Simply put, Winter Jam is a concert for everybody, says Newsong’s Billy Goodwin.
The largest Christian music tour in the country stops in Augusta on Feb. 9 and costs just $10 at the door, said Goodwin, lead vocalist and guitarist for the Valdosta, Ga., group that founded the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular.
More than 90,000 people made decisions for Christ during last year’s tour. Now in its 17th year, the tour stops at 47 cities on the East Coast and, for the first time, 11 cities in the western U.S.
“It’s an unbelievably bigger show than when we started,” said Goodwin, whose Grammy-nominated band released its 17th album, One True God, last spring.
The 2012 tour features the hard-rock band Skillet, former Newsboys front man Peter Furler, Kari Jobe, Building 429 and Group 1 Crew.
“Skillet comes out and just unloads both barrels. They pour themselves out on the stage,” he said. “The lyrics are powerful. Their hearts are in it.”
The atmosphere is indescribable, said Matt Hammitt, the lead singer of Sanctus Real.
“It’s intense. It’s huge,” he said. “I think everybody agrees that Skillet steals the shows with their pyrotechnics, but everybody brings their own thing to the table.”
This year’s lineup also includes illusionist Brock Gill and speaker Nick Hall. Each concert includes a presentation of the gospel. It’s not unusual to see 1,000 people stand to accept the invitation, Goodwin said.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “Every night, you get to see a visual response, and those are just the people you see.”
Before the official concert kicks off, a pre-jam show features Dara Maclean, For King & Country, and We As Human. VeggieTales’ Bob and Larry will also make an appearance.
“We try to get the biggest lineup we can find,” Goodwin said. The band is committed to making the concert easy to attend, which is why ticket prices are low and tickets aren’t required.
“We had half a million people in attendance last year,” he said. “Last year, Winter Jam was the biggest tour of the first quarter of the year. We beat out Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.”
The tour started small. Winter Jam began with a single concert in the winter of 1995, Goodwin said. The following year, a few dates were added. By 1997, the group had launched January Jam, with dates throughout the first month. That series grew into today’s Winter Jam.
“I think God is smiling on it. It’s grown into something we couldn’t have ever made ourselves,” he said.
Though the cost is just $10, Goodwin said he knows that’s still too much for some people to pay. It doesn’t matter, he said.
“If you don’t have it, come in. We don’t turn people away,” he said. “Bring your family members or friends. Bring that person you’ve been praying for. We pray that there are decisions made that night that affect all of eternity.”