Introduce Yourself!

I’m taking a lunch break here at my actual job at Georgia Tech, and starting to really think about Cornerstone, so I figured I’d go ahead and get started with the blogging. The fest is one of my most anticipated weeks of the year, and now that work is (kind of) starting to wind down in advance of my vacation, I’m ready to get on the road.  This is my lucky 13th Cornerstone in a row, so I’ve got the packing and planning down to a science at this point. (And let me say that the rise of the iPod has made life a lot easier – no more agonizing over which 60 CDs to pack up and bring – I’ve got a couple weeks’ worth of music in my pocket!)

I’m almost ready to finalize and print the DIY fest program that my friends and I make every year to help us find new bands (and make sure we don’t miss old faves, though there are always some disappointing conflicts).  I’m making plans with the guys that are riding with me about when we’re leaving and where we’re eating.  I’m starting to think about what extra stuff I want to load onto my iPod for the 13 hour drive, and what kinds of playlists I need to make. I’ve printed out a bunch of fliers for my friend Jeff’s band to hang up around the fest (so if you see a guy with long hair taping up Jeff Elbel + Ping fliers, come say hi!).  So yeah, other than actually packing up the car and hitting the road, I’m about ready to go.

Just a few more days – I can’t wait to see all of you on a farm in Illinois!

Day 4 Report

After a marginally more civilized lunch in Macomb on Saturday morning, my friends and I headed out to the grounds for the last day of the fest.  Now that I think about it, a lot has been written on this blog about how Cornerstone has evolved over the decade plus that my fellow bloggers and I have been attending the fest, but the changes in Macomb (the nearest “big city” to the festival grounds; that is, where the Wal-Mart is located) and the surrounding area over that same period are also kind of interesting.  Besides my actual home, I’ve probably spent more days of my life in Macomb and Cornerstone than anywhere else in the world.  You get an odd but cool view of a place when you see it once a year every year, and I find it strangely cool that I know a bunch of tiny details about a place I’ve never lived that’s 13 hours away from my house.

Mud But cool though it may be, I don’t go to the fest to visit Macomb, so we did indeed make our way to the grounds for another day of music and fun.  The rain that had sprinkled on Shiny Toy Guns and Anberlin had become a downpour overnight, and though the rain was mostly over by the time we reached the grounds, the damage had been done.  All the roads were covered with a layer of soupy mud and were slippery but passable.  The grassy areas around the stages were treacherous, and we saw a lot of band vans and trailers getting stuck in the mud and getting pushed or towed out.  The walking paths between stages, if they weren’t just lakes, were mud bogs, with the worst that I encountered surrounding the Gallery stage along the midway.

The rain also led to one of the more exciting and cool things I’ve seen at Cornerstone in quite a while.  I was sitting in the web trailer distracting the hard-working web coverage team from their work when Festival Director John Herrin came in and announced that because of the conditions at Main Stage, the Main Stage bands were going to be relocated, with War of Ages and Living Sacrifice playing one of the Encore stages (a smaller venue, but nothing too unusual) and The Devil Wears Prada and Underoath moving to the Gallery.  Having those bands on the Gallery is a jaw-dropper for longtime Cornerstoners, because it’s traditionally the stage for older people to sit in chairs and watch older and/or mellower bands.  There are exceptions – the Violet Burning rocked so hard on that stage that they killed the power a couple of years ago, and Leeland brought a much younger than usual crowd to the stage that year as well.  But generally, evenings at the Gallery generally bring the likes of the Lost Dogs or Over the Rhine playing to a calm, quiet audience sitting in chairs and golf carts eating dinner and making bootleg recordings.  There was a palpable buzz around the festival as preparations were made for the Gallery to be rocked like never before.

The first band of the day for me was Gasoline Heart.  I’ve seen them a few times before and liked them well enough.  This time, I got there a little late, and instead of being a band, only the singer was playing and accompanying himself on an electric guitar.  If anybody got there early enough to hear what the deal was, please leave a comment.  There was a pretty fair crowd in the tent by the standards of this year’s fest, and I assumed that was just because the rain had shut down the generator stages and driven everybody under cover, but the crowd sang along to some of the songs, so I guess the band has more of a following than I knew.  That’s good to see, and I enjoyed the set.

