Day One - Wednesday July 5
After a most excellent stop in Chicago for a few days to check out the many sights and dive into deep dish pizza, we made the trek to OshKosh, Wisconsin, a state known for cheese and a town known for little kids overalls. We had no idea what to expect as we rolled up to Sunnyview Fairgrounds, but were met with warm smiles, blazing sun, and a decent sized camp site to pitch our tent, which would be our home for the next 5 days.
People directed us to our poorly marked campsite and others exclaimed, "Ontario? You guys are a long way from home" or "Ontario? Wow, He's bringing them in from all over!" So we had a good time being the only Canadians in our lot or perhaps some of the only attending the entire festival. Don't worry, we made Canada proud and refused to say "about" or talk about the winter weather.
Today was all about Newsboys for us Soul Shiners, people were still arriving and setting up camp and as they did we began our science experiment of “Does a Coleman's 5 day cooler really keep ice cold for 5 days?” until Newsboys hit the stage. We had just seen Newsboys at Canada Christian College in Toronto a few months back and seem to never tire of their eclectic set of rock/pop songs. Phil, on lead guitar, impressed some of the girls around us, they inquired to us media folk, “How does he keep his long curly blond hair so shimmery and knot free?” I shrugged and thought, “Aussie Shampoo perhaps?” Phil definitely had more 'roo to his do. Paul Colman ripped up the guitar with amazing melody and strong vocals as frontman Peter bounced around the stage getting the crowd jumping with their Cap N Crunch Cereal (making referencing to Newsboys lyrics, “They don't serve breakfast in hell”). The day that had been humid swiftly turned to a chill as we hugged and greeted the Newsboys after their set before hitting the hay, literally.
Day Two - Thursday July 6
It's funny at festivals how I never seem to keep track of days; they all just blend into each other like one long party, of course maybe that's just the heat stroke talking. Thankfully we had an interesting seminar to attend at 10:30am to get us focused. I had heard about Pastor John Hartenberger doing a talk with an atheist and thought it would be interesting to hear what they both had to say. While this review is about the music, if any of you are interested in knowing more about God, getting answers to your questions and understanding His plan for your life, you can check out www.answersingenesis.org, www.christiananswers.net or send us an email to email@example.com and we'll do our best to point you in the right direction.
So, after a pretty intense seminar, we roamed around attempting to avoid the many golf carts flying through property and ended up at the BarlowGirl show. These three sisters are incredibly talented musicians, playing drums, lead guitar and guitar and keyboard while singing interchangeably, now that's talent folks! The girls also stand strong in wanting to not only save sex for marriage, but not date as they see no point unless they know the guy is “the one”. That's their choice to save dating
, they say, but definitely saving sex for marriage was what they and Rebecca St. James were about between songs today. It was cool to see some girl power, women not concerned with focusing on broken hearts, but on having fun with friends and knowing their self worth doesn't come from another person. Rock on Girls!
Leeland are the best band kept secret right now, they have terrific lyrics and melodies and played in the place of Kevin Max who was a no-show on the mainstage after lunch. All of their songs rock out, so check some preview tracks out on www.myspace.com/leelandmusic. Leeland even invited his buddy Zach whose only 14 from the Loosen Chains organization to talk to us mid-set about how he's signing petitions and working to abolish slavery abroad. Man, what was I doing at 14?
Hawk Nelson were up next at the Edge stage, the guys spoke to us earlier before their performance, which we'll be posting, and as you'll see (much to his management's chagrin) that we asked the lead singer Jason to jump over a spiky fence for a photo opt. Jason rocks hardcore and the entire band, who are Canadians at that, were extremely well versed, energetic, and left their fans in a blaze while on stage. MxPx came on later and totally blew me away as I had never seen them live before. They sound like a better version of Green Day and are so grunge and so good; Jason from Hawk Nelson even mentioned to us that opening for MxPx was the highlight of the festival for him.
Michael W. Smith was also on the bill, we had seen him at Creation NorthEast in Pennsylvania last year and loved the vibe and song choices, but this time it felt a bit dry. He seemed to be hanging on to his huge catalogue of music and begging for applause rather than just being into the music and relating to his audience. Thankfully through some of his classics the audience started to get into the music and lighten up as the sky turned to stars above the stage. We were so wiped from the days events and the heat that we called it a night when TobyMac came on stage, we could hear people roaring with cheers through the fairgrounds and the next day found out tons of people were mushed around the smaller Edge stage jumping up and down and waving their Toby balloons to the beat all night long.
Day Three - Friday July 7
Well, the ice in our Coleman 5 day cooler began to melt a bit, but in Coleman's defense, it was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit both in our car and in the tent so I'd say it keeps ice for 3 days max. over the said temperature, which isn't bad! So we woke up, sleeping bag over our head from a cold night to the boiling “tropical” Wisconsin heat that suffocated us to the point of needing to jump out of bed for air. We added a bit of ice to the cooler and cooled down in the count 'em 3 showers (for how many girls??) available on the property and got ready for the first seminar of the day. Bob Lenz, the festival founder and overall hilarious guy was our 10:30am slot so we rushed over and heard Bob talk about “Understanding the Why's in Life”, I felt like I should have brought the atheist from yesterday's talk to it, it totally fit with his line of questioning. Bob talked about his own family and uses cool and funny narratives to make his point, every high school should have him in to speak and lighten up a day of routine school work, www.lifepromotions.com.
