Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 2-Agapefest 2010- A Beautiful Afternoon and Skillet, Awesome As Always

Hey gang!

Alright, I hope you guys had time to read the Friday night festivities before you read this one, but if not, it’s super-OK! This article will talk about Saturday at Agapefest for me. I didn’t make it in until about 1:00pm, so all the stuff before then isn’t included.

By the time I arrived the sun was coming out and it was going to be a beautiful afternoon. I got great parking on the street and did not end up in the field mud pit. It was bad in spots, but it wasn’t anywhere near last year’s event. Once you stepped into the concert field area, it didn’t look bad at all. There were a couple water puddles, but most people were intelligent enough to miss them.

As I walked into the concert area, I heard a man preaching and I thought that maybe they moved the speaker from the night before. But no, this was Thi’Sl. The Christian rap artist from the STL rocked the house with his words and his music. The crowd and I were really into him. I went and grabbed his CD and then went to meet him before one of the main reasons I came on Saturday, I AM TERRIFIED.

I AM TERRIFIED are these hard rockers that bring it all to the table when they perform. They got the crowd involved with jumping and arm waving at the same level of Thi’Sl. You see two artists and you knew this crowd was ready to rock. I would put them in the class of Christian Motorhead. Paddy just brings the voice, and Brandon, Matt, Logan and Joel just jam out. They were the first band of the event that I heard people begging for one more song. As a big fan, I tell you this. I want you to go buy their CD just for one song. You will love the rest of it too, but you will never hear I’ll Fly Away rocked out like this ever again. These guys are awesome!

During Philmont, I got a pic with I AM TERRIFIED, got some lunch and used the rest room because I knew I wouldn’t be back there for a while. What I heard of Philmont, I liked. I learned that their debut CD is called Attention and I think you really should give it a listen.

Next up was the artist that my good buddy Alvin Smith told me that I had to see, Stephanie Smith (no relation). He had seen her several times and told me that I’d love her music. He was so right. Stephanie and I have two other things in common as well. The first is that both of us are former Greenville students. The second thing is even more interesting. One of my favorite people in the universe, Toby Mac, discovered her. He helped make her a star and he was a nice part of helping me toward the cross back in 1994. If you want more on that story, go read any year on December 27 from my archives and you’ll get the whole story of Toby, Mike and Kevin’s involvement when they were a little band called DC Talk.

Anyhow, after hearing a few songs, I kept thinking blonde Pat Benatar. For those of you unfamiliar with 80’s music, Benatar was the premier rocker of the ladies of the eighties. Stephanie began singing songs off her new EP and they are all great. Go buy the CD. You will not regret it if you are a rocker! Toward the middle of the set, she did versions of Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot and Joan Jett’s I Love Rock n’ Roll. She would have fit in nicely with them back then. They would love her.

After she performed, she had the longest line for autographs that I had seen at that point, but I did want to get the other Smiths’ CD autographed. She was very cool with the crowd and it didn’t take long as she was great with everyone. I know artists are supposed to be that way, but she might be one of the most genuine people I’ve met in Christian music. She is a fun, spunky rocker. She was making goofy faces with fans for pictures. It was a blast watching her interact with her fanbase. Even later in the evening, when she was practically mugged by a group of teens, she was fun and loving with the group as she was watching the show. That’s above and beyond and it gives me oodles of respect for her.

Well, after getting a picture and the autograph with Stephanie, I went back to the concert area and realized that I was getting nowhere near the stage for any more pictures. I will apologize now for not getting any shots of Remedy Drive and forward to Skillet for you.

Remedy Drive put a lot of energy into their show. The lead singer did tricks like being in a chair on his head playing his piano. These guys poured their hearts into the act and it seemed that only when they told people what to do that they did anything. They definitely get my award for most unappreciated band of the weekend, but they did a great show.

I had never seen Run Kid Run or Family Force 5 and had never heard of Paper Route. Run Kid Run did a decent show. A lot of people were talking to me during their performance, but I think they did well for not knowing any of their music and they were great about talking about Christ about midway through.

Paper Route came out and I found myself thinking of The Police in the Synchronicity Era. They did a good job and I think I’ll have to go listen to some of their stuff on their website to their newest CD, Absence. Someone told me that most of the group are Greenville grads.

This next part is going to get me a lot of heat and I’ll kindly remind you now that this column is my opinion and that’s what you’re getting. I will talk about this more intense in a blog later this week because Family Force 5 absolutely made me livid.

Before they started, I heard all the teens going how great these guys are. I’d even heard that before I got there from some of our teens at my local church. So I will say this here, if you want a Christian group that shows you nothing of the Christian view in their show, but their dance moves and outfits will make your teens lose their minds, this is the show for you. And no, “Hey there, wait a minute, put a little love in it,” does not qualify in my view as a Christian song.