Next up, I caught Seabird, who readers from last year may recall was my pick for “most improved band” in 2008.  Their Encore set was cut short by a long setup and sound check, which was too bad, but they had a good crowd and played most of my favorites from Til We See The Shore.

The Classic Crime and the Fold followed Seabird on the same stage, providing an opportunity to just pick a spot and listen to 2 or 3 bands in a row that was rare this year.  Both were melodic rock bands, with the Classic Crime edging toward the heavier side of things, and the Fold edging toward the poppier side of things.  Both were tight and fun to watch, one of the better back-to-back combos among the bands I saw that I wasn’t really familar with.

After catching encore performances by Darcy and the Fold (one of the cool things about Cornerstone – if you like a band, you often get to see them more than once) followed by the fest’s most ubiquitous band, “Dinner Break,” I settled into the Grrr/P12 stage for my last couple of shows of the fest, from piano-heavy bands Nitengale and Seabird.

Nitengale was another band that totally took me by surprise last year, so I was greatly looking forward to their set.  They were good, but their sound tends a little more toward the experimental, long-form side of things, and I don’t think they’re well served by a 50 minute set.  They seemed to just be getting warmed up and finding a good groove when it was time to wrap things up.  A longer, more open-ended set like they played last year at the Jesus Village would seem to play to their strengths.

Seabird’s second set of the day was superior to the first – they had 50 minutes instead of 30, the sound was better, and they sounded a little more warmed up than at the first show earlier in the day.  The only problem was that they don’t have all that much material – only one album’s worth, although they’re starting work on a follow-up next week.  They basically played everything they knew, which resulted in something I’ve never seen at Cornerstone before.  When the sound guy gave them the “two more songs” indication, the guitarist responded by saying “we’ve only got one more.”  Seeing a band (besides Starflyer 59) leave the stage with time to spare just doesn’t happen.  But the set was still one of my favorites of the fest.

Seabird

In between the piano band sets, I did walk over to the Gallery to see what the scene was like at the TDWP and Underoath shows.  It was a little surreal – there was a moat of mud surrounding the tent, blinding strobelights flashing behind the band, a huge crowd, and a wall of rock coming from the stage.  It’s not really my thing, but it certainly was a sight to behold, and I’m sure it’ll be legendary among the people who attended, like the epic 3 hour Vigilantes of Love “power failure” set in 1997 is to a previous generation of fans.

I do miss having the “grand finale” midnight shows on the last day of the fest, but the “early” end to my night (10:30 or so) left plenty of time to hang out with my friends and recap the festival.  We were even able to brainstorm with some fest people for some potential bands to try to get for Cornerstone 2010.  I won’t give away any secrets here, but if some of the suggestions work out, you won’t want to miss it.

Cover Watch!

One last batch of songs for the Cover Watch this year.  Gasoline Heart had one of the more unexpected covers of the fest with a singalong version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” most famously performed by The Tokens in 1961.  The Fold padded out the list impressively, with four covers between their two sets.  Their second set opened with the Foo Fighters’ “Monkey Wrench,” and it ended with Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” and the Outfield’s “Your Love,” with their drummer taking the mic for the latter.  They also pulled out the stops on the first full Michael Jackson cover I saw at the fest, with a nice version of “Billie Jean,” complete with a pair of moonwalking kids from the audience that had obviously been practicing their MJ moves.

Well, that wraps up “almost live” coverage of the festival for me (sorry this was late – things like driving home and working my real job got in the way), but keep checking the blogs for more thoughts and wrapups and other goodness in the days to come, and then join us on the grounds, same time next year!

Day 3 Report

Friday was the big day at the fest for me in terms of the number of bands I wanted to see. And given that the fest is more than half over, it’s fitting that I’m finally adjusting to the Cornerstone schedule of sleeping late (unless you need to get up and write a blog) and getting to bed in the wee hours of the morning.

