Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Celebrate Freedom: Hangin With Rock Stars

Local radio station 104.7 succeeded in topping last year’s Celebrate Freedom concert, held this past Saturday at Jim R Miller Park in Marietta. Matthew and I managed to arrive earlier and take in more of the festivities (in my case, in a quite up close and personal way). Here’s a rundown of the thirteen acts, in reverse chronological order:

Switchfoot. Lead singer Jon Foreman started out strong, venturing around the stage, up onto the drum platform, and far down the Miss America-like runway. As his custom, he started off in a dark sweater, shirt, and tie. Throughout the hour-long performance he slowly discarded the garments, eventually stripping down to a sweaty white T-shirt. I made note of his black underwear, similar to Will’s. I could see his white shoes, but I couldn’t see what kind they were. During “Eyes Wide Open” he borrowed a fan’s sunglasses. Earlier he donned a fan’s UGA cap, backwards. Finally he found a third fan’s black hat to his liking, and he wore it the rest of the show. Introducing his encore songs, Foreman brought laughter from the huge crowd when he changed subjects: “Hey, I’d better give you back your hat before I forget. It’s a great hat. Sorry I got it sweaty!”

Then Foreman launched into megahit “Dare You to Move” and walked the length of the runway…before hopping down into the crowd. There was a mad rush, including my new friend, the young African-American teen seated on the rail next to me (before the Newsboys had come on, the youngster had politely asked if he could join me on the rail. Since Matthew and Justin were off sitting with other friends, this gave me a neighbor. As we waited, we tried to guess how long our wait would be. Later when Foreman encouraged everyone to put their arms around each other and sway to the music, my new young friend immediately put his arm around me. My nervous neighbor on the other side quickly disappeared).

As he had done last year, Foreman made his way to the railing, about 25 feet away. When I had picked my seat some 13 hours earlier, I had forgotten this detail. The lithe surfer climbed the rail, stationing himself with one leg on each side of the top rail, with his feet on the middle rail. With everyone reaching out to touch and take pictures, he relied on the crowd to keep him from falling. Then he walked the rail toward me. He nodded at the fan next to me, singing along. I had my phone on camera mode, snapping pictures.

Still singing, when Foreman got to me he stopped. He looked at me and smiled, silently imploring me to hold him up while he sang. I did so with my right hand, first bracing his sweaty shirt, then grabbing his black jeans on the leg. Got an up close look at his white leather hightops: not sneakers, but “rock star” shoes, with black shoestrings. I tried to take a picture, but it was too dark. My complete attention was holding him up, and making sure the crowd didn’t crush Matthew’s autographed poster, rolled up in the back of my chair. Afterward I had no recollection of him singing, but obviously he was.

Eventually Foreman hopped off the rail and headed back to the stage. Sitting with friends somewhere else, Matthew had missed it. After the song my young African American friend returned, and I told him what he had missed. Quite an experience. Five minutes later the concert was over. I saw David Norman and Rob Kelly, but they hadn’t seen me holding up Foreman (I was probably blocked from the cameras broadcasting on the Jumbotron).

Newsboys The group’s new lead singer Michael Tait (formerly of dc Talk) put on an energetic performance, rocking black high-tops. Tait continuously brought his bandmates into the act: Jody Davis, the British-looking Indiana guitarist, keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein from Detroit, and drummer Duncan Phillips from Australia. The band wore matching black suits, white shirts. and black ties. I loved the three thick stripes on the suit’s left sleeve: white-red-white.

Tait, Davis, and Frankenstein rode individual platforms high out and over the crowd. On Davis’s second journey he spent more time making sure he was buckled in than playing guitar. Phillips finally got into the high-wire act. As he pounded to out the beat his platform rose high into the air, tilted 180 degrees sideways, then began spinning like a ride at the county fair. Formed in Australia, the Newsboys have been around since 1985.

Mr Talkbox Byron Chambers, from Orlando. Chambers made much use of his electronic device, to the great delight of the crowd (and the DJ who interviewed him afterward). I spent most of this hour in my chair, texting and reading. There were other rappers that “performed” between several of the acts.

