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[ complete sonshine festival 2002 coverage ]

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Welcome to the live coverage of SonShine 2002! I will be checking in daily with the latest from SonShine.

Saturday, July 13
Today was the big day, with all the really exciting bands. After waking up and having a decent breakfast at Ember's, we went to the all day onslaught of bands.

Unfortunately, there was too much to do at one time. Scheduled all day on one of the five stages was the Virtual Frequency stage, hosted by DJ Maj. On there, they featured the best in hip-hop, including the Tunnel Rats, New Breed, Knowdaverbs, and more. Unfortunately, there was so much other great music on the main stage, I only caught minutes of the action on that stage.

Well, the first festivity of the day was the noon appearance of The Benjamin Gate. We stopped by their merchandise booth before the show and witnessed Adrienne, the lead singer, setting up the table and telling the girl what to do. We went to get a good spot in front of the main stage, where we were treated to local band Room 204, who had won the local Christian band tournament (which people like PFR and Clear have gotten signed at). These guys were great rockers, with a Brit-rock feel. Their rock/worship style was highly reminiscent of delirious?, U2, as well as a bit more American influences.

Then, one of my favorites, South African rockers The Benjamin Gate took the stage, and a big crowd was waiting. Opening with a rock jam, frontwoman Adrienne belted out "Scream." NOTE: Adrienne was insane. Amid her amazing rock vocals, she was jumping all over every inch of stage, and made the rest of the guys in the band look stiff in comparison. They played mostly tracks from their first album, Untitled, and threw in a couple new ones from their new release, Contact. All the favorites were there, like "How Long," "All Over Me", and "Do What You Say."

During the rock of PAX217 we took a lunch break. We could hear them rocking many of their favorite tunes, such as "A.M." and "Prizm." We then headed back to the stage for Earthsuit, where we found that the crowd was smaller than during The Benjamin Gate. It was curious, too, that even after 2 years of Earthsuit's disc being out, no new songs were played and no mention of a new album was to be found. The lead singer, complete with his "Granny glasses," was very animated, doing weird, somewhat contorted, movements and hand motions. He also seemed to have a almost robotic sound to his voice, which was more curious. They played many of their rap/rock/everything style debut, including "Schizophreniac," "Do You Enjoy the Distortion," and more. On the last chorus of their closing "One Time," Adrienne from TBG came out and joined them in some rompous jumping around.

A completely different style was up next in Burlap to Cashmere. Although the band lineup is almost completely different from when they recorded their CD, the lead vocalist sounded almost exactly like the old one, and the the old songs were played very faithfully to the album's cues. They also played a couple new songs for an upcoming album about which no information was given, and these diversified their styles a bit, while still holding true to most of the band's traditions. One was more bluesy in style, and another one used a bit more electric guitar licks than before. It was a enjoyable listen for all, especially the closer, "Basic Instructions," which included a percussion solo during the bridge.

After going out for some steak dinner and organizing the stuff in the tent, we went back to the main stage to here preacher Reggie Dabs give the message. Afterwards, Jeff Deyo, the former leader of SONICFLOOd, lead us in worship. While very true to the upbeat, rockin' nature of the original band he started, the idea of changing the tune to make it more pop-friendly (like on their big hit, "I Want To Know You,") seemed to be missing, and Fusebox did a better job of that yesterday. Nevertheless, it was a powerfully loud hour of nonstop worship, including many favorites and some new ones, such as the title track to his new disc, Saturate.

tobyMac was next, with a nonstop rockin' time of main stage hip-hop. Featuring a whole rock band as well as DJ Maj on the tables and an entourage of hip-hop backups, toby was prepared. Playing almost every track from his solo CD in the long hour on stage, he also threw in a couple old favorites. Just like the other man from dc Talk, Tait, did, tobyMac performed "In the Light," and it suprisingly sounded almost exactly the same, even with the same "Ayyy-O" intro. Also, his set featured what he called "the Remix" of the 1990s anthem "Jesus Freak." The instrumentation was a bit more hip-hop oriented, but not that different. There was tons of crowd interaction in tmac's show, from jumping to providing background vocals to "Somebody's Watchin' Me." In the end, though, everybody knew it was time for "Extreme Days," and the crowd went wild.