After starting the day helping out some friends (jumping off a car battery, and buying some bread for the hard-working denizens of the web coverage trailer), the avalanche of bands began. First up was Everfound, a 4-piece made up of brothers who are Russian immigrants. They played piano-driven rock that was surprisingly mature considering that the singer and songwriter was, if I heard correctly, 19 years old. Quiet Science, who I’ve been missing all week long on generator stages, followed them with a high-energy set of melodic rock. They once again proved that bass players have all the fun, too – their bassist was wearing a lab coat and dancing all over the stage for the whole set. Poema completed my initial stint at the New Band Showcase. The band consists of two teenaged sisters playing piano and acoustic guitar, with a younger brother adding percussion. I only caught a couple of their songs, but what I heard sounded pretty good.

Don’t Wake Aislin was next, playing on the Texas generator stage. They’ve been playing everywhere all week, and both the singer and guitarist were having voice problems from all the wear and tear. They were a pretty polished female-fronted rock band that even sounded good on a generator stage.

Two other bands I wanted to see, Remedy Drive and Good Luck Varsity, were playing at the same time on the two Encore stages, so I caught a few songs of each. Good Luck Varsity had the best “seriously, we’re not hardcore” fliers up around the fest, and Remedy Drive was the most smashy, with the singer diving off his piano a few times, diving into the drum kit, jumping on the bass player, etc. Both were melodic rock bands (thank goodness that melody is making a comeback!), but Remedy Drive seemed a little more seasoned, and I’d have liked to have seen more of their set.

The flurry of bands continued as I briefly surfed by stages to hear bits of Flatfoot 56 (a wildly entertaining band to watch), Hand Drawn Mountains, Exit the Ordinary, and Spoken Nerd (whose song “I Love the Police” drew a chuckle from me).

I caught about half of Terry Taylor’s set at the Gallery. It seemed odd that such a Cornerstone legend was playing a short set early in the evening, but even playing acoustically (with Steve Hindalong on percussion, Mike Roe joining him on guitar for a song or two, and his son playing bass), it was a fun set. I caught a Swirling Eddies song (“Outdoor Elvis”), some DA classics (“Walls of Doubt,” “Shedding the Mortal Coil,” “Mall All Over the World”) and some Taylor solo songs (“Papa Danced on Olvera Street,” “Buffalo Hills”). I hated to leave the set, but as was the theme of the day, there were other things to see.

Before heading to Main Stage, I stopped by for most of the set from Ramoth-Gilead. The name sounds like a death metal band, but it’s actually a clever soul singer with a good voice and an acoustic guitar.  His song “My Hoopty Flashy Thangz” brought several laughs (check it out on his MySpace page).  This was one of the more unique and enjoyable shows I’ve seen so far.

I made the trek to Main Stage to see Shiny Toy Guns and Anberlin.  I don’t know much about Shiny Toy Guns, so I was curious to see their set.  I arrived just as mewithoutyou was ending, and there was a mass exodus away from the stage.  There was still a good crowd for Shiny Toy Guns, so the mewithoutyou crowd must have been massive.  Shiny Toy Guns seems an odd fit for Cornerstone.  There’s a tie-in to the Christian industry (two members used to be in the techno band Cloud2Ground back in the 90s, and played Cornerstone a few times), but the band doesn’t really have any current association with this scene that I’m aware of.  Their set reflected that tension, as it switched gears a little awkwardly from dance rock tracks like “Le Disko” to a cover of a Delirious worship song.  The band even made mention of the MC Hammer show on Main Stage back in 1998, which was a similarly odd show.  Musically, the band sounded pretty good, with plenty of pounding bass, and the highlight was current single “Major Tom,” as heard in a current Lincoln commercial.

Anberlin closed out the night (in the rain) on Main Stage.  I like the band a lot, but they’ve been hit and miss at Cornerstone in the past.  A couple of years ago, the mix was so bass-heavy that the songs were unintelligible, and singer Stephen Christian has occasionally had trouble balancing the demands of singing and running around the stage.  Last night, the mix was a little bass-heavy, but that’s the only complaint I can find – the set was absolutely awesome.  I’ve never heard the band (and especially Christian) sound better as they ripped through an hour’s worth of songs from their last 3 albums and one cover that I’ll discuss below.  They proved that they totally deserved the headlining slot for the night, and if you missed the set, you missed one of the best shows of the fest.

