Parachute 2002 Review
January 28, 2002
Edited January 31, 2002
Parachute Music Festival in Matamata is now over and
perhaps a little reflection is in order. I interviewed about 50 people
as well as being there and here's what the gossip is regarding the
largest Christian Music festival in the southern hemisphere. Some
negative things and some positive (in that order).
So here we go - remember, it gets better as it goes.
1) The main act from the UK, Delirious, was
an agreed washout. It wasn't that they were bad, it's just that they
weren't fantastic. They sang mostly old songs and they only sang.
There really wasn't much crowd interaction at all. I personally think
entertainment is more than just music. But one person commented, in
contrast, that one or two of the bands (despite having a terrible
mix) still brought them to their knees in worship. The Paul Colman
Trio being a celebrated one.
2) The lighting guys apparently thought it was very
cool to go to complete blackout at the end of every song. What's with
that?? It went to complete blackout something like eight times during
the Delirious concert and it was getting almost pathetic. One off
effect please, no more. It was like the concert came to an end 8 times
and left a rather disjointed feeling.
3) The sound guys apparently thought it was very cool
to turn the bass guitar and kick drum way up until you could hear
nothing else. Actually, you could hear everything but the sound guys
made a basic mistake of audio physics. The amount of energy contained
in that lower bandwidth was overwhelming to both the ears ability
to react and to the speakers ability to project sound evenly across
the audio spectrum. Basically, there was not a single person I could
find that said a nice thing about the sound mix for Delirious or most
of the other bands. Now for a music festival that's pretty serious.
A great pity I think, as I really quite like Delirious. You get the
same effect if you turn the Sub Woofer on a home stereo up to max.
There is such a thing as too much bass.
4) The Lads, New Zealand's own full time Christian
music band, simply rocked. The opposite of before, I couldn't find
anyone to say anything bad about their three sets. Very funny, enthusiastic,
and entertaining. On the main stage they avoided the use of the bass
guitar completely (from what I could see). The only problem remaining
on the mainstage mix being the ridiculous thump on the kick drum.
The thump from the Arena would move the air in your chest if you were
sitting on the other side of the Village!
5) The Global Village (the tent with all the Christian
Missions) is still sidelined out of the way of the wonderful money
making machine that is Parachute Music. With this much money it's
no surprise that the mission of Christ gets pushed out. It is still
out of the way of most people BUT the workers there (who must have
completed and signed the 6 pages of small printed rules for such workers)
seemed to be much happier than last year which is good news. James
Muir writes in his report, "it was a very valuable time, mainly
because of our improved location and layout as a community of Christian
Ministries and Missions within the whole Parachute set up." And,
even better, a small door was opened on both sides of the tent which
did encourage a certain amount of "walk-through." That's
the idea! BUT at night it was possible to miss the fact that there
was a whole tent of people behind the two small entrances. Perhaps
the bright flashing lights of Cultwatch are needed back again. A re-evaluation
of the money charged to various groups might also be considered. The
combination of high stall fees and strict Big-Brother rules against
handing out anything (like literature, teeshirts, or even printed
balloons) that might lead someone to Christ (or a worthy Christian
organisation) makes me think of either the capitalists or the facists!
Parachute needs to look at how Christian festivals overseas are run,
like Creation Fest. The orgainsers make sure the very best apologists,
speakers, and organisations are there. Free and deep thinking is encouraged,
not frowned upon -- even if it doesn't pull in a cent (but actually
it does because it's so popular!)
6) The topic speakers were generally of the warm fuzzy
feeling types, many of whom have not really studied the original languages
of the Bible, Greek and Hebrew. And as one wit put it, "I don't
think they've studied the Bible in the English version either."
There was a message about why you should have "prosperity"
and another about how you can describe God to New Agers as being the
flame on top of many different candles. Obviously I missed all the
good talks. The good folk from SOUL
were allowed to speak for 15 minutes (ooooooh) so it wasn't all bad.
Actually, my favourite time this year was hanging out at the SOUL
stand for an hour at midnight on Sunday night. We had a group of four
or five going full tilt in (probably quite academic) discussion on
everything from drug use, apologetics, terrorists, to The Lord of
the Rings. Thinking and apologetics is a great part of the Christian
festival and should be happily encouraged. At the moment it is not.
Why not? Music plays with the emotions, how about feeding the mind?
7) Organisation of other aspects to the festival seem
to be getting better and better. The numbers are estimated to be about
22,000 this year but it felt like there were less people because everything
ran so smoothly.
Electricity - very few drops and only short ones when it did.
Water, Sewage, Rubbish - Stunning work.
Security - the Police were in uniform this time around. I know
there have been problems in the past with tent security and the like
so it's good to see a more visible presence of the living Force, to
coin a phrase. They did look rather hot though. I didn't see any in
the usual fluro vest outfit.
Food - This has been good for several years. There seemed even
better access to drink, ice, and actually very reasonably priced food
Stalls - Rather bizarre groups to see at an ostensibly Christian
festival were apparently absent this year (eg. The Hare Krishna's,
and the Hands of Smelly Healing Power). I could have missed them in
all the general fun and hubbub but it sure looks like Parachute is
doing a good job on this. If you advertise a "Christian Festival"
then you could be done for misleading advertising and get in all kinds
of problems if someone's kiddie ended up in a cult promoted by the
same festival. On the other hand, I ate their food last year and it
was really yummy and cheaper than anything else.
General Fun - Yeah. Find a nice shady spot and wait until your
friends go past. Heck, chat to strangers, they're nice people. Watch
the clowns, other people watching the clowns, other people trying
to be clowns. Visit Allan the Candle Stick Dipper, or Steve the Orange
Interserver playing on his unicycle. Have a coffee, have a sugared
fizzy drink, but NO ALCOHOL! And wowee, we still have fun without
booze. Yes, a great advertisement for the plain fact that people are
even weirder and more enjoyable without necessitating blowing your
brain. Well done Parachute.
Well, I guess I'll finish there. Sorry for saying
"well done" repeatedly. Teachers get stuck on favourite
phrases now and then. Overall, however, the Festival was not rated
by my interviewees as being a particularly notable/good festival.
This was simply because of the shocking audio mix and the free speech
paranoia exhibited by Parachute Music. My suggestions for improvement
1) Get some good apologetics teachers in there (Steve Kumar, Max or
David Lane, or myself)
2) Give the missions guys a break and put them back in the center
of the action without so many pointless pages of rules
3) Maybe set up a "Soap Box Corner" with a microphone and
low powered amp so that anyone wanting to have a go preaching can
get their 8 or 10 minutes worth (with the usual prebook thing I suppose,
to avoid the more obvious nutcases.)
4) Get new sound technicians :)