For thirteen years, Purple Door Festival has been the premiere alternative / rock festival for Christian related acts on the east coast. As sort of a glorified Fringe Stage at Creation Festival expanded to a full day plus an opening night, Purple Door is perfect for those looking for edgier Summer entertainment. Purple Door Festival 2008 kicked off on Friday night, August 15th, boasting name talent like headliners Skillet, Red, and newcomers Seabird, along with a side stage performance from Spoken. Although we would have loved to experience the first night, we didn't make the trip. However, JFH staff member Kevin Hoskins was in attendance, and had this to say about the fest's first night...
The end of summer means different things to many people, but to me it means Purple Door Festival. The weekend of concerts at Ski Roundtop in Lewisberry, PA never seems to fail; let's see how this year started off...
Our first show of the evening was New Jersey based indie act Kronicles, who played at the Gallery Stage. The new band showed a comfortable stage presence as they played some good rock tunes. Spoken was next to hit up the Gallery Stage which seemed a little odd to me since it's usually the newer/lesser known bands that play this particular stage. But after meeting up with Matt of Spoken, he explained that Purple Door coincided with a show they'd already scheduled in Chicago, and they ended up rearranging the typical plan a bit. Despite being on the smaller stage, Spoken put on a wonderful show; they played a well constructed mix of the band's last three albums which encompassed a wide of range their hard and slow stuff very well.
When Spoken finished up, we ran over to the Main Stage to catch the end of Red's set. We made it in time to hear crowd favorites "It's Already Over," "Pieces," and "Breathe Into Me" where Red characteristically had the crowd wrapped around their fingers. Then it was time for rock veterans Skillet to make their way onto the Main Stage. Front man John Cooper and company delivered an excellent grouping of songs from Collide and Comatose. They didn't delve into many of the older songs, possibly due to the emergence of new drummer Jen Ledger, who actually sang a few notes with John during "Yours To Hold." For their stellar performance, Skillet was awarded "show of the night" in our car ride to the hotel that night. Purple Door started off strong on Friday - filled with inspirational speakers and great music - setting the stage for a fantastic festival weekend... ~ Kevin Hoskins
We arrived bright and early Saturday morning, unfortunately missing Main Stage opening act Calling Out Closer. As we walked from our car (What is up with having to pay for parking?! Granted, it was only $2, but that's a first, and I'm sure it'll only escalate with each year...) to the ski lodge, you could hear the amusing clash of the melodic sounds of Calling Out from Main while Neocracy emitted guttural growls from the HM Stage on the other side of the festival grounds. While we sadly missed Calling Out Closer, be sure to keep an eye out for this new talent. They won a Warehouse 54 Battle of the Bands contest to play Main at Purple Door and we were blessed to be a part of the selection process. Luckily, we had arrived in just enough time to catch all of the 10:45am slot from Wavorly on Main Stage. Opening with an original instrumental piece, the former Flicker Records act performed several cuts from their debut Conquering The Fear Of Flight, while introducing two new cuts as well. "Part One" served as the lead off song, before the band immediately - and without introduction - moved into the first new song of their set. "Time I Understood" followed, before "Forgive And Forget" and the second new song - the memorable set highlight "Time Won't Turn Back." To close their six-song set, the group ended on a high note with the Conquering The Fear Of Flight opening track, "Madmen." Wavorly was a fine addition to the Purple Door lineup and a great way to kick off the Saturday morning of music (well... it was a kick-off for us, anyway).
Purple Door Festival staple John Reuben was next. Love him or hate him, Reuben remains as one of the best emcees and entertainers around. I was concerned about John's 11:30am time slot, but after he began (Oh, Sleeper was also performing on the HM Stage and The Glorious Unseen was worshipping on the Gallery Stage), it was great to see his audience begin to grow in size throughout the duration of his set. John Reuben opened with "Universal" from his latest release, Word Of Mouth, before breaking out an old classic, "Do Not," and the new favorite "Make Money Money." John paused to share with the audience that their love for Jesus is why he and his band perform, and joked that the sound of The Glorious Unseen's set on the other stage was throwing him off. The title track from Word Of Mouth was next, followed by "Good Evening," and John closed his fun and interactive hip hop show with "Doin."
