Are you looking for a music festival that will leave you with water deprivation and coated insides (trust me, it’s all you’re inhaling) out in dust? Well look no further; Rock the Desert 2015 is the music festival for you! While this is most likely your first time ever hearing of Rock the Desert, this Christian music festival has taken place in the desert of Midland, Texas (hence the title) since 1999. Even with my lack of interest or limited knowledge of Christian music over the past few years, I decided to return to the music festival for 2015, after not attending in years, simply to feed my craving for live music any chance I could get. That being said, the headlining artists were captivating and above satisfactory, giving performances that transcended the genre of Christian music, creating an environment that was enjoyable for any music fan while also tapping into something deeper that I couldn’t help but pay attention to. Here is my review and experience from Rock the Desert 2015!
Before I proceed any further, I have a confession to make: I did not attend day one of Rock the Desert due to the fact that I was not interested in seeing the bands that were performing that day. I also only attended the nighttime performances since I did not want to end up passing out from heat exhaustion like a girl in the crowd next to me did. So lets jump to day two when, artist Jimmy Needham took the stage at 8:30 PM. From first glance, Needham came across as a simple artist, sticking to the basics of wearing jeans and a t-shirt, playing the acoustic guitar, and being accompanied by a small backup band. This laid back attitude was also reflected in his sound, being the perfect music to accompany the setting sun in the background. Needham had an undeniably, fresh, unique acoustic style which specifically came across in his rendition of the classic gospel hymn “How Great Thou Art” by putting a contemporary spin on it. As an audience member, what kept my attention throughout the whole performance was Jimmy’s personality and witty banter such as when in the middle of a song he said, “trumpet solo,” then seamlessly imitated the sound of a trumpet, being spot on. The one moment and song that specifically stands out in my memory is when he played a song called “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” accompanying it with an impactful testimony of what the song meant in accordance to the classic book it is named after. He then put his acoustic guitar down and came to the stage’s catwalk to concluded the set not with a song, but instead, a powerful spoken word.
An hour later, the headliners for the night, For King and Country, hit the stage. Before coming to Rock the Desert, I was aware that this duo had two Grammys under their belts so I expected the show to be good. But the performance I experienced ended up being the whole package. The duo, consisting of brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, started the show on a high note with the song “Fix My Eyes.” Despite not being able to take my eyes off of the brother duo, being the sharpest dressed performers I had laid my eyes on all weekend, wearing suit coats with tails, I cold not help but pay attention to the intricate stage layout that had numerous drums on different levels. My jaw hung open as I witnessed the way the duo and the back-up band used the stage, sprinting back in forth during the middle of each song to play different instruments when needed. Despite everyone on the stage bringing a large amount of energy to the performance, singer Joel Smallbone takes the prize for showing the most. Joel walked through the crowd and climbed a large beam during the whole duration of two songs, not missing a single lyric or being winded in the slightest. Perhaps the most impressive element of For King and Country’s show was the multi-layers of the performance, with the band flowing seamlessly into songs with contrasting moods, creating the perfect tone and powerful moments.
After waking up the next morning to half of my voice being gone and not being able to stop sneezing, it was time to suck it up and hit day three! This was the night that I had been most excited for due to my familiarity with the two artists that were performing. Also, rap and hip-hop shows are just an overall good time. As the crowd chanted rapper Andy Mineo’s name in anticipation for him to hit the stage, it was recognizable that the crowd carried a different, hyped vibe then the relaxed crowd from the previous night. This crowd reaction was probably due to the fact that Mineo’s lyrics were a perfect blend of witty puns mixed with impactful truths that were the farthest you can get from watered down. These lyrics were accompanied with a truly unique mixture of beats, which can be hard to find in hip-hop music today (hats off to his DJ, Dre the Giant). The hyped crowd vibe did not falter throughout the night, but instead; continued to grow with Mineo feeding the audiences energy by stage diving. Once Mineo left the stage, I, along with the rest of the crowd, was left wanting the show to continue since Mineo brought his New York flare to the stage tenfold.
Despite this being my third time to see Lecrae, he was one of the artists I was most anxious to see; curious of how he had grown as a performer since the last time I saw him was at the beginning of his career. As the time finally drew near, Lecrae walked out to ear-piercing screams, immediately starting to rap without taking a considerable pause between each song for a good twenty minutes. That being said, the crowd didn’t want any pauses because that meant less time to dance and crowd surf. The light of the mesmerizing patterns that filled the DJ booths, which were covered in screens, illuminated the crowd matching the mood of each song. This was not the only aesthetic on stage that was eye catching with an American flag hanging in the background, serving as a backdrop that made a statement for the powerful message of the song, “Welcome to America.” This was one of the many impactful moments throughout the night, with two that come to mind being whenever Lecrae lay on the floor for a solid two minutes, being overwhelmed with what appeared to be genuine emotion. The second are words that Lecrae spoke between songs that I have been replaying and dwelling on in my mind today, with me paraphrasing, “After Jesus was nailed to the cross, his scars didn’t disappear. Our scars are meant to be shown, because they serve as proof that healing is possible.” To conclude the show, Andy Menio came back on stage to unite forces with Lecrae on the song “Say I Won’t,” serving as the perfect ending to the show since the two rappers style’s coincide with each other flawlessly.
With the sole purpose of me attending Rock the Desert was to hear live music and have a good time, each performer, with their distinguishable style, delivered a message that was more important then my initial purpose of attending. While I will remember the excitement of dancing in the crowd and watching each artist perform, the messages I received at Rock the Desert will be ingrained in my mind even longer, being words that ignited a fresh spark in me.