At the WorshipTogether.com New Song Café Martin and Stu from Delirious? were on hand with South African newcomer Brenton Brown and taught us how to play a bit of guitar and played some excellent worship music for the packed crowd. We then carried on to The Afters, whose song “Beautiful love” has been permanently etched in our memory, so good. The Texas based band Salvador made the journey to play for us in the Northern US as they never seem to make it up there or to Canada so it was a treat to hear their lively version of “How Far is Heaven” and marvel at the talent of both singing and the elaborate horn section that totally blew the crowd away. Delirious? performed next and are one of the best worship bands out there, period. Martin stopped between sets and read some really prophetic words from the Bible and then they all just continued partying on stage with the smoke and lights and gorgeous sunset that slowly fell in the background. Jars of Clay put on a great show, and the fireworks after their set brought the main stage events to fruition for the evening. Over at the Edge stage Sanctus Real ended a jam packed day with a late night set and played the ever popular “I'm not Alright” and “Face of Love” with enthusiasm and discussed their efforts with www.mochaclub.com, which I thought was great. Another satisfying night.
Day Four - Saturday July 8
We missed most of the Saturday seminars so we decided to head back to the WorshipTogether.com New Song Café tent where we found the mega talent of Leeland, Matt Maher, and Brenton Brown presiding. Leeland Mooring is one of the coolest 18 year old's I've ever seen and he has this heart that just radiates love for God and making relevant, awesome music for everyone. David Crowder was the missing man during the festival, as he was scheduled to perform on the same stage that day, but had been caught in Ohio traffic. While writing this I just found out that David was on CNN talking about his new book, which I thought was most excellent and the fact that he's the official Artist of the Month on MSN sounds like he's a busy and in-demand guy, go David!
Aside from the music and the eye opening seminars, there were also a plethora of activities for all ages to take part in. There was paint ball, rock climbing, bouncy castle, fireworks (which happened after Jars of Clay of course), basketball and dodgeball tournaments, a skate park, and our favourite one to watch aside from the killer dodgeball, Air Glory. They harness 2 people to a crane that takes you up, up and away and drop you swinging like a bird through the air for about a minute. The lines were long, so if you're an event planner, all you need is a crane and harness, it'll bring 'em in droves!
We had the absolute pleasure of talking with Bethany Dillon next, who some may be familiar with from her song on the Narnia soundtrack and in the new Dakota Fanning film Dreamer
. I had heard her song “Hallelujah” last year at Creation NorthEast and thought there was such a preciousness to her lyrics and vocals, and her personality was no exception. She is by far a very human, humble, and I'll say it again, she defines the word “precious” because she knows it's all about Him. If you ever get the chance to meet her or see our Soul Shine interview with her (soon to come below!) you'll know the vibe that I'm talking about, she makes you more important than herself, and that among record label execs, busy schedules and the whole Hollywood scene is a rare find my friends, it's what focusing on Jesus has done for her. During her performance she showed no shame and wanted to be silly and do a little “rap I wrote on a barf bag while traveling”, that about sums up Bethany, a gal who's not afraid to be silly and human.
Mark Schultz played his narrative song “Letters from War” which has meant so much to the US troops away in Afghanistan and beyond, he even asked the people who had served in the military and Armed Forces to stand as we acknowledged them with our gratitude and applause, it was very moving, especially after the song. Superchic[k] had delighted me with their track “We Live” and had come to Canada Christian College a few times recently, but to see them live in a festival setting with their hot pink and jet black drums and speakers and see the variety of wardrobe and personalities jumping around on stage was well worth it. They're a photographers dream and when they say they're high energy, they mean it, definitely worth checking out when they come nearby. Kutless and Relient K came next as our ears were still ringing from Superchic[k] and the screams continued, especially for Matt T. when he broke into the Days of Thunder theme and his version of “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun, I guess he likes Tom Cruise movies, go figure. The audience loves Relient K and the combination of Matt and the gang playing guitar and an old wood piano and dashing around on stage as the crowd sung along made it a great concert. Audio Adrenaline performed next on the mainstage and after playing popular tracks like “Ocean Floor” and “Hands and Feet” we all thanked them with applause for helping us rock out all these years in His name, as the band's last show, in Canada at least, is in November at Canada Christian College, grab your tickets on www.ticketwindow.ca. Long days like this require sleep, so we headed back to the tent, but faithfully listened to a jam packed crowd rock out to Skillet at around midnight as we passed into REM sleep.
Day 5 - Sunday July 9
After being sun-baked and hearing more positive rock than Canada gets all year we headed over to the worship service to see Mr. David Crowder. We met Barb Nixon instead, a volunteer at Lifest, sticking around to help clean up and serve whoever needed help. It was boiling hot outside, but Barb's story warmed my heart even more, she had a lot of serious tragedy happen in her life, but what she was really looking for was her brother's child, as her brother and his wife are now deceased. The baby was born in Wisconsin, potentially around OshKosh, so all I can say about Sunday is I hope Barb finds her little nephew or niece. David Crowder was taking too long to show, so we packed our bags after listening to Bob Lenz and his sister and jumped in our electric blue rental car and made the long journey home. Of course we had to get lost in Milwaukee and Chicago on their lovely detours; any city planners out there should know removing the detour signs half way through the detour is not a good idea! We made it through though and ended up in a lightshow of rain and thunder in Michigan State. Trucks may have thrown buckets of water at our already drenched windshield, but we made it home and were happy for the A/C, what we learned, and all the people we met along the way.
If you'd like to learn more about the festival visit www.lifest.com or are interested in finding out more about the artists and issues discussed please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Lifest.