At this point, the Main Stage was finished until a speaker was to step up around 1:30. We headed over to the Gallery Stage to catch some of Farewell Flight's set, but bumping into an old friend kept us from reaching it, and we missed them completely. By the time we reached the Gallery Stage, indie act Timbre was playing. It was merely Timbre Cierpke with her fragile vocals accompanied by one other member of the band on stage when we arrived. While hearing it from a distance wasn't too flattering, up close Timbre produced an entrancing sound and presence. The pair were a perfect match for a Gallery Stage performance. Afterwards, we caught a few songs from The Showdown's brutal metal performance on the HM Stage sometime after its 2:15pm start. While their previous, more melodic metal album (Temptation Come My Way) wasn't received quite as well, their latest release, Back Breaker, returns them to the growling "high voltage" metal their debut established. Among tracks from their first release, they played the title track from their new record as well as a few other new cuts. The metal fans in attendance ate up the band's raucous show, and the guys even pulled a young, longhaired fan onto the stage to get a short moment in the spotlight as The Showdown's vocalist. My curiousity over Bradley Hathaway's poet-turned-musician performance pulled us in the direction of the Main Stage, but upon arrival, Hathaway's final notes were being strummed to close his 2:00pm set. Some mingling followed, and we returned to the Gallery Stage sometime after The Mint's set for a relaxing afternoon.
When the underwhelmingly named Foxhole took the Gallery Stage at 3:40pm, it took a song or two to figure out just what it was we were listening to. The Bowling Green, Kentucky ambient indie act performed solely instrumental offerings. With their front man performing the trumpet into the lead mic, the six-piece band proceeded to play a unique array of songs, ranging from the melodic to the not-so. It was when their songs followed more of a structure that their music was more appealing. At times, the band opted for a more dissonant approach, which seemed forced and abrasive. In the relaxed setting that is the Gallery Stage, Foxhole's approach worked best when it was more soothing to the ears. And at times, a cup of cappuccino would have been just the perfect compliment to their set (note to Purple Door -- we don't care if it's hot, the Gallery Stage needs a coffee bar! Even frappuccino would be nice). After Foxhole, Denison Witmer was up. Denison's placid stage presence as a sole vocalist with his only accompaniment being his acoustic guitar and pensive folk songs was an interesting contrast to Foxhole, but was in the right place on the Gallery Stage. Still nothing was happening at the Main Stage while August Burns Red was busy closing out the day's events over on the HM Stage. Witmer performed a few fan favorites as well as some new songs, explaining that one of the new songs was inspired by some mistakes he had made (while the lyrics seemed to hint at a kind of romantic affair). He shared often about the songs, always candidly and vulnerably, albeit in an as melancholy a fashion as the songs themselves, and performed a rare offering, titled "Two And A Glass Rose" (which will only be available on the vinyl version of his new album).
After Witmer's set, Derek Webb was slated to perform, but we left the Gallery Stage to say goodbye to some friends who were hitting the road early, and mingled with a few others before returning to the Main Stage for the 6:30pm slot by We Shot The Moon. Fronted by former Waking Ashland singer, Jonathan Jones, We Shot The Moon performed a decent indie rock / piano pop set, playing songs from their Militia Group debut, Fear And Love, including "Sway Your Head." Their set was a good way to reopen the main stage, but not much about their songs stood out from others out there like them. Sometime after 7pm, Purple Door co-founder Kurt Weaver stepped up to offer a salvation message to the festival-goers. Now a minister and no longer as heavily involved with the Creation Concerts program as before, it was strange to see someone who normally is seen acting behind the scenes now on stage pouring his heart and soul out. Weaver shared the Gospel message, pleading for those listening to consider giving themselves over to Jesus. Immediately after Kurt's message, Tooth & Nail worship band The Glorious Unseen lead worship for the audience, along with Timbre bringing harp accompaniment. Glorious Unseen is probably the ideal choice for an alternative worship band (although, Leeland's presence from last year's fest was missed this year), but the crackly vocals from vocalist Ben Crist are still an acquired taste. Regardless, they carry a good vibe that works for Purple Door.
