Thursday, August 5, 2010

Show Recap: Heavenfest 2010

Heavenfest had a new home this year, probably due in small part to my blog post last year that got me an email from some of the organizers and a little heated discussion. But in the end I was right, the traffic situation last year was terrible, and herding everyone through the same entrance was also a terrible idea. The organizers took note and moved Heavenfest to Longmont on a bigger piece of land, closer to the freeway, and used multiple entrances. This is only the third year Heavenfest has been around so there’s definitely a learning curve, but I can’t help and think that they should be looking at the other successful music festivals that have been around for years like Cornerstone, Sonshine (29 years), Warped Tour, and many more.

This year went really well, I only had a few issues that I’ll get out of the way first. The doors opened at 10a and Tahoe and I left my place about 11a and made it to the parking lot right about 1130a. We bypassed the huge line of cars waiting to get into the 1st parking lot and drove effortlessly into the second lot, no line at all. Heavenfest probably should have posted signs to let people know about the second lot and avoided a ton of that traffic. After parking we got in line, a long line. This wouldn’t be the last line we got in. I figured that it was 30 minutes before the bands started playing and I was very intent on seeing the opening band for the Heavy Music Stage, Hundredth, one of my favorites. Apparently a 30-minute cushion wasn’t nearly enough time to get through the ridiculous entrance line. Everyone in the line was eventually split into two lines, one for people who needed to buy tickets, and one for people who already had tickets via Will Call or Email confirmation. We needed Will Call so we got in that line, along with hundreds of other people. There were only about 5 computers being used to check-in people, and I know these are run by volunteers, but you’re gonna need more than 5 computers when you expect 30,000+ people to be arriving at roughly the same time.

At the beginning of the line you have a bag search. You were allowed to bring a lot of different items, which was cool, especially water. But on the walk up to the line it was hot and I opened my water, Tahoe did not open his. I was forced to dump out my 95% full large water at the beginning of the line, why? This isn’t the TSA, I’m not flying around, one sniff and you know it’s not Vodka. Very lame, especially at an event so intent on raising awareness for things like clean water in third-world countries, and here I am along with a bunch of other people, pouring out perfectly clean water onto the ground. So then we stand in line in direct sunlight, 90 degrees, no water, for about an hour. Obviously we missed Hundredth and the beginning of the next band In The Midst of Lions.

Not wanting to miss any more bands we took the half-mile walk to the HM Stage right during In The Midst of Lions set. The first couple of bands had a tight schedule, 30 minutes each including setup/sound check. So the fact that ITMOL was halfway through their set meant that we were in line until about 1245p, nonsense. Also, because of the tight schedule bands weren’t doing full sound checks, only making sure their instruments were on and then the sound guy would adjust everything during the first song. Most bands only played 5 songs in 20 minutes so it was a little rough. The other interesting and slightly lame thing at the HM Stage was that there was a barrier right down the middle of the crowd. Basically the sound guy, back about 20 yards, had his own fenced off path going directly to the stage. This was probably so he could get there quickly and fix things. However it made for an awkward crowd dynamic where a majority of the crowd was on one side (the side closest to the rest of the festival). That side had a ton of kids, but the other side was really empty, you could walk right up to the stage for almost any band. Never seen that before, it was weird and there didn’t really seem to be a need for it, maybe to protect the cables running from the soundboard to the stage.

My last complaint was the lack of shade. It was freaking hot and there was no shade anywhere. Not really sure what could have been done about that but it was tough, for everyone.

After ITMOL it was The Great Commission, a “heavy worship” band. They were pretty good, really inciting the crowd with stuff like “when people tell you that this music isn’t worship music, or that it sounds evil, you tell them that God doesn’t hear our guitars or what’s coming out of our amps, He hears what is coming out of our hearts.” Kids were eating that stuff up, and for the most part he made some good points. They ended their set with a cover of Hillsong United which was pretty cool.

After The Great Commission it was one of my other favorite bands I The Breather. They had a lot of problems with their equipment and the guitar player had to switch guitars mid-song. Only maybe the last two songs were full-strength, High Rise and a new song. They had a lot of energy but the crowd just wasn’t into it due to the sound problems.

After I The Breather we decided to get lunch and miss The Crimson Armada. This is where we encountered more lines and made a painfully dumb decision. Tahoe and I stood in the water line (there was free water if you had a water bottle, one of the best things about Heavenfest, a great idea and it worked pretty well). The line took about 20 minutes until we got to fill up our bottles, then we decided to get lunch. We opted for the pizza, which was awesome, huge pieces, I’m talking over and inch thick and probably 6” X 6” and for only $6. Great deal, except the 30-minute line. So if Tahoe and I would have split up, one went for water and the other for food, we would have saved ourselves 30 minutes. But our consolation was getting to catch the entire Petra set from the main stage! Haha, it was pretty entertaining, I thought it was pretty cool.

