Monday, July 20, 2009

Show Recap: Sonshine Festival @ Wilmar, MN

Alan and I camped out at the Sonshine Festival in Wilmar, Minnesota. 3 days of Christian bands spread out on 3 different stages, but we were there mainly for the metal stage. there were so many bands that i'm just going to give short recaps and fly through the bands that we actually saw.

Thursday night was essentially the Scream the Prayer Tour lineup, featuring For Today, Sleeping Giant, Oh Sleeper, Gwen Stacy, The Chariot, and Haste the Day. For Today and Sleeping Giant are what you might call "militant Christian" metal, in your face, tough-guy hardcore. Both bands didn't bring their A-game and were somewhat disappointing.

Gwen Stacy was the first good band we saw. They only played 5 songs but they bring it, fun choruses to sing along with, and quite the following for an early-in-the-evening band. After Gwen Stacy was Oh Sleeper, a favorite of Alan's and mine. They were on-fire! They had replaced their stolen guitar and were able to play 2 new songs, Son of the Morning and The Finisher, both were awesome. The crowd was totally into the set and Oh Sleeper responded, playing better than they did on Tuesday night in Denver, and they were having fun inciting chaos in the crowd.

After their last song, Vices Like Vipers, which was crazy, Micah the lead singer, said that we had one last chance to rock out, and organized the crowd for the "Wall of Death". Basically this is like the parting of the Red Sea, i've done this a few times, most notably at Sick of it All shows, in little venues where people don't have much room. but by the time to two sides of the crowd had split, there was easily 20 yards between us and them. As the front line people began to back out Alan and I found ourselves facing the front line full of teenagers with no feeling of pain. the song kicked in and both sides ran at each other (think Braveheart) and Bam!, bodies everywhere. i spent the next 30 seconds saving lives and enjoying my extra adrenaline-induced strength that allowed me to throw teenagers everywhere and saves the people who landed on the ground.

Wall of Death at a Sick of it All show (excuse the language):

after recovering from that we took a break, skipped Sleeping Giant, the Showdown and Agraceful. We went over to the main stage to check out Family Force 5, which lasted about 10 seconds before we decided that they were lame and went back to the metal stage to see The Chariot. They were great again, apparently their van had broken down and they just barely made it, but they were awesome. After that was Flatfoot 56 and they were terrible, and i hate them.

The headliners for Thursday were Haste the Day. Once again they were on their game, and once again the momentum slowed down when Stephen picked up a guitar and played the 2 slow songs. But it was cool because they played an encore, American Love, and all was forgiven. their new drummer, Giuseppe from Once Nothing (check out the link!), might be the best drummer i've ever seen, he's ridiculous, and he did a drum solo before the encore that was epic.

On Friday we got up early, 10a, and headed over to the hip-hop stage to catch Big Al. he was pretty good i guess. Christian rap is weird to me, but whatever. Then we went over to the main stage to get ready for Glorious Unseen. This is where i ran into one of Kassie's friends, Angela and got to talk to her. On the stage was Tal & Acacia, 2 girls who were quite impressive. Tal (or Acacia?) plays guitar and both girls sing. they were from England i'm guessing (wrong, they're from Nashville, thanks Alan!) and their style was a little quirky and both Alan and I liked it, but not enough to grab a pink cd!

Up next was the Glorious Unseen, one of our favorite bands, and they were awesome. They played Tonite the Stars Speak, Forever Holy, and some new songs of their upcoming EP. I wish they could of played longer than 30 minutes, they only got through 5 songs i think. But David Crowder was on the side stage obviously enjoying them too.

After that we scampered back to the metal stage to check out some bands we'd never heard of. For All Those Sleeping were pretty bad, the Midnight Suit, who are now called The Suit, were awesome. they were a blend of punk/hardcore and some heavy breakdowns. they really impressed, and were full of fun energy, playing a cover of Lady Gaga's Just Dance that went over really well (hear it on their myspace), totally checking these dudes out!

up next was local metal band Your Memorial, which Alan liked but i wasn't too into, they're straight-forward metal. Hands followed them and they were pretty good despite having a guitar player as their lead singer which usually takes a little off the intensity and crowd-participation. they were really tight and had a good crowd following, i'd check'em out.

after that we went and took a nap, skipping A Plea For Purging and Impending Doom. We woke up and headed to the main stage for an awesome time of worship with David Crowder. They are so good live, great humor, great set, and just overall a really moving time. David Crowder busted out the usual key-tar, and then a Guitar Hero guitar that had been modified by drummer Bwhack. good times.