The night ended with the Crucified on an Encore stage.  I’ve been aware of the seminal Christian thrash metal band only as the precursor to Stavesacre (both Mark Salomon and Jeff Bellew were in the Crucified before Stavesacre) up to this point.  I’m not really all that into the genre, but since this was kind of a big deal reunion show, I decided to check it out.  As it turns out, it was really good.  Salomon’s personality and stage presence are worth going to the show for, and both the band and the crowd are a lot of fun to watch.  It’s not really my thing, but I’m glad that I can say that I’ve seen them play.

Cover Watch!

Not a large quantity of covers on Friday, but the quality of the covers made up for it.  Shiny Toy Guns worked three covers into their set – the aforementioned version of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” (which was very cool), the Delirious song that I didn’t catch the title of, and Depeche Mode’s “Stripped” (not my favorite Depeche Mode song, but still cool to hear).  In addition to working in a chorus of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” at the end of “Dismantle. Repair.”, Anberlin also wins for the best cover of the day (and maybe for the week) – New Order’s “True Faith.”  It’s a great song, and their performance of it (especially with the massive cloud of smoke and light on Main Stage) was outstanding.  It sounded like Anberlin, while still maintaining the 80s dance vibe.  Totally awesome – look for it on YouTube.

And that brings us to today, the last day of the fest.  It’s rainy and cool and nasty looking outside, but there are plenty of bands playing (in tents, thankfully) that I’m anxious to see, including Seabird, Nitengale, and a band called Audrey that namechecks Anberlin, Copeland, Mae, Eisley, and Deas Vail on their flier.  If they can live up to half of that list, I’ll be really impressed.

Day 2 Report

After doing some damage to the pizza buffet at the Godfather’s That Time Forgot in Macomb (seriously, that place is straight out of 1985), I meandered toward the grounds for some of the early shows.

First up was supposed to be Army of Me, who sounded pretty good when I previewed them on MySpace.  As it turns out, only the singer for the band made the trip, and he played an acoustic set that for some reason I found very engaging.  I don’t know what it is about some “guy with acoustic guitar” shows that causes me to wander off while others hold my attention.  Maybe it’s that some “guys with acoustic guitars” approach it from the rock side of things (just “taking it down a notch”), while others approach it from the mellower side of things.  Whatever it is, I enjoyed this set quite a bit.

After catching parts of sets by Take the Sky and the Dark Romantics, I watched Deas Vail again play to a big crowd on the Indoor stage.  Watching their bass player play is one of the best things about their sets – despite the fact that the band as a whole leans toward the mellower side of rock, that guy’s all over the stage thrashing around and having a great time.  He’s fun to watch.

Next, I headed over to the Jesus Village to set up merch for Jeff Elbel + Ping, and watched them play another fun set.  The large band (including Maron on background vocals, Harry Gore on lead guitar, Mike Choby on organ, Andrew Oliver on drums, the violinist from Photoside Cafe, and still more people) was probably a little too much for the smallish stage and PA, so mixing the show was probably a huge problem, but everybody had a good time regardless.  Ping’s a longtime Cornerstone band that people probably overlook, and Jeff’s really not much for self-promotion, but next year, everybody should come check out their set – it’s a good time.

Following Ping, in true Cornerstone tradition, I missed a bunch of shows I wanted to see (All the Day Holiday, Rocketboys, the Becoming, Orphan Project, Rosie Thomas, and others) to just go hang out, eat dinner, and regroup for the evening.  The reason I come here is to see bands, but sometimes you just have to sacrifice seeing a few of them so you can better enjoy the ones you do see later.

