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LIVE AT TOMFEST (2000)
Live at Tomfest - Click to view!"Cool. Dig it. Let's do it."

This is the call Gabriel Wilson, front man of a worship band from Evangel Christian Fellowship in Longview, WA, gives to begin the set at Tom Fest '98. He begins leading 2,000 people in a worship service of proportions often only seen in traditional church services.

The Rock n' Roll Worship Circus has been leading worship for their local church since 1995, long before Welcome to the Rock n' Roll Worship Circus ever hit bookstore shelves. Live at Tomfest was the first collection of worship songs they had written for the members of their congregation. The festival was recording it, so the Circus took the live feed, refused to overdub a thing, and crafted an album—giving away the first 1,000 copies. They wrote on their CD jacket, "The Lord told us that He freely gave these songs to us and that we are to give freely to others what He has given freely to us. You may also make as many copies of this recording as you want to..." This is why Live at Tomfest holds a beauty often unseen in modern recordings; it's quite unprofessional yet raw in worship. The audience is heard very easily, and Wilson responds to the crowd, saying things like, "That's right, lift up a shout of praise." He urges the makeshift congregation to worship God in freedom and not to fear what other people might think, because "this whole room of people is not looking at you, man. They're looking at Jesus." Listeners can enter the tent with this crowd from the past and still enter into God's presence today.

Six songs comprise this recording, including a beautiful rendition of the Doxology. Two songs reflect a battle theme both lyrically and musically. "Watch On the Cities" calls out, "Who's gonna fight in the great big battle / Who's gonna fight in the great big war / Who's gonna fight in the great big battle / Who's gonna sing the song of the Lord?" Here worship is equated with warfare. "Battle Hymn" continues the fight with words like, "We are calling children back to their borders / His Word has been revealed now the Spirit's sword is shining / The shofar has been raised and the victory banner's flying." By referring to the shofar, the instrument used to lead the children of Israel into the fight, battle lines are drawn in the atmosphere. Heavy drums by Zurn Praxair and vicious bass lines by Solo's father "Shaggy" Mike Greely add to the warfare theme. After the battle comes the cry, "Mercy triumphs over judgment." There are additional words to this song ("Holy Spirit") listed in the jacket, but the band only sings this phrase to reflect a powerful truth of Scripture. They then cry for unity to reach the church in the song "Freedom." They ask for God to come down and break the chains of fear that can bind us up and keep us from worshiping Him. The culminating track, recorded in traditional studio format, speaks of God's forgiveness and thanks Him for it: "So here, I have come, and I am thankful / That You, You have cleansed all my sin / So I'll climb to the tops of the mountains / And I'll sing to the world that there's forgiveness" ("Forgiveness").

Rough instrumentation, reflective of a live recording, appears throughout the record. Wilson often dictates to the band when a verse is to be repeated, sometimes the BGVs aren't completely lined up with the lead melody, and someone who's nitpicky could critique the balance of the instruments. But this rough sound helps produce the album's charm. Live at Tomfest cannot be labeled as an over-produced CD; it holds a musical honesty that hasn't been seen in a long while thanks to advanced sound equipment. Live at Tomfest is an excellent freshman release for a matured band. It avoids fluff and fashion to center in on worship, and that foundation has held The Rock n' Roll Worship Circus' song-writing and recording ever since.
- Hollie Stewart
October 2004
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