Snake petting, camping in a hideous thunderstorm, sprinting between stages to catch your fave artists. It all builds character, you know. Big Church Day Out is growing quickly, not just because of the artists it attracts but also because of the experiences it provides.
Such is the popularity of the event that it now has two flavours – Big Church Day Out North and Big Church Day Out South. We checked out the South edition over the late May bank holiday weekend.
An incredible Big Church Day Out 2017 was blessed up by what we thought was the best performance we’ve ever seen at the festival. The honour goes to rapper Andy Mineo. What he did in his Main Stage set was legendary. He gave a phenomenal performance and the crowd responded with crazy amounts of noise and energy. He even stage dived. Well, kinda.
Opening up the Main Stage on the Sunday isn’t an easy spot to have. There’s little to warm up the crowd and the numbers aren’t anywhere as big as those for artists later on the bill. But at a festival of this magnitude, even an opener can draw big enough crowds, especially if you’re Andy Mineo. He was keen to mix it up with the fans on the Main Stage and his second set on the Illuminate Stage included some brand new material. One was a Caribbean influenced track we were particularly keen on.
All said, Sunday had most impressive lineup but that didn’t mean the opening day was lacking, especially if Michelle Williams had anything to do with it. The former Destiny’s Child star was the first act we saw this year and it was a great start to our weekend. The weather that was dull but all it took was the reggae notes of One Thing Remains and the Donnie McClurkin Caribbean Medley to bring the sun out. But one thing that shone even brighter was Michelle’s personality – not just here but in her interview in the UCB tent later in the day. In her Main Stage performance she quickly ditched the cute heels for flats so she could give the show she felt she needed to give. We loved it.
It’s awesome when you get to stumble across something unexpected at Big Church Day Out and that happened twice within the space of an hour. The After Hours portion of the festival, which is exclusive to campers threw up some surprises. The beautiful church at the heart of the Wiston estate played host to an unbilled performance from Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman. No mics, no electrics, no hype. Just pure talent, an amazing voice and lots of candles. The setting just worked.
Then there was a super secret silent disco. Again unbilled but word got around enough to fill the tent with dancers who enjoyed music from three DJs across three separate channels. It was an experiment we were told. It should be repeated if you ask us.
Fully loaded Sunday
Sunday, then. It wasn’t all about Mr Mineo. There was also the small matter of seeing Mary Mary bringing their legendary back catalogue to the Main Stage. Shackles was there, of course. But so was a host of gems including tracks we haven’t heard for a long time, including songs from Incredible. We count that as a gospel music Mount Rushmore album by the way. Mary Mary were really good and a welcome addition to this year’s stacked second day.
Heading up the Sunday were Rend Collective and Reuben Morgan from Hillsong Worship. It’s always great to see Rend Collective. Everything they sing and everything they say is full of biblical truths. As a result, the message of their music is heartfelt and indisputable. It’s also very joyous. And we can’t overlook the fact that at one point they decided to wear panda heads. Random.
What a beautiful set
Hillsong closed out the main portion of the festival. It was the first time we’ve seen them headline BCDO since 2010. We’d missed them. Easily one of the best headline sets we’ve seen. They opened with This Is Living, with LZ7’s Lindz doing Lecrae’s verse. It wasn’t the same but few can pull off a good Lecrae to be fair. But it was when songs like What A Beautiful Name started up that we knew this was a special night. Yes, these are songs that they sing every week at the Dominion Theatre in Central London but here they were given a extra dimension because there were fewer boxes they had to tick elsewhere.
We were initially concerned that the creation of a second event up north would dilute crowds in West Sussex. We needn’t have worried. Big Church Day Out still lived up to its name. In fact, it was huge. It’s an event that is always evolving so who knows what they’re going to throw up for next year?