The Extreme Tour at OTTS Garage
On Friday, I had the pleasure of catching The Extreme Tour in Merrill at OTTS Garage. My main motive was to see Gr8frt as I've been friends with John Gold for a bit now and love his music. He described the tour to me a bit, but frankly it's the sort of thing that is easy to blow out of proportion. The Fox Valley is home to EAA, Mile of Music, and all these other big events - so when someone mentions there's community outreach, a skate contest, and a concert, it's hard not to go to the extremes and imagine a stage with lights, an actual skate park, and more (I should add I have been to an outreach event that was at an actual skate park but that's beside the point).
Instead, what I found was much simpler - a quarter of a block in front of the youth center barricaded off, three merch tents, a hot dog stand, and several movable skate ramps and rails. The crowd was a bit thin, though Merrill itself is a smaller community and the event started midday on a work day. It's a bit difficult to wrestle with folks giving up so much to come to this sort of community for this kind of turnout but I guess that's love in action.
You may not be familiar with what the Extreme Tour is, and that's understandable. Most of the artists are lesser-known (with a few exceptions) and most of the shows from my understanding happen in struggling communities.
At its core, the Tour is a form of missions work. For several months, artists travel the country modeling the sacrificial love of Jesus by serving in a variety of communities.
On this leg of the tour, there were five acts. The first was the aforementioned Gr8frt - a husband/wife experimental rock duo from Florida. Obviously I'm partial to their music enough to make the drive. They were followed by Canadian singer/songwriting Amy-Lynn Howson.
There were several hip-hop acts on tour as well. The first artist was Idiomz Da Prophesayer, who recounted most of his personal journey of faith and challenges in life. His lively performance brought plenty of energy to the crowd. The second hip-hop act of the night was galleryCat who was easily my favorite new discovery from the Tour. Both performers had great wordplay and general artistry and again it's challenging to see that they're largely still unknown. Nonetheless, I'm thankful to have seen them live.
Another Florida act, Seek/n/Find, changed up the mood with their pop-punk style and general fun vibes. The bassist's wireless set had him strolling among the crowd much of the set, and the audience seemed to enjoy it as well.
The last act of the night was probably the most unexpected. Michigan hardcore punk trio Desiring Dead Flesh took the stage with a set that was surely a whirlwind of emotions. Many moments were intense and highly-emotional, but there was also a lighthearted side as well, showcased by duct tape swords, three-second songs, and lyrics like "Oh, oh, oh, a day with dad!" Naturally, they proved to be one of the most memorable parts of the whole set, bringing the night to a close before the Tour began its "campfire" time.
All in all, it wasn't what I was expecting but it was still lots of fun. I'm challenged to be more intentional in my own life, be more generous, and carry out my faith in a more visible way.