months old, and yesterday was her first Disciple concert. I didn’t get to see her face, but my wife said she was kicking a lot, so apparently she liked the music.”
The biggest concentration of local talent was earlier that day on the worship stage where bands competed in the third annual Ascenxion Scout Competition. The first year of the competition, three bands were selected in an online competition to play Ichthus stages. The past two years, the competition’s finals have been live the opening morning of the festival, meaning even if they don’t advance, all the competitors can say they played Ichthus.
They included 16-year-old Radfordville resident Allison Stafford, who said when she saw Christian rocker’s BarlowGirl at Ichthus two years ago, “I decided I wanted to do that.”
Playing a festival like Ichthus gives local acts, as well as other less familiar bands, a chance for people to run across their music as opposed to concerts or club dates, where a lot of people who come are already familiar with the band.
“We got a really good crowd response,” Landon Cunningham, Rookie’s drummer, said the day after their Friday set on the Edge Stage. “It’s great that they are providing this kind of opportunity to local bands,” he added, noting some other area acts such as Wilmore’s Shane Tracy Project also got moments in the spotlight.
A few locals even got main-stage shots: The Lee Roessler Band, which won the Ascenxion Scout Competition, and Lexington’s Too Many Drummers, which got there via another competition.
But possibly the most prominent local musicians on the Ichthus stage this year were area worship leaders who led devotional times late each afternoon.
A group from Quest Community Church and then a worship “all-star team” — comprising musicians from churches such as Southland Christian, Centenary United Methodist and Southern Acres — took the stage in the evenings, where nationally known artists used to play.
“It’s different from church,” said Amaris Blevins, a singer at Southland who was part of the team. “It was a lot more people and a different energy from church.”
And while the worship all-star team isn’t looking for a recording contract the way bands might, the musicians did appreciate the opportunity.
“I like that they’re getting more locals involved,” Jonathan Mckeowen, a guitarist with the group, said. “It used to be kind of hard to get in here.”
A local church got another moment — or several moments, we should say — in the spotlight when Quest Community Church pastor Pete Hise came out to lead communion and deliver the evening’s keynote message.
Hise brought out a cross and huge nails to illustrate the scale of the crucifixion, and encouraged people in the congregation to see The Passion of the Christ, though he noted it only hinted at the brutality of crucifixon. When it came time to partake of the elements, Hise had everyone partake on the count of three, an interesting expression of unity for the large and diverse group of denominations and churches represented at Ichthus.
Friday night’s Icthus crowd was treated to worship with a distinctly Central Kentucky flavor.
Preceeding speaker Bob Lenz was a crew made up of worship leaders from several area congregations, organized by Southland Christian Church’s Mike Vandemark.
The group played approximately half a dozen worship classics, including Amaris Blevins doing a solid rendition of Christy Nockles’ Hosanna.
“It’s a lot of people,” said Blevins said of stepping on the main stage and looking out over the crowd. “It’s different from a Sunday morning because that’s one congregation, but this is all sorts of different congregations coming together.”
Guitarist Jonathan Mckeown, who plays guitar at Southland, said that when Vandemark mentioned the idea of the all-star worship team, “I said, we need to make that happen.”
He said that the group, which included members of Southland, Southern Acres and Centenary United Methodist, got together to practice two or three times and each member proposed three or four songs to present.
It was the second consecutive night of area worship teams leading the crowd from the main stage. A Quest Community Church group was on stage Thursday night.
“I like that they’re getting more locals involved,” Mckeowen said. “It used to be kind of hard to get in here.”
May15Filed under: American Idol, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture; Tagged as: Adam Lambert, American Idol, Anyerin Drury, Aretha Franklin, Chris Sligh, Christian, Christopher Cool, Danny Gokey, Elvis Presley, Eyesuponus, Joanne Brokaw, Justin McCarty, Kris Allen, Lil Rounds, Mandisa, Matt Giraud, Michael Sarver, Michael W. Smith, Mike Vandemark, Phil Stacey, Quest Community Church, Scott MacIntyre, Southland Christian Church, Whitney Houston, worship leader
This year’s American Idol finals offered the nation 13 singers from across the country with different strengths, looks, backgrounds and styles. But six of them had something in common, aside from wanting to be the next American Idol: They all had experience as church worship leaders.
That included two of the final three competitors in the eighth season of Idol, which wraps up Wednesday with a two-hour season finale.
Danny Gokey, 28, was praise and worship leader at two Faith Builders International locations in Wisconsin.
And Kris Allen, 23, has worked with praise and worship teams at two New Life churches in Arkansas.
Gokey was booted Wednesday night, so Allen is the one who is going on to compete in next week’s final against Adam Lambert, long considered the front runner in this year’s race. And that was fine by several Christian music observers.
“I see the worship leader in Danny, but Kris has more of the ability to be artistic,” said Joanne Brokaw, a Christian music writer who brought the preponderance of worship leaders in this year’s Idol field to light with a Feb. 27 post on her Beliefnet.com blog that asked, “Is this the season of the worship leader?”
Other artists in this year’s final group who have Christian music backgrounds were dueling pianist Matt Giraud, blind musician Scott MacIntyre, oil rigger Michael Sarver and Memphis mother Lil Rounds.
“The thing that really struck me was not just that they were Christians, but they were church worship leaders,” said Brokaw, who has since predicted Allen will win the finale, already being characterized by some as David vs. Goliath. “These are people who have actively been working within their churches as musicians.”
And that work can give a singer a leg up on the competition. Read the rest of this entry »
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