The days are getting longer, hotter, and more humid. The temperature has started pushing into the 90’s and the cold days of winter are long gone. This brings a smile to my face.
I have always loved summer. There is something about the season that brings people closer. I don’t know if it is the BBQ’s, fires, or camping, but I believe people communicate better when they get away from their many electronic devices. One event I looked forward to every summer was the Ichthus Music Festival in Wilmore, KY.
For those who don’t know, Ichthus was created in 1970 by Bob Lyon and students from the Asbury Theological Seminary. It came as a Christian alternative to Woodstock and from 1970 to 2012 it was one of the longest running music festivals in the country. Held at Ichthus Farm, a 110 acre farm, which contained two permanent stages, two shower houses, a playground, basketball court, and soccer field, attendees would camp for the three and a half day festival on top of the sharpest grass you have ever seen.
The festival, while only lasting 3 full days, took months of preparation, planning, and anticipation. As bands and schedules would be released, the research would begin. A comprehensive schedule would be made, in Excel, and highlighted to give the maximum amount of coverage for the most concerts.
I had the pleasure of attending 6 festivals between 2006 and 2012, missing only 2010 because my wife had given birth the month before. The smells of summer bring back a flood of these memories and highlight some of my favorite concerts.
2006 was a learning process when it came to understanding the undertaking of Ichthus.
There was a lot of running back and forth between camp and stages, not enough water, and all out exhaustion. When I think of that first year I think of two concerts and they both involve fire.
First off, the Psalters. The Psalters were a roaming band of nomads in a bus that ran on oil taken from old deep fryers. With an ever changing lineup and singing music that would resemble the Israelites in the desert, it was one of the most spiritually filled concerts I have ever been to. At one point, one of the performers gets in the middle of the crowd, with a rope that has a ball on each end, and she then precedes to light them on fire and do a fire dance. It was rather spectacular.
The second concert from that year was Disciple. This was my first time seeing Disciple, and they did not disappoint. Lead singer Kevin Young was full of energy and brought the crowd to a frenzy. At the end of the show, after the encore, he takes one of the guitars, lights it on fire, and proceeds to smash it. For some reason everyone else in our group were off other places and missed the epic performance.
2007 saw what I would consider a murder’s row of performances. It is the first night of the festival and right after the speaker we get Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, RED, Project 86, and Haste the Day. For several hours we ride the tide of the unstoppable moshing and rolling of the crowd, with each band trying to outdo the one before. Each band has a great front man, but Dallas Taylor of MatSoD and Andrew Schwab or P86 can make the audience move to there every whim like a puppeteer. I don’t know if I have ever been more beaten and sore after a concert, but it was well worth it.
The second day, featured a great Irish Punk band from the windy city named Flatfoot 56. The high energy performance with a mix of bag pipes and a mandolin is a must see, but the real experience comes at the hands of the circle pit and The Braveheart. The Braveheart is basically where the crowd divides and then runs at each other creating a mass of humanity that eventually turns into a circle pit. The highlight of the trip was seeing my cousin’s face, who had never been in a mosh pit of any kind, on the front line.
2008 was a year of missed chances, as bad weather and unseen circumstances would ruin performances by Gwen Stacey and As I Lay Dying. This was also the year of the locusts, who love bright colors and loud sounds, which makes for a great combo at a music festival. Most of that year is a blur, but it was out first chance to see This Beautiful Republic. They had just come back from a tour in Europe and their album was picking up steam. Ben Olin was amazing and was able to get the crowd going.
2009 was a year that I did not think I was going to make it out alive. The first night, the worst storm I have ever been though came in. With tornado warnings and winds 60 MPH plus, the wind was blowing so hard it was lifting the tent with 5 people in it. Nevertheless, we survived.
The most memorable performance of the year was White Collar Sideshow. This was the first time seeing their performance and there are no words to describe the show. It is a battering of your senses and touches your soul. The profound performance will make you search yourself.
[Editor’s Note: White Collar Sideshow is also one of our very own Editor-in-Chief’s, Aaron, most memorable shows as well. It was the first and (hopefully) last time a full grown man in a pig mask free fell 10-feet into his face almost knocking him out. He did live to tell the tale and happily laughs about it…until his eye starts twitching and he gets a far off look in his eye. Other than that, and his penchant for eating glue and gummy worm sandwiches, the guy seems perfectly normal after the whole incident. Now back to your regularly scheduled article!]
Next is Sleeping Giant. The mix of metal and praise is odd, but they pull it off perfectly. For 45 minutes they bombard your ears with violence with the last 15 plus spent on “Oh Praise Him.” Pulling artists from other bands, the song went on for at least 15 minutes and touched the deepest parts of my soul. It was a true worship experience.
After missing a year, we returned in 2011 to a loaded lineup. Great performances by The Letter Black, Sent by Ravens, Aaron Gillespie, The Almost, Demon Hunter and Flatfoot 56 all made the festival great, but there are two that stand above the rest.
First, Children 18:3 played a midnight show. The punk band put on a non-stop 45 minute set, starting off with drum symbols being lit on fire. One of the best live bands kick started a great weekend.
The other performance was by none other than Project 86. This performance is my favorite of all time. The show started out like every other performance, but soon made its way to the crowd. Schwab made his way to our side of the barrier and climbed to the top, only to plant his knee in my shoulder and telling me I had to hold him up. More than half the show was from that position. He would go to other places along the front, but always came back to me after almost getting dropped a few times elsewhere. The band then gan e an encore accompanied by one of their best songs, “Spy Hunter.” It was a truly amazing show.
2012, the last year that we were able to attend, did not disappoint. Two of the most impressive metal acts of the past 15 years were there, Oh Sleeper and Emery. Oh Sleeper is one of the most energetic bands you will ever see on stage. Emery mixes screaming with calm vocals, rock melodies and heavy hitting choruses, creating something unique and wonderful.
The previous bands had great performances, but The Chariot stole the show. The Chariot was the most chaotic show you will ever watch. They went from the gravel in front of the stage, up to the top of the speakers, and everywhere in-between.
My favorite performance from 2012 was The Vespers. The Vespers are a folk, progressive bluegrass band with an upbeat temp, booming vocals, and multiple instruments that create a must see listening and viewing experience. They perform with a passion and joy that seem to be lost by a lot of artists today.
Ichthus will always hold a special place in my heart. There are many more great concerts and memories, to many to put on a page, but feel free to share some of your favorite concert memories in the comments.