Disney and Universal Host Christian Music's Banner Weekend

Newsboys is one of many Christian music artists at Rock the Universe
Orlando- One weekend a year, Christian-music fans in Orlando may find that their cups runneth over.

For two days, dozens of acts — and thousands of enthusiasts — converge on the Magic Kingdom for Night of Joy and on Universal Studios for Rock the Universe. The music festivals feature performers on stages scattered throughout the two theme parks after they've closed for the day.

It can be confusing. I've heard back-to-back radio ads for the competing events. And the lineups both have familiar names that have played both venues in the previous years.

Been there, done those, says Michael Tait, the current lead singer of Newsboys, a four-man band performing at Universal's Rock the Universe this year. Last year, the group was at Magic Kingdom's Night of Joy.

"Other than the weather being sometimes unbearable, the shows are killer," Tait says. "People in Florida know how to party. It's a great night every time we play."

A trip to Orlando is just part of the journey for the Newsboys, which, in addition to Tait, include Jody Davis, Duncan Phillips and Jeff Frankenstein. This year, the group has made stops in Slovakia, England, Italy, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and other countries.

"This summer, we've been to Europe — get this — three times," Tait says. "I'm talking across the pond, back across the pond; across the pond, back across the pond; across the pond, back across the pond."

They play big halls, state fairs and churches.

"It's hard to get truckloads of steel and moving stage parts into a church. … but when we can fit, we do it," Tait says.

A Newsboys performance is part Baptist church, part MTV, he says. Mainly, they want folks to be comfortable.

"We don't try to be preachy. We try to be practical," Tait says. "We want people to come, want them to have a great time and hear about what can change their lives, which is what changed our lives — God's involvement in our lives."

Also returning for the weekend is Colton Dixon, who will be at Night of Joy. Last year, he sang at Rock the Universe. Expect an energetic, passionate rock show, he says.

"It's not one of those shows where everyone sits down on their lawn chairs and watches and appreciates while holding their pinky up," Dixon says.

Dixon first earned fame as an "American Idol" contestant. He finished in seventh place in the televised singing competition's 11th season, which ended in 2012. Since then he has been "tour-hopping," he says.

He also has been writing with other Christian artists, including tobyMac, Matthew West and Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Crutch. They each have cuts on Dixon's second album, "Anchor," which debuted last month.

"Those are some of my favorite tracks on the record," Dixon says. "We're so excited to have some new music to play."

There have been promotional duties with his new album, which included a week in New York and an appearance on "Fox and Friends."

"That was literally sound-check at 5:15 in the morning," he says. "It seems like we were in every square inch of New York City that week. … It was a lot of fun, but there were a lot of early mornings."

The music business is keeping him busy, day and night. The day after Night of Joy, he has a concert elsewhere.

"Right after my set I'm going to be enjoying some Skillet on the castle stage [at Disney], and then we're heading to Alabama," he says.

Source: Orlando Sentinel
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AIRPLAY 360 is a monthly published digital magazine designed to inform, empower and motivate independent inspirational musical artists by offering a soundboard of information provided by artists, producers, label executives and other industry professionals.
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