After the chill afternoon, we were getting pretty anxious for a set to really get excited about. Sadly, Sherwood wasn't it. We'd seen Sherwood on tour with Relient K and Mae, and weren't overly impressed, but this set only seemed to be even more disappointing. The nasally, high pitched vocals were tough to get used to (as they sound a lot higher live than on the actual recording), and it wasn't until closer to the end of their set with songs like "Song In My Head" or "For The Longest Time," that the band seemed to hit their stride. For fans of the band in attendance, the group played a new song for the first time ever live, entitled "What Are You Waiting For," from a forthcoming release. But with songs like "Middle Of The Night," "Learn To Sing," and "Give Up!", their seven-song set just seemed overlong... especially knowing that Disciple was up next.
Following a set change, hard rock act Disciple burst into their set with the infectious rocker "Someone," keeping the energy high and frenzied with "Game On," "Scars Remain," and "Love Hate (On and On)" succeeding. With a lot of new faces in Disciple's member lineup, it still came as a surprise to hear front man Kevin Young introduce each member along with what band they used to belong in, including acts like Staple, Falling Up, and Capital Lights. But the band played well together. And now as a five-piece instead of a quartet, there seemed to be even more energy from them on stage. Young shared about their faith in Jesus and played the set's only slow song, "After The World," before busting out the opening track from their latest record, Scars Remain, "Regime Change," and reaching back a bit to play "Into Black" from their self-titled release. And following the band's most popular hit, "The Wait Is Over," Disciple debuted a brand new song, the title track from their October release, Southern Hospitality. As a slightly more southern-flavored hard rock track, it fit right in with the rest of their set and teased of great things ahead. With that, the group closed with "Rise Up" from their self-titled album and left the stage.
When you think of headliners, Tooth & Nail Records alternative/indie act Emery doesn't exactly come to mind. However, neither does mewithoutYou, who served as last year's closing act. But to remind everyone that this is Purple Door and not Creation or any other more mainstream Christian fest, Emery ended up working well as a closer. Surprisingly, Emery actually emerged into the spotlight in a way I'm sure few expected. After lead vocalist Toby Morrell came out to sing an intro, the rest of the band followed donning mexican "lucha libre" wrestling masks, with Morrell slipping one on himself. It wasn't too long before the guys shed the masks and got down to business, playing fan favorites like "Ponytail Parade," "Don't Bore Us, Get To The Chorus," "Rock N Rule," and "Miss Behavin'." Toby often swapped vocals and bass with fellow bassist Devin Shelton, while wild man keyboardist/screamer Josh Head even hopped over to a second drum set at times. This kept things unpredictable, interesting, and very entertaining, but Morell's vocals and stage presence were considerably stronger than Shelton's, and it seemed that the best songs live featured mostly Morell providing lead. After a brief introduction encouraging those struggling with thoughts of suicide to seek help, the band launched into "What Makes A Man A Man." From there, the guys played a selection of cuts from their catalog of records, including "Listening To Freddie Mercury," "Studying Politics," and the highlight "You Can't Stop The Killer." It did sort of surprise me, though, to see a band like Emery serve as the headliner at Purple Door. With an evening message so heavily devoted to salvation, it seemed odd to have a headliner that's pretty mum about their faith from the stage, and play songs that are light on the spiritual content.
Purple Door 2008 may not have been the festival's biggest year with its strongest lineup, but the festival still delivered a nice mix of indie, alternative, metal, and rock acts for the music fans with a taste for the more underground scene. Purple Door still remains to be one the staple late summer events each year.-- John DiBiase, 8/23/08
Wavorly: Saturday, Main Stage
John Reuben: Saturday, Main Stage
Timbre: Saturday, Gallery Stage
The Showdown: Saturday, HM Stage
The Mint: Saturday, Gallery Stage
Foxhole: Saturday, Gallery Stage
Denison Witmer: Saturday, Gallery Stage
We Shot The Moon: Saturday, Main Stage
The Glorious Unseen / Timbre: Saturday, Gallery Stage
Sherwood: Saturday, Main Stage
Disciple: Saturday, Main Stage
Emery: Saturday, Main Stage
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