By the time their set was finished (over 40 minutes), I can’t clearly say I heard any reference to Christ, God or The Message. I heard a whole lot of dance music that was well done, insulting and putting people down and absolutely showed no respect for the Gospel. Saints, if you’re out there, help me understand where Family Force 5 is a Christian band. Not just for my sake, but the idea that there is already talk of having this group back at Agapefest for the 35th edition makes my skin crawl at the moment. Again, I am presently researching information for an article on Family Force 5 to help me give you a better look later this week.

The scarier part is how their exit was handled. After seeing last year’s show, Agapefest officials did a better job a year ago of segue waying from Hawk Nelson to speaker Bob Lenz. This year’s transition was horrible, at best. By the time speaker Ben Woods got to the stage, almost 10 minutes later, most of the FF5 fans had already left the concert area and were hanging on the every word of the autograph tent where Family Force 5 would be, after the speaker. That part was handled right. However, no one told Ben to move closer to the edge of the stage where he could not only be heard better, but also seen better to display the emotion of the Gospel message he was giving.

Those other factors plus the idea that someone was allowed to play music over in the concession area as loud as possible drowned out Woods to most people outside of the inner circle of listeners. Look, Agapefest lost their speaker on Friday night because of the storm. This was the only, only, ONLY chance that they were getting to give the crowd an opportunity to receive Christ, receive prayer for situations in life, et cetera. If more than ten people moved before Skillet began to go to the prayer tent, I will personally be amazed and pleased to hear it.

Also, I am throwing my hat into the ring right now to say that I want to speak at Agape 35. I want an opportunity to share with people the Gospel and impact lives at a festival I love. For the exposure and opportunity, I would do it for FREE! That’s right Agapefest. One Man Revival Ministries has just offered you a free speaker. As a former Greenville student of your LAMP program and a lover of teaching the Gospel of Christ, I would be ecstatic to come and offer my services. Yes, I will mark the last weekend of April-first weekend of May on my calendar in 2011 for you, RIGHT NOW!

OK, let me get of my soapbox, because Skillet came out and rocked the house to close the show. They did a lot of material from Comatose and Awake and was stellar in performance. I do wish the smoke machines would not have blown back so much. They were fantastic as always. Skillet is one of those groups that young bands should model themselves after, maybe not completely in music, but at least in class, character and showmanship. It was a shame the rain started coming down at the end of their show. However, it was a fantastic closer for a great Agapefest 2010.

Next year, as I’ve said a few times, is the 35th anniversary of Agapefest. This should be a great festival again. Being one of the early festivals of the year and a great bargain for concert goers, you should not miss Agapefest 2011.

I love you guys!

Night 1-Agapefest 2010- But, for the rain... It was heavenly!

Hey gang!

This is the first of two about Agapefest 2010. This article will cover all the fun on Friday night and the second article will focus more on Saturday’s events.

I rolled into Greenville for the 34th installment of Agapefest on Friday night at about 4pm, or an hour before the festival was to start. I was worried about whether I would get a good parking place. The reason for my worry is that the field at the Bond County Fairgrounds that we are parked in tends to get really muddy if it rains and I really hate getting stuck in the mud. Thanks to the great staff and a relatively sunny week, the field was dry. Awesome!

As soon as I got inside the gate, the smells of the concession area kicked in and they were fantastic. The thing I like most about the concessions is that it gives you a sense of the county fair from when we were children. Later in the night, I had my annual funnel cake, which even gives normal people a sugar buzz. For me, the long-time diabetic, it gives me the rush to jump around like the rockers on stage minus the long hair, look and singing voice.

But I started out with two double cheeseburgers. Let me say that when I ordered them, I was thinking thin, McDonald’s double cheeseburgers. These babies made Hardee’s Thickburgers look wimpy. That’s a darn good burger! I was able to finish both (barely) and then made my way to the concert area.

By looking at the schedule before the festival, I had the sense that the Friday night edition was going to be more of a worship set. The Saturday edition was more rocking, but more on that later. We were started out with Mark David and Surface Deep. They are a group from Alton, Illinois and if you want your socks worshipped off, give them a look on YouTube. My personal favorite from over there is Praise Him. They didn’t do that in their 25 minute set, but it was still powerful and awesome worship. I was standing about four rows back and was trying to dance a little. They ended with a great song called A Brighter Day. It sold me on their CD.

The other thing I love about Mark David and Surface Deep is the number of big guys in the group that can get down and boogie. As another of the big guy grouping, it always does my heart good to see big guys that show off their skills. These guys were super and a great praise band to start the evening with.

Next up was Me In Motion. If you haven’t heard of these guys, you are missing out on a guitarist from California, a drummer from Nebraska and the lead singer from Ohio. The song I wanted to hear was Losers, and they delivered that song early in the set. The songs that came later that really stood out were Leaving Here Someday, a rockin’ tune in a vein comparable to The Afters or Remedy Drive, and Seek Justice, Have Mercy, which I think is the most powerful song on the CD.

