Last weekend, my wife, Carmen, and I drove up to Mason, Ohio to spend three days at the Kings Island amusement park.
For most people, one day at Kings Island is enough for one trip. But this was a special occasion.
The park’s Timberwolf Amphitheatre was playing host to the Spirit Song music festival Thursday through Saturday, June 27-29.
Spirit Song is an annual Christian music festival which features several top contemporary artists. This year’s event was headlined by acts such as TobyMac, Skillet and Newsboys. Festivals in the past have also included big names like Switchfoot and Jeremy Camp.
Several guest speakers are also thrown in the mix. Speakers this year included Nick Hall and Ryan O’Quinn.
The event was hosted by Christian comedian Bone Hampton. He would come out to introduce the acts, and also tell some of his jokes while the musicians prepared to take the stage.
He was really funny, and I hope to see him back for next year’s event.
Right outside the theater were several tents and booths to check out. Some of them sold merchandise for the different musicians. Other booths had food, T-shirts or information about different Christian-related organizations.
The part I liked was if you bought a ticket to Spirit Song, you also received admission to the rest of the Kings Island park. Carmen and I got the early bird special which pretty much gave us admission to three days at Kings Island for the price of two.
Considering we could go hop on a ride if we wanted, or listen to some great Christian music, this was quite the bargain.
But the big part about Spirt Song was, indeed, the great music. Each day, the music began around 4 p.m. and lasted until around 10:30 p.m.
Thursday kicked off with We As Human. They are a new rock band who just released their debut album June 25. I had actually heard some of their music beforehand, and bought their CD before we found our seats. I really enjoyed their live performance too so I didn’t regret spending the $10 at all.
Petra came out next. They are a classic Christian rock band who is currently celebrating their 40th anniversary as a group. After seeing Styx last year here at Nibroc, I found Petra to be the Christian equivalent.
The third act was singer Matthew West. Just like he did at Winter Jam in Lexington, he sang some songs but was also a guest speaker. He again told the story about Jordan Jeffers who was a scholar athlete at Cumberlands before getting addicted to pain pills. Then, Jeffers turned his life around after spending a year at the Teen Challenge program. He got clean and rededicated his life back to God.
Next up was Tenth Avenue North. They performed a bunch of their songs and also took a few minutes to share a few words. The lead singer talked about how his band wants to be a reflection of God instead of a distraction from God.
I thought that was a great thing to mention as we should always remember to praise God while enjoying praise music.
Thursday was wrapped up by an absolutely awesome show by the rock band Skillet. They used pyrotechnics, smoke, lights, jumbo screens and other special effects to really put on a stunning display of great music.
In my opinion, the Skillet show alone was worth the price of admission. The lead singer, John Cooper, also took a few moments to talk to the crowd.
He mentioned how some fans were confused by the fact they toured with secular groups such as Nickelback and Papa Roach.
But Cooper quickly pointed out how they always talk about Jesus no matter where they are playing. And he hopes by sharing Jesus around these secular artists and fans, they can be a light for God.
On Friday, the first act we got to see was the band NewSong. They sang some really great contemporary worship songs including one of their most popular hits, “Arise My Love.”
The next act was Building 429. They brought out a bunch of beach balls for the crowd to bounce around. They played some great Christian rock music too while also posing a thought-provoking question. They asked why would anyone want what us Christians have? If others just see us as broken, or having a lack of faith, why would a non-Christian want to be like us?
They encouraged us to stand tall as Christians and show the world what a wonderful joy it is to be saved.
TobyMac closed out the second day of Spirit Song. If you’re familiar with the contemporary Christian music scene, you’re probably familiar with his music. But just like the first time I saw him in concert, he put on an awesome show. There was even one moment where he snuck around and popped up about three rows behind our seats. He sang a few songs in that spot so that was really neat being that close.
Saturday opened up with some slightly depressing news for me personally.
My favorite band, Thousand Foot Krutch, who was scheduled to perform at 4:30 p.m., had to cancel due to health concerns.
That would have been my first chance to get to see them live but I will be praying for their speedy recovery and hopefully I will get an opportunity to see them soon.
So on the third day of the festival, the first group we got to see was Crowder. They performed several songs in the style of folk and Bluegrass music. It was a nice change of pace from the other rock performers.
Next up was Christian rapper and Grammy-award winner Lecrae. He used his lyrics to preach how we should not be ashamed to be Christians. A lot of his old friends told him he was giving up everything in life to become a Christian. But he countered by saying he was giving up just a little to gain everything.
Finally, to close out Saturday and the Spirit Song festival was the band Newsboys. Their lead singer is Michael Tait who used to be a part of the popular trio DC Talk. They started out their show with their popular song, “Born Again.” Then they finished out their set by performing the old DC Talk song, “Jesus Freak.”
Looking back, I truly had an awesome experience during the Spirit Song weekend.
I was planning on just having a relaxing time with my wife while enjoying some great Christian music. But I left the park Saturday night feeling totally refreshed and renewed in my Christian walk.
If I have the opportunity, I will definitely be back for next year’s version of Spirit Song.
If you are a youth leader reading this, you should seriously consider taking your group next time.
Or if you are just seeking a nice getaway with friends and loved ones, you won’t regret making the drive up to Ohio.
As Psalms 95:1 says, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!”
Brad Hall is the nighttime editor for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org