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:


Anonymous said...

Dear BMer. Thanks so much for the time and energy that you put into this blog about HFest. I am sure that Luke and Co. will consider many of your critiques as they push into the future.

My name is Jason and I was the main stage MC that asked for everyone to pray just prior to Third Day's set. The reason for the delay was actually due to a problem with the Third Day guitarist's foot pedal. It took their crew about half an hour to rectify it. The HFest stage manager and crew were one minute ahead of schedule before the foot pedal issue surfaced. There was nothing that Heavenfest or the production crew could do to speed things along -due to the fact that we are not able to touch any of the visiting band's equipment.

The reality here is that this kind of stuff happens, and no matter whose fault it was, we are all needing greater or lesser amounts of grace to get by. Third Day needed it big time on Saturday night -and Heavenfest gave it to them (almost at the expense of the Sacred Assembley). Heavenfest needed a weather "grace" that we prayed for because God said we can ask things of Him -and He gave us some. Now Heavenfest might need some grace from you...

I would ask you to consider two things though:

1. Was your experience unique to your family's situation, or was it relative to everyone else's experience? (For reference visit the HFest facebook page and read through some of the reactions.) It is truly a bummer that things didn't work out for your family. Day long festivals take their toll on the the hardiest of fans -how much more on a 2.5 year old and a pregnant wife?

2. Because there are too many people attending (referring to your blog where you say that HFest was ill-prepared to handle 30K and should reconsider what they're doing) is that a good reason to shut down certain aspects of the festival?

I ask you these two things not to question your judgement/experience at HFest, but hopefully to challenge you to focus your energy in helping to make it work. Quite possibly your voice (and time) would be better spent aiding and assisting the hundreds of volunteers who helped out this year. (BTW no one gets paid for any of their work at HFest -except for the bands. Instead, a 30K person festival was pulled off my moms, dads and grandparents who gave their Saturday away to help park cars, take tickets, pass out water and in help make make HFest a success.)

Your critiques/strategies for crowd control and people flow have great merit -but are useless unless they are given in a spirit of grace and discernment.

I would challenge you to be a participant in making HFest better (given your close proximity to the event, and especially since it sounds like you have a relationship with Luke already). I hope to see you out there next year.

Respectfully Submitted,
Jason Ostrander

PS. I just wanted you to know that HFest has not asked me to respond to your post, as far as I know they don't even know that it exists. I happened to stumble upon it during my lunch-break today. Therefore my opinions/comments are in no way representative of either Heavenfest, Worship and the Word Movement or the staff of Northern Hills Community Church. I was just a volunteer at HFest.

BMer916 said...

i did notice that there was a problem with the foot pedal, maybe a little "please bear with us, we're having technical difficulties" would have been nice instead of 30 minutes of confusion about the delay. things happen, i know, you can't prepare for everything, but i just thought it would have been nice to be clued in a little.

to reply to your comment:
"2. Because there are too many people attending (referring to your blog where you say that HFest was ill-prepared to handle 30K and should reconsider what they're doing) is that a good reason to shut down certain aspects of the festival?" - my opinion is yes, which i stated in my blog, which is dedicated to my opinion. I think some stuff should be cut back so you guys can help focus on the main aspects of heavenfest. could i be wrong, hell yea, thats why i'm a blogger and not a concert promoter!

lastly, i think Heavenfest does some things really well, which is why i've attended both years, and promoted the heck out of the event both years (i even dragged my 2.5 year old and my preggo wife!). if you're asking me to volunteer thats fine, but i don't think it was for a lack of volunteers, i saw plenty of them around. i think it was some poor planning/strategy but the design crew that hurt crowd control. if you want feedback on that you should contact Sonshine Festival or Cornerstone Festival, or Warped Tour, since they have the experience.

I don't think i was being negative as much as i was sharing my experience. if you guys can't handle criticism then i'm sorry, maybe you shouldn't Google for blogs referring to Heavenfest.

thanks for the comment!

The Fredricksons said...

WOW...that sounded pretty crappy...everything is different when you have kids....people really need to think about the kid factor. Great critiques. Phil Whickam is awesome! Have you heard of Josh Garrels...he is amazing and we are going to see him live tonight!

Anonymous said...

sounds like your day was worse than mine! (and mine was pretty terrible). I missed the two bands that I wanted to see most [everfound and the glorious unseen] because of the terrible traffic. Last years was better, although last year i was hoping that this years would be better.

p.s. this is fairly irrelevant, but i think it's super lame that heavenfest doesn't allow any cameras with removable lenses just so they can have their elite media team.

p.p.s i found your post off of twitter, after doing a search for heavenfest.

BMer916 said...

the traffic was a major bummer, i really feel for those fans who came in from out-of-state and then had to sit in their car for an additional hour just to get in.

but i don't want to dwell just on the negative, i only posted this blog so share my experience, my unique experience, and not to bag on Heavenfest. there were a lot of great things that happened, and a lot of people had a really great time. I'm glad that some lesser-known organizations got some publicity and that some smaller bands got to play for people who otherwise might never have heard them.

i hope this post can come across as one fan's ideas for how to make Heavenfest better next year, there's always room for improvement!