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.’”
Nov5Filed under: album review, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion, Reviews; Tagged as: Amy Grant, Benediction, Children of God, Dan Haseltine, Jars of Clay, Jars of Clay presents The Shelter, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mac Powell, Make Your Move, Matt Odmark, Michael W. Smith, NFL, Questapalooza, review, Stephen Mason, The Staples Singers, Third Day
Little more than a decade ago, Third Day and Jars of Clay were the young guns of Christian rock, acts working around the edges of a burgeoning genre.
It was a little hard to figure out what to make of Third Day, a Georgia band whose lead singer ran through a curious lineup of hairstyles and whose sound variously echoed gospel, Southern rock and grunge. Like many a young band, they were looking for a voice.
Jars came through loud and clear out of the gate, curiously landing its debut single, Flood, on mainstream alt-rock charts. To this day, that is the group’s most famous song, and the Indiana-born act still commands healthy mainstream respect.
And in Christian rock, both bands, which shared the stage at the 2009 Questapalooza concert, are now the establishment.
They also have new albums this fall that help define their places in the genre.
Read more: Questapalooza is a big job for one church.
Group 1 Crew wants to make music you can take to a party.
“We wanted to give Christian kids a record they can be proud of,” says Manwell Reyes, one third of the Christian hip hop trio that is playing Questapalooza for the second straight year. “They know it’s God. Everything we write is God. But at the same time, we want them to have the full confidence that they can play it in front of their friends and know that it’s legit. They don’t have to worry about anyone saying, ‘That sounds dated’ or ‘That sounds whack.’”
As purveyors of urban music, Group 1 is something of a rarity in Christian pop music, a genre still mostly composed of adult contemporary music and rock acts.
Reyes says he thinks urban music gets a bad rap in the Christian market from gate keepers such as church leaders and record company executives who can’t separate the style from negative images of sex and violence associated with hip hop.
“Go to any church kid and look at their iPod, and I guarantee that some urban pop or hip hop is going to be there,” says Reyes, whose bandmates are Blanca Reyes (no relation) and Pablo Villatoro. “Secular urban music is what’s prominent today … the church is the only place that doesn’t acknowledge that it is.”
And Reyes says it is a problem if the Christian market is not producing music that the kids want to hear.
Group 1 Crew has done fairly well in the Christian market. The act’s last album, Ordinary Dreamers, was named rap/hip hop album of the year at the 2008 Dove Awards, Christian music’s top honors.
With the band’s new album, Outta Space Love, which is due Sept. 21, Reyes says the group is taking aim at the mainstream market.
“We’ve always felt called to the mainstream,” says Reyes, who promises Sunday’s Quest audience will hear quite a bit of the new album. “We feel like our music is for more than just the church. We feel like we should outreach to a mainstream world where other music really isn’t the best for kids to hear.
“Let’s not be content with just packing churches. Let’s go save some souls and grab some kids out of hell.”
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.
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.
Feb27Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: American Idol, Danny Gokey, David Carr, Dove Awards, Ichthus Festival, Jon Weece, Kris Allen, Mac Powell, Mark Lee, Michael Sarver, Paula Stefanovich, Pete Hise, Quest Community Church, Questapalooza, Southland Christian Church, Tai Anderson, The Hoppers, Third Day
The Georgia-based band will play the event Sept. 6 on the field adjacent to Quest’s complex behind Meijer on Reynolds Road. Ticket information has not been announced yet.
Third Day’s last major Central Kentucky appearance was at the Ichthus Festival in June 2007. Since then, the band has added another hit album, Revelation, to its catalog and parted ways with guitarist Brad Avery. The group now performs as a quartet: frontman Mac Powell, guitarist Mark Lee, bassist Tai Anderson and drummer David Carr.
Questapalooza has not announced other acts for the event, which has featured lineups of three bands, all playing full sets, as well as games, carnival rides, outdoor baptisms and a message from Pastor Pete Hise.
In related news: The Ichthus lineup, which we previewed Tuesday, will include Hise the evening of June 13 and Southland Christian Church pastor John Weece that afternoon in a sort of Lexington megachurch doubleheader.
And in a little extra Dove Awards news: Lexington’s own Paula Stefanovich is up for Southern Gospel Recorded song for writing Yaweh, a hit for The Hoppers.
Idol chatter: This is really interesting. Beliefnet’s Joanne Brokaw points out three of the six current American Idol finalists are church worship leaders: Danny Gokey, Michael Sarver and Kris Allen.
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