Kiwi music acts fail to inflate Parachute

CHRIS GARDNER AND ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 27/01/2014
Parachute
BRUCE MERCER/ Fairfax NZ
FUN SHOW: Fans cheer at Parachute.

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It looked as if Parachute's dumping major American bands in favour of New Zealand artists didn't pay off this year.

Festival founder Mark de Jong had told Fairfax Media earlier in the month there had been a change in the Parachute ethos this year as the average young Christian didn't listen mostly to Christian music any more.

"There's a deliberate move to not have some of the traditional artists we have had in favour of much higher-profile commercial New Zealand artists."

Bands like US-based Casting Crowns and Third Day lost out headlining to New Zealand artists Stan Walker and Dave Dobbyn.

"We are putting less focus on American contemporary Christian artists," he said.

"Our belief is that those artists are less relevant to New Zealand culture, so Stan Walker, Dave Dobbyn or even NewWorldSon are more relevant than some of those artists."

Numbers were noticeably down, with plenty of room in the usually overcrowded seating during morning worship.

"I think we've got about 16,000 on-site at the moment," he said.

"It's been good, but it definitely hasn't been one of our biggest years."

One Hamilton youth leader, who asked not to be named, said she gone for 20 years but had "voted with our feet" this year because of the change in emphasis.

"We couldn't get any interest in the bands going," she said.

"He is totally not on the page there. He's got old and out of touch and that's why numbers are slowly going down and that is such a pity.

"I had two people get in touch with me to see if I knew anyone wanting a free ticket and I couldn't give them away to anyone. They'd even tried on their Facebook pages . . . That would never had happened if Casting Crowns or Third Day had been in the lineup, they would have been snapped up.

"Those of us working with young people know they love Christian music. You should see what our lot from non-Christian backgrounds listen to, including Casting Crowns.

"The evening lineup's looked really dull.

"I'd love Parachute to return back to its roots and we'd return in our droves."

She said they had also kept away because they didn't like the swipe-to-pay system introduced last year when cash was banned from Parachute.

Instead festival goers pay $4.50 to top up a chip on their festival wristband which they must use to buy food, books and CDs in the village.

"This year you also have to pay a fee to get any money left on the band off. Our complaints to the organisers have gone unheeded."

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Dobbyn said he was supportive of what Parachute had tried to accomplish this year as he was a big supporter of home-grown talent.

"I don't really listen to mainstream Christian music, but I do love listening to black Gospel," Dobbyn said.

NewWorldSon frontman Joel Parisien, whose Christian pop/soul band comes from Canada, was saddened to hear people were staying away. "It's not all about who is headlining."

de Jong said musical tastes had changed and the competition for festival-goers was increasingly competitive.

"Back in the day there were only a few summer events, so it was easier.

"A Christian teenager would come to Parachute because that was all the music they would listen to. Now, a Christian teenager will go to any of the major festivals."

- Waikato Times

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