Monday, August 10, 2009

Show Recap: Heavenfest

This is going to be a lot shorter than i had anticipated. Very rarely do i post negative reviews, but somehow i've gone to back-to-back shows and have been disappointed. Heavenfest had the potential to be great, and maybe it was for a lot of people (like 30,000+) but it was a bummer for me.

Last year a friend of ours started Heavenfest in Brighton, Colorado, bringing together a full-slate of Christian music, multiple stages, vendors, organizations and anything/everything Christian for a one day festival. The music festival is becoming more and more popular these days, and Heavenfest has shown a lot of promise. Last years's event brought in about 12,000 people and appeared to be a success.

This year Luke was able to bring in some pretty popular bands; Third Day, Skillet, Kutless, Disciple along with some solid, lesser known bands like Glen Packiam, Glorious Unseen, and Phil Wickham. The event was promoted as "80 bands, 8 stages, 8 areas" and they definitely had enough entertainment to make anyone happy. but might have been the biggest problem too.

Last year the Northern Hills Christian Church was able to accommodate 12,000 people pretty well. Our band 519 played on the worship stage earlier in the day and we got in and out of the event pretty easily, and later that evening Tahoe and I came back to catch Haste the Day and once again had no problem getting parked and whatnot. The event is only about 2 miles from where i live so its a short drive!

This year however, Heavenfest was anticipating a bigger crowd. they encouraged people to exit the freeway an exit that was a little north of the venue to help and relieve the traffic if possible. Living 2 miles away i figured we could leave and get into Heavenfest pretty quick, i had ordered my tickets online and we were prepared. the first band i wanted to see was Glorious Unseen and they were playing at 3p so we left our house just after 230p. We got through the main gate at 4p! Traffic was crazy, a total disaster. Heavenfest was in no way prepared for 30,000 people and the traffic was just the beginning.

If you want to relieve traffic you need to park cars fast, and have multiple lots and entrances. Heavenfest did not. Once we were finally parked we had to walk at least half a mile to the only entrance to the event. failure number 2. you have to have at least 2-3 different points where people can get in. you have one entrance where you're checking bags, selling tickets, will call, and everyone else also has to go through this gate? i just sat in my car for an hour, walked through a dirt parking lot for half a mile, and now i'm standing in the direct sun for another 20 minutes just to get in?? all of this with my family (one 2.5 year old) and there were definitely a ton of other little kids. fail.

So once we finally get in Kassie and I are sweating profusely, and there's no shade really anywhere. we've already missed Glorious Unseen's entire 45 minute set so all we wanted to was get to shade so went into the church building. lucky for us the next performer we wanted to see was Phil Wickham and he was performing on the worship stage inside the church. we were about 40 minutes early for his set so we got a good seat and tried to entertain Addie. I decided i wanted to catch a little of Sho Baraka / Tedashi so i grabbed Addie and headed over to the HipHop stage. Well they were way behind on the schedule there so we had to get back for Phil Wickham before Sho even took the stage. fail. you have to stay on schedule. more on that later.

Phil Wickham took the stage with no band, just him and his guitar, and he was amazing. Even Addie liked it and was raising her little hands as Phil led us in worship! it was totally worth the trip right there.

After Phil Wickham we had over an hour to kill before Third Day on the main stage. Canton Jones was supposed to be on the Hip Hop stage but once again, he was nowhere to be found during his scheduled time. so we decided to walk around and check out the booths. there was some pretty cool stuff so that was fun. then we hung out by the free water station and let Addie run around. About 30 minutes before Third Day was scheduled to perform we headed over to the main stage area. I've never seen Third Day live and i've always wanted to, its on my list along with Garth Brooks and Millencolin.

As we moved into a good close spot to the stage, Jon Vermilya took the stage for a 15 minute "join Compassion Intl or die" pledge. I noticed that the rain clouds were moving in and realized that we were about to get really muddy, i was not excited. I figured we'd get about 1/2 way through Third Day's set before Addie would totally lose it in the rain and we'd bail. So at 7p, the time for Third Day to start, they were still sound checking. Addie was getting restless. i was getting concerned. I told Kassie we should just go, but she insisted on staying based on the fact that i had never seen Third Day and we were so close. 715p rolls around, still no hope. finally, after 730p, one half-hour later, an MC takes the stage to inform us that the reason for the delay is the weather moving in (yea, if Third Day had started on time they'd almost be done by now!) and the MC now wanted us to pray for the weather to hold off, or something like that.

