Last night I attended Winter Jam 2015 in Wichita Kansas with my family. Winter Jam is sort of like the Contemporary Christian version of Warped Tour, minus the festival. Just a long concert featuring 7 to 10 bands as well as an evangelistic speaker. It was safe, family friendly, and I didn't have to worry about any of the artists using foul language or innuendo and it's only a $10 donation to get in. For me, unfortunately, that's where most of the positives stop.
Earlier last year when I read the band list to my daughter, who is a song-loving, music oriented 8 year old, she flipped. For King and Country and Francesca Battisteli are two of her favorite singers/groups. Plus there were going to be a whole bunch of other groups that she knew at least one or two songs by. So we were going for sure!
She waited with anticipation for months.
Doors open at 6pm.
Show starts at 7pm.
$10, at the door only, no assigned seats.
Guess what... it's torture. From what I heard, by 5pm the lines were 3 blocks long in every direction. By 6pm supposedly it looked like a mob scene. My wife, daughter, and niece, had gotten there much earlier and still hadn't gotten in when I arrived. I was coming from work and couldn't get in line till about 6:30.. By then it was clear that they were going to start turning people away. So I did something pretty unChristianlike and sneaked my way to the front of the line by using the cunning tactic of just acting like I belonged there. So I'm not proud of that... But I had been looking forward to sharing this evening with my daughter and I wasn't going to get turned away.
So the ticket system is horrendous. Hundreds stood in line for probably over an hour only to get told they were over-capacity and they had to leave. I had the advantage of being one adult with no kids or wife with me at that moment so I was able to blend in and basically cheat my way in.
So, Why not charge more and allow people to buy tickets in advance like any other concert?
I'll tell you why..
They pack so many bands on one ticket to entice you, that your favorite band will get approximately 3 to 5 songs, and most of them were shortened versions of what you hear on CD's and the radio. And here's the kicker... In between each band you will be shown advertisement after advertisement. And in between those advertisements you will be hit up to give more money. Not once, not twice.. but 3 separate times they were begging, almost shaming you into dropping more money on them. Granted, one of those times is to sponsor a kid in Africa, but I have my concerns about the legitimacy of that endeavor as well. (I've sponsored a kid in the past, and my kid mysteriously kept needing more and more money.) Wow, am I a cynic or what?
Then there is the speaker portion of the show. Tony Nolan, who has been with Winter Jam for years (The show comes every year to most major cities.) gives the brief salvation message. It's brief, and that's understandable since they have to move things along. I saw another blogger call the entire show "Entertainment Evangelism" which I think is a great term to sum up what happens. Pastor Nolan comes out and is super hip and dresses young and he gives a 10 minute message that is basically "Yay God! Now say the sinner's prayer and you're saved." He used scripture, and what he said was not untrue.. It just had very little substance to it at all. And my dislike to the flawed theology to "repeat the sinner's prayer" is a discussion for another day. It's certainly not something I would expect my unsaved neighbors or friends to respond to. God forbid I would try to quench the Holy Spirit because He can and does work miracles.. but it would seem like a miracle to me if it made a lasting impact... half the time, up in the nosebleeds at least, you cannot even fully make out what he is saying. I didn't expect revival to break out. I was just hoping it would come off as kind of a half-hearted attempt. And it did.
Then it was back to brief acknowledgements that we recognized one or two songs from radio. More commercials.. and then it was 10:30 pm and there were still three acts to go, so we left. Granted the last three acts were not groups that we cared much for in the first place. But we cared more about not being trampled by 10,000 teenagers who just finished their 3rd Mountain Dew.
So we aren't planning on going back. Not unless they make some changes.
I will acknowledge two things.
1. They are successful every year. They sell out or come close almost every time. So they are marketing it well, and lots of people, mainly kids, are entertained and satisfied enough to come back. Which brings me to the 2nd acknowledgement...
2. I'm not the target audience. You can ignore everything I just wrote up till now if you take into account that I am 36 years old and I was in the minority by a long shot. Just ask the 9 year old kid that was kicking the back of my chair all night. The girls said they had fun last night. When I took my nephew several years back he had fun. So maybe the truth is that I was not supposed to be the one that was happy about the show.
But that's why I don't complain to my eight year old, I come on here and add it to the internet where all negativity is supposed to go.
So in conclusion, if you are a thinking adult.. Winter Jam sucks bad. If you are a young kid, like I once was: Winter Jam is super cool.
But yeah.. it sucks. Avoid it if you possibly can.