Spirituality Meets Music at the 14th Annual Uprise Fest in Pennsylvania
by Sanders Jett-Folk
Over 10,000 people flocked to the Shippensburg Fairgrounds in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania on September 15th and 16th for a weekend of music and spirituality at the 14th annual Uprise Festival.
Uprise Festival is a Christian music festival that started in 2003. This year’s incredible lineup included all genres of Christian music, ranging from hip hop to pop punk, and from worship to death metal. The artists are spread across three stages: the Main Stage, the Rockstar Stage and the Hip-Hop Stage.
The weekend started on Friday evening with performances on the Main Stage from southern contemporary artists Zach Williams and Jordan Feliz, who got the crowd energized for what was to come. Then, pop punk group Hawk Nelson took the stage to fire up the crowd with a roaring set, including a brand new song.
Directly after, contemporary Christian music legend Jeremy Camp lead the packed field in worship, praising God with his spiritual music. Camp reminded everyone during his set that “Tonight isn’t about me, or Hawk Nelson or Skillet or any other artist. Tonight is about Jesus.” To end the night, platinum selling hard rock group Skillet rocked the Main Stage with some of their most popular songs, such as “Hero” and “Monster” (which Jeremy Camp sang with the band), and new hits from their 2016 record Unleashed, such as “Feel Invincible” and “The Resistance”. Their headlining set featured stage effects such as cryo and sparklers, and worship with singer John Cooper.
On the second day of the festival, all three stages were open and active with many incredible and diverse bands playing all day.
Over on the Hip-Hop Stage, nine artists played throughout the entire day, including four members of the hip-hop group 116 Clique. Lesser known artists played early on in the day, such as Aaron Kolenc, Steven Malcolm and Canon. Later in the day, KB and Tedashii played two strong sets. The two had previously played on the widely successful Winter Jam 2016 tour.  Andy Mineo closed out the Hip-Hop Stage with a strong set featuring many of his hits such as “Uncomfortable” and “KIDZ”.
Elsewhere on the festival grounds, the Rockstar Stage featured many heavy metal artists. Matt Baird, vocalist of the band Spoken, opened the stage with an acoustic set. Death Therapy, a project from Becoming the Archetype vocalist/bassist Jason Wisdom, was the first full band to play. Later in the day, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus played, opening with their 2006 hit “In Fate’s Hands”. Despite not being a Christian band, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus fit in well with the Christian metal fan base that was present in the crowd.
Later on, Lacey Sturm, former vocalist of the widely successful band Flyleaf, played an impressive set. She played many Flyleaf hits, such as “Chasm”, “All Around Me” and “I’m So Sick”, and several tracks from her 2016 solo album Life Screams, including “Rot” and “Impossible”. Death metal band Demon Hunter closed the stage out for the night, playing several old and new hits such as “Cold Winter Sun”, “Fading Away” and closing with “Storm the Gates of Hell”. The show was Demon Hunter’s fifth show that they’ve played in the past three years, meaning the crowd got to see a rather rare and impressive concert.
At the Main Stage, smaller artists including pop group We Are Leo and contemporary singer Blanca opened the day strong, firing up the crowd for the long day ahead. In the afternoon, southern metal band Disciple played for the fourth year in a row, performing newer songs such as “Secret Weapon” and “Erase”, and older hits including “Radical” and “Dear X”. Soon after, pop rock group Building 429 took the stage to play newer songs like “Impossible” and “We Won’t Be Shaken”, and their massively popular hit “Where I Belong”. Then, Third Day singer Mac Powell and For King & Country both played impressive sets. For King & Country even featured Hip-Hop Stage artist KB in their set.
As the sky went dark, Newsboys brought light to the festival grounds with a set full of special effects and huge light displays. The contemporary rock legends played many of their most popular songs, including “Love Riot”, “We Believe” and their extremely popular song cover that spawned two movies of the same name, “God’s Not Dead”. During the show, singer Michael Tait revealed that the band is currently working on a third God’s Not Dead film. Finally, TobyMac closed out Uprise Fest for 2017, finishing with a set combining genres ranging from rock to pop to hip-hop. His set featured cryo, incredible lighting effects, props such as flags and even a guest appearance from Michael Tait. He and his touring band Diverse City played many of his successful hits, including “City On Our Knees”, “Lose My Soul” and “Speak Life”.
Following TobyMac’s set, as they did the night before after Skillet’s show, everyone quickly flooded out of the arena, heading back to either their cars out in the field or the camping area, where thousands of people stayed. Some people stayed behind to help tear down the stage and clean up the festival grounds.
All of the musical artists had merch areas where fans could buy items such as shirts, CDs, hats and more. There were paid meet and greet passes for many of the well-known artists, such as Skillet, TobyMac and Newsboys. Some smaller artists did free meet and greets, including War of Ages and Disciple.
While music was the main focus of the weekend, there were many other activities too, such as ice cream parties, speaker seminars and a kids area. There was also the Artesian Well Stage, where local artists could show off various different kinds of artistic creations.
Leah Hawkins, an Uprise Fest attendee and concert photographer, gave her thoughts on the festival. She said, “I attended a fair amount of shows in a given year and I can truly say Uprise is my favorite! This was my third year in attendance and the weekend was another amazing one! Uprise is packed full of action with never a moment wasted. There’s always a band to see or someone to meet! It’s a crazy 48 hours, but some of the most fun you will have!”
Hawkins also added her thoughts on Uprise Fest from a photographer’s perspective. She commented “Uprise is a really unique show to shoot. Without the confines of a ‘photo pit’, photographers really have an opportunity to get some amazing shots! Whether you want to be right at the stage or back on the hill shooting the whole stage getting the full production in your image. Also, I personally like the ability to get the fans involved in the photos. Catching the moment a fan gets to sing or get a high five from an artist really makes my day!”
Ann Jones, another Uprise Festival attendee, commented “I thought all of the bands did a great job of sticking to the religious message of Uprise. All of the artists played really well too. I’d have to say my favorite artists were Colton Dixon and Newsboys. This was my fourth year, and definitely my favorite so far! Hopefully next year, they could add some people like Matthew West or Rend Collective to the lineup.”
Brandon Armstrong, a first timer to the festival and a volunteer, commented “I think Uprise is a really cool festival. Unlike KingsFest, which is another Christian festival down in Virginia, this one is much more open and has a lot more artists and more stuff to do. Everyone did really good this year, the lineup was solid. Volunteering was also a really cool experience. It’s a really great way to help out both the local and the wider Christian community. I hope to come back next year!”
Uprise Festival will return to the Shippensburg Fairgrounds next year on September 14th and 15th, where many fans will come back for even more great music and soul-filling worship.