Sunday, September 26, 2010

Revelation Generation: Sunday

Sunday at RevGen was noticeably lighter in attendance than the previous day. It picked up in the evening, but I think RevGen may want to consider going back to a Friday and Saturday for next year. Anyway, I was super excited about the line-up for Sunday, because I hadn't seen quite a few of the bands live before, which is very unusual considering I've seen well over a hundred Christian bands.

After an interview with The Ember Days, I staked out a spot at The New York stage in anticipation for indie rock group Between The Trees. I honestly didn't expect them to be as energetic as they were. They seemed to genuinely enjoy the RevGen crowd. I was surprised to learn a few days later that Between The Trees is disbanding at the end of the year :(

As Showbread emerged on the Philadelphia stage, it was very apparent that they hadn't had much sleep recently. Even though Showbread's performance was more subdued than usual, they still performed their songs passionately (but then how can you sing "I hate music because of you" and not be passionate?) and Josh even threw in a few jokes like, "What has eight wheels and is green? Grass; I lied about the eight wheels." After "A Man With A Hammer," I headed over to the Come&Live! Stage.

A number of people earlier in the day had encouraged me to check out a worship band called Ascend The Hill. I was late to their set and only heard their last two songs, but that was all it took to make me a fan. The band recently released a new worship album, check out my review.

I've been a fan of Emery since their debut album, so I was really stoked about seeing their live performance for the first time. It was one of the few performances that I stayed for the full set. Josh Head is like the Xanadu of Emery, if you're familiar with Family Force 5. He gets the crowd going by jumping around the stage, moonwalking, and jumping off the stage to interact with the crowd. But he also contributes to the vocal duties (screaming) and he plays keys. Emery opened with one of my favorites, "Studying Politics" then they moved into an oldie but a goodie, "The Ponytail Parades," off of their debut. Half way through their set, they announced that their upcoming album would be released in January and it would be the "heaviest album [they] ever recorded" (I hate it when bands say that. It's rarely true.). Emery closed with the infamous "Walls" (I have to wonder if they're getting sick of that song).

Mae is not really my thing, but their set was enjoyable, minus their opening song which was really mellow, and frankly, a bizarre opener. There seemed to be a number of dedicated Mae fans in the crowd, faithfully singing along with the band. I may not be into Mae, but it's a bummer they're breaking up because from what I saw, they're a really talented bunch.

I missed The Ember Days' set on the Philadelphia Stage the day before, so I made it a point to get myself over to the Come&Live! stage to see their second set. They announced that they were going to start by playing through their new EP, Finger Painting (a phenomenal album btw, get it for free at, along with Ascend The Hill's new album). After the first song, I had to leave for a last minute interview with Showbread. I wish I could have seen The Ember Days' full set, but I was not about to pass up an interview with one of my favorite bands.

The O.C. Supertones set was an unexpected surprise for me. I'm not a fan of ska, but the Supertones stage presence is unmatchable. I don't think I can put it into words, it's something you have to see for yourself. I had to move away from the dancers in the crowd a few times because I started choking from the dust rising from the ground. A slight, but steady wind blew the dust on stage and I caught the vocalist, who is known as "Mojo," coughing a few times. RevGen was one of the few festivals that the Supertones were reuniting for, so it was a treat to see one of the most beloved Christian bands of all time.

Anberlin was the headliner at the Philadelphia stage on Sunday, and the only headliner that I saw at RevGen. The Florida-based alt. rock group opened like lightning with "Godspeed." Following was "The Resistance" and "Whisper & Clamour," during which the crowd surfing began. Anberlin continued with fan favorites like, "Paperthin Hymn" and "Unwinding Cable Car." At this point I was exhausted, as much as I wanted to see the rest of their set, I couldn't force my eyes open for much longer.

RevGen continues to top its line-up every year. And as far as Christian music festivals, it has one of the most diverse line-ups. I'm upset as I'm writing this though, because this year is probably the last year that I'll be at RevGen for awhile (I'm moving to Nashville next summer). But for those of you that will be in the Frenchtown area next September, don't miss out on one of the greatest Christian music festivals!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Revelation Generation: Saturday

For most people, Labor Day weekend is a time to get together with family and friends to celebrate the last weekend of the summer. For Christian music junkies in the New Jersey area, like me, Labor Day weekend is a time to see performances by some of the best bands Christian music has to offer at Revelation Generation Festival. Revelation Generation, or RevGen as it’s commonly referred to, has only been around for six years, yet the festival has already attracted thousands because of its diverse, top-knotch line-up, featuring artists from worship to folk to metal. RevGen boasts five stages: New York Stage (mainstream acts), Philadelphia Stage (alternative/metal acts), Nashville Stage (folk, pop, worship, and indie acts), Urban Stage (R&B, Rap, Hip/Hop acts), and Come&Live! Stage (mix of worship/metal acts mostly from the Come&Live! label).

