WILMORE — Jon Foreman stood on the third step of the stairs at the main stage level at the Ichthus Festival.
The roar of the crowd swelled as his bandmates in Switchfoot took to the stage. A member of his crew came over, asked "Are you ready?," and soon he was sprinting onto the stage that had been set for him and the band.
A half-hour earlier, Portland, Ore.-based Kutless had finished its set on the main stage. Immediately, a crew of stagehands moved in, pulling wires out of sockets, tipping speakers and amplifiers onto their wheels and rolling them out.
"The goal is to give the fans the best experience possible," said P.L. Mitchell, who oversees the main stage for the Ichthus Festival, a four-day Christian music event that wraps up Saturday.
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That means getting one band off the stage and the next one ready to rock as quickly as possible for audiences that can number more than 10,000 in the great outdoors, which brings with it its own set of challenges.
On the main stage, that means relying on a crew of stagehands and roadies to move gear on and off the stage while the band stays out of sight. For an up-and-coming act on the side stages, band members are their own roadies until the moment they start playing and again when they stop.
"We're used to hauling our own stuff," Brandon Heiney says, just a moment after carrying his own 50-pound guitar amplifier off the Edge Stage.
For him and his bandmates in Cincinnati-based The Stand Still, schlepping heavy equipment on and off stage is a fact of life. And they say they have it easier at Ichthus than a lot of other places they play, where they have to haul all of their own gear on and off stage.
The Ichthus Festival provides drum kits and amplifiers to bands on all its stages, including the main stage. Artists can elect to use their own gear, and Heiney says he prefers his amplifier, which has an effects processor that wouldn't have been compatible with the festival-supplied gear. He admitted, though, that he would love to have been able to use the sweet amp that was provided.
"This is all gear we dream of buying," he said.
Drummer Matt General said he enjoyed having the festival kit to use. It had a few more features than his own kit which he said was pretty basic.
With their own gear, The Stand Still can set up and break down in 10 to 15 minutes, which is the requirement at most places where the band plays.
"We don't mind," Heiney says. "We are just happy to have this stage to play on."
That's not too different from what happens on the main stage, where Kutless's gear is fairly quickly moved into a staging area backstage. Headliners are the only acts that get to play on all their own gear, Mitchell says. All other acts are asked to use communal drum kits and other gear.
"They're professionals, and they understand that while they would like to use their own equipment, this is a festival, and we are trying to give the fans the most acts we can on the main stage," Mitchell says.
To get set up, the main stage headlining act always arrives early in the morning and sets up and tests its equipment. Then everything else is set up in front of it. So, as Kutless's gear and the communal equipment was pulled away Wednesday night, Switchfoot's stuff was revealed, and a volunteer crew of a dozen or so were setting things in place.
Meanwhile, the bands were nowhere to be seen. They were resting up, getting ready for the show.
"That is the goal," The Stand Still bassist Aaron Bowling says. "One day, we want to be one of those main-stage bands."
Heiney says, "I'll still probably go out and test everything myself. I'm pretty particular about my guitar sound."