Freedom Fest '07, Ontario's first major Christian music festival occurred this past weekend just north of Barrie, Ontario. I first must congratulate the promoters on their ambition and their love of music which is why this festival had glimpses of what could be expanded in future years to be a well planned event.
In the first year of any festival there is bound to be some things that go astray, and that was the case this time with a lack of proper planning and promotion. However, in its weakness, we observed God's strength.
The worship stage was covered by a tent with walls and seating, which made it the most inviting stage since it was quite cool during the festival and windy. Speaker, Brett Ullman talked on media and culture and made some interesting points worth noting, "Why is Christian music the only music defined by its faith? Why if a performer is Buddhist or Satanic do they not always define their music in that way in stores?" He also talked about how so often when we go to church, the pastor always has to ask us all to shake hands and greet each other instead of it being natural. It reminded me of a Casting Crowns lyric, "If we are the body, why aren't our arms reaching?" Overall, Ullman's appeal is to get the church thinking again about not being religious, but reaching out like Jesus did to the world by being the hope inside and outside of the church walls. Allan Froese and his band led an excellent worship performance too, their tenor Jerome has an incredible soulful vibrato and harmonized well with Allan's lead vocals and piano. The addition of the bongos, drums and electric guitars made it feel like Canada's rendition of Hillsong United, it was brilliant.
The edge stage kept to its title where people went to get hard rock and it got people jumping wildly to such bands as Decyfer Down and Hello Kelly. Hello Kelly is one of the best touring and marketed Canadian bands who has stayed true to their roots by touring across Canada. For those unfamiliar, they're like a mix between Family Force 5 and Hawk Nelson, but have an alt rock sound all their own that gets people hyped. They commanded the crowd with a mini-mosh pit happening at the front of the stage, handed out free stuff, and got the audience involved - that is the makings of a good rock show. The Daniel Band played and were quoted as "the grandfathers of rock" as they got the mamas and the papas shaking their hips to their classic rock groove. Christine Evans impressed with bringing a cello and her powerful vocals all the way from BC to the edge stage where she was met with a bunch of excited fans who gave her a lot of support and girly screams. Newmarket's Turn off the Stars had delightful spacey electric guitars and we loved when bits of their new material were added into the mix and Decyfer Down's hardcore screams echoed throughout Burl's Creek Family Event park with gusto.
Jars of Clay were the stars of the festival on Saturday. Dan Haseltine spun around the main stage like a helicopter, both arms out and the songs broke through the cold night air and got people moving to warm up. They performed a rock version of "Nothing but the Blood" and songs like "Work" and "Dead Man (Carry Me)" from their latest CD Good Monsters
were hits with festivalgoers, which had increased to about 400 people that night. Mid-set, Jars of Clay threw a giant globe beach ball out in the crowd to the delight of the crowd who seemed glad to jump around, and the giant ball managed to bounce around the audience until the very ending encore.
So, while the festival was not well attended, there were glimpses of God in the mix of where it lacked, which perhaps was the point of the first attempt at a Christian music festival in Ontario.
For more on the festival please visit www.freedomfestcanada.com.