The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Switchfoot‘s publicist sent out a video today of the band listening to its forthcoming eighth studio album Vice Verses. While the clip doesn’t reveal much of the music on the follow-up to the phenomenal Hello Hurricane, the band seems to think our anticipation is well placed. Considering this is Switchfoot, that counts for quite a bit. The album releases Sept. 27.
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.’”
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.
Ichthus stayed true to the form of recent years, ending the festival on a worshipful note Saturday with the Main Stage pairing of Casting Crowns and BarlowGirl.
One of the things many people were commenting on over the weekend was the strong pairings of evening headliners – the rock night of Skillet and Red, modern rock of Switchfoot and Relient K -and the Saturday night duo had sort of a worship/traditional contemporary Christian music vibe.
Saturday’s headliners had tough acts to follow.
TobyMac and Switchfoot fielded big, lively bands Wednesday and Thursday respectively, and then Skillet came with that and Fourth of July-worthy pyrotechnic show.
Crowns, by comparison, put most of the responsibility for filling the amphitheater on the shoulders of lead singer Mark Hall. Barlow Girl, which in previous daytime Main Stage outings (they were one of the bands that braved the snow day in 2005) was packed to the center of the stage by the equipment of later acts, seemed a little lost spread out across the entire main stage, Saturday night.
Sanctus Real, playing earlier in the afternoon, delivered the most lively set I got to sample on the Main Stage Saturday.
For those who wanted to rock a little more before going home, there were offerings on other stages such as Disciple and Pillar on the Deep End, and many took in those shows. This year, the Deep End really did claim the title of Main Stage Jr. as much as it ever has.
And this was as complete a festival as Ichthus has put together. From this perspective, it was a little like going to New York: Not enough time to do everything you want to do, even with the extra day. It hardly feels like a weekend in rural Kentucky, until you look around at the hills and cows – and we don’t mean the Chik-fil-a cow.
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.
Autograph seekers bring a steady variety of objects into the Ichthus fan tent to get signed: photos, CDs, autograph books, even the occasional guitar.
But the members of Switchfoot seemed a little bit amused by what Trevor Moore of Elkhart, Ind., offered up: his red, low-top Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star basketball shoe.
“I didn’t even know they had an autograph tent,” Moore said. “Switchfoot is one of my favorite bands, so I just figured why not have them sign one of my favorite shoes.”
And then he left the tent wearing his Chuck … and Jon, Tim, Chad, Jerome and Drew.
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.
It’s a danger sign for any band: The charismatic frontman goes off to make a solo record.
So, while enjoying a quartet of solo EPs from Jon Foreman and his Fiction Family side project with Nickel Creek’s Sean Watkins, Switchfoot fans couldn’t be blamed for wondering whether this meant the act was breaking up.
“There was never a fear of that,” Foreman says from a tour stop in Florida. “Whatever happened we knew would be for the best.”
The band was secure and supportive of Foreman’s forays, he says. But it was also time to make some changes on its latest album, Hello Hurricane.
“Freedom is an amazing thing, and I feel like this album had the wind of freedom blowing through it in every note,” Foreman says. “The side project and the solo stuff were incredible chances to take risks, and we kind of carried that out on this record.”
Hello Hurricane, released late last year, is Switchfoot’s first album since 2006′s Oh! Gravity.
It’s also been three years since Switchfoot has played the Ichthus Festival, which the band will headline Thursday night.
Fans can expect to hear a band reinvigorated by change playing songs from what Foreman says is its best-received album ever.
Read the rest of this entry »
The Ichthus Festival bows this year with a community night concert on June 16 featuring TobyMac and Newsboys – a rare chance to see two of the three former members of dc talk on the same stage in the same night.
Tickets, somewhat amazingly, are only $10. But Ichthus officials advise that offer is good only one more day.
June 1, the price for community night will shoot up to $20.
The concert features Toby McKeehan (aka TobyMac), the most successful dc talk member post talk, and his former bandmate Michael Tait in his new gig fronting Christian rock icons the Newsboys. It preceeds Ichthus, June 17-19, which will feature acts such as Switchfoot and Skillet. The Community night was designed to attract Central Kentuckians who may not necessarily come to Ichthus, which attracts fans from around the country.
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