The 2011 Fandana Music Festival
Steve Dennie, Communications Director
The first Fandana Festival proved to be a huge success for Huntington University. The three-day festival, August 11-13, 2011, began on Thursday afternoon (August 11), led up to a big concert on Friday night, and concluded with a small worship service (for anyone still there) on Saturday morning.
The university estimates that up to 1500 people attended on Thursday, and over 3000 attended on Friday. Over 30 bands participated. The weather, both days, was gorgeous.
Where’d the name “Fandana” come from? It’s just a made-up, catchy word. But unofficially, I’m told, it means “good times, good fun, and good music at Huntington University.” That’s the image they want in people’s minds when they hear the word Fandana.
They gave me a press pass, so around 5 pm on Thursday, August 11, I headed over to the campus to catch some good music.
Fandana: Day 1
Fandana is a big deal. At least a thousand people would be attending. I heard thoughts of maybe 3000 people coming before it was all over. Hard to tell with a first-time thing like this. But the college seemed ready, with volunteers everywhere, places roped off, plentiful signs, and all kinds of little extras. This took a healthy dose of planning to put together. And there’s still time to come for the big Friday night finale with Todd Agnew, Superchick, Attaboy, and Switchfoot!
After getting my pass in the Merillat Physical Education Complex, I traipsed over to the Fine Arts building, where bands had been performing in the main auditorium–the Orange stage–since 4 pm.
I heard Reilly, a five-member band from Philadelphia, that I just loved. The show opened with two members–husband and wife–coming onto the stage playing “All the Lonely People” on violins. The girl played violin during most of the songs, and a little keyboard. The guy mostly played lead guitar, but occasionally would sling it onto his back and go play some mean violin with his wife. I tell you, it was a beautiful sound! I’ve never heard a rock band combine violins so effectively. Plus, they gave a solid, but brief, presentation of the gospel. (I should mention their incredible version of “For What It’s Worth,” the “there’s something happening here” classic from Buffalo Springfield.)
Throughout Reilly’s performance, more and more people trickled in, until the lower section was decently populated, with others in the upper section. Probably a dozen kids stood in front of the stage. I must say, I didn’t care for the dark, foggy atmosphere on stage. I couldn’t see the performers well–way too much shadow, and no spotlights hitting them from the front (that I could see). I don’t know if that mood atmosphere was intentional, or the result of a fog machine gone rogue. But I didn’t care for it (though I realize I’m not the target demographic).
After Reilly came two guys from Nashville who called themselves 33 Miles. I’m sure there’s a story behind the name, but I didn’t hear it. They sat on stools, with one guy singing lead vocals and the other playing acoustic guitar and harmonizing. The crowd loved them. A lot of energy between them, and they connected with the crowd. The guitarist reminded me of Kristian Bush from Sugarland. Their second-to-last song was a nicely-done version of David Crowder’s “How He Loves.”
They finished just before 8 pm. Another group, 77 Times, was scheduled to play next. But at the same time, Stellar Kart was playing out on the Red Stage outside. Nearly everyone cleared out of the auditorium. I decided to hear a few songs from 77 Times before leaving. But after 1 song, I realized they weren’t quite my cup of tea, so I headed out.
Ashley Smith, who works in the university media relations, gave me a ride in an electric cart out to the Red Stage, which was set up on a field along Route 24, a field sometimes used for soccer practice. It made a nice, mini-Woodstock venue. As Stellar Kart jammed (they were my kind of band!), people sat on blankets or in chairs they had brought, while others threw frisbee rings. There was a hot air balloon, and a long line of people at a cart selling coffee products–coffee, tea, mocha, latte, and smoothies. There were a lot of younger kids with parents. A good-sized crowd stood in front of the stage listening to the band. A big screen to the side showed the performers in large.
Stellar Kart did two Disney songs in kind of a rock/grunge style (I’m not good at differentiating contemporary music styles). One was “Kiss the Girl,” from The Little Mermaid, followed by “A Whole New World.” I could imagine Foo Fighters doing those songs, though I could understand all of the words. (Thanks for enunciating!)
After Stellar Kart finished, there was a ten-minute lull during which headliner BarlowGirl got set up. The big screen was filled with scenes from Huntington University–students, profs, athletics, classes, etc. Good marketing opp.
I’d never heard BarlowGirl before, though I know they’ve come through Fort Wayne. I was quite impressed. They rocked the place, that’s for sure. Three girls, and a guy on drums, for the first couple songs. Then the lead singer switched to drums, the bass guitarist moved over to lead vocals along with some keyboard, and the drummer took bass. I liked them a lot.
BarlowGirl started playing at 9 sharp, right on time. I stayed for about a half hour before deciding I needed to leave. But I left excited about what Huntington University was pulling off. And with anticipation to coming back the next day, when the REALLY big crowds were expected. Bands would play on the Orange Stage all day, beginning at 9 am. Then at night would come the headliners. Yes, this 54-year-old with one bad ear is looking forward to it.
Fandana: Day 2
I returned on Friday, August 12, for the evening concert at the outdoor “Red Stage,” set up on the soccer practice field, right along Route 24.
I enjoyed the music, but I was most taken by the family-friendly atmosphere. It wasn’t just teens and young adults. There were people of all ages–lots of older baby boomers, lots of young children (including a number of strollers), and everywhere in between. Remember: today’s 60-year-olds came of age during the 1960s; they grew up on rock music.
People brought their own chairs, or lay on blankets on the grass. The young-adult set thronged around the stage, standing up throughout the concert (that’s what young people do–that, and a lot of jumping). Children scampered around being children. People on the fringes threw frisbee rings. I didn’t see anyone smoking.
A bunch of rented inflatables were set up for kids. Just behind the sound booth, women in clown suits were face-painting children and drawing caricatures. Norm the Forester (the HU mascot) and the Star 88.3 mascot (a star, of course) wandered through the crowd. A few older folks sat their chairs clear back in the pine trees along the highway, far from the stage. But the sound level, in my opinion, was pretty tame compared to most rock concerts.
When I arrived around 6 pm, Todd Agnew was performing. He mostly did worship music (his forte), and then gave a 20-minute talk before concluding with a few more songs, including his “Grace Like Rain” take on “Amazing Grace.”
Then the evening kicked into Christian rock mode, with Huntington University’s own Attaboy sandwiched between headliners Superchick and Switchfoot. All were good, and similar. As the sun set, hundreds of colorful glow rings were distributed. People wore them around necks and wrists and ankles, and as darkness descended, it made for quite a colorful sight as you looked over the crowd.
Switchfoot, as planned, took the stage around 9:30. An After Party was held in the Merillat Centre for the Arts at 11 pm, but I was long gone by then.
I appreciated Fandana’s emphasis on two causes: human trafficking, and child soldiers. Two Christian organizations which focus on these causes, TrafficJam.org and Project AK-47, were promoted throughout the event. The organization names were prominently displayed above the stage, the whole stage backdrop illustrated these causes, and an offering was taken on Friday night.
This was the inaugural Fandana Festival. For a first-time thing, it seemed (to me) to go amazingly well. HU plans to make it an annual event, and will announce next year’s dates soon. This is a great event to bring not just your youth group, but other adults who enjoy contemporary Christian music. The atmosphere is wholesome and fun, making Fandana a nice place to just hang out.