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. Well done!
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 as well.
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 would be:
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 :)


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