After that we headed back to the metal stage for what was probably the best band of the weekend; August Burns Red! man, i have just been getting into these guys so i only knew a few of the songs, but it didn't matter. people were climbing the walls just to get a view, easily the biggest crowd we saw. we fought our way to the pits and hardcore danced for what seemed like an hour. They played an encore even though they weren't headlining, man they were good.

After that was the headliners, Norma Jean, a band that always brings the energy (and apparently fans like David Crowder, he was in the pit with the rest of us kids). They rocked out about 3 songs before something on the drums broke, which happens at every Norma Jean show. After that was fixed, lead singer Cory Brandan instructed the crowd to pick up anything plastic off the ground and when the song kicks in, to throw the trash in the air, and keep throwing it. the crowd followed instruction and we were all doused with water and whatever else was in the trash for the next 60 seconds. After that they played the hits, ending with a quasi-encore. pretty good set.

Both of us had to leave the next morning, so we missed out on War of Ages, As I Lay Dying, Austrian Death Machine, and Living Sacrifice. it was a bummer, but we'll have more chances!

good times!

Sonshine Festival Recap

This summer i had the privilege of attending the Sonshine Festival in Wilmar, Minnesota. This is a 3.5 day festival of Christian bands that has been going on every summer for at least the last 10 years, probably longer but i'm too lazy to look up how long. this was my first time attending, however my wife, and pretty much everyone i know from Minnesota, have gone before.

This year the lineup of metal bands was good enough to lure me away from the comforts of Colorado, and take a pop-up camper with my homie Alan and camp out for 3 days. I'm going to do a "show recap" of the bands so i'll save that for later, in this post i want to review the festival as a whole, and the great experience i had.

Basically the setup was 3 stages, the main stage for performers like Newsboys, David Crowder, Skillet, and Toby Mac. Another smaller stage, Stage 2, was setup for up and coming bands like Everyday Sunday, and a bunch of super-pop bands that i've never heard of. the last and most important stage was the HM Stage which was metal bands in the evening, and hip-hop group in the early afternoon. Alan and i spent 90% of our time here, the stage was setup in a hockey rink, with the stage at one end and the merch/band load-in at the other end of the rink.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the 'fest, but i was excited, no curfews, late nights, plenty of sleep, and a lot of metal. what i didn't expect was the interaction with the bands. the band load-in was at one end of the rink, the same entrance that was used by the fans to get into the rink. this made for an awesome dynamic, getting to hangout with the bands right at their trailers/vans and as usual at their merch tables.

We basically chatted up Lucas from Oh Sleeper first, after their set. After he realized that we were big fans, he started to open up, talking about "militant Christian bands" and the differences between them and more artistic bands like Haste the Day and Oh Sleeper. if you know much about Oh Sleeper you know that their first album is titled When I Am God, a title that is sure to spark questions and controversy, which is what the band wants. If you read the lyrics you find out that the second half of the phrase is When i am God, this church is unsound, a lyric that has really impacted a lot of people. Their new album is titled Son of the Morning, a name used for Satan, and they're hoping for the same result. Lucas basically conveyed to us that they don't want to be a preachy band, they want to sing about their lives as Christians, and let you see Jesus through their lives.

Lucas was great, we talked him up for probably 30 minutes during the Flatfoot 56 set. After that we were able to chat up the guitarist for Gwen Stacy, the keyboardist for Glorious Unseen, and basically listen in on conversation with Josh Scogin of The Chariot, and many other conversations. The accessibility of the bands was awesome, to be able to ask questions and talk about the tour/festival was great. I even had the chance to catch Ben of Glorious Unseen and give him props for rocking a Comeback Kid hoodie on stage during their set.

The best though was during the Norma Jean set. if you've listened to Norma Jean you know that their sound is pretty aggressive an harsh, for the "untrained" listener it doesn't sound good. But they're a huge band with a big follower, and they headlined the Friday night lineup on the metal stage. We walked over to get a good spot after we watched David Crowder, then August Burns Red. A few minutes before Norma Jean was going to take the stage David Crowder, Hogan, and their guitarist moved into the crowd right in front of us. It was pretty impressive that they would brave the crowd, the pits were brutal and Crowder was right there. He lasted a few songs longer than his band mates, about 6 songs, and was enjoying the set (and obvious fan of Norma Jean) pumping his fist and laughing as pits broke out all around him. some people recognized him and some didn't care, it was pretty cool!