I went to see Rodent Emporium on the Impromptu stage with some trepidation.  They were fun enough yesterday, but not really my thing.  This show hooked me, though.  I started out sitting in the back, and wound up standing on stage with the band at the end.  Musically, highlights included “I’m A Man, Not A Woman,” “Snake Patrol,” and a catchy song that I don’t know the title of with the chorus “we set you on fire, fire, fire, and gave you radiation poisoning.”  (Seriously, it’s awesome.)  Entertainment-wise, highlights included an old guy in an Over the Rhine t-shirt in a circle pit, watching the stage divers, and finding out that, thankfully, at least one Scotsman wears boxers under his kilt as he tumbled headfirst off of the crowd onto the stage.  At the end, the singer said “if I point to you, come up on the stage and stand there quietly.”  I was beside the stage taking photos, and who am I to disagree with a man with a mohawk and a kilt?  This was one of the most fun shows at the fest thus far

I caught a couple more shows, including a high-energy set from Astellaway and a very polished set from the Record Kid (from my hometown of Atlanta) before heading to Encore 2 for the midnight Stavesacre set.  The last time I saw them, on Main Stage a couple of years ago, the wall of rock the threw off the stage was absolutely blistering.  The Encore set didn’t quite reach that level, but it was a lot of fun.  The band was tight, but not so tight that they didn’t make a couple of mistakes – guitarist Jeff Bellew screwed up the opening riff to one song and had to stop and try again, and drummer Sam West tried to hit his sticks together to count off a song and missed, drawing a laugh from singer Mark Salomon.  They rocked hard for well over an hour, the longest set I’ve seen at the fest this year.  Salomon is awesome to watch as well as listen to, putting his whole body into what he’s singing, and Bellew and the rest of the band bring amazing intensity on every song.  I’m glad the band decided to stay together after nearly disbanding a couple of years ago.

Mark Salomon of Stavesacre

Cover Watch!

I’m starting to see some repeat shows, so Astellaway’s cover of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round” was a repeat.  I saw a random generator band covering the Romantics’ “What I Like About You.”  Ping gave us both Badfinger’s “No Matter What” and U2’s “North and South of the River.”  And both Ping and Dark Romantics introduced songs as covers that I was not familiar with, so I’m not sure who they were covering.

Today’s schedule is absolutely ridiculous, with up to 5 bands I want to see playing at the same time, and some hard choices tonight with Anberlin and Shiny Toy Guns conflicting with Terry Taylor and the Lost Dogs.  Check back tomorrow to see what I end up seeing.

Day 1 Report

Well, the first official day of the fest has come and gone.  I’m still struggling to adjust to the Cornerstone schedule, so I was a little draggy for most of the day (until about 2 AM, when it was time to try to go to sleep), but I still managed to see a variety of shows from some new bands and some old favorites.

I started the day with Owl City, a happy, dancey synthpop band.  I’ve got a lot of time for that sort of thing, so I enjoyed their set and was glad to see that the tent was full to overflowing.  It did seem a little odd to me that there wasn’t more dancing going on, though.  When bands like The Echoing Green used to play, people would be dancing and jumping around like mad; now, just standing still and watching the show seems to be the way of things.

Next up, Rodent Emporium, a gleefully odd punk band from Scotland.  They did a fun set full of songs about sports and Sasquatch and so forth.  I was also amused to see that their guitarist was wearing a t-shirt from my alma mater, Georgia Tech.  How the guitarist from a Scottish punk band came to be wearing a shirt from an engineering school in Atlanta as he played in a cornfield in Illinois is probably a story worth hearing.

I caught the last half of All the Day Holiday’s set on the Indoor stage (which, for those not familiar, is no more indoor than any of the other stages here – the name’s a holdover from a stage at the fest’s previous location in Chicago 15 or so years ago).  I liked what I heard of them, so hopefully I can catch them again.  They’re also selling their new album for 5 bucks, so I picked that up.

Jeff Elbel + Ping played next, on the Gallery stage.  Jeff’s the stage manager at the Gallery, occasionally plays bass for other artists at the fest, and can often be found tuning guitars for artists like the 77’s and the Choir, but every year he also gets to step up to the microphone for a little while.  The band sounded great this year, and was probably my favorite set of the day.  They’re playing again today at 5:00 on the Jesus Village stage, so come check them out if you get the chance.

I kind of crashed a bit after the Ping set, so I ate an early dinner and sat in a corner to recover for a while before heading to Main Stage for Family Force 5 and Relient K.  FF5 were dumb fun, as they always are, and Relient K played a good set, including a couple of songs from the new album they’re currently recording.  They sounded good, and a little different from the typical Relient K sound, so look for them on YouTube any time now.

