Skillet, Newsboys, Jars of Clay to headline 2010 Spirit West Coast

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Spirit West Coast, the three-day music and spiritual development festival, is launching a new incentive program to help showcase the region's independent and up-and-coming artists.

The Partner & Play program, a sales incentive project, is designed to complement the festival's strong lineup of big name entertainers, speakers and comedians.

The early slate for the festival, which runs Memorial Day weekend from May 28 to 30, kicks off with rockers Skillet headlining as the closing act on the main stage's opening night. The group, which last appeared in Del Mar in 2008 on the C28 Alternative Stage, is promoting their new album, Awake, with its top hit "Hero and Monster."

Also appearing will be the O.C. Supertones who will be traveling in a limited summer reunion tour. The original six band members are scheduled to play May 29.

Other early confirmations include the Newsboys, Jars of Clay, Family Force 5, Flatfoot 56, Fireflight, Building 429, Stellar Kart, Tenth Avenue North, Francesca Battistelli, Phil Joel, BarlowGirl, Kutless, Matthew West, Hawk Nelson, Seventh Day Slumber, Bread of Stone, Number One Gun and Sarah Kelly.

Other acts, including speakers and comedians, will be added in the coming weeks. Workshops, including Bible and life application teachings, are also on the slate.

Still, event organizers are looking forward to the opportunities Partner & Play will bring. Through the program, stage performance times will be provided for independent and emerging artists who are able to reach a certain ticket threshold. In addition to a performance slot, participating artists will receive free event tickets and cash rebates for the tickets they sell. The Partner & Play plan is in addition to its annual Indie Artist contest, a progressive competition that culminates in Nashville.

"Spirit West Coast has always felt a commitment to embrace the emerging artist," promoter Jon Robberson said of the festival, which first launched in Monterey, Calif., before adding its Del Mar location seven years ago. "From the very beginning in 1997 we've had various formats to accommodate indies, but this new program for 2010 takes the performance possibilities to a new level. I'm expecting dozens of bands and indie artists to participate, and it will be a great experience for the artists and a real positive for the festival."

Robberson added that the new Partner & Play program will help the festival identify homegrown talent, which often is overlooked by well-established names.

"There are hundreds of artists of all types throughout the greater SWC regions of California, Arizona and Nevada, and the new Partner & Play program will provide broader performance access by those artists to the festival than ever before," he said. "I think the festival public will enjoy discovering some very talented artists."


Indie Artist competition
As in the past, the Del Mar festival is hosting the Indie Artist competition in conjunction with other major festivals in the nationwide Christian Festival Association event. Presented by Word Records, the "Spirit West Coast Talent Search & Showcase" contest begins as an online talent search competition and showcase that culminates at the Spirit West Coast 2010 festivals with a live performance competition between the finalists chosen.

For the finalists, the final showcase and competition will be held at the festival and will be open to the public. Each finalist will be given 10 minutes—enough time for 2 songs—stage time. The grand-prize winner and runner-up from the finals will be given the opportunity to perform two songs on one of the two major SWC stages. In addition, the grand-prize winner, though responsible for their own transportation costs, will be invited to perform at the national talent search finals in Nashville later this year. The national winner of that event will receive a development contract with Word Records. The entry deadline is April. 10.

Artists can participate in both indie program formats, Robberson said.


Spiritual rewards
The incentive program is hoped to help bolster ticket sales which, like many other entertainment and ministry events, have been impacted by the economy. According to Robberson, attendance at last year's festival was down 25 percent. Even so, the concert promoter said he believes the festival was one of the most successful.

"The spiritual results for 2009 were incredible, as hundreds and hundreds made spiritual commitments and had spiritual breakthroughs," promoter Jon Robberson told supporters in a post-event e-mail. "In fact for some reason, 'pound-per-pound' I feel that the 2009 Del Mar event may have been one of SWC's best spiritual events ever."

Last year's attendance hit was especially taxing since it fell on the heels of a 30 percent drop the year before, a victim of rainy weather and record high gas prices.

"In spite of the lower numbers, there seemed to be a wonderful spirit, mood and attitude on site, perhaps helped by the beautiful weather, and no doubt more so by pre-event 40 days of fasting and prayer by the festival's leadership team," Robberson said.

The promoter said he was inspired by the move of the Holy Spirit and the faithfulness of concertgoers who supported the ministry's first-ever offering opportunity, held during the closing night's festivities. Among the $22,000 in gifts received were several for at least $1,000, plus a dozen and a half $100 bills.   

"It's a long story of how the Lord provided, or I should say is providing (for He is continuing to provide) but what happened at Del Mar financially was a great confirmation of His assurance that Spirit West Coast is an event ordered by Him," Robberson said. "The organization still has significant financial challenges for sure, but we can see God's care as His people step up to support the ministry."


Supporting the vision
A fundraising breakfast on the final morning resulted in $12,000 more in donations. In addition, participants pledged sponsorships for 250 children through Compassion International, bringing the cumulative total for SWC to 11,000.

"As important as the actual money is, it was also an awesome indicator that many people want SWC Del Mar to continue and they are willing to put their money behind that vision and cause," the promoter said.

For more information and ticket sales, log on to www.spiritwestcoast.org.