Celebration 2001 took place April 7 and 8 at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. The "celebration" went much smoother than last year, when rain and freezing temperatures made the event a very different experience. I don't know if you can remember the weather on April 7 and 8 of this year, but I do and it wasn't freezing. In fact, the folks at the Kingdom could hardly have picked a better weekend for the event. The thermometer shot about twenty degrees above normal for both Saturday and Sunday. It's hard to believe now, considering we had snow on the ground on April 17, but the temperature got up to almost ninety degrees on that first day of Celebration 2001. With a little cloud cover throughout the day, it was an awesome time for riding rides and watching an outdoor concert.
The Looney Tunes Amphitheatre was the setting for the concerts. Women dominated the Saturday line-up, which included Out of Eden, Tammy Trent (my personal favorite), Aurora, and Whisper Loud. All of these have a similar sound: pop. There was nothing too "alternative" or "progressive" here. Just straight ahead pop music, with all performers singing and dancing to "tracks," with no live band.
Whisper Loud opened the show at about 3:30 p.m. They are a trio: Tessa Gaskill, Alana Carris and Keri Blumer, all under eighteen-years-old. They have a sound similar to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, which the crowd seemed to like fine. The group's debut Different Kind of Beautiful was just released in December, and it was the girls' first live performance in Louisville, so many in the audience were obviously unfamiliar with the music. Most of the crowd sat still and watched but responded loudly at the end of each song. Their set lasted just under thirty minutes.
Aurora, also making their Louisville debut, followed. The group is a trio, this time made up of three sisters: twins Rachel and Raquel Smith with older sibling Lauren. They are slightly older (lower twenties) but also have a sound like Spears and Aguilera. The group had a dance style similar to these as well. The crowd response was the same for Aurora as it was for Whisper Loud. Most people sat still but seemed to enjoy the music. With temperatures reaching nearly ninety degrees at this point, most folks were just glad to be sitting down.
Next up was Tammy Trent, who appeared on a smoke-covered balcony above the stage, dancing to one of the upbeat songs from her latest album Set You Free. Unlike Whisper Loud and Aurora, who could at least work off each other, Tammy had the carry the performance completely on her own. When her set began, the crowd reaction was similar to that of earlier in the day: most people sitting still and applauding at the end of each song. By the end of her set, she had the crowd on their feet for the first time all day. I have seen many concerts, and Tammy's performance that afternoon was one of the best I've seen in a long time. It wasn't great necessarily because of the music or Tammy's dance moves - it was great because she seemed to let the audience in on who she was as a person. She talked at length about her own "walk" and why she does she does.
Tammy talked about turning down a "mainstream" offer (that would force her to water down her lyrics) so that she could stick with singing Christian music. Yet one never got the sense that she was boasting about her faith -these were her earnest thoughts. It was a very Christ-centered time. It was a fun time too, with Tammy bringing members of the audience (the amphitheatre was about half-full at this point) on stage to help her sing the hit "Without You." She also played a drum solo (a drum set was already in place for next day's performers Caedmon's Call). If you are thinking "drum solo"? "This is pop music, not a hard rock concert"! Well, all I can tell you is that Tammy knows how to play, a drum set was there, and she just went for it! It was very cool to see (and hear). Throughout her set, which lasted nearly an hour, she sang her hits "My Irreplaceable," "Welcome Home," "It's All About You" and others like her new single "Light of Love." It was the first time I had seen Tammy perform, and I was thoroughly impressed. If you have a chance to see her, don't miss it.
The trio Out of Eden followed. If you are unfamiliar with their music, `Eden' (Lisa, Andrea, and Joy Danielle) have an urban-pop sound similar to Destiny's Child and T.L.C. They've been around for several years and were one of the first groups signed to Toby McKeehan's Gotee Records label. They sang and danced for over an hour, and the crowd loved `em, surrounding the stage and jumping to every upbeat song.
This was the third year of the "Celebration" weekend at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. I talked with park personnel who told me they plan on having another weekend featuring Christian music in 2002. Also, I emceed and got to work with many Six Flags staff involved with the event. They were all great and I thought it was very cool that the park chooses to bring in this music for their opening weekend. If you like this style of music, make sure to show them how much you appreciate it as well, by supporting Celebration 2002.
And of course I have to mention this: next month, the biggest Louisville Christian event of at least the last ten years comes to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. On June 21-24, The Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade will mark Dr. Graham's first Louisville speaking engagement in over thirty years. Musical guests include: DC Talk, Third Day, Michael W. Smith and others. Much more to come in LMN next month.