Copeland closed out the night with an hour long Encore show in a packed tent.  The band seems better served by the smaller, more intimate Encore stage than the giant Main Stage where I saw them last.  They opened with a set of mellow stuff from You Are My Sunshine, before moving on to some rockier stuff from their earlier albums.  My only regret was that Rae Cassidy, who played the fest yesterday and is prominently featured on a couple of songs from the new album, didn’t come sing with the band, but that’s a small quibble with what was otherwise a solid show.

Cover Watch!

It was another good day for cover songs at the fest.  And Then There Were None gave us a rocked-up version of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven,”  Ping opened their set with the Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love,” and Relient K covered Cake’s “The Distance,” complete with muted trumpet.

Day 0 Report

“Day 0″ of the fest has come and gone, with some highs, some lows, and some things that are hard to describe.

I’ll start with the weather, because that’s such a big factor in my ability to enjoy the fest.  The weather was…weird.  I don’t remember a day like this in all the years I’ve been here.  About the time my friends and I arrived on the grounds, clouds rolled in and the wind kicked up, a constant 15 mph breeze that kept up all day long.  It was actually somewhat chilly when you were exposed to it, even in the middle of the day.  That’s weird, but I’ll take it over the 100 degree days of misery.  The wind did make it hard for me to do my job hanging up fliers for my friend Jeff’s band (Jeff Elbel + Ping, playing today at 4:15 on the Gallery – come check them out!), because the wind kept blowing them away.

As for the bands, it was kind of hit and miss.  In years past, “day 0″ was “Tooth & Nail Day,” with the record label sponsoring the day and having some degree of involvement in organizing it.  Generally, the only thing that was going on was bands playing 30 minute sets on the two Encore stages, with the schedule staggered so you could just wander back and forth between the two for continuous music.  This year, though, it was “REIGNITE Day” sponsored from Traa from the band P.O.D., and a couple of things were noticeably different.  The schedule was different – bands played on the Encore stages, but they played 30 minute sets with 40 minute breaks in between, so there was never really a flow back and forth from one stage to the other and there was a lot of downtime.  The average quality of the bands wasn’t as good either, in my opinion.  There were bands playing in styles that I like, but a lot of them didn’t seem to be very experienced just yet, so their performances weren’t great.  Traa’s thing seemed to be about artist development, so I guess having some rather raw bands is to be expected, but from a fan perspective, it just wasn’t as much fun to watch as it might have been.  The crowds seemed to reflect that, too – all day long (at least until the evening shows started), the Encore crowds were miniscule, with just a couple dozen people watching each of the bands from a respectful distance.

There were also a lot more bands playing in places other than the Encore stages compared to years past.  Most of the action was on the generator stages.  A bit of background as I understand it: generator stages started when young upstart bands would literally bring a small PA and a gas-powered generator and set up along the road and start playing.  I guess that got kind of out of hand a few years ago, so Cornerstone started licensing the generator band to keep things a little less chaotic.  I think the success of that move is debatable, though.  What you have now are a few “real” stages (with tents, fancy lighting, and good PA systems) that are technically labeled generator stages even though they’re as good or better than some of the “real” stages, a larger number of mid-level stages that may have a decent PA and some form of stage, and then some of the old-style do-it-yourself “stages.”  Most of them are all piled together alongside the roads between the Encore stages and the midway area, and they all play at the same time, competing with each other.  At one point yesterday, I walked by a row of three stages where an acoustic worship band was playing on one, a screamy metal band was playing on another, and the third had no band but had a hardcore CD cranked up to the limits of the PA.  Nobody wins in that situation – the bands have to compete with each other to be heard, and if you’re just trying to walk by, it’s pretty miserable.  From a fan perspective, it seems like it may be time for the fest to scale back the generator stages.

