The city of Toowoomba, located in Queensland, Australia, was filled to the brim as 40,000 Christians gathered over the Easter weekend to listen to their favorite gospel artists.
In its ninth year, the Australian Gospel Music Festival (AGMF), also dubbed the Christian Big Day Out, saw thousands of people from Friday to Sunday wanting to celebrate Easter with worship-themed rock, pop and blues, and it has remained a major event in the country, drawing in more than just locals.
This year also featured the standard music festival practice of camping out so patrons would not to miss any of the events.
"It is very joyous; it is a very happy thing and I think people are wanting to celebrate their Easter," said Wes Jay, the festival spokesman, in the Australian. "It is positive music, it is music that encourages people; it is music which uplifts people."
This year’s celebration brought in some of the best Christian acts from around the world to share in the festivities.
Artists included Aussie singer Michelle Tumes, New Zealand act The Lads, Chicago based Superchic[k], American sister act BarlowGirl, U.S. hard rockers Day Of Fire, Swedish metal band Blindside, pop singer Jimmy Needham, Australian gospel rock band Planetshakers, and jazz musician James Morrison, among others.
"If you’re in town you would have seen an 18 meter high tent going up," explained Jay in ABC Southern Queensland. "It’s quite amazing. It covers almost an entire football field of grass."
According to Jay, gospel music has been growing in popularity in Australia with about five to six percent of the total sales, which is about the same as country music. The AGMF relies on popular Christian figures for its success, especially from overseas, but local bands are becoming more current.
"We’re still very much part of a culture relying on those big names [from abroad]," explained the spokesman in ABC Southern Queensland, "[but] people in Australia want to see Australians. Have a look at the top five hundreds of the year, or of all-time. People are looking for home grown talent which they want first, and I think that’s the same in Australian Christian music."
AGMF started in 1999 as a joint venture between business, community, government, and Church groups to contribute significantly to the social, economic, and spiritual fabric of Toowoomba and the Australian community.