Pearson celebrated when he learned that his band would be part of the Christian music festival Joshua Fest, an annual event in North California over Labor Day weekend.
“Overwhelmed and honored!” he wrote on Everyday Sunday’s social media channels back in August. “I will be the first openly gay artist to ever play a major Christian music festival!”
Or he would have been, but 11 homophobic members of the production team threatened to walk out if he was allowed to perform, which would have made going on with the festival difficult.
“The information about the stage crew came from our production manager,” Joshua Fest owner Aaron Diello told Billboard. “There was a team of about 14, and he said that about 11 were going to back out. He was trying to get them to change their minds, but it really put our back against the wall. This was just under two weeks out from the event. All of our staff are volunteers, and none of us are paid. When it comes to production, we have a production manager who is given a shoestring budget. And the fact that this team works the event for cost really put us in a bind to find a knowledgeable team that was available, let alone affordable. The event is Labor Day weekend, so you can imagine how hard it would have been to find a team that was experienced and available.”
Diello described the production members who threatened to walk as “a group of guys that are stagehands at many of Northern California’s Christian concerts. They’ve been really good to us over the years, and I’m not going to call them haters. They’re good guys that need more Jesus.”
The band had played the festival nearly every year for the past decade and Diello said that making the call to cancel Everyday Sunday’s performance was a difficult one.
“I was hurt. I felt like I was powerless in the situation — like I was just punched in the gut. I was forced to let down a friend, someone that I really wanted to just love and support, the way Jesus tells us to. I was being denied that opportunity, at my own festival. It was a horrible situation,” he said.
When rumors began circulating that Everyday Sunday had been removed from the lineup, as the band disappeared from the website, Pearson did not respond to press inquiries about the issue since he “didn’t want to paint the festival in a bad light.”
“The owners are awesome and their hearts are awesome and that’s why they were inviting me in the first place. There was no way they would have been able to have the festival. If they keep me, I’m not going to perform anyway, because the festival is not even going to happen, and the festival owners are going to lose probably hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he reasoned.
Pearson decided to attend the festival as an audience member despite the unfortunate situation. He is friends with members of Switchfoot and Relient K, two of the Joshua Fest headliners, and looked forward to seeing them perform.
Then, unexpectedly, members of the ska-punk band Five Iron Frenzy, which Pearson grew up listening to, reached out and asked him if he would like to perform with them on their final song.
“They were like, ‘Hey, what would you think about coming up and singing our last song with us’ — ‘Every New Day,’ which is one of their biggest songs,” Pearson said. “They were a band that I went to tons of their concerts in high school and looked up to, and so to have them ask me to do that was amazing. They checked with the owners first, and we all decided — it’s not me doing my own set, but it’s still a way that I can go up there and be a part of the festival. So it turned out to be a really beautiful thing. I think there were a couple of surprised looks that I was there by a couple of people who didn’t want me there, but everybody was friendly. Of course I wish I could have done my own set, but in some ways this almost felt more powerful, because it was this band that I looked up to growing up that a lot of the fans looked up to, and all these guys from the other bands, too, standing with me in love.”
Not quite sure how to put in words how much this @JoshuaFest meant to me. I am honored and thankful for the love of one of my favorite bands growing up, @FiveIronFrenzy, inviting me to come on stage to perform with them. I am unbelievably thankful for the owners of Joshua Fest who invited me, and helped make it happen, even when there were people fighting to not let me perform there. I am humbled and grateful for my friends in @Switchfoot and @RelientK, who took the time to show me so much love and compassion, as we spent time together there. And I'm in awe of how much love I received from the fans, rooting me on with their love and support as I was up there. The people who came up to me, who just told me how much they loved me, and how proud of me they were. I know there were some people there that probably weren't happy I was there. But, for a festival where people come together to celebrate their love God and their faith in Jesus, it truly felt like the hands of feet and Christ pouring their love out on me. It was an amazing, overwhelming time that I will never forget.
“Having Trey come up on ‘Every New Day,’ which is sort of our worship anthem at the end of every set, I think made a pretty big statement. Like, he believes in the same God you do, but you’re going to excommunicate him because of his sexuality?” said Five Iron Frenzy drummer Andrew Verdecchio.
“The band’s singer, Reese Roper, “We had all talked as a band about just dropping off of [the festival], just to make a statement, like if you’re not gonna let him play, then we’re not gonna play,” said Reese Roper, the band’s singer. “We don’t like to deal with that kind of intolerance. Especially to me, if you’re espousing being full of the love of Christ, that’s just not how you do it.”
“I think it was very positive,” he said of bringing Pearson onstage with them. “I see on our Facebook page just a lot of people saying, ‘Thanks for doing that.’ I really wish we could do more. I feel like the church is just hemorrhaging over this issue, and it bothers me so much to know that what we choose to do with the love of Christ is to ostracize people. If you talk to the guys in my mind, I think there’s a gamut of feelings about homosexuality and whether or not it’s sinful, or what a sin is.”
“I believe that everything happened the way it was supposed to happen,” Diello said. “God took a bad situation and made it glorify him. Maybe not the way Trey and myself foresaw or wanted it to pan out, but if it didn’t happen the way it did, then I think the result would have been different, maybe even manufactured or forced.”
“We really got to see something raw and unique happen to the core of people’s souls. I think there’s a lot of annihilated kids out there that need the politics and theological debates of the church shelved. Jesus showed up in a powerful way during that performance. People were in tears, and not in a crazy Pentecostal way. Something bigger than us and our issues happened at that show.”