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!