Closing the festival was the man who's been in Christian music longer than SonShine Featival, Steven Curtis Chapman. But, there was no 80s pop here, as SCC and the band kept all the music fresh. Opening up with the Gameboy song, "See The Glory," SCC lead us in many favorites from his two latest Declaration and Speechless, as well as older ones like "Lord of the Dance" and "Let Us Pray." He stayed decidedly brief, which is still a bit long, for the talky bit, where he told about his family, and especially their newest family member, a girl adopted from China. He also had a bunch of great jokes about how his oldest daughter is now 16, and drives at "her favorite speed, 35 miles per hour." Steven also brought out his son Caleb, who was hanging out with him this weekend, helped write "See the Glory," and will also be part of his backup band when they are doing mission work in Africa. After that, he did the song done at many a wedding, "I Will Be Here." After a couple more newer songs, the soaring guitar started and the lyrics to "The Great Adventure" were started, but with a decidedly different sound. No country or 80s sound here, "saddle up your horses" was sung as if it could have come right of of the Declaration disc. After a large cheer for the encore, he came back for "Dive" and "Live Out Loud," and closed with a quiet praise song.

All in all, SonShine 2002 was amazing, and I cannot wait to be there next year!

Friday, July 12
After waking up nice and early, we went out of town a bit for breakfast, as well as to get cleaned up. We came back for the afternoon, and first saw Fusebox. These guys were great, creating really rockin' versions of popular worship songs. They have the potential to become the next Sonicflood. Their lead singer, Bill, brought a lot of soul to the worship through his singing.

After that, while waiting for GRITS, we saw a bit of pc3, the Paul Coleman Trio. The Aussies were pretty rockin', but nothing close to GRITS. They promoted their upcoming disc, The Art of Translation, heavily, throwing out CDs and stickers to everyone in the audience. They did new tracks, as well as old favorites such as "Ima Showem." Although they were "keeping it real," I somewhat did not like the live versions because the vocal timing was not as good.

We had to leave GRITS early because we wanted to catch Relient K. The crowd was roaring for the "Kick-Off," which went right into the "Sadie Hawkins Dance," which everyone had fun singing along to. PLaying a couple more from their latest disc, they also mentioned their track for VeggieTales, "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" and played us a ten-second sample. They also featured songs from their debut CD, such as "Hello McFly," which also brought them to mention their upcoming tour, the "Back to the Few Tour" (think Michael J. Fox). They also played radio favorites such as "Pressing On," "Softer to Me," and "These Words Are Not Enough." Relient K also mentioned that they were working on a new album, and played a solid new track from it. They closed with their ode to the TV show Thunder Cats, on their track "Lion-O".

Then, we left for a while for dinner, and came back to catch the end of Thousand Foot Krutch. These Canadian rap/rockers were really energetic, as well as large amount of devoted fans, a lot more than I knew existed for such a small band.

"The black guy from dc Talk" brought his band, Tait, along, and they rocked the place like not even the Newsboys could. The guitars were great, and they did lots of instrumental rockin' to prove it. He did a bunch from his first disc, as well as a new track, "Jealous Lover," which will probably be on their next CD. The band cranked up the volume on "In The Light," the classic dc Talk tune. As if the end of "Carried Away" was not long enough, Michael and company extended it even more to show off more guitar licks. Doing a great, scary laugh, Michael introduced "Spy," the exciting closing track.