The other memory that happened was probably better experienced in person, but i'm going to give Alan props here anyway. On Thursday night, the Scream the Prayer Tour was essentially the entire lineup, with the unfortunate substitutes from tour bands Project 86 and Corpus Christi, and then the addition of some band called Flatfoot 56. I'd never heard of this band, but they had the 2nd to last slot of the night so they had to have a big following. well they did, and they sucked.

Flatfoot came out in full hockey gear, which instantly told me that they were a gimmicky band and that it was time to leave. we decided to go check out The Chariot merch table, which was basically near the back of the rink (still inside the rink). Flatfoot started playing and they were a punk band, that apparently everyone in Minnesota knows about. As soon as they started playing hundreds of kids started a circle-pit. not just any circle-pit though, they were running full-speed around the edge of the rink, essentially pinning bystanders either inside the circle, or against the edges of the rink, like Alan and I.

As they came running around the rink, the width of the circle-pit got wider and wider, to the point where Alan and I were pressed against the merch table. i turned my back to oncoming "traffic" and was watching Alan's face to see what we should do when one of the runners apparently took aim on my open back and lowered his shoulder, jacking me to the floor. Alan helped me up and informed me that he got the runners license plate, and they we'd get him on the next go-round. I waited, getting in my stance and wondering how hard i should hit this dude (at a Christian Fest), or if i'd even have the chance. sure enough a few minutes later Alan pointed the dude out as he rounded the corner. i'm not usually one to follow through with violence, often talking a big talk, but lacking a big walk, so i was nervous and he approached. just before impact Alan jumps out ahead of me and lowers his shoulder right into the dude, flattening him out.

The crowd swooped him up and he was fine, i'm sure, but not wanting to escalate the incident anymore more we move to the back of the building where we were safe, and chatted with the dudes from Oh Sleeper.

The hit was epic, Alan totally manned up, i was impressed, and thankful that we had gotten our chance and taken it. it made the soreness that i had the rest of weekend not feel so bad!

and here's Alan gettin' low with Big Al:

A lot of other of enjoyable moments happened, but too many to list here, overall i had a great time and i'm hoping to go back next year!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Show Recep: Scream the Prayer Tour @ Cervantes

It was a pretty good night, the Christian B-Team rolled through Denver and put on a pretty good show. Apparently Denver was held in high-regard according to a few of the bands, who had nothing but bad things to say about the previous tour stop, Salt Lake City, Utah. I don't know if it was the presence of the Mormon youth that ruined the night, or if SLC's scene-kids are bigger in number, and more annoying than most stops (because most stops have annoying scene-kids). i do know that SLC is to blame for stealing one of Oh Sleeper's guitars, therefore forcing the band to change their set list on the fly and sticking to old songs, so thats lame on the part of SLC.

but it was good for Denver.

This show was at Cervantes in downtown Denver, and the doors opened at 3p. I'd done my research and found out that the show usually didn't start for about an hour, and since Tahoe and I are old-dudes, we didn't want to stand around for 6 hours so we decided to go a little late. Unfortunately i wanted to see Corpus Christi who was the opener, but i had no desire to see the following handful of bands; Agraceful, A Plea For Purging, and For Today. So we left for the show around 430p, and just to get the timing perfect we drove all the way to the venue only to realize that Tahoe had forgotten his ticket, so we drove back to Lakewood, then back to the venue again! i think this was maybe divine intervention because as we strolled into the venue, the show was in-between bands, probably just after For Today and getting ready for Gwen Stacy. It's rare to get to a show and have the first band you see actually be a legit band, usually you have to sit through some crap first, but Gwen Stacy might have had the most energetic crowd of the whole night.

Gwen Stacy was really good. I think they only played 5 songs but that's alright. The crowd was very supportive and two separate circle-pits broke out. there was a surprisingly high number of "hardcore kids" doing ridiculous hardcore/scene dances that i thought were reserved for more angry/violent bands but i was wrong, and so was the Staff dude standing next to me. As kids were flailing around karate kicking the air i had to step in and actually protect the 6' security dude, i guess he had no idea what he was getting into. anyway, Gwen Stacy, solid, they played a short set that included The Fear In Your Eyes, If We Live Right We Can't Die Wrong, Gone Fishing, Path To Certainty, and the closer was Gun Held To the Head. great set!

