DEL MAR, Calif. In an economy where businesses are condensing goods and services, this year's Spirit West Coast Del Mar is a refreshing exception. The lineup for the May 22 to 24 event features elite Christian artists representing more than 20 Dove Award nominations this year.
Many of the groups are younger, up-and-coming sensations who have already made impressive footprints in the Christian music industry, such as Fireflight, which earned four Dove nominations for Artist of the Year, Rock Recorded Song for "The Hunger" on their Unbreakable album, Rock/Contemporary Recorded song for title song, "Unbreakable," and Rock/Contemporary Album for Unbreakable.
Based in Florida, the group has spent much of the past few years on tour with such groups as Disciple, Family Force 5, and Decyfer Down.
In addition to its nominations, the band's "Unbreakable" single debuted clips in promos for the updated "Bionic Woman" television series.
Earlier this year, Fireflight performed at the Winter X Games 13 in Aspen, Colo., as part of Taco Bell's Feed the Beat program. Fireflight was named one of three winners for the fast food chain's "Best of the Beat" contest. Also winning was Kutless, which will also appear in Del Mar and is up for Rock Album for To Know That You're Alive.
In 2006, after signing with Flicker Records, Fireflight released its first major label debut album, The Healing of Harms, which emerged with two No. 1 singles for "You Decide" and "Waiting."
Addison Road, which is winding up March with the West Coast swing of its Rock and Worship Road Show before heading to Del Mar in May, is up for New Artist of the Year honors. The group started 2009 in Southern California as part of a New Year's Eve Praise at Knott's Berry Farm. The fruits of their breakout year represent eight years of persistence. The Dallas band emerged in 2001 when two of its soon-to-be members were offered $500 to perform at an event. The bad news: they weren't in a band. But with the incentive of five smackaroos, the band was born. Their most recent album, which is self-titled, was released a year ago.
Mercy rocks on
The national worship tour also features MercyMe, another festival headliner which is nominated for a Dove award for Group of the Year.
The band, which is celebrating the 10th anniversary for its crossover ballad "I Can Only Imagine," is releasing its latest project, 10, on April 7 as a CD/DVD set. The new album includes the hit song as it was performed with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Leeland, which earned a Grammy nod for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album category for Opposite Way, is bringing two more award nominations from the Doves with the Praise & Worship Album, also for
Opposite Way and Special Event Album for Passion: God of This City, which included some of the biggest worship names in the business. Also up for a Dove with the same nomination for the same project are Lincoln Brewster and Phil Wickham, both of whom will also appear at Spirit West Coast. Wickham is from the San Diego area and has a large fan base here.
Other Spirit West Coast bands receiving single Dove nominations are Needtobreathe for Rock/Contemporary Recorded Song, "Washed By the Water;" BarlowGirl for Christmas Album, Home for Christmas; and Red for Rock Recorded Song, "Lost."
Longtime fan favorite Toby Mac, who earned a Grammy in February for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album with Alive And Transported, is also up for two Doves, for Artist of the Year and Long Form Music Video. The Grammy was the first for Toby Mac, who won four previous honors as a member of dcTalk.
"It's an honor to win my first Grammy as a solo artist," TobyMac said after winning the award. "I still can't believe it, truly humbling. My band and I worked hard on this project and it really is the culmination of diverse people collaborating."
Another rock sensation is Stellar Kart, whose two nominations include
Rock Recorded Song for "Shine Like the Stars" and Rock/Contemporary Album for Expect the Impossible, will make a return visit to Spirit West Coast.
Although not on this year's nomination list for a Dove, Todd Agnew is expected to continue in his role as a festival favorite, offering his insights as both musician and speaker.
More than music
Just as festival organizers have carefully crafted the musical elements of Spirit West Coast, they have also worked overtime developing the myriad other activities to ensure an action-packed return on the ticket price.
Other featured offerings include the children's VeggieLand area, complete with train rides, a petting zoo, clowns, puppet shows, face painting, crafts, games and their own concerts.
For the more adventurous, attendees have access to a sports club, mechanical bull, bungee trampoline and rock-climbing walls, skate park, inflatables. Another crowd favorite, Christian Examiner Exhibit Hall, also returns.
Tickets for the entire festival are $120 if purchased between April 1 and May 15. Gate price tickets are $132. One-day wristbands are $55, also until May 15, then rise to $62. Discounts are available for groups and juniors. Children 5 and under are admitted free.
Terrace Club, which offers VIP seating privileges for Spirit West Coast, is back. Included with each individual seat purchased is a "late night" artist reception where Terrace Club patrons can "meet 'n' greet" artists up close and personal and enjoy some snacks in an exclusive V.I.P. atmosphere.
For more information on the price breaks, camping and deadlines, visit www.spiritwestcoast.com.
Joanne Brokaw, an entertainment blogger for Beliefnet, contributed to this article.