The little town of Shirleysburg Pennsylvania, with a population of about 130 people, played host to the largest Christian music festival in the country on the last week of June. Tens of thousands of people filled the fields of the Agape farm with tents and campers for the festivals 4 day long music and worship retreat. The area was filled will all different groups of people. From couples enjoying time together to church groups who brought their whole teen youth group. The festival originated back in 1979 when Harry Thomas and Timothy Landis started the festival in little Muddy Run park in southern Lancaster County, Pa. In 1984, with the growing popularity and need for more facilities the festival moved to its current location on the Agape farm and has been growing ever since. Before jumping into the reviews I’ll state that there were over 40 artists and more than a dozen speakers over the course of the four day festival. This review just touches the surface of all the festivities at the festival.
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This years event opened with unusually cool weather for the time of the year but it heated up as soon as Canadian artist Downhere hit the stage. The singing duo of the festival award certainly goes to Downhere which played some of their old hits along with a preview to an unnamed and soon to be release album .They were also filming for one of the songs on the new album so keep an eye out and see if you made it on the video. Carlos Whittaker then took the stage. Carlo and the festivals most energetic drummer were Wednesday’s featured worship artist. Carlos was followed by the hip and funny speaker Reggie Dabbs. Reggie is a funny and creative speaker but what really brings his message home is his willingness to open himself up and share his own pains and hurts that people can relate to. I Can, You Can, We Can, I got Yo Back! The David Crowder Band followed Reggie and brought their A game and certainly put on a great show as usual. Following Crowder and closing out Wednesday night was Switchfoot. With a mix of old and new songs Jon Foreman played it up for the crowd. At one point Jon went out into the crowd and sang among the fans.
I spent a good deal of time in the early afternoon of Thursday and Friday going around and meeting some of the people who came out and braved the camping experience. I met people from Cincinnati to Philadelphia and they all were enjoying the experience of being at Creation Festival. Day two of performances picked up where it left off with Remedy Drive and their high energy show. David Zach, lead singer of Remedy Drive is the most energetic and certainly the best jumping lead singer there is right now. They always give the crowd a great show in addition to great music. After a break from the music, so the speakers of the day could hold their breakout seminars, Red started the evenings musical performances. Red brought headbanging to the main stage and put on a great show. Ron Luce was the speaker of the evening and was followed by the new Newsboys. I first heard the Newsboys with their new lead singer Michael Tait at Winter Jam 2010 at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College Pennsylvania. The were a little rough around the edges then but they sure buffed out those bumps and put on an amazing show. Newsboys is certainly up there in the top next to Skillet for the best overall performance of the festival. Closing out Thursdays was Casting Crowns. It’s always a great to hear these folks perform.
Friday’s first act on the main stage for me was December Radio. December Radio gave a good old fashion rock-and-roll performance to the crowds delight. More Cowbell!! The evenings performances started with another Canadian export, Thousand Foot Krutch. It was a full crowd performance for the nu-metal performance by TFK. Tomlin followed the speaker of the evening who is also his pastor, Louie Giglio. Chris Tomlin brought a great worship set to the early evening performance slot. Friday night’s closer was none other than Toby Mac. I am not fussy when it comes to music and I enjoy nearly all forms and styles of any artists at Creation or any Christian artist for that matter. I wouldn’t consider myself a rabid fan like the screaming Elvis girls reaching out to just touch his hand. I have great respect for the artists and what they do, along with their creativity. For me it comes down to the fact that we all “put our pants on one leg at a time” (as my old high school wrestling coach reminded us before every wrestling watch) and they are people just like everyone else. You say but why do you go to these concerts then? Well, I’m a photographer and I love doing my art and part of that art is taking fun and interesting photos and telling stories through them. When I’m doing that I really am not “enjoying” the show like an audience member does. Not that I hate it but I’m working just like the bands are and I’m really only half listening and half thinking how and where I want to take my next shot. But to get back on track I must admit I was looking forward to hearing Toby Mac in person and I was dying to hear him sing “Funky Jesus Music” to 60 thousand people. Toby Mac did not disappoint and he put on a great show and even brought part of it out into the audience. Toby Mac then helped to lead the candle lighting ceremony that is a tradition on Friday nights at Creation.
Saturdays events started in the worship tent with the best worship band at Creation. Relevant Worship is a small group hailing from the Buffalo NY. I first heard them perform at last years Creation and I made a point to catch their performance again this year. They always have a huge crowd and fill the worship tent not just with people but with passion and revere for the Lord. Next stop was the main stage to see Philadelphia based Reilly. Reilly brings a unique and innovative sound with their dual violin rock. The late afternoon was a time for baptisms. The pond area was filled with folks looking to be baptised in full submersive process. The first of the evening performances were the funk masters Family Force 5. Travel issues caused some delays for the group but they managed to arrive and put on a good show. They didn’t fail in their off the wall outfits when they ended their show with oversized balloons with caricature pictures of themselves on them. Bob Lenz was the nights speaker and was followed by Tenth Avenue North. Tenth Avenue North put on a simple and straight forward performance with thoughtful expressions in a Christian pop format. The final act of the evening and of the festival was the high impact performance of Skillet. Skillet has raised the bar yet again. Cooper and company’s performance included not only pyrotechnics but touches of classical influence with expansive and emotional strings that intersected with explosive rock riffs. Skillet put the exclamation point at the end of what was another great year for Creation Festival North East 2010.