Last Wednesday, my friend Ross and I made the 3 1/2 drive to Wilmore, KY for the 41st annual Ichthus Music Festival. We arrived to the festival site, Ichthus Farm, a rolling landscape surrounded by the most horse farms I’ve ever seen in my life. We made our way to the Mainstage where Matthew West was starting off the festival. He played a handful of pop-rock tunes mixedwith worship, a sound typical of what one might hear on Air1, KLove, or a similar station. The only songs I recognized were “Only Grace” and “The Motions”, which he and his young band pulled off well. He threw in a little improvised tune that he called “Where in the world is Wilmore?” which seemed to entertain the crowd.

Following West, speaker Bob Lenz took the stage, giving his personal testimony followed by an altar call. It was the type of invitational message I’ve heard many times, but it was nonetheless powerful, as the Gospel never loses its power.

Newsboys, featuring new frontman Michael Tait with him singing an intro that sampled “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas, before segueing into “Something Beautiful”. The old Newsboys this ain’t. They played a catalog of mostly cuts from their upcoming “Born Again”

the "new" Newsboys

record, releasing in July. Despite all the changes, the band seemed to establish good rapport with the crowd. Even the older songs seemed to have been picked based on how well Tait could adapt them to his own style. “He Reigns” and “Wherever We Go” seemed to fit well, but the medley of “Shine” and “Breakfast” was just weird. Midway through the set, the group set up at the end of a long catwalk extending into the audience, making for a cool, intimate feel. The set ended with Tait and the boys performing their rendition of “Jesus Freak”, which the crowd ate up. Tait’s onstage charisma really shone here.

TobyMac started a bit late, around 10 PM due to some bass problems. They opened with “Tonight” which sounded strange without John Cooper’s (of Skillet) background vocals during the prechorus, as I had heard on the Awake Tonight tour back in March. TobyMac and his Diverse City band were quite entertaining as usual, showcasing some of the best showmanship in the CCM realm. ¬†Everything from beatboxing on “Gone” to background singers Nirva, Shonlock, and GabeReal engaging in a freestyle contest entertained the 18,000+ crowd in attendance. TobyMac did a good job of mixing up the old and the new, playing old tunes like “Gone” and “Irene” mixed newer hits like “City on Our Knees” and “Get Back Up”. All in all, it was a solid evening that gave a flavor of what to expect in the coming days…


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