07/11/12 — Matt Bartlett Band to headline concert at Busch Gardens

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Matt Bartlett Band to headline concert at Busch Gardens

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 11, 2012 1:46 PM

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The Matt Bartlett Band, a contemporary Christian group based at The Bridge Church, will be headlining at a concert at Busch Gardens on Aug. 12. They recently won a nationwide Facebook contest to be the opening act for Christian music band Third Day in June. From left are Kevin Gardner, lead guitarist, Rich Holder, keyboard, Matt Bartlett, guitar and vocals, Lee Stowe, bass guitar, and Gage Haveri, drummer.

The Matt Bartlett Band may have had a built-in audience when it was chosen as opening act for popular contemporary Christian recording artist Third Day at Busch Gardens last month.

But the sold-out crowd and response to the Facebook contest that got them there was all officials needed to extend the invitation for an encore.

So, on Aug. 12, the Goldsboro-based group will headline its own concert at the Virginia theme park, with the two runners-up from the national contest serving as opening acts.

Drummer Gage Haveri, worship leader who works with youth at The Bridge Church, where the band is based, first learned about the contest but was unable to involve the youth in time for the deadline. He passed along the information to his bandmates.

"We just prayed for God's will to be done," he said. "If He wanted us to go on this journey, we were up for it."

The five-member band played for a packed house June 24, said Lee Stowe, bass guitarist.

"It holds 5,000 but the crowd was estimated at between 6,000 and 6,500," he said.

Officials at Busch Gardens were extremely pleased with the first-time contest, which featured voting entirely on Facebook.

"They told us when we got there that there were about 200 entries in the contest," Stowe said. "They narrowed it down to about 100 and then they picked 20 from the 100 and then they had the voting.

"They said there were probably 30,000 votes, said the response was so good they wanted us back as the headlining band."

Bartlett's band maintained a strong showing among the final three, but the other two acts -- Zack Hardison from Virginia Beach and Mosteller, from Cincinnati, Ohio -- were also worthy contenders and will be brought back as opening acts.

"They were all, if I'm not mistaken, a lot like us, a praise-type band, but (Mosteller) had a lot more members," Stowe said. "(Busch Gardens) had hinted they were going to pick out a date in July or August. I'm glad it was August. This gives us a little more time to prepare."

Instead of the four-song set of an opening act, frontman Matt Barlett said he is gearing up for the extended concert.

"We'll have 45 minutes to do a concert," he said. "So we're actually writing some new material and different things like that, really being creative with our concert, to share the gospel."

He will also bring along some guest performers from The Bridge, including Tove Hanson, violinist, Jared Grantham on guitar and vocalist Majesty York.

The whole experience has been "surreal" but entirely humbling.

"I'm very honored to have the opportunity to even go to Busch Gardens and play," he said. "It's just a huge door of opportunity that's been opened up for us. We're very excited to do it.

"It's really cool to go back there and actually headline."

In the nearly five years since the band formed, there have been a few shifts in membership. It's taken awhile for the group to gel, Bartlett said, but the current group has been going strong for nearly a year and a half.

Stowe owns Trinity Auto Center. All the others are involved in full-time ministries. Keyboard player Rich Holder is involved in ministry at Bethel Church and Kevin Gardner at Gateway Community Church.

"This is the Matt Bartlett band," Bartlett said. "There's no changes that are going to happen.

"These guys are my brothers in Christ. They're family. I consider them that, and it's just really great how God has joined us together."

The group also has plans to work on a full album in the near future. A five-song EP, extended play, album was released last September.

"We'll see how far this thing can go," Bartlett said. "We're willing to say, 'God, whatever door You open up, we're willing to walk through."

Tickets for the 7 p.m. concert Aug. 12 are available through the Busch Gardens website or at the gate. For more information, call The Bridge at 919-735-5411.