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Their turn to shine: Sonshine offers lesser known bands a moment in the spotlight

WILLMAR — Sonshine hit the ground running on Thursday as more than 50 different musical artists performed from 11 a.m. on Thursday until 1:30 a.m. this morning.

While Thursday’s headliners like Family Force 5 and Newsboys had no trouble drawing a massive crowd, smaller bands playing on the Fringe, Indoor, and Debut stages had to compete with the well-known bands, outdoor activities, shaded areas and other lesser known bands for festival-goers attention.

For smaller bands, however, playing on any stage at Sonshine can be the chance of a lifetime to help push them from the sidelines into the spotlight.

During a recent interview on KWLM talk radio Bob Poe said that some of the small bands who play on the side stages turn out to be the most popular shows of the festival so it is extremely difficult to design the show schedule and predict who is going to be the crowd favorite  each year.

Ravenhill, a progressive Christian rock band from Nashville, Tennessee, played on the Fringe Stage at 11:45 a.m. Thursday and many people who heard them were asking the same question: “Why weren’t they on the Main Stage?” The audience started as a few small groups of friends but by the end of the band’s performance had grown into a large crowd.

“The people here are the best and the crowds are the best.” said Josh Clifton, lead guitarist and vocalist for Ravenhill. “There is something so unique about the community here and they are so supportive of all the music and all the bands.”

Jeffrey Alan opened the Hip-Hop portion of Sonshine on the Indoor Stage with upbeat raps and witty lyrics at 11 a.m. Alan graduated from New London-Spicer High School and now helps lead the young adult ministry group Joppa through the West Central Minnesota Youth for Christ Office.

“It’s great to not be just another part of the mainstream ministry,” said Alan after his set. “The message that a lot of artists here are trying to send doesn’t have just one medium and Sonshine offers so many different methods for artists to get their messages across. That, in my opinion, is one of the best things about Sonshine.”

The Debut Stage offers small area bands a chance to play in front of a larger audience than they ever have before. The bands must sign up for a time slot, pay for a full weekend admission, and be ready to set up and tear down their equipment in 15 minutes or less. For a band like The Civil Riot from the Twin Cities this was the perfect opportunity to advance their music career.

“We have been playing together for two or three years now and we are always looking for new shows to play at,” said the band’s drummer Jake Dixon after their performance. “I would love to take this band all the way to the top and Sonshine is an awesome way to help boost our audience.”

Sonshine is already half over but continues today with big name bands headlining the Main Stage like Jamie Grace, Scott Stapp and Need to Breathe.

Lybecker will make another appearance on the Fringe Stage at 1:15 p.m. after opening the entire festival Wednesday on the Main Stage.

Young Noah, Lil Prophet, Sleeping Giant and War of Ages will be headlining the Hip Hop stage and Heavy Metal stages respectively tonight.