As with previous years, RevGen had a fantastic line-up in store for attendees. The 2010 line-up included typical festival headliners such as tobyMac, Anberlin, and Skillet; artsy bands like Mae, solo-artist Dustin Kensrue, and Shawn McDonald; the line-up also included some unlikely artists, O.C. Supertones and Lou Gramm (formerly of Foreigner). This year RevGen took place on a Saturday and Sunday, departing from the typical Friday and Saturday, as in past years.

Britt Nicole was the first artist I was able to see at RevGen. She was very bubbly and energetic on stage, which certainly matched the personality of her two albums. Britt kicked off appropriately with “Welcome To The Show.” “Glow” and “Set The World On Fire,” followed, along with the spunky “Headphones,” which she dedicated to the ladies in the audience. Britt had a very engaging performance, but I had to leave halfway through her set to attend the Robbie Seay Band press conference.

Only two other media outlets joined the press conference with Robbie Seay, so it was very informal, which made for more personable and honest conversation. Robbie shared about the service work that his church, Ecclesia, has been involved in, (including the founding of Advent Conspiracy), as well as stuff about the band.

With a half an hour until The Almost’s set, I decided to watch BarlowGirl in the meantime. Unsurprisingly, the crowd for BarlowGirl was mostly female, but I did see a few guys singing along and one was even playing the air guitar. BarlowGirl once again had technical difficulties at RevGen. Last year it was a malfunctioning guitar pedal, this year, it was the guitar that malfunctioned. But BarlowGirl pulled through and it was one of the most enjoyable sets for me that day.

I almost didn’t recognize The Almost as I headed over to the Philadelphia stage. As I got closer I realized why, Aaron Gillespie had gotten a haircut. He explained that his dreads were starting to reek, so he chopped off most of his hair. The band played a well-balanced mix of popular tunes from their two albums. My favorite though, was a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” They brought intense energy to the song, and even though some of the crowd probably wasn’t familiar with Petty, they seemed to enjoy it. The Almost finished their set with the stirring “Amazing Because It Is.”

Robbie Seay Band was my most anticipated act of the evening. Robbie opened with “Love Invades” off of his most recent album, Miracle. Another uplifting worship song, “Song of Hope” followed. After the catchy “Crazy Love,” Robbie performed a more upbeat and pop-ier version of Jon Foreman’s “Your Love Is Song.” I was disappointed when the band’s set ended after only six or seven songs.

For a number of people, even including a few bands that had performed at RevGen, Dustin Kensrue was the highlight of RevGen. Most well-known as the lead singer for alt. rock/post-hardcore band Thrice, Kensrue’s solo music is authentic folk/acoustic. His performance was very informal and intimate, armed with just a guitar and harmonica. Kensrue started with “Pistol,” which definitely seemed to be a crowd favorite. Following a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Salsberry Hill,” was a song that I don’t know the title of, but that’s okay because Kensrue didn’t know the words. After the intro he abruptly stopped to ask someone in the crowd what the first line was to jog his memory. Kensrue later mentioned his appreciation of the crowd. He stated that he usually plays in secular environments and he thought it was cool that the RevGen audience understands the illusions in his songs. I really wanted to stay for his entire set, but I had to leave to finish homework (yes, I had homework due on a Saturday at midnight, blech). As I headed to my car I heard Kensrue playing an acoustic version of my favorite Thrice song, “In Exile.” Even though I’m only a casual fan, this ended up being my favorite performance of the whole festival. It’s very rare that I come across performances with such a feeling of authenticity as with Kensrue’s performance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Interview: Showbread

Showbread discusses signing to Come&Live!, their upcoming album, and tour plans for 2011 (free concerts!!!)

Showbread recently signed to Come&Live!. Can you describe how that label operates differently from other labels and why you decided to sign with them?

