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Ichthus Festival's Galleria Stage is a hit

Josh Dun and Twenty One  Pilots livened up the coffeehouse  atmosphere of the Galleria Stage with a frenetic performance.
Josh Dun and Twenty One Pilots livened up the coffeehouse atmosphere of the Galleria Stage with a frenetic performance. Lexington Herald-Leader

WILMORE — They come in to beat the heat, and they stay for the music.

One of the newest features of the Ichthus Festival is the Galleria Stage, a venue devoted to singer-songwriter-style acts. In addition to (relatively) quieter music, compared to what's on most of the stages at Ichthus, which ends Saturday, the venue boasts shade, a coffee shop and seating. It's the only Ichthus venue with actual chairs.

"It's a really nice breeze," said Madeline Witte of Hurricane, W.Va., as she and her friend Doyle Maurer settled in at a coffee shop table, Maurer pulling up a second chair for his feet.

Maurer came to Ichthus last year, the first year of the Galleria stage, and "I saw an acoustic guitar player in here, and he was really good. I don't remember who he was, but he was really good."

Elle Puckett of the duo Poema said not all Christian music festivals fashion a place for quieter fare such as the music she and her keyboardist sister, Shealeen, play.

"It seems like most of the time we are places that have a more pop and upbeat sound, so we come on and have to sort of make it work," Elle said. "Our music is more suited to this chill vibe — rootsy, folk."

In recent years, Ichthus has tried to create settings for a variety of music styles, including hip hop and hard rock, where they can be showcased, whether up-and-comers or established stars. Saturday's lineup will include the Abe Parker Band among the newcomers, current stars JJ Heller and Aaron Gillespie, and living legend Phil Keaggy.

"We're trying to provide a stage where headliners in their own right can play in a format suited to their music, and up-and-comers can share that stage," Ichthus chief executive Mark Vermilion said. "It's for more mature and sophisticated musicianship. Phil Keaggy is the ultimate artist for that."

But not everything is quiet and contemplative on the Galleria stage.

Early Thursday afternoon, Twenty One Pilots, out of Columbus, Ohio, fired up a set combining rap, piano, looping and a frenetic performance that got the crowd at the front of the stage dancing along.

Drummer Josh Dun said, "We try and do everything the opposite of what people expect. So it's cool to be in here and be a bit different from what most people were expecting."

"They were incredible," said Rock McGuire, a youth-group leader from Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati. "Stylistically, it's really eclectic. It isn't what you'd expect in a coffeehouse style, but it makes sense."

There is actual coffee, served by Coffee Crossing, a faith-based coffee shop in New Albany, Ind. It's a short menu, but there are premium coffee and hot and cold lattes — including a vanilla latte that could compete with almost any coffeehouse in Lexington.

Zack Rhoades, who was working as a barista Thursday afternoon, said the tent had seen a good crowd since it had been open.

And Maurer, the guy from St. Albans, W.Va., who had just dropped by, hadn't studied the schedule, but he did look at a merchandise table that was being set up for Chris August and said, "If he's going to be here, I'll be."

And as August wrapped up his set shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, the Galleria crowd packed the big tent all the way to the back.

Quiet and contemplative doesn't mean it's not popular.

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