Concert lineup features top musical acts, returning favorites
By Joshua Maloni
Two consecutive summers where large gatherings were frowned upon, if not prohibited, made it impossible for Kingdom Bound Ministries to hold its annual four-day festival at Darien Lake. But with all COVID-19 restrictions lifted, and concert and event attendance rising – particularly outdoors – Kingdom Bound is a full-go, starting this weekend, for the first time since 2019.
Festival director and ministry CFO Donna Russo said, “We feel so blessed to be able to return after a two-year absence. Our team has been preparing for many months so that we can celebrate together. We are looking forward to seeing old friends and family, as well as meeting new friends joining us for the first time.”
The 34th Kingdom Bound will take place Sunday through Wednesday, with activities throughout the Darien Lake amusement park and campground.
Russo said, “Psalm 66:1-4 is our celebration verse this year: ‘Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you; they sing the praises of your name.” ’
“We are going to SHOUT, we are going to SING, and we are going PRAISE the name of the Lord!”
For youth, their families and pastors, the performing arts festival offers speakers, games, dance parties, and a marketplace filled with inspirational items, keepsakes and clothing.
Notably, Kingdom Bound is one of the largest Christian music festivals in the world, both in terms of size – approximately 40,000 people attended three years ago – and the slate of top-selling artists headlining the PAC stage.
Among the acts set to perform this year:
•Sunday: Ledger, Colton Dixon and headliner Skillet at the PAC
•Monday: Brother McClurg and Ben Fuller in the worship tent; Rebecca St. James, Cochren & Co., We Are Messengers and for KING & COUNTRY at the PAC
•Tuesday: Brooke Nicholls and Paul Baloche in the worship tent and main stage; Jordan St. Cyr, Matthew West, and Casting Crowns at the PAC
•Wednesday: Baloche and Village Lights in the worship tent; Tasha Layton, Jordan Feliz, Big Daddy Weave, and TobyMac at the PAC
Matthew West (Image courtesy of Merge PR)
In the time between Kingdom Bound festivals, Matthew West has had a half-dozen hit singles. He is one of Christian music’s most successful artists – and later this summer, West will perform a headline concert at the birthplace of country music: Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium. In September, West is releasing a new book, titled “The God Who Stays.”
He said, “I've loved coming to Kingdom Bound over the years, and I think it gathers a different type of audience; it gathers a bigger audience. It's that summertime feeling. Honestly, the band plays a different kind of show in the summer than when we play a regular concert on our tours or whatever that may be. So, it's all those things combined.
“I would say this time around, too, Kingdom Bound has been postponed for two years now. And so, when I think about that, I think about the excitement and the anticipation of the people who are going to be attending after two years of being told, ‘Hey, you can't gather together in New York, at Darien Lake,’ right?”
“I know the band and I are just so excited to get on stage, and get to experience that – sort of what a reunion might feel like, you know?” West said.
Brooke Nicholls, who resides in Toronto, said, “I went (to Kingdom Bound) as a kid, and I got to stand in these tents and up at these stages. And just like, with my jaw dropped, I got to watch some of the best in the business. And I remember as a young girl being so impacted by those moments. And here I am, all these years later, I'm one of the acts – I get to play the main stage. I get to play the worship tent. And it just almost feels like a pinch me moment, you know?
“I'm really thankful, actually, for Kingdom Bound, and just how they are. It's been hard with COVID, but they're still going for it.
“And I'm excited for this year. I love being able to represent Canada, first of all, and I love being able to represent female artists, too. It just feels like a double gift.”
Nicholls made her Kingdom Bound debut in 2019.
“I was like a little kid on Christmas morning (laughs),” she said. “You know, woke up; it was Kingdom Bound day. And it was amazing. It was just incredible. Meeting people, singing with people, worshiping with people. It just felt like this 360 moment.”
Rebecca St. James – and her brothers, Luke and Joel Smallbone of for KING & COUNTRY – will perform Monday as part of Kingdom Bound at Darien Lake. (Photo courtesy of Smallbone Management)
Rebecca St. James has been a part of Kingdom Bound for more than 25 years. She returns with “Kingdom Come,” her first full-length album since 2011.
“When I was first writing these songs, I had no idea that there was a pandemic around the corner, and that people were going to be so desperate for this kind of hope, or this kind of language about there being a dawn, or there being a sunrise; we just had no idea,” St. James said.
At past festivals, the singer, songwriter, author, actor and podcast host has candidly shared stories about personal pressures, loss, and even an unplanned semiretirement.
“I feel thankful that God has been able to use my pain, and really offer hope to people – not only through the music, but my testimony,” St. James said. “When I'm doing shows, I'm able to share the story of God making my dreams come true as a wife and mom – I'm living that now. And I was holding on for so many years, so publicly for that. And then also just redeeming some of these other challenges and bringing us into a new day and a new time.”
St. James said she looks forward to performing at Kingdom Bound.
“I mean, for me, there's just so many amazing memories,” she said. “I think Kingdom Bound was either the first festival that I ever played, or like one of the first that first couple years that I was even doing music in the mid-’90s. And so, I mean, I just remember riding the rollercoasters there, and having my band, and playing in the middle of the park at one point, and then doing the seminars in the grove area.
“Just so many memories. And I think that that's just very sweet to have that kind of history.
“And a lot of things change in life; a lot of things, they go away – you know, they just don't exist anymore. And to have something that is so iconic, like Kingdom Bound, have some of these same people behind the scenes that I’ve known all these years – that have kind of seen me grow up – it's just very special.”
For more information on Kingdom Bound, or for tickets, visit https://www.kingdombound.org.