In this First Concert Ever segment, the indietronica artist, Baby FuzZ, talks about the story of his first experience with live music. You can check out the story, after the break.
The first real rock concert I ever went to was actually a Christian music festival. Now I know what you’re thinking…oh wow vanilla. But hear me out. It was actually kind of insane. For your first concert experience to be a crazy 4-day camping festival with a constant bombardment of praise bands, the paradox of Christian hardcore punk, and positive energy crossed with super negative energy, it was a total mindfuck for my adolescent self. Combine that with the fact that it happened on the heels of the Columbine shooting, and it had a pretty life-changing effect on me.
The festival was called the Creation Festival. It was maybe 3-4 hours from where I grew up in Pennsylvania on this giant rural farm area. I had no idea things like this existed until a local youth pastor invited me to go with a group of other kids. I really didn’t know what I was getting into. In the past I loathed summer camp, so was actually dreading the trip, but when I got there, I realized the whole weekend revolved around music. Being super into the piano and also having music as my early emotional outlet as a kid, I dove into the festival headfirst. The Creation Festival is actually a massive 100,000 person camping fest that involves multiple stages of music and seminars, ranging from super heavy screamo to electronic to worship bands to more generic Christian radio music. So doing 4 days straight of 6-8 concerts a day, I got exposure to just about every mainstream genre of music.
The entire week I wandered around, both with the group and also by myself, checking out all the bands. I got in my first mosh pit, crowd surfed, jumped up and down, laughed, cried, and just generally had a really powerful experience. The thing with religion and Christian music specifically, is that it’s really good at tapping into your emotions via the power of music and connecting that with God. So for a kid like me who was really emotionally swayed by music, it was a cathartic experience. I remember crying a lot and realizing that the world and the universe was bigger than what I had imagined. I met a lot of really interesting kids…mohawk punk rockers, hippies, preachers’ kids, ravers, etc. It was a total mix of random people. The odd thing about Christian music at that time is that it was coming from a place in the 70s where it was kind of this positive expression outside the realm of organized religion – kind of a small spinoff on the hippie movement. An issue that was starting when I went to this festival, though, (this was in 1999) was that political agendas were already starting to get attached to the religious community. For instance, there was this huge campaign at the festival to ban violent video games and movies, and this was tied to a political push from conservatives to get that to happen in the wake of the Columbine shooting. In retrospect, it was actually way more constructive than how most conservatives respond to mass violence today. There was this really palpable sense of sadness and loss. The entire festival was kind of this giant coming together in the wake of this shooting, which at the time was shocking. It’s actually stunning and frightening how much more empathy American society had 20 years ago.
I do remember a really bad element of the festival, though, was the presence of a lot of gay conversion type speakers. They would give these seminars on homosexuality and how it was not Biblical and encourage kids to attend these conversion programs to “pray the gay away”. I didn’t really know what they were talking about, but a few years later, reflecting on some of these tactics in the festival led me to become disillusioned with Christian music and the religious scene in general. There was a lot of this type of right-wing conservative ideology that slowly invaded the Christian scene and churches in the 90s. Later in the 2000s, I remember it being really toxic, and that’s eventually what drove me away from religion in general.
To be honest, the amount of ridiculous stuff that happened at festivals like this would make my adult brain melt now. It would be difficult for me to spend an hour at a Christian festival now, but as a child, I was blissfully ignorant of all the manipulation, hypocrisy, and straight-up venture capitalism going on. I was just enjoying the experience. There are, however, probably countless ways a festival like this messed me up mentally. From self-worth issues to apologizing over everything to thinking everyone is ultimately a bad person who needs forgiveness and is never worthy, there are just so many bad thought patterns that got ingrained in me from religion that took years to heal. To be fair there were also a lot of good things that got imprinted on me. I gained a larger sense of empathy, tapped into my emotions more, and more than anything became really passionate about music. The Creation Festival was the starting point for me in terms of realizing just how powerful music can be, both on a micro-level over someone’s feelings, but also on the macro in terms of being able to change the course of human history with one song. I still truly believe in the power of music, and I have kept that with me my entire life. It’s something I live by every day, and although my feelings about God and religion have evolved throughout my life, the passion for music and the power it holds has never left me.