Unfortunately not everything about our AtlantaFest 2014 trip made the highlight reel. Here are four things that left room for improvement.
Chair placement restrictions
The crowd this year was uncharacteristically mello and I believe the new restrictions on chair placement was a significant contributor. Many of the attendees at AtlantaFest enjoy sitting in their chairs for a large portion of the day. After all, it is typically very hot—this year was an exception...thank you GOD—and people are out there for hours. In years past, people were allowed to place their chairs, blankets and coolers pretty much anywhere in the field, getting as close to the stage as they wanted. This year, standing and blankets only were allowed in the front 30 or 35 yards (just guessing) from the stage, pushing a significant percentage of the crowd backward, away from the action. I think the net result of this was that many bands struggled to get crowd participation and energy.
In all likelihood, adding the second stage to the main field area contributed to the chair restriction decision. By pushing the chairs back from both stages, it balanced more people between the main stage—which was straight ahead—and the smaller stage which was to our left. Had chair-sitters been allowed to move closer to the main stage, it would have placed the artists playing on the smaller stage at an even more difficult angle (think seven o'clock), negatively impacting their sets. Thankfully, there was a nice screen broadcasting the smaller stage performances straight ahead so we didn't have to get up and turn our chairs each time someone took one of the two stages.
I'm not sure I have a solution on how this could be resolved, other than to reduce the depth of the chair-restricted area. This is one thing I'd like to see changed for future years, but not at the expense of the removal of the second stage from the main area.
More of the 'partial gospel'
I've written a lot about salvation and incomplete gospels at chasingalion.com, so I'm not going into detail here. Any version of the "good news of Jesus" that leaves out what the Bible teaches about when and how our sins are washed away is, in reality, a tragedy because the result is individuals believing they have been forgiven, but just like Saul of Tarsus who believed but was still in his sins, these new believers have not had their sins washed away by calling on the name of the LORD in obedience (see Acts 22:16).
We knew before we bought our tickets last December that the partial gospel would be presented. Last time, it bothered me so deeply I was unable to enjoy myself as much. So this time, I prayed for GOD to help me to be able to still enjoy the good parts of the trip and, obviously, to do whatever I can to make a difference in helping people to see what He has spoken about receiving forgiveness of sins.
The Ongoing Concept
It feels kind of wrong to single out a band for a "bad" performance. Unfortunately, no AtlantaFest 2014 review would be fair without discussing The Ongoing Concept's set. Wow! I'm really struggling to find the appropriate words to describe their performance. Honestly, it was pretty uncomfortable—like watching a multi-car pileup unfold. There was some serious rage and antics unloaded. The lead singer began the set by standing in the field about 15 yards in front of the stage, yelling indiscernibly and running around like a crazy guy. Later, the guitar player and the base player accidentally collided as they were crashing around on stage. The lead singer attempted some form of stage dive, only there was no one there to catch him. I was worried he had really hurt himself. And at one point, the bass player suffered a nose bleed, probably from hitting himself with his guitar somehow. There was probably more screaming than singing. At one point, the guitar player announced that their last show was at a kid's birthday party and they made all the kids cry. Not good. I think they were the only performer who ended with less of a crowd than when they started.
Without question, the best part of The Ongoing Concept's performance was one of the band members playing The Peanuts theme song.
Mercifully, the madness only lasted about 40 minutes. Since we returned, I have listened to some of The Ongoing Concept's music on YouTube and it is much better than this performance—but I wouldn't buy what I've heard so far. Hopefully this serves as a learning and growing experience for them.
Arrows Before Bullets
Persistent "How’s everyone doing?"
Lastly, with the subdued crowd situation, naturally our "emcee" and some bands felt the need to try and pump everyone up. I get that. But the frequency of "How's everybody feeling, AtlantaFest?!?" and similar questions really, really got old. It got to the point that I could predict it consistently and, once you pick up on something like that, it's hard not to key in on it every time.
Overall, we had a great time and are thankful to all the people who put in long hours and hard work to pull off AtlantaFest each year. I'm very thankful for the opportunity it provides to hear such good, GOD-focused music in a beautiful setting like Stone Mountain Park. I fully expect us to return again in future years, as we have opportunity. Thanks for reading.