While playing a good game of cards back at the campground, we could hear the crazy antics and horns of Five Iron Frenzy on stage. We then went back to the main stage in time to hear Reggie Dabbs, a youth speaker from Florida, hype up the crowd for Jesus and Compassion International. Then, we joined Peder Eide, a youth leader from some area church, for a bit of worship, mostly with background tracks. The only major highlight was Lincoln Brewster's "Everybody Praise the Lord," although he did not use Lincoln's really rockin' track.

After waiting a while, the Newsboys finally came. Starting with the "Free at last" part of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech, they came on stage with "Giving It Over," the first track on their latest disc, Thrive. They played many more from their newest disc, as well as some of their greatest hits material. Between some of the songs they did short snippets of quieter worship hymns and such, culminating in their own worship song, "It Is You," closing out the evening. But, no one could forget the big encore with "Breakfast," complete with crowd members throwing out Cap'n Crunch cereal all over the place.

To close out a great night, the midnight worship band is near our tent, playing some modern worship anthems. It is pretty to go to sleep to, and that's just what I intend to do in a minute here, for tomorrow is a day with even more big artists.

Thursday, July 11
I woke up at my apartment in St. Paul, Minnesota. I packed up the rest of my stuff, went to the ATM for a bunch of money, and then hopped into my friend's car for the 2 hour drive to Willmar, MN.

When we got to SonShine grounds, we quickly set up the tents. As we were doing it, the music started, although we didn't hit the stages until somebody good came on: Bebo Norman. Before Bebo, we caught a bit of pizza at the Domino's Pizza stand.

Bebo was a bit late, but still very eager to share his music. Because of the time problem, he did not let his band set up, and just did it alone with his acoustic. Of course, with Bebo's style of music, it was not much of a loss. Since Bebo had not toured for a couple weeks (and he did not think to do it on the drive here), he didn't really have a set list, and just took requests. Therefore, he did mostly material from his first disc, Ten Thousand Days, such as "The Hammer Holds." During his quirky but serious "Tree Song," he threw in a reference to the Minnesota Twins, which garnered him a large cheer. However, for the more discerning Bebo fan, he did not perform any material or mention his upcoming album, Myself When I Am Real.

The polar opposites on the spectrum was The Elms, the major rock 'n' roll band. They mentioned that their new album was coming out this fall, and proceeded to play tracks from it for more than half of their hour-long set. One new track, "Speaking In Tongues," was probably more rock 'n' roll than any of their previous tracks, going for the "classic rock" sound. The sound also showed how Thom Daugherty had matured on his guitar.

A bit of a breather from the quality music, I ventured into the merchandise building for a bit. Since sf02 band merchandise is my version of American Eagle, I proceeded to purchase shirts from Skillet and The Elms, as well as get their autographs on a large, pink wall poster. I also picked up a couple $6.99 discs at the music store.

Switchfoot then took the stage, and being late, I could only find a place to stand off to the side of the stage, where I could only see their sides and hear the muffled sound. They eagerly played and promoted songs from The Beautiful Letdown, as well as had the whole crowd welcome their "new" member, Jerome. They of course played such favorites as "Company Car," "Paparazzi," and "Chem6A."

After a long sound check by Skillet, I got to stick around for a couple of their songs from their latest, Alien Youth, which was of course very good. But, I decided o go off to Culver's to get a bite to eat before tackling the evening.

After a brief performance by Salvador, delirious? took the stage. Although they did not play any tracks from their newest release, Audio Lessonover?, they did bring back "Touch", which will be on the American release. The sound did not seem as perfect as most delirious? concerts, but it was still very enjoyable. The surprise inclusion of an acoustic and piano version of "Jesus' Blood" was a welcome surprise, as well as a song or two after the usual closer, "History Maker." The only downer was the fact that, as it is on the main stage of all festivals, some people did not come to see delirious?, and still took up place in the front where I wanted to be. After getting their signature on my import copy, I have now retired to my tent, where I can hear Audio Adrenaline still doing "We're a Band," as well as the SonShine worship band on a smaller stage. Overall, a great day full of great artists.
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