I was thinking that the show had a pretty high standard to reach now, set by Gwen Stacy, and some of the bands delivered. Next up was Oh Sleeper which was probably the band i was most excited to see. They have a new album coming out in August called Son Of The Morning and i had been listening to the one released song, Son Of The Morning, which they had been playing on the tour. As they started their set you could tell instantly that the crowd wasn't as excited and lacked some energy. Despite that i got up front and sang along with the tunes, I Will Welcome the Reaping and Charlatan's Host. I had read that the band was playing 3 songs off the new record so i found it odd that they played I Will Welcome the Reaping, Charlatan's Host, and Building the Nations right off the bat, knowing that they would close with Vices Like Vipers. Micah, the singer, started talking about how good it was to be in Denver, and that they didn't have a good time in Salt Lake. Apparently they had a guitar stolen and for some reason, that meant that they couldn't play any new songs! what a bummer! Now i really don't like SLC! but they made up for by playing The Siren's Song which is my favorite Oh Sleeper song. These guys are pretty tight and the new drummer appeared to be pretty comfy switching up the set on a days notice, thankfully! Then they closed with Vices Like Vipers which everyone at the show knew the words to so it went off well.

Next up was Project86, the O.G.'s of metalcore/hardcore. I'd never seen these guys live, or heard one of their songs. They got really popular back when POD and No Innocent Victim were cool and i just never checked them out. Well they put on a pretty good show for being old dudes, and the crowd was really into them. I don't know their songs but i heard him say that they played Two Glass Eyes, some song about Ichabod, and the closer was Spy Hunter. good energy and crowd participation!

The Sleeping Giant was up. probably the most controversial band on the tour, and a holdover from last years tour. Sleeping Giant is sort of like Madball/First Blood/War of Ages feel, militant Christian hardcore. i say they were controversial because their music is lacking any real creativity and their message/lyrics are blatant and in your face. I know this rubs some people the wrong way, i didn't mind the message, but i did mind the boring sound, it all sounded like one long song. As they chugged through No One Leaves This Room Sick ("if your church isn't showing you the healing of the sick, they're not showing you the full Christ") and Blame It On The Holy Rollers it seemed that the crowd was really getting into the set. the played about 4 songs, and one message about Christ and then the most powerful moment of the night came. The lead singer basically gave his 5 minute testimony. Now i'm not the biggest fan of testimonies, nor do i like lead singers that preach from the stage, but as the singer got through the first minute of his testimony the whole place was dead-silent. i'm not joking, i just kept thinking that "wow, no one is talking to anyone else!". it was awesome. the testimony was powerful, and if there were non-believers there (doubtful but possible) then they couldn't deny the message that was spoken. That lead into Whoremonger, which is the song that accompanies the testimony

It's easy to stand there and be critical of Sleeping Giant, i felt like a Pharisee in the back of the room laughing as they shouted "Don't You Judge Me!!" and stomped their feet. But the band knows their identity, and they're not afraid to proclaim Christ as the Saviour. After Whoremonger they closed with a song of worship, Oh Praise Him. This lasted about 10 minutes and was pretty cool, the whole place was singing along while one-by-one band members set down their instruments and walked off the stage. i was impressed, it was pretty cool.

Up next was a big contrast; The Chariot. These guys could probably take credit for all of the scene dancing / craziness that happens at these shows. i was expecting chaos and i pretty much got it. You could say that The Chariot is more about experience than about the actual music, they used all kinds of lights on the stage that were pointed at the crowd, they all had their own drum to beat on, at one point christian hardcore legend Josh Scogin was swinging a garage light around like a lasso! Anyway, i'm not the biggest fan of the band, but their stage presence was awesome. i couldn't even tell you what songs they performed, i didn't recognize any of them except Daggers and Dead Policeman which they closed with. pretty good!

Last up was the headliner, Haste the Day, one of my favorite bands! I've seen them a few times and they're always good. unfortunately every time i've seen them the sound quality has been poor or too quiet, but last night they were plenty loud. Before the show i had read a rumor that Brennan, one of the last of 2 original members left in the band, had quit. Haste the Day has changed singers, writers, guitar players, and last Christmas their longtime drummer moved on. All that was left was an original guitar player and bass player, so the news that Brennan, the guitarist, had quit was disheartening. Haste picked up the guitarist from A Plea For Purging to fill in for the rest of the tour. Either way HTD played well, but their set list left some holes for sure. First off, Stephen the lead singer, picked up a guitar about halfway through the set and lead the band in Porcelain and An Adult Tree. the songs are good but Tahoe and I both concluded that they didn't add much to the show, especially at the sacrifice of such great songs like American Love and Resolve. They played the rest of the classics though; Walk On, Blue 42, Pressure the Hinges, Mad Man, 68, White Collar, and then closed with When Everything Falls. I had read that they were doing encores but apparently Denver wasn't loud enough so we didn't get one.

