Winter Jam made a stellar stop at Ypsilanti’s EMU’s Convocation Center on a snowy Sunday February 17th. The festival was on it’s 22nd of 42 stops from city to city spreading faith, love, hope, and worship.
There were musicians who sang praises from all over the musical spectrum – hip hop, rock, soul and folk (to name a few). Regardless of background and influence, each band’s talent, passion, and power of praise shown through. The venue was packed with fans of all ages, and from all walks of life. The Convocation Center was filled with a positive energy, and lots of smiles.
Starting off Winter Jam’s main acts strong, Dan Bremnes presented incredible songs with an acoustic guitar. The audience was ready to sing and dance, right from the start.
Next, Hollyn brought terrific vocals with a dash of rock. The band got the crowd energized, to their feet, with hands in the air.
Throughout the festival in between artists, speakers would pass on positive messages, and even shoot t-shrits into the crowd. Adam Agee presented one song inspired by his mission trip. “I promised a bunch of kids I’d tell their story.”
Later in the evening, Adam returned to the stage to tell his account of sponsoring a child through the evening’s spotlight organization, “Childfund International”. Audience members were encouraged to sponsor a child. In doing so would come both the satisfaction of changing a life, but also a wristband to meet the night’s headliner (Newsboys United) after the show.
Winter Jam founders, NewSong brought a Sunday church feel with powerful vocals, an organ, rocking guitar, horns, and beautiful harmonies. Preshow opener, Ty Brasel made an appearance with a full on choir to ad a bit of hip hop to the mix.
Skillet drummer, Jen Ledger fronted her own outfit with memorable lyrics and an energetic performance.
The night’s next speaker, Zane Black, shared his experience to a better life through a life-changing trip to church. Zane went from a life of drugs, overdose, and even a coma to literally preaching from a skateboard to the Winter Jam crowd as a terrific metaphor for God’s love.
Next to the stage, Mandisa’s set was wonderfully choreographed with character, finding her backup singers and dancers getting down to the passionate jams. She brought a powerful message to keep going with memorable music about praise and hope. She encouraged the excited crowd to sing along with her. With a message of unity and love, Mandisa focused on all areas of the audience. Her fighter spirit shined her whole set through.
After Mandisa was the sharp-dressed Danny Gokey. With his rock-vibed set, Danny had an impressive horn section that swayed along. Danny got the crowd dancing, and impressed all with soulful, heartfelt vocals. Toward the end of his set, Danny performed a track with just an acoustic guitarist, and piano playing throughout. Phone flashlights danced and illuminated the audience as they sang along. He closed out the evening with “The Comeback”.
Before the night’s final artist, Rend Collective took to the stage with the hope of revival. The band brought a folk sound from Northern Ireland. The spirited group had a fiddle, accordion, electric and acoustic guitar, to name a few instruments. During their set, a sea of bubbles erupted against the stage, coating the crowd in sparkly orbs. A heavy drum sound kept time.
Singer Chris Llewellyn commented that it’s close to St. Patrick’s Day, and maximum Irish for the year. He encouraged fans to dance in Irish fashion, alternating hopping on one leg.
“It’s already like we’re in Dublin!”, he exclaimed. Confetti showered the dancing crowd, much to everyone’s delight. At the very end of their set, each member donned a panda mask.
After their set, NewSong member Russ Lee returned to the stage, and told a heartfelt story of one of his experiences Winter Jam had yielded. The moral was that he did not want anyone to have to miss the festival, and the message of worship it can provide. An offering bucket was passed around to help out the festival. Since tickets are discounted at the door, and folks even admitted who can’t afford it who need the evening’s message, Russ emphasized the importance of everyone pitching in and helping if they can. Ten percent of the offering was set to be donated to a local organization playing a large part in youth ministry.
The lights dimmed again, and the stage was set for the Jam’s main act, Newsboys United.
Newsboys took to the stage to start off their night strong with “Born Again” ,”That’s How You Change The World” and “Live With Abandon”.
Next, lead singer Michael Tait encouraged the crowd to move side to side “like this, come on! Like one big black gospel choir with a lot of white people from Michigan – love ya!”
The band started into “He Reins”. After the first chorus, Newsboys of old, vocalist Peter Furler and bassist Phil Joel emerged to round out the beautiful song. Together, the united six gentleman churned out greats like “I am Free” and “Breakfast” with rock abound and incredible harmonies soaring over the center. During “Something Beautiful”, Michael Tait shouted out each member of the band.
Newsboys United then shared new songs from their forthcoming self-titled album, which is due out in May. Through the festival, the band offered a special pre-order that included two albums for $10.
At one point, they even brought a couple of excited fans on stage to dance along.
Michael Tait touched on his love of Michigan, and shouted out keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein, who is from the Detroit area. He also touched on the importance of putting God back in America, and taking time out to love people.
He encouraged the crowd to sing along to amazing track, “We Believe”. The chorus of audience members filled the room. Afterward, Peter Furler commented, “Mike, we might have found the loudest Americans in America”.
The band also performed dc Talk favorite, “Jesus Freak”, with a special appearance by the talented Tray Little. As a united unit, Newsboys were clearly loving presenting their message of worship, and enjoying performing together.
Next, Peter Furler remained on drums, as drummer Duncan Phillips set up on a rotating kit. The two incredible drummers faced off on opposite ends of the venue. Duncan’s drumkit rotating impressively as the audience cheered them both on.
Newsboys United closed out their night with gigantic song, “God’s Not Dead”. Michael Tait exclaimed, “God bless Michigan!” as the band stood center stage to bow together.
Pastor and author, Bobby Joyner ended the evening with a prayer.
Winter Jam 2019 will be continuing across the states through the end of March.
Words and photos by: Tiffany Cuthrell