For most of Friday night and the morning on Saturday, I was trying to think who the lead singer sounded like. One of my friends that I ran into Saturday had the best analogy. He said that he sounded like Weird Al Yankovic when Al was seriously singing a tune. I was like, “Exactly!” It is a great CD and as I looked at their website today,, I noticed something even cooler for you guys looking for their CD. You can download it for $6.99 from their page.

Next up was Wavorly. They are best known for their radio hit Praise and Adore. I hadn’t heard them before, but they are going to have to grow on me. They were decent and the crowd was really into them. For me, they were hit and miss, but I did like Praise and Adore.

After Wavorly, we were treated to the news that Above the Golden State wasn’t making it to the show. I was really disappointed with that because I love their music. However, Abandon Kansas, was there to take their place so the show continued on schedule. They were a good looking band, according to many of the females around me, especially one of the guitarists. I have to laugh that ladies’ mentalities about what is hot in harder rock hasn’t changed since the eighties. If there is a guy with long black hair and a wife-beater shirt, they go nuts. After a few minutes of all the gushing, I couldn’t take anymore and headed out for my funnel cake. I drowned my jealousy in a heaping helping of sugar and fried dough. It’s better for everyone!

After that, Addison Road hit the stage and I was back for them. Before that though, I took a few pictures of people that entertained me. First, I saw the Mario Brothers. Yes, Mario, Luigi and Wario all posed for me. I missed out on Bananaman and another kid that dressed like Larry the Tomato. However, I ran into one of my best friends of Agapefest, one of the many Free Hugs Ambassadors. I love these teenagers. Not because they hug me, but because it is a safe love attitude for the environment. You hug, you chat, you move on.

So I did finally make it back to the same spot that I had before I left. When I got back, I found my friend Tyler Mulvany with a couple of his friends and we started talking about how great it was that the field wasn’t anywhere near as muddy as last year. Right about then, one of his buddies tripped and almost fell. He started kicking the ground where he tripped and within a minute or so, we had a shoe from last year’s festival that was stuck there. He did try to garner some attention for the shoe telling the crowd that this was a 2009 Agapefest collectible and people should be clawing him for it. No one bit on the offer and he later took the shoe to one of the Agapefest promoters to see if she would pimp the shoe later in the show.

Addison Road came out and rocked the house. I have been a fan of these guys ever since I saw the video for All That Matters. They are flat out awesome. They closed the set with Hope Now with an addition of another praise song that fails me as I am writing this. It was one of those moments where I knew God was speaking to me.
Everything rides on Hope Now
Everything rides on faith somehow
When the world has broken me down
Your love sets me free

I felt myself tearing up. It was a great ending to their show. It is a truly great feeling when artists who have no idea what you’re feeling can evoke emotions from you. A great performance.

After Addison Road, Sanctus Real took the stage and rocked the house. I did not have the newest CD, Pieces of a Real Heart, so much of their show was new stuff. They performed their new song, Freedom. I can’t describe how awesome I thought it was. It will sell well, trust me. Unfortunately, by the middle of their performance, the lightning came.

The first two lightning waves were little and didn’t make people think much. They were in the distance and didn’t have any thunder with them. The third one though, packed a punch. It looked like a ground strike in the distance and thunder that accompanied it gave the lightning a feel that it might be closer than we thought.

The officials running the affairs went to the stage and told Sanctus Real that they had to stop the show for people’s safety. So the lead singer looks out and goes, “Hey, the people told us that we have to stop playing so before we go, we’ll do a little Whatever You’re Doing.” I love Sanctus Real, but here are the facts. You were told to stop and want to play some more. Do you also realize that the stage that you are contains a whole lot of metal? That’s important to note, guys. I’m going to my car. If you guys turn into rotisserie chicken on a hot plate, I’m not gonna be here for the fireworks.

So as most of the crowd exits the facility, the officials of Agape get a great idea. For those that stayed, let’s give them David Crowder Band in the Stage 2 barn. That means that people are indoors and no one gets fried by the storm. I didn’t get to see it personally, but those that I talked to on Saturday told me that the acoustic set that the band gave them was excellent. They also did tell me how packed inside it was. I started thinking how many sardines we would become if Skillet had to do the same on Saturday.

The good news for me was that I beat the storm home to Effingham and I was nice and safe. My wife was relieved that I wasn’t stupid and decided to hold up an umbrella and try to rough it out. She really loves me, but she is just thankful that I am not taking as many chances with my well-being as I used to.

Anyhow, that was it for Friday night. I hope you enjoy the pictures and feel free to comment on any of your Friday night memories here. Hopefully, I have the Saturday edition up tonight, but at worst, it will be up sometime tomorrow.

I love you guys!