Brat Fest's own prison
Madison's annual pork bender is now also partly a Christian-rock fest. What could go wrong?
In next to no time at all, a simple story about what a ding-a-ling Scott Stapp is—an angle we thought we’d have all to ourselves—has ballooned into documenting an all-out cultural turf war with World’s Largest Brat Fest (an event where the rate of collective consumption hovers around 85 brats per minute) caught right in the middle.
With any luck, between wrapping the article and publishing it, no further shit will hit the fan.
Let us recap the situation so far.
Tim Metcalfe, the president of Metcalfe’s Markets, which sponsors Madison’s annual BratTacular, went to Lifest, a Christian music festival in Oshkosh, and rediscovered God.
With the help of Lifest founder Bob Lenz, Metcalfe added an entire stage to Brat Fest, the clumsily yet synergistically named “Lifest EZ Office Products Stage," and stocked it with a Christian-rock lineup designed to climax with Scott “the Voice of Creed” Stapp on Saturday night.
This is where we came in, hoping to write an article that would be a fun take on the severely self-aggrandizing Christian-rock band bios on the Brat Fest site, and ultimately poke at Scott Stapp’s history of having an ego that epically outstrips his self-awareness.
Perhaps the Lord had other plans.
If you had looked at the lineup, you might have noticed Bob Lenz was the guy “opening” for Scott Stapp, and discovered that he was an inspirational speaker. Doug Erickson’s weekly “In The Spirit Column” that ran in this past Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal mentioned that Lenz is closely tied to Save The Storks, an organization that parks “Stork Buses” in front of abortion clinics and offers free last-chance ultrasound images to pregnant women, which is not at all totally near the bottom of the list of best ways to spend a ton of money furthering Jesus’ compassionate message in this day and age.
Thankfully, according to Erickson’s article, Lenz and Brat Fest organizers assured the public that “abortion politics will not be part of his Brat Fest appearance.” But that, of course, was ridiculous.
The presence of Christian music alone was prompting a number of questions about how Christian the formerly secular event was going to become—even before you factored in the association with a fetus-saving tactical vehicle. It’s not as if Brat Fest already had a history of attracting political controversy, so it was only natural that they eventually get tied up with pro-lifers as well.
On Monday, Madison Ald. (and former executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin) Lisa Subeck wrote an open letter rejecting an offer to be a “celebrity cashier” at The World’s Largest Brat Fest in an act of protest against Lenz’s presence in a speaking capacity.
While Subeck might’ve stretched her hyperbole too thin in comparing Lenz to Fred Phelps (one step down from invoking Hitler), she was absolutely right on in saying that “...as a leader in the Save the Storks bus tour program, he participates directly in the interference of access to women's health care” and his involvement in this free event, even if he doesn’t make any comments regarding abortion, would be an implied endorsement of his gynecological dabblings. Now that I think about it, though, couldn’t you say the same thing about Friday headliner Bret Michaels, star of VH1’s reality television dating competition series 'Rock of Love'?
Tuesday afternoon, Metcalfe saved everyone a lot of trouble and pulled the plug on Lenz as a speaker. But it's not as if he has entirely dodged that issue. Lifest—an organization Lenz leads—is still right there with its name on a stage. Admittedly, getting rid of that would be a lot harder and much more costly, but for now everyone seems appeased, and we’ll still get our Saturday Stapp attack as promised.
It’s worth noting that in a Facebook post, Metcalfe said that Lenz’s planned speech was geared toward promoting suicide prevention awareness. In a way that is poignantly fitting, as Stapp who is on the record as having attempted suicide twice, a fact that I discovered while researching this article (and one that took the wind out of my sails about making fun of the dude).
I’m all for social awareness and being conscious of your dollar as a vote, but I fondly remember the Brat Fests of old, when my friends and I were able to simply hang out and eat a half dozen or so of the 209,376 brats that were consumed that year (the most ever eaten in a single Brat Fest!), ride some rides, drink some beers, and lose money on the midway, but sadly the self-described “World’s Largest” carnival of encased-meat will forever be mired in controversy, and no amount of mustard will erase its lingering taste.
If Lifest at Brat Fest ends up happening again in 2015, which I sincerely doubt at this point, the organizers should look into booking Brian “Head” Welch, former guitarist for Korn, whose 'Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story' was recommended to me when I checked out Stapp’s 2012 memoir 'Sinner's Creed,' and whose band Love and Death would likely be much cheaper to book and then potentially cancel.
Other "Lifest EZ Office Products Stage" headliners include Building 429 (whose name comes from Ephesians 4:29, Friday, May 23, 6:00 pm), Group 1 Crew ("...endlessly infectious stream of hip-hop, rap, pop, rock and inspirational confections..." Sunday, May 25, 6:00 pm), and Seventh Day Slumber (stop what you're doing and read their press bio now, Monday, May 26, 5:00 pm).