Josh Dies: Our friend Chad Johnson started Come&Live!. He was our A&R when we were on Tooth & Nail Records. And he left right before we did our last record on Tooth & Nail, and was like, “I’m gonna try to start a record label for ministry oriented bands, where they can give their music away for free and help facilitate that.” And we said, “That sounds awesome; when we finish our contract we might be a part of it.” So we were talking to him for a long time; we finished our last album with Tooth & Nail. It’s just a really high deal for a band like Showbread, that doesn’t care about any of the business aspect side of things or all the like stupid like, “How many records can we sell to make sure that we get on this tour,” or “to make sure that this store is gonna stock us” and all that crap. Instead, we could just say, “Let’s find a way to fund this thing, and then we can give it away.” And that’s what he wanted to do, and what we wanted to do. Right now, Come&Live! is still pretty new, but definitely here and now, on the verge of some really big breakthroughs. Essentially, all they want to do is facilitate bands like us to be able to tour full time and make music, give it away, and still be able to eat and go and play shows. So it’s definitely a groundbreaking approach to the industry.

Showbread had a fundraiser for its upcoming album, Who Can Know It. How did that go?

Josh: It went really well. We set out to raise $13,000 in 90 days. We raised the $13,000 in like 6 days. By the end of it we had raised $33,000, which is way more money than we would have been given on the huge record label that we were on. And we retain full rights of our music, and we can make the record we want to make, and give it away for free. And we have no traditional record label, so I’d say it went fantastically well.

Has the band begun production for the album yet?

Josh: No, it’s actually- in two weeks we leave to start recording. We’re recording through September and October.

What can fans expect with the new album?

Josh: Showbread.

Garret Holmes: They won’t know what to expect.

Josh: It doesn’t have anything in common with any album that we’ve made before, except for the band has the same name.

Garret: But it’s still gonna be good.

Josh: Oh yeah, and that it’s good. [To Garret] You should have been correcting me more on that!

Josh, I hear you’re working on a Showbread memoir? What’s the status on that?

Josh: I finished the first draft; right now the editor is working on it. It’s called The Joke We Play On The World. And it’s a pretty funny book- there’s a lot of really weird things in it that are true, but I think people will think that we’re not normal people after they read it. But maybe they’ll laugh, or maybe they’ll just be disgusted… I don’t know.

Showbread has it’s own video production company (In The Boat Productions). What projects have you guys been working on lately?

Josh: We just directed a video for The Ember Days, which is another band on Come&Live!, and it came out really good. We’ve been doing music videos and we make short films for fun. But it would be nice one day… we write screenplays and things like that. Who knows… knock on table.

For those who have never seen Showbread live, what should they expect at a Showbread concert?

Josh: It’s weird, it’s loud, and sometimes we throw things, and then that’s entertaining. You know, if nothing else is. You see a guy throw a guitar into a keyboard and everything falls down; that’s pretty cool. So, at the very least maybe something will break. There’s something in that for everyone, I think.

Any tour plans for the fall?

Josh: No, we’re gonna spend the rest of the year recording and then releasing the album, and then we might do some CD release shows for it. But at the beginning of 2011, we’re gonna do a long, national tour to support the record, and it’s gonna be completely free- the way the record is. So, all free shows and a free album. Can’t beat that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Review: Ascend The Hill's Take The World, But Give Me Jesus

One of the best aspects of music festivals is being exposed to a variety of bands. At Revelation Generation festival last weekend, I was encouraged by a few people to check out a worship band called Ascend The Hill. After watching only a few minutes of their set, I was hooked. Ascend The Hill recently crafted an album of hymns titled Take The World, But Give Me Jesus. Now, when I heard that it was an album of hymns, I admit I was a little bummed. It seems like every worship band is covering hymns these days. But Ascend The Hill’s renditions are so different (especially rhythmically and melodically) from the originals that they take on a new life entirely.

Take The World opens with “The Love of God,” which could easily be mistaken for an original modern worship song (I actually had to look this one up in my old, dusty hymnal to make sure it was a hymn). “How Great Thou Art” is one of the highlights of the album. The first few choruses have tense melodies that gain momentum throughout the song. After the bridge, the tension is released with a final build, creating a powerful chorus with the original melody. The album then shifts styles to a roots-y, acoustic rendition of “Rock of Ages.” What was one of my least favorite hymns instantly became a gem. Continuing in the somber vein, the title-track starts out quietly but builds to a resounding cry, “Take the world, but give me Jesus!”

I never liked the melody of “I Surrender All,” but Ascend The Hill’s version makes it listenable for me. “Hallelujah, What A Savior” begins with ethereal guitars and synths, and as with several other tracks on the record the hymn gradually builds into a tremendous chorus. “None Compare (Spontaneous Worship)” is the only original track on the record. As its name suggests, it’s spontaneous worship and an addendum of sorts to the previous song. Following is the most lyrically stirring hymn on the record. “Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go” was written in the 1800’s by George Matheson, who had a Job-like story. The most poignant lyrical passage of the hymn is the third verse, “Oh joy that seeks me through the pain/I cannot close my heart to thee/I trace the rainbow through the rain/and feel the promise is not in vain/That mourn shall tearless be.” The final track is the popular hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” After a slow build with soaring vocals, the hymn closes with a choir backed by a cello and acoustic guitar.

