Soulfest 2011 as reviewed in The Phantom TollboothGrandfather Rock reports on the highs and lows at New England's most fascinating alternative Christian festival.

Gunstock Mountain Resort
Gilford, New Hampshire
August 3-6, 2011

Tuesday, August 2nd:
Usually when I begin a road trip I like to set out at the crack of dawn in order to avoid the morning rush hour in New York City. This trip would be different though, leaving time would be at about 10am missing the morning rush altogether. The trip to New Hampshire via the interstate is just about a six hour drive putting us into our destination at about 4pm with any luck. Many folks who make the journey to "Soulfest" opt for the ruggedness of camping out for the 4 day event. At 61 years old I tend to enjoy the comfort of a nice Hampton Inn. When I end a long day of rockin' and rollin' I like to go back to a nice air-conditioned room, take a nice cool shower and flip on the boob tube to chill out and wind down. The ride on the main roads going through New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts to New Hampshire is fairly easy. It is also fairly boring at best, periodic rest stops and gas station are the only diversions for mile after mile. I think next year I might do a Lost Dogs trip and take the smaller back roads just to change things up for the journey. Arriving in Tilton, New Hampshire at just about 4pm my wife Beth, my traveling companion for the week and I checked into our room at the hotel. Funny, I don't remember a ride like this being so tiresome. We took a ride around the area to reacquaint ourselves with the layout of the terrain. A local Dairy Queen had a banana cream pie blizzard which absolutely hit the spot as a post dinner treat. After the scouting venture, it was back to the hotel for a night of tv and sleep. I was going to be the emcee at one of the stages at the festival which meant 15 hour days from about 9am until about 12:30am. The drive from the hotel to the festival site goes along the shores of Lake Winnapasquam and is 20 minutes of sheer beauty. Oh well, good night!

Wednesday, August 3rd
We slept in until about 9am since I didn't have to check into the festival site until around noon. Breakfast at the hotel was adequate fair and as I said the ride to Gunstock is awesome. The Soulfest festival has 5 stages. Mercy Street Cafe is an indoor venue and was to be my stage for the majority of the week. Of course I would take sporadic runs to other stages to check out their bill of fare. The Inside out Stage is a large tent comparable in size to Cornerstone's gallery stage. The Deeper Well stage this year shared a large tent with the Gateway Cafe. The Mountain Top Stage is literally at the top of a mountain. The ski lift ride takes just about 15 minutes from beginning to the summit. The stage itself is the porch of the ski patrol shack and overlooks a magnificent view of Lake Winnapausakee. Even if there was no music to be heard, the time spent to get to the top is well worth the view. There is though plenty of great music to be heard at this stage. The Revival Stage at the base of the ski lift serves as the main stage of the event. There are also many food and craft vendors spread throughout the midway plying their wares.. My first band hit the stage at 2:15pm and we were off and running until the last band left the stage at approximately 12:30 am. After a ride back to the hotel, day one came to an end.

Thursday August 4th
To my way of thinking  Thursday was by far the best day of this years festival and the place to be was the Mercy St. Cafe. The evenings lineup included Caleb, Paul Phillips & Friends, Jake Armerding, Pawns For Kings and The Lost Dogs. A Jars Of Clay benefit show for Blood Water Mission was postponed until the next evening due to the band being held up by road construction in New York. Thursday was also the afternoon that I taught a seminar on music impacting culture. I was sandwiched between an excellent author of suspense/ horror novels named Ladean Admonski and pro-life advocate Brian Kemper. By the way you need to check out Ladean's books, I highly recommend them. The folks who attended my seminar came from as far away as Florida & Nova Scotia, I was humbled to say the least by the excellent responses I received. I have noticed over the years that a very important part of events like this, at least to me, is just sitting and catching up with old friends. To sit and talk with old friends like Jim Trick, Courtney Reid & Rachel Taylor is such a pleasure to me

Friday, August 5th
The festival opens each day on various stages with a time of worship, hopefully setting the tone for the rest of the day. One of the non-musical highlights of the day was a marriage workshop led by Dr. Emerson Eggriches. Actually he spoke on three different days and was interesting to say the least. Boston based artists Jim Trick and Maeve ruled the Mountain Top Stage as did the acoustic version of The Choir featuring Derri Daugherty and Steve Hindalong. Other performance highlights of the day included Tom Conlon, a gospel sing-a-long with Paul Phillips and one of the two buzz bands for the festival this year, Big Kettle Drum. The other being Pawns For Kings, both bands need to be checked out, they are awesome. An extended set from Christopher Williams and Justin McRoberts and a set from the aforementioned Big Kettle Drum at Mercy St. Cafe just made a great day even greater. The Jars Of Clay set rescheduled from the night before turned into rotating set of music from Jars Of Clay, Andrew Osenga & Justin McRoberts. Jars left a standing room only crowd at Mercy St. to head over the Revival Stage to thrill the audience at that stage. Oh well, another day is done three down one to go!

Saturday, August 6th
I didn't have to be at my post until 5pm this day. Gordon College took over Mercy St. Cafe for the majority of the day for various lectures and workshops, all well attended by the way. My wife and I rose early to try to catch the morning lift off at a hot air balloon festival but were too late. Better luck next year. Our next stop was the Laconia Airport for an open cockpit bi-plane ride over Lake Winnapausakee. This is something I will definitely do again next year. It was absolutely an amazing adventure which, similar to eating a Lays potato chip, cannot be done just once. The rest of the day was spent at the festival hearing great music, listening to interesting speakers and saying goodbye to friends both old and new. Some artists that you should look into that made the week included Maeve, Rachel Taylor, Courtney Reid, Big Kettle Drum and my old friend Christopher Williams. The Soulfest happens next year on August 1st through the 4th,be there or be L7.

Chris MacIntosh aka Grandfather Rock