I tried to write a killer recap of my 2005 Sonshine Music Festival experience like I did last year, but it just didn’t happen. At this point if I don’t get something out soon I’ll be experiencing Sonshine 2006 before I write this. So you’ll get the half-assed version. It’s probably just as long as last year’s version, just not as thorough.
After last year’s time warp experience I was pretty excited to head back to the Sonshine Music Festival. Little did I know 2005 would be filled with heat. Lots and lots of heat. It was probably the most talked about aspect of Sonshine 2005, and while it was pretty brutal, it was bearable. I found that rock and roll made it a little more tolerable.
Once again I went to Sonshine this year with my youth group. Unlike last year, I haven’t been hanging out with the teens much since summer began, so this was a good chance to reconnect. Also, this year I went having written a preview article for the Minnesota Christian Chronicle and assigned to write a review, which should be published soon.
So I went this year with much different expectations. Last year I was dreading it, and ended up loving it. This year I had much higher expectations, though in all honesty I didn’t expect much from the music. It’s really more of an experience.
And what an experience. The ride out was entertaining enough as the youth ridiculed the music collection on my iPod. Critiquing anyone’s musical taste is risky business, and I found it amusing to hear what bands particular teens liked and disliked all weekend.
As I said before, the weather had quite an effect. As did the 23,000 people who attended, which I’m pretty sure is a record. The place was packed, especially for each night’s headliners, which made enjoying the show pretty difficult. I had the choice of 1) joining the throng at the stage, which meant incredible heat and little chance of escape, 2) standing in the back where the mosquitos could freely feed, or 3) staying in our tent where I could at least hear, though barely see the stage. I often chose the third option.
The best part of the weekend was probably hanging out with the teens. Having only recently told the youth group we were expecting a baby, and not having been around much, many of the senior high girls were eager to talk about baby names. I took the opportunity to soak in the ideas, though most of them I had heard before (picking a baby name seems like a pretty difficult process–finding a name is no problem as any baby name book will list thousands. The problem is finding one you like.). I also enjoyed joking around with the teens, especially deciding that the next novel I write should be a choose your own adventure.
And now let’s dive into the music:
House of Heroes
We arrived as these guys were playing, and I still had leader duties to attend to. So I heard them from a distance. Sounded great; wish I could have checked it out.
This was the first big show I was looking forward to. Unfortunately lead singer Mark Stuart’s voice was ragged by the second song. I wish I was exagerating. Thankfully they played a few new songs, all of which heavily relied on guitarist Tyler Burkum’s vocals. The new songs were good, more soaring rock anthems. The rest of the show was a disappointment, the same schtick they’ve been doing for a year. I saw it at last year’s Sonshine and I saw it at a St. Paul show in May. I know they can’t have a brand new show all the time, but it’d be nice not to repeat the same gimmicks that often.
The stage lights went out during their second song and they ended up playing in the dark for a while. Eventually a flood light was set up and that’s all the band had for the rest of their set. They did pretty well through it all.
I got up early and took a van full of kids to Sonshine while the rest of our group slept in, just so I could catch these guys. As expected, it was worth it. They’re very loud, but they still have a very melodic and musical quality to their blistering guitars, which I really appreciate. The lead singer also reminds me of Bono the way he gesticulates. It’s kind of like what Petra’s John Schlitt used to do, though I realized the difference was that Schlitt would break character and smile at the audience all the time. Detachment is the key (though you might be able to sneak in a wink like Bono does).
These guys rock. They were playing in the middle of the day, so it was hot. But it was good stuff. A small crowd showed up to see them, so we were pretty close. I was probably moving the most to the music, which meant tapping my foot and nodding my head. Apparently the emo crowd is supposed to stand there with their arms crossed and no facial expression. Bah. They did play an off-beat new song that I really liked. They said it was available for download on their site, but I haven’t seen it.
I was waiting to see these guys. Last time they were in town for a concert I interviewed Reese Roper and threw up ten minutes later. Obviously I missed the show. It was good to see it this time around, though the mid-day heat sapped any ability to move. Reese was his comical self, which was good to see. The band also did a cover of Guns ‘n Roses “Welcome to the Jungle.” Awesome. Reese does a pretty good Axl Rose.
These guys were pretty good. Guitar-driven rock. I felt bad for them because it was the middle of the day and everybody was hot and tired. Plus all their songs had false endings, so the crowd never knew when to clap. After a while we just stood there and waited for them to give us some indication that the song was finished. Pretty awkward. They sounded good though. I’d like to check out their CD.
Amazing. These guys were hands down the highlight of Sonshine. I knew we were in for something special when I saw the drummer. He was set up with a mini drum kit on the front corner of the stage. Just before they started he put on a big set of headphones and taped them to his head. Half the tape came off in the first minute of their set.
Check out their myspace site to see a video of “Chaos.” This song was jaw-dropping in concert. At the climax the lead singer/keyboard player stood up on his keyboard and launched himself into the drum kit. Wild.
One of the festival’s highlights, though not really a great show. They were having massive technical difficulties, to the point that they stopped their set several times.
The expected highlight of the show. I thought they were pretty good, though it was hard to get the energy from my vantage point in our tent. But there were too many people and too many mosquitos to be anywhere else. They played some new stuff and generally rocked.
I know nothing about these guys or how on earth such a newbie band was playing the main stage. But they did a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer,” so they’re alright by me.
One Bad Pig & Happy Little Day
When I interviewed one of the Sonshine guys asking what bands would be worth seeing, he said to check these guys out. Apparently they’d asked if they could do all sorts of stuff, and the Sonshine staff responded that if the band helped them clean up, they could do anything. The music wasn’t worth talking about, but the show was insane. What did they do? What didn’t they do! Food fight, crowd surfing, crowd surf racing, inflatable stuff, a cake, a giant ice cream sunday, costumes, setting a guitar on fire and smashing it, fireworks helmets, a ten minute sermon and prayer. Whew. It was a spectacle.
That’s pretty much what was worth remembering. In all, Sonshine is dominated by guitar-driven rock, specifically of the punk and hardcore varieties. They could use some musical diversity. God forbid someone should play an acoustic guitar. Though on the plus side I saw three keytars.
On the way home we had a Five Iron party to keep me awake. My entire van was full of Five Iron fans (or at least they didn’t mind), and many of us were singing along. Good times. That was almost as much fun as Sonshine itself.