Last year, Skillet was the Friday-night headliner at Ichthus, making its big show and big anthems the centerpiece of party night in Wilmore.
This year, we get the sequel, which is appropriate because Skillet is the summer blockbuster of Christian rock bands.
First, you have the songs.
You could fill the soundtrack of a Jerry Bruckheimer flick with songs like The Last Night, about a desperate evening; Hero, a song about Jesus Christ, of course, but that you could hear playing as Bruce Willis or some other grizzled warrior crawls from the rubble; and The Older I Get, the buddy song.
Skillet writes a lot of meat-and-potatoes power-chord rock with clear, memorable themes in the music and lyrics.
But we aren't calling these guys simplistic. Imaginative production gives many of Skillet's best-known hits engaging tweaks, such as the squawking keyboard trill of Best Kept Secret or the dramatic violin of Comatose.
The quartet delivers interesting music with broad, compelling themes, which can be attributed to it being a solid Christian rock band at a time when a lot of acts blur lines between sacred and secular.
"We've always been pretty clear about what we're about and what we're passionate about," frontman John Cooper told the Herald-Leader at the 2008 Ichthus Festival. "I've always wanted to be a voice to my generation, giving people hope."
Of course, having been together since 1996, Skillet now finds itself on stages singing to the next generation.
"One thing about being in a music and youth ministry is it tends to make you feel like you're still young," said Cooper, 35. "Some of my peers at church, I don't think of being as old as they are."
Having been around that long, Skillet has established itself as a solid star, having worked itself up from humble days of playing the festival in daylight before small but ardent crowds. That gave a bit of a preview of what the band would become. This is not a flash-in-the pan band that will be in the spotlight this year and on a side stage next.
But the thing that gives Skillet its marquee status is its stage show, including hydraulic lifts, flash pots and loads of pyrotechnics and lights.
"I have always loved big rock shows," Cooper said. "The concerts were larger than life, with pyrotechnics, stage makeup and stuff with bands like Kiss.
"I've always been a big fan of that and said, if we ever got to be the level of band where we could do a bigger level of production, I wanted to do a full tour with pyro. It's always been a joke with my manager."
Skillet finally got the chance on the WinterJam tour in 2008, which stopped at Rupp Arena.
It was not a good idea to stand too close to the stage — you didn't know when the torches at the edge of the stage would flame to life. Last year at Ichthus, Skillet guitarists Korey Cooper, John's wife, and Ben Kasica were playing on lifts that took them well above the crowd.
"That's what keeps people coming back," Cooper said. "It's not just your music."
It's the whole blockbuster package, and Friday is blockbuster night. Get ready for Skillet's latest sequel.