June 9th, 2006
Celebrate Fairfax Festival
Celebrate Fairfax is an annual three-day festival that takes place in the heart of Fairfax, Virginia, and features carnival rides, petting zoos, great food and drink, local business exhibits, and plenty of great rock and roll. This year we hit the musical jackpot as Collective Soul headlined the opening night of the festival, and rocked the main stage for about 70 minutes, before the scheduled fireworks show forced them to quite.
My wife and I arrived at the festival at around 7:00 PM, and we almost felt guilty paying the meager ten dollar admission price, when you consider that a Collective Soul concert is thrown in. The gates did not open until 6:00 PM on this opening night of the festival, and Collective Soul was scheduled to take the "Bud Light" main stage at 8:00 PM. As we made our way back to the main stage area, we passed a few other smaller stages where various local bands would soon be jamming. For fans of good live music, this was a great place to hang out and sample all of the bands, beer, and barbeque. After Collective Soul, that is.
We decided to find us some seats about 30 minutes before show time, since the seating area was beginning to fill up fast. We scored a couple of great seats about 20 rows back, dead-center. Located just behind the seating area, off to the left, was one of the smaller stages where a local rock band was belting out some recent cover songs, and unwittingly serving as Collective Soul's opening act.
There were scattered thunderstorms expected in the area during the early evening, and sure enough, the sky let loose about ten minutes after we took our seats. It didn't seem to bother most people too much because the downpour was reasonably light, there was no lightning, and the temperature was still in the mid-70s. Most importantly, we could see clear skies on the horizon moving in our direction. A few people had the foresight to bring umbrellas, but most of us just stuck plastic bags or the festival brochure on our heads.
Almost as if it was part of the show, the rain completely stopped at about 8:10 PM and the skies cleared to reveal a full moon rising from behind the stage. Collectives Soul's intro music pumped out of the speakers as the band took the stage – all but front man extraordinaire Ed Roland, of course, who likes to make a grand entrance several seconds into the song. They kicked things off with "Counting The Days" from their latest album, Youth, and you immediately could tell it was going to be an awesome show. The band was energized from the get-go, and the sound mix was one of the best I have ever heard for this type of venue.
The rest of the show was basically a run-through of their greatest hits, featuring at least one song from each of their six studio albums. Ed Roland revealed that a new album would be coming out soon, and five songs into the set they performed "Hollywood" from that forthcoming release. This was a very light and breezy pop number in the vein of such other songs as "Listen" and "Better Now". A few songs later they showcased another new song called "Today", which featured a heavier, more steady rocking groove.
The band seemed to be having a great time this night, feeding off the energy of the huge crowd who were on their feet singing along to every song for the entire show. Half way into the show a few large beach balls started getting tossed around and even managed to get onstage and hit Ed Roland a couple of times. He just smiled and playfully kicked them back out. At one point the event staff confiscated them, but before the next song Roland told them it was alright, and to "give 'em the balls back, man." After pointing out some Queen and AC/DC concert tees on a couple of the front row fans, the band would spontaneously break into some of the famous riffs from each band. Joel Kosche's "We Will Rock You" solo was especially cool.
The crowd was a good mix of young and old, and most of them were obviously huge fans of the band, judging by the overwhelming participation during the sing-a-long sections of certain songs. "Better Now" was the second to last song of the night, and during the famous "the world's done shaking me down" chorus, I swear that every single person in the crowd was singing at the top of their lungs. The band appeared to be genuinely moved by the tremendous audience participation, and Ed Roland seemed almost pissed off that they had to stop playing at 9:20 when the fireworks show was scheduled.
After the incredible finale of "Better Now", Roland told the crowd that they weren't going to waste time by leaving the stage and then coming back out for an encore, so they proceeded right in to what he referred to as "an old spiritual" – known to you and me as "Shine". Roland broke out a huge Gibson hollow-body guitar to kick off the opening riff, and, like several of the other songs in the set, when all three guitarist were jamming at once, the sound was monstrous. Collective Soul's live sound is so much more muscular then what you hear on the albums, which is why they are such a great band to see live.
As the last note of "Shine" rang out, and Roland was still saying his thank yous and good nights, a brilliant stream of fireworks shot up from the left side of the stage, in perfect view of the crowd. It was the perfect ending to an incredible show.
Counting The Days
How Do You Love
The World I Know
Why, Pt. 2