Don’t let anybody tell you that putting up a tent in the middle of a downpour is fun. It isn’t. Far from it, actually. But that was the prelude to what was an otherwise near perfect weekend. And we’re not just talking about the weather.
This year, the Big Church Day Out was two full days of behemoth headliners, undiscovered gems and unbridled worship. Oh,and 24,000 people from all over the country to make the weekend completely epic. The event was bigger than ever, with more acts, stages and experiences to get involved with. In fact, there was so much that it was impossible to cover everything. So we didn’t try – we just cherry picked, and took it all in.
Our day started on the Illuminate Stage with Seth & A New Thing, followed by Seth & Nirva – two acts that we flagged in our pre event coverage. They were both fantastic. We were also give the full introduction to J Vessel, who has just signed with Light Records (home of LZ7) and who is about to release his debut album. He’s so at home on the stage and we see big things for his future.
Over on the main stage, we saw Toby Mac. It was the first time we’ve seen him since BCDO 2010 but he wasn’t any less forthcoming or enthusiastic. He brought over a full Diverse City band, including a horns section. Every band should have a horn section. Just saying. Anyway, Toby Mac knows exactly how to put on a stage show without making it all about him. It’s a talent in itself.
Take me to church
We love it when it comes to the headline acts at Big Church Day Out. The artists have more time to play with and you have less sense of them rattling through a set list. It feels less like a performance and more like church. Only with 24,000 congregants. Guiding us through the free flowing worship on Saturday were Jesus Culture and Tim Hughes. As the sun set, everything just felt right for an end of day experience.
How do you start a day feeling like you’ve been shot out of canon? Easy. Invite Faith Child and Guvna B to open up the Main Stage. It was during this performance that we realised this day was going to be baking hot – just what the doctor ordered. Our natural choice would be to see the likes of LZ7 and Twelve 24 on the Illuminate Stage but we decided it was far to glorious to be doing anything too energetic.
Step forward the CSW Airstream Stage. It was literally a stage baked into the side of a van. It never commanded crowds in their thousands but it was perfect for what we wanted. There were plenty of hay bales and picnic blankets and we enjoyed some brilliant singer songwriters. We checked out another one of our picks Lily Jo, as well as Bunderland and Rob Halligan. This type of weather and this type of stage is perfect for folk music so we filled our Wellington boots with it. Divine.
The big three
The came the big three. Tye Tribbett, Phil Wickham and Matt Redman. If you asked us before the show, the artist we ere most looking forward to, our answer would have been Tye Tribbet. The good news then is that he didn’t disappoint. It was our first time seeing the gospel heavyweight and it was every bit as good as we hoped it would be. And then some.
By the time we got to Matt Redman, we knew we were in for something special. For an artist like Matt with so many well known hits, everybody could get involved. And everyone did.
This might surprise you. Some of our personal highlights came after the main stages closed for the night. One thing we have to applaud BCDO for is their programme of after hours events they put on exclusively for the campers. A campfire, comedy club, more live music.
We can’t go any further without talking about Newworldson. Yes, they were one of our pre-event picks but even we didn’t know they would be that good! They kept the party going in the packed Tearfund Tea Tent and it was an incredible way to end the weekend. Soul, blues, latin and funk styles combined to create something really magic. It felt spontaneous, with out-of-this world improv solos. Trust us, you need to see these guys live.
Also as part of the after hours activities, but on the Saturday, was the debut of the Comedy Tent. We’re mentioning this here because it was unexpectedly good. It had a different vibe to the rest of the show and gave us the chance to have a good giggle. John Archer gave us a textbook lesson of why you shouldn’t sit in the front row at a comedy club. We felt a bit sorry for the poor victims but they were great sports. It was also where we had an acoustic Philippa Hanna set that miraculously didn’t feel like it was clashing with being on the same bill as a comedy magician.
And finally, there was Tye Tribbett. Tye showed us first hand why he’s one of the best in the business. Mostly singing his newer tracks, we were pleased a couple of our favourites featured. Where does that guy get his energy from? Answers on a postcard. Needless to say, he smashed it completely out of the park.
We’re such huge fans of Big Church Day Out because the variety is vast and the sense of community is as important as the music. But as well as all this, we have one suggestion. Extreme weather tent assembly should be an Olympic sport. It might be something Britain could actually be good at!