If you’re the type of person that finds yourself dissatisfied with the lack of creativity in modern worship today, Take The World is the album for you. This album (like other Come&Live! albums) is free, so there’s absolutely no excuse not to listen to it. Go download it at

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Interview: The Ember Days

At Revelation Generation Festival 2010, I had the opportunity to speak with Jason & Janell Belcher of The Ember Days about how the band got started, "signing" to Come&Live!, their new EP, and upcoming tour plans...

How did The Ember Days get started?

Janell Belcher: It started with Jason coming to America and meeting me. We met at Cornerstone Festival, and we got married at the end of that year. Then we moved to New Zealand and Jason had always wanted to start this band. And he basically just started it, he was like, "We’re gonna go to New Zealand; we’re gonna find the members; and start it." So that’s pretty much how it got started… through different friends- we have different friends who played with us; we went through a few members and stuff.

How did you come up with the name, The Ember Days?

Janell: It was paper, scissors, rock between The Ember Days and this other name at our first show- that’s how we came up with it. An old guitarist that we had discovered the name and really liked The Ember Days. So we had that one and the other one. It was just like, Okay, we’ll go with The Ember Days, since that one won.

What are some of you musical influences?

Janell: Dustin Kensrue is one of them, who we watched yesterday. Sigur Ros is one of our band’s musical influences, and Jimmy Eat World. Who else would you say?

Jason Belcher: I don’t know who this band is, but they’re awesome [referring to the music playing in the background].

Nicole (a friend of The Ember Days): It’s Fiona Apple.

Jason: It’s awesome.

Janell: I like listening to a lot of jazz, that’s only been in the last couple of years, like Etta James and stuff. And that’s really, definitely influenced me vocally. What else would you say? Explosions In The Sky?

Jason: I think there’s wide and ranging influences. From old jazz and Sigur Ros right through to a lot of hipper stuff, like Jordan really loves Advent and underOath- some of those real hard bands; I love them as well.

Janell: MuteMath.

Jason: Yeah, and the artsy bands like MuteMath, Thrice, and Coldplay. I love a lot of mainstream stuff as well. We listen to a lot of pop in our car because our CD player doesn’t work, and we don’t have an iPod adapter, so we listen to the radio. I listen to a lot of Katy Perry [laughs]…

Janell: That’s not our influences though.

Jason: Well if you listen to it obviously it’s gonna come out somewhere…

Janell: … eventually, in our next album [laughs]

Jason: Yeah maybe I’m gonna talk about my “Teenage Dream.” [laughs] No, but from all sorts of pop right through to everything, and lots of instrumental music. I listen to classical music a lot on the radio.

How did The Ember Days get signed to Come&Live!?

Jason: We broke into Chad [Johnson]’s house at gunpoint and said, "We’re gonna steal all your money unless you sign us." No, but the true story is actually we came over here when Chad was still working with Tooth & Nail. And different friends of ours were putting in good words with Chad like, "Oh, you should check out The Ember Days," from different Tooth & Nail bands. I think he was a little bit curious already, you know, to check us out. So we were doing this show in Albuquerque, New Mexico with The Glorious Unseen and us, and man, it was awesome. It was at this hardcore show; lots of kids came to know Jesus. This girl’s leg got healed; it was all backwards when she was born, and it just healed up. It was pretty cool because Chad was like, "I dig these guys," and we dig what Chad was doing and The Glorious Unseen. So it was like, We’re all about the same thing; this is totally gonna work. Chad was just thinking about starting Come&Live! back then. He was still at Tooth & Nail, and he was like, "I’m gonna be starting this new thing soon, I really want you guys to be involved with it." And so, with Come&Live! you don’t actually sign a contract. So we’re not actually signed; although, we are on Come&Live!. It’s not really a record label, but they do help you raise finances, and they do support you and your ministry, and they really try to equip you in whatever you do. What you do sign is what they call the “artist’s creed.” And the artist’s creed is pretty much just saying, and I’m summarizing, "I’m taking my faith and my art seriously, and I’m gonna devote myself and my art to the glory of God;" and it’s got a whole number of practical ways to do that. And you sign that you’re gonna be a good steward of what God’s given you. Because Chad got really sick of… he was promoting bands that weren’t promoting Jesus, and that got really old for him. So that’s why Come&Live! got started, because he wants bands to be passionate about Jesus, which the bands he picks are.

