Saturday was upon us and it was finally time to say our final goodbyes. Up until today I think many people had been putting it off, enjoying the festival and pretending nothing was going to change. Today however was time to confront reality and it made emotions heightened even more than the normal “last day of Cornerstone” state. We started off the morning going to the church service at the Chelsea Gallery stage. It takes something pretty monumental to get our group stirred and out to the grounds before noon and I’d say this counts. Glenn Kaiser led the crowd in worship and then John Herrin spoke briefly thanking everyone for the years and years of good memories and hard work by everyone at the festival. Current co-organizers Scott Stanhke and Genesis Winter also took a few brief moments to thank the staff and everyone for coming this year when the band list was slashed and the stages reduced. John Thompson shared a little of his many years at the festival and then opened the floor for people to tell their stories about Cornerstone. I’m sure it only scratched the surface of the myriad of stories but people who had been attending the festival for 20-25 years told their stories as well as people who had only come for a year or two. We heard many stories of misfits, people who didn’t feel they fit in feel a sense of belonging at the festival. We heard stories of people meeting their life partners, recovering from loss, and finding Jesus after rejection from mainstream churches. Finally, they closed down the afternoon with a communion service and we all joined together for the last time to break bread and drink together.
After a short break, it was back to the music one last time. Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk started off an incredibly strong lineup on the Chelsea Gallery Stage. After their debut last year the band came back this year with even more confidence and a fuller sound. They didn’t have as much success getting people up and dancing such as at the Mike Mains and The Branches show last night probably due to the stifling heat, but I would think this kind of music would also be fun to dance to. Following them, Timbre had flown out from Russia just to be at Cornerstone for her show. Travelling for 24 hours, she sounded a little slap happy but it didn’t affect her meticulous and beautiful harp playing. She remarked that we were one of the biggest crowds she plays for every year and I couldn’t help but wonder how many other artists would say the same exact thing.
Kye Kye started the evening off with some nice trippy music. Looking at the liner notes in their CD, I was impressed with how much thought they had given to their lyrics. I’ve seen bands have scriptural references for songs before, but they had scripture references for nearly every line of each song. Josh Garrels played next and he has become such a beloved institution at Cornerstone. His song “Ulysses” from his newest album gets me every time. “So tie me to the mast of this old ship and point me home/Before I lose the one I love, before my chance is gone.” I wish I could have stayed for his entire show because it was incredible, but I had to skip out to see the moment of the festival.
Word has started to spread around the festival that there would be a Viking Funeral performed at the beach for Cornerstone Festival. As in old Norse tradition, they would set a longboat out to water and then shoot a flaming arrow at it, lighting it on fire and letting it burn (hopefully, this one without an actual body in it.) Standing on the beach, I waited for a little bit before a procession of motorcycles roared over the hill and behind it a group of kids carrying the boat singing “Amazing Grace.” As they set it out on the lake two older ladies had a conversation behind me. “It doesn’t seem a very Christian thing to do.” “Well, neither are Christmas Trees but we do that, too.” Good point. Once the boat was lit on fire it was a nice, emotional moment. Well, at least until the kids started singing “Na na na na, na na na na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.” Like all things Cornerstone it was bizarre, only sort-of planned out, but most of all memorable.
I climbed back up the hill to the Gallery tent one last time. Thank goodness the heat was finally starting to break or I probably would have died. If there was the old Main Stage this year would we have made it through the week without heat exhaustion? Probably not. Anyways, I arrived in time to catch most of The Farewell Drifters set and they sounded great. I loved their cover of Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy In New York” and they even brought John and Michelle Thompson on the stage for a rollicking little song. After that, while Norma Jean was in the process of destroying the Underground Stage the band that played on the first slot of the first day of the first Cornerstone Festival closed out the last night. The Choir played their entire _Chase The Kangaroo_ album from beginning to end to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the album. There was even someone that was dressed up as a Kangaroo that jumped on stage and danced during the title song forcing the band to keep straight face and finish the song. The four-piece band sounded as good as they ever have debuting a couple new songs and treating us to one last growling, noisy, ambling version of “Circle Slide.”
When the Choir finished approriately with “To Bid Farewell” that was that. Cornerstone Festival was officially finished (at least for now) for good. I probably speak for a lot of people, but I didn’t get very emotional at the end because I was so worn out. I was honestly numb when it all ended. I think the flood of emotions will start pouring out during the next week when I’m at home unpacking and starting to realize there will be no more need to pack again. I’ll be listening to new CD’s and realizing there will be no flood of new CD’s again. That’s when it’s going to hit hard that this era of life is over.
When one era ends, hopefully another springs up and none of us know what’s next but whatever it is I wish the best to Jesus People USA. They are one of the most astonishing groups of people I know with their skill of pulling everything off skillfully while it all somehow appears like it was planned on the back of a napkin. Most of all, they’ve done this festival with the right motives and the right heart towards the artists and those that attend the festival. They get art and faith and I hope that part of Cornerstone continues on even if the festival ends. Thanks to the web team for all of their hard work getting video and photos uploaded and even supporting an infrastructure for a website in the middle of nowhere. Thanks for allowing me to have a voice and a small part in this event that I hope people look back fondly for decades and say, “Man, do you remember at Cornerstone when…..”
Hopefully, we’ll have some more posts to sum up the festival and do a little more review of the week as a whole. And also spill out our guts and tears for a little self-therapy. This is the end, but this is not the end.
Love God, Love others,