On a side note, for all of you stage-diver / crowd-walker / crowd-surfers; you can't jump off the stage when the crowd is only like 5-6 people deep. many people landed hard on the floor because the crowd wasn't compact enough, and it was full of girls and 14yr old boys that are about as strong as the girls. near the end of HTD's set anger was starting to set in with some of the crowd and a few fights broke out. i really don't get this, especially at a "Christian" show where the lyrics/songs have no anger or violence at all! some people should get a clue, especially that dude that i punched in the junk when he jumped on me.

good times. Shirts that i saw kids wearing:

"Mount and Do Me" (in the Mountain Dew logo)
"Oprah didn't die for your sins"
"Double-Pedal Jesus Metal"
"Drug Free For Christ"
"Stay Brutal"
"The View From Here" seriously, i saw a TVFH shirt...i was wearing it!

Haste the Day Pictures:

Sleeping Giant performing Oh Praise Him:

The Chariot performing with lead singer from A Plea For Purging:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Live Music Overload?!

no way!

Next week will be one of the best weeks ever for me and live music! On Tuesday, July 14th the Scream the Prayer Tour comes to Denver, showcasing the "B-Team" of Christian metalcore/hardcore. the A-Team would probably be something like underOATH, Dead Poetic, Thrice, Zao and bands like that.

The B-Team featured on this tour? Haste the Day, the Chariot, Oh Sleeper, For Today, Sleeping Giant, Project 86, Corpus Christi, Gwen Stacey, and A Plea For Purging!

This tour alone would be enough awesome music to get me through the summer, but no, on Wednesday night i fly out to Minnesota to attend the Sonshine Festival with my homie AlanB. Who is playing at Sonshine this year? how about big acts like David Crowder, Glorious Unseen, and Family Force 5 and some hardcore bands like For Today, Gwen Stacey, the Chariot, Oh Sleeper, the Showdown, Haste the Day, August Burns Red, Norma Jean, and Canton Jones!!

man it's gonna be crazy, unfortunately i can't Saturday night of Sonshine so i'll miss As I Lay Dying, Austrian Death Machine, and War of Ages, but thats alright because War of Ages is coming through Denver in August on the 10 for $10 Tour with Bane, Madball, Crime in Stereo, This Is Hell and more!!

man i'm pumped!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sing a Song to Satan?

one of my favorite bands, Oh, Sleeper has a new album coming out this August titled Son of the Morning. For those of you who are unsure, Son of the Morning is a reference to Satan. I definitely don't have a problem with a band singing about Satan, especially when its a "Christian" hardcore band, on a Christian label (Solid State). according to their myspace page:

Oh, Sleeper has crafted a concept album detailing the final battle between the devil (with Micah Kinard screaming in character on the title track) and God (with Kinard answering on "The Finisher," which closes the record) from start to finish

I'm all about concept albums so i have no problem there either. my question comes from the live shows. I'm seeing Oh Sleeper twice next week, and i plan on being up front screaming along with the words, but what happens when they play the title track from the new album? according to their twitter account they are playing Son of the Morning on their current tour. the song is set up as the thought process between Satan and God, with the verses apparently reflecting what Satan would say, and the choruses reflecting God's response. Here are some of the words:

Every night I start my rise, climbing high into the morning sky,
but soon after I lose your bride and I damn your son for stealing my light.
This world is mine...
They call me the son of the morning.
I can mound all your fallen past the clouds as they roll in,
and when I do I will claim your throne through all these cowards you call your sons. CHORUS
"If you could see like me you'd see you haven't won anything.
If you could see like me you'd see, it's by my grace that you're breathing."
If you could see like me you'd see you haven't won anything.
If you could see like me you'd see.

So when i'm up front screaming "they call me the Son of the Morning" is that weird?

Before you cast this off as a problem that only screamo/hardcore bands have, "but not my reliable Christian worship bands" i found the same issue with both David Crowder and Third Day.

David Crowder's song We Win is apparently directed/sung right to Satan, with the following words:

"Because we’ve already won
And You don’t have a chance
Yeah we’ve already won
No you don’t have a chance"

and Third Day's popular song I've Always Loved You is song from the perspective of God, so when everyone is singing along they're not actually singing to God, they're singing along with what God might be saying.

I'm not saying any of this is wrong or right, i'm just wondering what people think about these songs.