The Ember Days recently released Finger Painting EP. Can you tell us a little bit about the recording process?

Jason: Initially, we were gonna do a massive double-disc. It was gonna be epic- an instrumental CD and this huge full-length as well. But there’s developments happening with Come&Live! right now, so we decided to not release everything right now. So we packaged an EP of a chunk of songs that we play live all the time, that work really well together. The whole EP flows and that’s what happens live, so it just made sense. It’s kind of a cool thing; those songs, although they sound a little different, they fit together really well. So, it’s sweet as a standalone EP. But we wrote this and our upcoming record, which will be out next year, last year. We did pre-production in Nashville in…

Janell: …August, in that hot church.

Jason: Over a year ago in August/September [laughs] Yeah, it was horrible. There was no air-conditioning, in Nashville summer heat. Inside, we were like in our underpants just about…

Janell: …except me…

Jason: …just sweating, guitars dripping wet from your sweat, and trying to concentrate on writing and being creative in that environment.

Janell: We’d do a one-hour sesh, and then we’d go take a break because there was air-conditioning in the basement.

Jason: Yeah, it was so hard to concentrate. And then we started tracking it with Kevin Bruchert in late November and early December. And then we did more tracking January, and more tracking February, and more tracking in March.

Janell: It was like a whole winter-long project. We were planning on dropping quite a few of songs, because we had so many; we had 16 songs that we were recording.

Jason: It started off with 25 or 24, and we axed 6.

Janell: Yeah, before we even got into the studio we axed 6. And then we had 16 and we thought, Okay, we’ll just work with these and see what happens with them, and the ones we don’t like as much, we’ll just drop those. But once we finished, we saw all the songs through to the end. We loved all of them, and we’re like, Okay, now we have 16 songs. So that’s when we decided to do the double-disc. But then eventually it ended up being an EP and a full-length. So our full-length is not already mixed yet, but we’ve already recorded it, so we have something to release next year.

What do you hope listeners take away from this EP?

Jason: I hope they have an experience with God; that’s all I really care about- something of the beauty of God in the music, something of the heart of God in the music. I just hope they are filled with the fruit of the Spirit when they listen to it- joy, peace, all that good stuff. I mean, we find that’s what people seem to experience from our music anyway. Even last night, we talked to this lady who was saying she would just put our music on, and she would immediately feel peace. And it’s just like the fruit of the Spirit, you know? That’s good; that’s what I want people to experience, is God. Music is cool too, but God is way better.

Janell: With this specific EP though (obviously experiencing something of God like Jason said, which is how we want all our music to be), but I think with this EP I really feel that God’s gonna do lots of healing in people’s hearts through it. So that’s my prayer, I guess for it. It’s kind of a little journey. Even the order that it’s in and its track titles and stuff; it wasn’t really thought out; it just kind of fit together. But it starts with hope and then goes to “It Is Well” (all about going through a lot of crappy times, but finding peace), and then there’s “Rest,” and “Finger Painting,” and “Simple Song”(it’s just this awesome praise song). I pray that God brings hope to people, and healing and restoration, so that after experiencing the goodness of God by the end of the CD they’re ready to give back and worship. And then our next album is gonna be like a ton of worship and prayer; it’s totally different.

Jason: The next record is gonna be a lot different, a lot more intense. This EP is like you could just curl up in a corner and go to sleep. The next record is gonna be like [smacks his hands together].

Janell: [laughs] Yeah, they’re definitely different vibes, but it worked out great.

The Ember Days recently shot a music video with the guys from Showbread (In The Boat Productions). How did that go?

Janell: [laughs]

Jason: We’ve seen one edit; we made a few changes, so I haven’t seen that come back yet.

Janell: It was fun.

Jason: They’ve been playing some shows, so they’re still in the editing process. But yeah, it was an amazing process. It was really fun. We love those guys; they’re so solid, such an amazing group of guys and girls.

What song is the video for?

Jason: The video is for “It Is Well.”

Any tour plans for the fall?

Jason: Yup, we’re in fall now, right? We’re touring from here to California, and everything in between on the way. After that, we’re going to New Zealand at the end of this month. We’re doing a welcome home tour in New Zealand. And then we’re doing a tour with a hardcore band called Saving Grace at the end of November in New Zealand. And then December we have off, do a little bit more writing, go down to the beach and write some songs. Then next year we’re gonna do a Come&Live! tour in New Zealand in January; it’s gonna be great.

To learn more about The Ember Days visit

Also, check out their latest EP, Finger Painting at

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School: Arcadia University '11 Major: Accounting