Montell Jordan & Victory World Church. Jordan rose to fame with his mainstream R&B hit “This is How We do It”. Having been spoiled by North Point and Passion City Church, who have no need to promote themselves, I was turned off by the Norcross mega-church’s shameless self promotion. All the other performers at Celebrate Freedom, big and small, seemed genuinely sincere in their love and focus on Jesus. But Montell (admittedly new to the ministerial scene) spent much more time talking up his “multi-cultural” church than Christ. The hundreds of church members in the crowd swarmed to the front, decked out in Victory World Church attire. While it’s apparent VWC has ministered to hundreds (if not thousands), it made me thankful for the churches I attend.

Sidewalk Prophets, from Nashville. Heavyset lead singer Dave Frey belted out tunes with a strong voice.

Jason Castro. The dreadlocked American Idol alum was a favorite with the ladies, singing two songs from the Fox show: Hallelujah and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. But his vocals were among the weakest of the day, and his sound system had more feedback than anyone else. Good thing his smile and eyes had everyone charmed.

The Museum came out and turned the energy level up a notch. With roots at North Point, they obviously knew how to perform.

Josh Wilson was yet another solo act, who stood behind the mic stand and sang his songs. He had the look, with beard and plaid shirt. From Lubbock Texas, Wilson released his first album in 2008.

Dave Barnes, like Wison, stood there and sang. From Indiana by way of Nashville, Barnes worked up a nice sweat, that didn’t slow him down. In the post concert interview the exuberant female DJ tried to make a football fan out of the musician. Favorite team? “Uh, I’m from Indiana, so I like the Colts. But the Falcons are good, too.” “But what about college!?” the DJ persisted. “Uh, the Volunteers?” Barnes almost asked, quite uncomfortably.

Echoing Angels returned from last year, and delivered a serviceable show. From Atlanta.

The Choir was the first band we saw. Together since 1982, The Choir recently returned to touring, to promote their new album, five years in the works. This low-key group originated the hit song “You Are Holy” and over the years has influenced acts such as Switchfoot and Jars of Clay. The long-haired lead singer looked somewhat like Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.

Shawn McDonald, from Eugene Oregon. Turned from drugs to Jesus in 1998. Shawn had just finished when we arrived.

Opening Act: A talented young lady won this year’s contest. She sang and played the keyboards. Given the chance to sing one song between the Newsboys and Switchfoot, she did fine, though she meekly kept her eyes focused straight ahead, and down at her keyboard.

After picking up Justin at the ballfield, we swung by RaceTrac and Taco Bell before securing at primo parking space. We spent less time on the commercial midway, and headed right for the music pavilion. Throughout the afternoon we took occasional journeys outside. M & J found a life-saving water-mister giveaway, snapped photos with Veggie-Tales Bob and Larry, and swigged water and Cokes.

Walking around, I crossed paths with the Saylor sisters. Brianna hobbled along on a walking cast. Later Elin spotted me, and gave me a gig hug. She rocked VIP seats (and sharp new Vans). Elin had seen her buddy Marshal’s dad Brad. Inside the pavilion I spotted David Norman just as he passed me, so I jumped out and wrapped him up in a bear hug. Just before the Newsboys took the stage I saw the Toso sisters, and both Joanna and Grace stopped to give me hugs. Then they were off, completely into the music.

Like last year, I spent the day running down my cell phone battery, tweeting and texting Facebook updates. The concert again displayed text messages on the jumbotrons, giving me something else to do…

The Museum is the best so far! Matthew and Justin are rockin out!

Brianna Saylor! What happened to your foot!?

Hello Brad Howell! Bring your family next time!

BREAKING NEWS Jason Castro’s bass player rocks!

Jesus is my American idol! (while Jason Castro played)

These Humana spray bottles are a real life saver!

That electric guitar player in the cool T shirt can really play!

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets! (to offset all the “Go Dawgs!” texts)

Happy birthday, George P Burdell

Joanna and Grace Toso, David Norman, Rob Kelly: Report to Mrs. D’s office immediately!

Elin Hill, your shoes rock! I love you, girl! Love, a Secret Admirer

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