We ate our food and watched The Color Morale and Sheridan (from Denver). Both bands were pretty good but there was just so much new material for us, neither of us are really listeners of most of the bands on the lineup. After these guys we traveled around to the different merch tables and tents. We didn’t find anything of interest so we finally decided to just stay at the HM Stage. We caught the whole set for A Plea for Purging which I have to admit I really enjoyed. I’ve seen them live probably 5-6 times now and was never interested before but they were good this time, maybe I’m a fan now?

Next up was Blessed by a Broken Heart, and this is where the madness started. The band had some issues getting started; they have some tracks and electric drums so there was a little more stuff to prepare. Once they finally got going you could tell something wasn’t right. BBABH have had some serious troubles on this current tour they’re on (Scream the Prayer Tour) from car troubles, to equipment trouble, to personal issues that one band member had to fly home for. All that and the fact that they don’t have a huge following to begin with. The crowd just wasn’t into it and it was a small crowd to start with since the Supertones were playing on the Rock Stage at the same time. This will probably be the end BBABH, and you could tell they’ve seen the writing on the wall.

Near the end of the set the singer instructed all of the “big people” to gather at the side of the stage. Halfway through “Carry On” the singer climbed up the stack of speakers, grabbed a hold of the tie-downs that were supporting the roof of the stage and climbed all the way up to the top of the roof, with his microphone. From there he said he was going to jump, it was probably 25’ feet high. He sang the rest of the verse and then flipped onto the crowd. It was impressive I must admit, but pretty dangerous. After that song they went into their closer which is a mashup of hip-hop and pop songs, with hardcore drums/guitars. The Great Commission guitarists joined the band on stage, which made the song chaotic and silly. Near the end of the song the singer invited the crowd onto the stage, which meant fans had to climb over the barrier, bypass security and climb up the stage. It was a terrible idea and very disrespectful to the festival as chaos ensued. Quickly the power was cut and things were breaking. Police and backup security showed up and the crowd was dispersed. Things were broken and we were informed that the stage would be down for probably an hour.

Usually that means that the bands just get delayed, but Heavenfest has specific plans at 9p, The Sacred Assembly on the main stage while the other stages are shutdown. This meant that between 6p and 9p the sets from For Today, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Sleeping Giant, and the headliners The Devil Wears Prada would all have to be shortened as to finish by 9p. This was pretty lame since these were obviously the biggest bands of the day and the ones that most fans came to see.

Fortunately during this time we found some shade from which we could still watch the stage, and hang out with my other buddy Jordan and his family. So we chilled for For Today and Maylene, both played like 30-minute sets plus sound check/breakdown. Mattie from For Today couldn’t resist the chance to preach which ate up another 5-10 minutes even though Chad, the MC of the stage (from Come & Live) tried to get him off the stage. The Devil Wears Prada were going to get their full set no matter what, since they were the headliners, so that meant that Sleeping Giant got pinched into about 20 minutes. They were great though, Sleeping Giant, Tommy really knows how to talk to a crowd and connect with people. He apologized to the security guards for the lack of respect/honor shown by BBABH and really spoke with genuine care. They played 5 songs; “Blame it on the Holy Rollers”, “No One Leaves This Room Sick”, “Pale Horse” and “Gang Signs” were the ones I remember. Tommy couldn’t do his testimony / “Whoremonger” because of time restraints.

Last up was The Devil Wears Prada and they were great as usual. Their setup is solid, no real soundchecks so you don’t even see the band until they’re on stage playing “Danger:Wildman”. Despite the heat they were relentless with Mike roaming back and forth across the stage. They played most of the their typical live set including “Assistant to the Reginal Manager”, “Hey John…”, “Reptar…” “Sassafras” and “HTmL Roolz”. They also played at least one really old song since this is technically part of their Back to the Roots Tour. Also from their upcoming Zombies EP they played “Outnumbered”. Since their set was cut short we didn’t get the normal encore including “Louder Than Thunder”, they just played “Dogs Can Grow Beards All Over.” It was a little sketchy near the end of the set since it was so dark at the stage, there were no lights on the crowd so the pits were pretty dangerous, but we survived.

All in all this was probably my 2nd best Heavenfest experience, the initial Heavenfest was so much fun so that will be tough to beat. A few tweaks here and there and I’m sure next year will be even better than this year, but who can top Petra?

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