In comes May and with it the Beale Street Music Fest packing 'em in body to body down at Tom Lee Park. Now it's June, with a whole new concept at a whole new site, the Christian-oriented One Festival at Shelby Farms, June 13th-16th. The two festivals are different in some big respects but alike in the biggest -- it's about the music.
One Festival's bands are some of the strongest names in Christian music -- the hard sounds of P.O.D., gospel's Mississippi Mass Choir, the rock-folk-blues of Kansas native Jennifer Knapp, and the popular acoustic strains of Caedmon's Call. Lesser known but equally talented regional favorites include the haunting voice of Over the Rhine's Karin Bergquist and the genuine rock-and-roll of Vigilantes of Love. Memphis band Skillet will make an appearance, as will southern California's upbeat rap group L.A. Symphony, Lilith Fair regular Kendall Payne, high-energy Latin band Salvador, and the semi-psychedelic Soul Junk.
Henry Weung is the executive director of Team One Productions and was recruited for his experience with Cornerstone Festival in Illinois, the largest alternative Christian music festival. He says that One Festival's program competes with the handful of summer Christian music fests in the Northeast but has a particularly Southern focus of social reconciliation. "Our focus of global consciousness makes One Festival unique, and we've chosen a program of substantive speakers and authentic musicians to highlight this. It's going to be a gathering unlike anything Memphis has seen or will see again soon," he says.
One Festival might even appeal to those not sold on mixing music and Christianity. Check out Iona, the internationally known Celtic band that any music lover can appreciate; and the last day's gospel lineup is an impressive gathering of vocal talent by any standard.
Wednesday and Thursday cater to a younger, more intellectual crowd (good nights for youth groups) with the softer tones of Jennifer Knapp, Caedmon's Call, and Iona. The volume gets cranked up a bit on Friday night with the hard rock of Project 86 and P.O.D. The weekend closes out with gospel groups on Saturday. The genres are generally divided by stages: Hilltop One Stage features alternative groups; Hilltop Two hosts the even more alternative and edgy bands; the Ugly Mug Stage has the more eclectic groups and a "world beat" theme; and the Main Stage has the bigger acts.
Then there's Everyone's Festival -- the festival within the festival that moves to Memphis from its regular home in Kansas City and hosted by Wichita's Waterdeep, a jam band noted for its unusually quirky lyrics -- "I woke up from a strange rain, it was dreaming outside."
In addition to the music, each day starts with group worship and prayer at the Main Stage, followed by morning seminars, which are repeated in the afternoon. Music starts on the smaller stages at 2 p.m. and on the Main Stage at 6:30 p.m. There's also the John Payne Classic Mountain Bike Race on the Tour de Wolf Trail at Shelby Farms, a 5K race on site on Friday, and an extreme volleyball tournament. Kids Town keeps the little ones busy with puppets and stories, and One Camp brings teens together to discuss life issues. The gallery at Arts Village will feature a collection of art to be judged and displayed.
And so it's June and it's the One Festival. Executive producer Darren Hillis hopes to both spread it around and dig in.
"Our goal is to take One Festival to five countries by 2010," says Hillis, "as well as making it an annual Memphis event." n
You can e-mail Jill Freeman at email@example.com.
Wednesday, June 13 - Saturday, June 16 at Shelby Farms
Ticket prices are $55 for a four-day pass; $19 for a single-day pass or
go to onefestival.com for more information.