Spirit West Coast (SWC)-Monterey, the largest multi-day Christian music festival in the southwest United States, kicked off Thursday, drawing in an approximate 25,000 music fans from California and surrounding states.
Each day of the three-day event is expected to draw equal sized crowds to Laguna Seca, Calif., and more than 50 bands have shown up to play their hearts out for God.
The 11th annual concert series has been a testament to how much the Christian music scene has changed over time, becoming something that believers and even non-believers can enjoy.
"It's not (just) Amy Grant anymore," explained Lena Dix, a volunteer from Christian group Compassion International, which aids impoverished children around the world, to the Salinas Californian. "It's evolved a lot more."
As obviously the main highlight of the event, the festival has brought in the top names in Christian music from all varieties of genres to play on multiple stages. Performers include Switchfoot, Third Day, tobyMac, newsboys, David Crowder Band, Kutless, BarlowGirl, Sanctus Real, Falling Up, Family Force 5, Fireflight, Thousand Foot Krutch, and many more.
Through the new emerging trend in Christian music and the number of Christian bands that are beginning to become known in the mainstream, it is encouraging a number of new listeners who say it is moving away from its "cheeseball" reputation.
"You do rock out; it actually is cool to worship the Lord," said Jamie Lapeyrolerie to the Salinas Californian. "It's not just wearing long dresses and your hair in braids and singing a hymn. It makes it alive."
Alongside the performers will also be a number of activities including prayer tents, speakers, comedians, extracurricular activities, and other spiritual endeavors.
Organizers feel that the festival is vital in helping rejuvenate believers and to touch new souls with Christ's message.
"God spiritually meets our large 'festival family' when we gather each year, and we certainly expect Him to do so again in 2007," described Jon Robberson, SWC event director and producer, on the event's website. "Each year hundreds of people are spiritually revitalized and awakened. Salvation, encouragement, rededications, mended relationships...SO much can happen when people take time to put themselves in a place to hear from the Lord and be impacted by His Spirit."
SWC-Monterey is only one of two festivals put on by the SWC ministry. It's smaller and younger brother, SWC-Del Mar, was already held in late May for its fourth time. It was an expansion of the original festival held in Monterrey.
Cumulatively, the two concert series bring in 100,000 visitors and 40,000 "unique visitors."
The concerts boast their accessibility to a number of age groups and hope to cater to families where all members can have a good time.
"We encourage you to come and enjoy ALL that Spirit West Coast-Monterey has to offer," concluded Robberson. "There will be almost 100 separate concerts and teaching sessions...just for you! When you're basking in the Spirit West Coast experience, remember to take time to get tuned in to the event's true purpose and experience three days that just may change your life forever!"