That broke my back there, i packed up the family and walked the mile to the front gate. Addie was just about to go insane, and poor Kassie was pushing our stroller and dealing with some of the unpleasant side affects of being 7 months pregnant. just as we hit the front gate you could hear Third Day start their set. at this point i didn't care anymore, it wasn't meant to be. So i got to hear a few songs as we walked to the car, maybe this is a good description of how far the walk was, we heard at least 3 full songs before we could see our car. luckily Heavenfest had this ridiculously large monitor so i got to see some of the footage of Mack and the boys on stage.

Anyway, it pretty much sucked. it was a fun adventure with Kassie and Addie and i enjoyed hanging out with them, but as a music fan it sucked. I know Heavenfest is trying to be unique, and they want to try and make it a travelling festival sort of like Warped Tour, but there's a reason why Cornerstone and Sonshine are successful and have been around for at least 10 years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Colorado doesn't have this kind of Christian music festival so Heavenfest could be that, and obviously Heavenfest is legit with the caliber of bands they're bringing in, so cut the crap and focus on accommodating 30,000 people, there's plenty of work to be done for that.

Here's my video of Phil Wickham playing Cannons:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Christian Rap Mix

My buddy Nuccio is a big fan of rap/hip-hop music. over the years he has moved from offensive mainstream rap to the mostly unknown landscape of Christian Rap. If you're reading this you most likely just thought of DC Talk or John Reuben, maybe even KJ-52 or the Grits. Christian Rap is slowly building momentum with a slew of fresh new artists, some converting from bigger groups like Bone Thugs & Harmony, and some coming from nothing, driving around in their car handing out mixtapes just like every other new rapper.

Some of the bigger names out there right now are getting some good buzz, rappers like Lecrae, Canton Jones, and Tedashi are getting nice performance slots at music festivals all over the country. I have managed to catch a few acts myself, i'm still not convinced, but its entertaining.

Anyway, my buddy Nuccio broke down his collection into 5 different compilations for me. i scoured the 150 songs he chose, and broke it down to 10 songs for you. check out the 10-song mix here and let me know what you think.

1. Lecrae - Don't Waste Your Life
2. Grits - Ooh Aah
3. Canton Jones - Livin' Clean
4. Dre Murray - More Than Life
5. Lecrae - Livin' Free
6. Flame - Call Him
7. Lecrae - Changes
8. Cross Movement - Name Up
9. 116 Clique -Send Me
10. Sho Baraka - Maranatha

love that Dre Murray song!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

5 Questions with Ben Crist (Glorious Unseen)

After Sonshine i was in contact with Ben Crist from Glorious Unseen about a few different things. in the midst of our email chatting i decided to ask him a few questions, so here they are:

BMER: I noticed at Sonshine you guys played How He Loves, a song written by John Mcmillan, which you guys recorded on your new album The Hope That Lies In You. I also noticed that the David Crowder Band played the same song later in the evening, and has it posted on their Myspace page. You guys have already covered Oh Praise Him from the DCB, any connection between the bands? i noticed David Crowder was side-stage for most of your Sonshine Set.

BEN: Yeah, it's kinda more accidental than intentional. Originally, we were thinking of cover songs we might like to do for that first record - and Oh Praise Him was the only one that actually worked out. So that was cool. But yeah now the How He Loves thing I think both us and Crowder recorded it before we knew the other was also doing it. We've been doing that song for a long time at our church - and have really loved doing it, and since it had never really been cut by any artist that had given it great exposure - we decided to do it on the record... And Crowder loves the song too and I think had the same idea... We're friends with him and have played some fests and shows with him before..

2. Right now you can pre-order the new Glorious Unseen album, The Hope That Lies In You, at for $6.77, a pretty cool deal. Their description of your band however struck me as funny; "Some would compare the style to Coldplay’s Chris Martin mixed with the harder edge of Underoath". how do you feel about that?

Yeah, I think whoever was writing that review just kinda needed to do a little name-dropping and didn't really have time to really listen to the record... I can see the similarity to Chris Martin sometimes, but we definitely don't sound much like Underoath haha...

3. Do you guys like playing festivals more or individual shows?

They're all great - but fests are really fun a lot of times cause we get to see a lot of friends!

4. As a worship band, what other worship bands are you guys into these days?

The Ember Days, Ascend the Hill, LoveLite, and Leeland are my current favorites...

5. On Tooth & Nail Records, a label known for more punk/hardcore bands, what bands do you actually enjoy listening to? I noticed your Comeback Kid hoodie at Sonshine, are you following the trend from punk/hardcore to more metal-based bands like Oh Sleeper and Haste the Day?

