Kutless gets the crowd waving their arms in the late afternoon sun of Questapalooza. Below: Faces of Kirk Franklin at Questapalooza. Bottom: Henry Shrader (left) took on Kutless guitar player Nick De Partee (right) in Guitar Hero and won. Photos by Rich Copley | LexGo.
At Questapalooza, you had to keep reminding yourself this was an event put on by one church.
From the stage set to the video work - complete with steady camera on a crane - to the solid sound to the solid lineup, this was a purely professional Christian music show.
Another reminder, of course, was the lineup that attracted an estimated 6,500 people to a field next to the Quest Community Church property Sunday. Questapalooza, in its third edition, presented gospel legend Kirk Franklin along with chart toppers Kutless and needtobreathe.
Questapalooza started in 2006 with a head-turning but modest lineup including Shaun Groves and Tait. Last year, it upped the ante with a certifiable superstar in TobyMac. This year, they went for a genuine legend in Franklin.
Franklin was also a cross cultural move, and indeed, Questapalooza attracted as diverse a crowd as you'll see at a Christian music event.
The man proved worthy of the draw in a set marked by dance moves out of James Brown's playbook, a tight ensemble including Lexington's Terry Baker on drums, and hits such as Revolution, Hosanna and Imagine Me.
One thing that you are reminded of seeing Franklin is he is not a traditional singer. In fact, his few moments singing had the modest sweetness of Kermit the Frog singing It's Not Easy Being Green. Franklin is more of a frontman, rapper, hype man and even preacher. Though he was the biggest star of Questapalooza's history, he may have also done the most to fulfill Questapalooza's goal of building community, stopping numerous times to exhort people to come together to hug and declare things they want to give up in 2008 so they can live a more Christian life. Franklin was connecting to the back edges of the temporary amphitheater, which goes along way toward telling you why he's enjoyed 15 years of success in Christian music and crossed racial barriers that others haven't cracked.
By the way, Terry Baker got a big introduction, and then there was one of those moments that can only happen on a hometown show, when Baker's 15-year-old daughter Amber sat in at his kit, and I'm here to tell you, keeping the beat runs in that family.
Another thing to love about Questapalooza is they give all the bands a good long time to play. No 30-minute sets, which are common to festivals, here.
So Kutless got to honestly show us what we missed when they got rained out Ichthus, and that would be a tight arena-rock set including Take My Pride Away and Show Me the Truth to get the crowd pumped and Sea of Faces to slow it down. John Micah Sumrall went for the very cheesy ending of punting an open water bottle into the crowd, but it worked as 20-year-old Dustin Lanier fielded it like he was on special teams or something.
The band also provided a fun interlude with guitarist Nick De Partee taking on Quest Kid Henry Shrader in a Guitar Hero contest. Shrader had won a Guitar Hero competition in the festival site during the day. The two faced off over Pat Benatar's Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Shrader's guitar skillfully shredding, De Partee struggling with clunky amp sounds.De Partee said before the competition he'd only played Guitar Hero three or four times.
South Carolinians needtobreathe opened the musical portion of the festival with their bluesy sound and a healthy serving of new material, including Girl Named Tennessee, which really got the crowd dancing.
Despite oppressive heat today, it was well worth being out at Questapalooza for the music, and you have to think organizers have set the bar pretty high for '09.
Watch here for a Questapalooza photo album in the next day or so.
Interesting: If everyone's estimates are right, Questapalooza outdrew Nine Inch Nails, Sunday.