"We've done this tour five or six times," recalled Roy during a recent phone interview. "And every time it has felt like the fans are a great big family and are really fired up."
Since the late 1990s Winter Jam has played large venues across the country, including more than a decade's worth of shows at Grand Rapids' Van Andel Arena. With 10 music artists, an inspirational speaker and a modest at-the-door admission charge, the tour has played to as many at 700,000 persons annually.
"At each concert we'll ask how many fans have seen us before, and only half of the hands go up," Roy observed. "We've been a band for 17 years and there's no tour out there we haven't done, so it's incredible that we're still making an impact with new people and reintroducing ourselves."
Although never headlining the massive tour, Building 429 has shared the bill with artists like TobyMac, Newsboys and at least once before with the hard-rocking Skillet foursome who are up again in 2018.
"The more years you do this tour the more you get to know the people who've done it a long time," Roy said. "We always try to befriend and encourage every artist along the way, because you never know what will happen in the future."
BUILDING BEHIND THE SCENES
The giant tour is tightly choreographed, with each artist slotted a limited time frame and moving on and off stage quickly. Although the headliner typically gets an hour of stage time during the five hour event, the bands in the "middle" only get about 20 minutes. (The opening "pre-jam" artists get even less).
"You've got to view it like your SuperBowl halftime show – there is no time wasted," said the singer. Building 429 (which takes its name from the phrase "building others up" in Ephesians 4:29) performed on the fall leg of Winter Jam, so Roy said the band is well rehearsed and ready to go.
They are likely to perform their best known songs such as "Where I Belong" and "We Won't Be Shaken," but Roy promised a new song from their forthcoming album, slated to be released during the new year.
Each Sunday while out on the road, the artists meet for "Jam Church," led by tour pastor Bobby Joiner. The artists take turns leading worship segments.
"For me it's an opportunity to have a place to stay anchored," said Roy of the weekly gathering while away from their home churches. "The reality is that there are so many pieces and parts thrown at you every day on a tour like this that you can say.....what the heck happened? Nobody understands the pressures of being an artist on stage the way the artists in that room do."
He credits the host band (and Winter Jam founders) NewSong as having some of the best players on the tour. "Be prepared to be amazed by them – when you see them it'll take your breath away," said Roy.
One Winter Jam difference for 2018 – after many years of maintaining a $10 at the door admission charge, the price has gone up to $15. (There's also a free-will offering during the event. "Jam Nation" passes featuring early admission and an artist Q and A session are on sale in advance only. See information below).
MUSICAL DIVERSITY, COMMON FAITH
This tour line-up has a smorgasbord of musical styles: in addition to the rocking Skillet and the hitmakers Building 429 are the hip-hop of KB, pop singer-songwriters Jordan Feliz and Mallary Hope, the worship songs of Kari Jobe and newcomer Dan Bremnes, and Winter Jam first-timer comedian John Crist. Author/speaker/evangelist Nick Hall is also on the roster.
Building 429 was in Holland, Mich. last October with a Worship in the Round tour. And the year before they performed at Worship on the Waterfront in Grand Haven right along the Grand River channel near Lake Michigan.
"That was the busiest channel full of boats I've ever seen," recalled Roy of the crowded summertime waterway.
But Winter Jam is another kind of challenge. "A tour like this affords you the opportunity to meet a lot of people," he said. "I tell people to come and we'll hang out afterwards and talk until the last one leaves."
Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, featuring Skillet, Kari Jobe, Building 429, KB, Jordan Feliz, comedian John Crist, host band NewSong, and speaker Nick Hall; with a "Pre-Jam Party" including Dan Bremmes, Mallary Hope and Westover.
6 p.m. Sun. Jan. 7, 2018 (Pre-Jam Party begins at 5 pm.) Van Andel Arena, 130 W. Fulton St. Grand Rapids
Admission $15 at the door, plus free-will offering. Jam Nation passes with early entry and artist Q&A available in advance only starting at $34.99 at www.jamtour.com
(Winter Jam also stops at Little Caesar's Arena in downtown Detroit Sat. Feb. 11).
Promotional video from the headlining band Skillet available at https://www.facebook.com/skillet/videos/vb.6483988719/10155237542293720/?type=2&theater