My fav bands on T&N are August Burns Red, Oh Sleeper, Advent, and underoath..

Catch the Glorious Unseen at Heavenfest in north Denver on Saturday August 8th.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Show Recap: 10 for $10 Tour

So at last, the 10 for $10 came and went through Denver. I usually have pretty positive reviews of shows, i think i'm easily entertained when it comes to live music so the fact that i was not impressed with the 10 for $10 should say something. But i have to admit, over the years i've slowly moved away from "tough guy" hardcore bands like Bane, Champion, Madball, and therefore i was a little bit out of my element last night.

the 10 for $10 Tour is basically built on the idea of 10 bands for $10. When this tour was announced it was advertised with Poison the Well as the headliner, and Madball, Bane, and Vision of Disorder supporting on different legs of the tour. The tour had a pool of bands that were supporting at different stops along the way and at first it was not certain which bands would be coming to Denver. Obviously i was hoping to see Madball and Vision, along with This Is Hell, Crime in Stereo, Bane, and War of Ages, the rest of the bands i didn't know a lot about.

Well, it probably couldn't have gone much worse. Madball and Vision weren't playing the Denver date, therefore Bane was the headliner with Poison the Well. I've seen Bane before and they were good, but i've never really become a fan. i've never listened to Poison the Well so i wasn't excited to see them. Basically i was paying $10 to see War of Ages, Crime in Stereo and This is Hell, which is definitely worth the $10. War of Ages is a band i've been wanting to see for a while, and although they played at Sonshine in Minnesota when i was there, i had to miss the last night of the concert therefore missing War of Ages.

The doors opened at 3p, which meant the bands would start just before 4p. Since the first 6 bands on the tour were rotating every night, it was impossible to predict when War of Ages would be playing, so i played it safe and got there early (4p). As i walked in on the first band i immediately recognized them as Denver's own Crooked Ways. Right at the end of their song they announced that they had been a last-minute replacement for War of Ages, who had left the tour to go home to handle some family emergency.


That basically ruined my night, so i had a pessimistic view of the rest of the bands. so let me start the negativity with Crooked Ways. I'm always down to support local bands, but i just cannot get into these guys. i've mentioned them before, i just think they're uncreative and trying to hard to "validate" themselves as hardcore kids, and it gets annoying.

After them we saw another Colorado hardcore band, from Ft. Lupton, Come Forth By Night. They were pretty bad too. The crowd wasn't really into them, unfortunately, and they just didn't seem to be playing well, the guitarist was having all sorts of trouble with his equipment. but the killer for me was their last song, a cover of Pennywise's Bro Hymn. Now i think this is lame on many levels. first, Pennywise is an active punk band, skate punk for that matter. even though the cover had a hardcore twist to it, it's still a skate punk song from a band that most hardcore kids would never associate themselves with. its almost like saying you liked Blink-182 at some point *gasp!. secondly, the song is a hit for Pennywise, it's their most recognizable song. you don't take the one song that has made a band popular and use it to incite a crowd response and use it as your closer. i just don't get it, i thought it was lame, and weak. i'll probably be hunted down for saying it.

After that we saw Trapped Under Ice. they were terrible too, energetic though, but i just didn't get it, maybe i'm getting too old for hardcore.

After that was our big surprise of the night, A Ghost Inside. Wow, they were incredible! ton of energy, great sounding songs, very tight band that seemed to know what they were doing. i'll be checking these guys out for sure.

Then it was Crime in Stereo, who everyone apparently really likes (including myself) but they always seem to be playing on wierd lineups that doesn't really fit their style. CIS is much more melodic, and slower paced than hardcore bands. i loved them though, the singer was on key this time (unlike this time) and they were really tight.

After that was Death Before Dishonor. Solid tough-guy hardcore, they were good, but didn't blow me away. this video i took is great, some kid stage-dives and then apparently didn't get up, the band stops to check on him, and then starts back up, check it out:

After that we saw This Is Hell, a band i've been wanting to see for a long time yet i always miss their shows. They were a little bit of a letdown, but i don't think it their fault. it appeared that the crowd was starting to get tired and just didn't have the energy for TIH. I have to say their drummer is ridiculous, he was amazing. my buddy Isaac Fratini told me awhile back to check him out and he was right, the dude is solid!

After This Is Hell we left, i would have liked to see Bane, but i just didn't have much interest in the other bands and i was hungry.