July 31, 2008

‘Spirit’ Comes to Town: Monterey Festival Mixes Music, Fun and Worship

By Clarissa Aljentera, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.

Jul. 31--The pop music arrangements and speedy guitar solos heard at Laguna Seca Recreation Area this weekend could sound much like the contemporary bands on commercial radio.

There are bass lines that thump. Some artists sing about relationships. Others write lyrics about being saved.

But the Christian music festival that begins today for a three-day run sets itself apart from other concerts by the atmosphere and messages of faith that are promoted.

Matthew West's chart-topping "You Are Everything" talks about his feeling of nothingness without God. TobyMac's song "Lose My Soul" contains a line about shedding the materialistic lifestyle.

And the event that was created to give families a way to travel and spend time together has something for all ages.

"It is like a mini-camping festival and vacation," said festival spokeswoman Amy Cooper.

The vacation part is the thousands of tents set up alongside massive RVs in the recreation area. The festival portion includes the music with accompanying sales of T-shirts, jewelry and souvenirs.

Festivalgoers can opt to spend one day or all three days watching bands, assembling children's crafts or listening to speakers.

"It is really jam-packed," said Cooper, of the festival which has been at Laguna Seca for the past 12 years and is the largest non-racing event held there.

The 1,500 camping spots are almost sold out. Organizers are expecting crowds of between 10,000 and 15,000 to attend each day.

Organizers and music promoters say Spirit West Coast is similar to dozens of other Christian music festivals across the country that attract top artists and their fans.

"Summer is a festival season and there isn't a lot of touring in the summer," said Laura Anderson, who promotes tobyMac.

A Grammy nominee, tobyMac performs about 100 events a year, with a quarter of them during the summer as he bounces from coast to coast.

"It is generally 90 percent flying in the summer," Anderson said.

Part of the band was delayed in Southern California on Tuesday because of the 5.4 earthquake that rocked Los Angeles.

"People love coming to Spirit West Coast," Anderson said. "It is such a gorgeous setting and such a diversion from places like South Dakota. (Artists) love Spirit West Coast."

"During the summer, artists get to be part of a festival with great ambiance and atmosphere," said Anderson. "It is a fun time for the whole family."

Artists big and small hit eight stages today. Some of the 50 artists set to perform this weekend include Grammy nominees Newsboys, Third Day and Jars of Clay.

Other well-known groups are Skillet, Kutless, BarlowGirl, Hawk Nelson, Building 429, Thousand-Foot Krutch and Stellar Kart.

Clarissa Aljentera may be reached at 648-1171 or [email protected]

If you go --What: Spirit West Coast -- more than 50 bands on eight stages --When: Today through Saturday --Where: Laguna Seca Recreation Area --Tickets: $125 for three days or $59 for one day general admission. Children ages 6 to 12 are $70 for three days or $39 for one day. Children under 5 are free. --Online: www.spiritwest coast.org/home.php ------


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