There’s also a trend toward “real” bands (bands playing actual scheduled festival slots) also playing on much smaller generator stages, and I’m not sure that really does the bands any favors.  For example, I saw the band Astellaway playing on one of the stages.  Their songs on MySpace sound pretty good, kind of a pop rock sound not unlike Paramore.  But on a PA on the side of the road, with speakers that were a lot smaller than the guitar and bass amps, and one small monitor, it was nearly impossible for them to sound good.  They did the best they could under the circumstances, and they sounded promising enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing them play their actual fest-scheduled set, but I’m not sure there’s a lot of benefits for some of the bands playing those low-end stages.

I only really made it to see one of the three bands that I said I was looking forward to yesterday.  Both times Quiet Science played, I was watching another show, but they’ve still got a bunch of sets left (admittedly, one of the benefits of the generator stages), so I’ll catch them eventually.  By the time Los Lonely Boys went on, I was pretty exhausted, so I only listened to a bit of their set.  They sounded good, but I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind or body to appreciate it.  But I did see Stephen Petree, and he was one of the better sets I saw all day.  As it turns out, he’s the brother of one of the founders of Shiny Toy Guns, and co-wrote some stuff on their first album.  His band was tight and the songs sounded good, so I wouldn’t mind hearing more from him when his album comes out in August.  One interesting thing about the set was the instrument he played, which he called a “Telekeyster” – a Fender Telecaster with a keyboard grafted onto the top half of the body.  Kind of a unique take (invented by his guitarist, apparently) on the keytar.

Stephen Petree's Telekeyster

In addition to the aforementioned set from Stephen Petree, the other musical highlights of the day for me were the following:

  • Darcy, a hooky, poppy band from Texas with a pretty good stage presence.  “Catchy Melody” was the highlight of their set.
  • Carolina Story, a married acoustic duo from Tennessee.  They were playing a generator stage crammed in between a couple of hardcore bands, but still managed to sound good and drew a surprisingly big crowd.
  • Down From Up, a melodic metal band from Tennessee, with one of the shreddiest guitarists I’ve seen in a new band at the fest in a long time.  The band was pretty good as a whole, but watching that guy play was a whole lot of fun.
  • Deas Vail, an indie pop band from Arkansas that I’ve watched grow over the last couple of festivals.  I first saw them a couple of years ago, and they had a nice sound and a decent crowd.  Last year their popularity had grown and the played a couple of well-attended sets.  This year, their first set was on the Indie Community stage (one of the largest and nicest generator stages), and the tent was almost packed with fans that were singing along to every word.  It’s fun to watch a band get bigger and bigger from year to year.

Cover Watch!

I always enjoy seeing bands play covers, and yesterday was a good day for covers.  Divided By Friday covered the Temptations’ “My Girl.”  Astellaway covered Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round.”  Maron covered King’s X’s “We Are Finding Who We Are” (which totally rocked).  And Down From Up went all out, sound checking with Guns’n’Roses’ “Sweet Child O’Mine,” and then playing an instrumental version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and a lengthy medley of Led Zeppelin songs.  I’d never really thought of “Whole Lotta Love” in quite that context before, but I guess it kind of works with just a couple of minor edits.

Things coming up today that I’m looking forward to: Ping, a good night on Main Stage with Capital Lights, Family Force 5, and Relient K, a bunch of other bands I want to see that are all playing at exactly the same time, and a midnight set from Copeland.

Let’s get started!

Hey everybody, and welcome to this year’s Cornerstone blog!  My name is Jerry, and I’m one the bloggers here to give you a taste of what’s going on at the fest this week.  This is my 12th Cornerstone (all in a row – since 1998), and this year is shaping up to be a lot of fun.  The weather looks great (sunny and low 80s in the day, with nice, cool 60s at night), and the band lineup is absolutely massive!

Today is the unofficial first day of the fest proper, with several stages up and running with tons of bands.  I’m going to see a bunch of them, but I’ve picked out a few that I’m particularly interested in:

  • Quiet Science – This band from Florida is playing a bunch of shows at the fest, including 2 generator stage appearances today.  From what I’ve heard, they’re pretty much dead center in the zone of stuff I like – very melodic, with plenty of rock.  I’m really looking forward to seeing them play.
  • Los Lonely Boys – A Texas band that had a pretty big hit a few years back with their song “Heaven,” they’re one of the surprise bookings at the fest this year, because they seem to come from a little outside of the Christian music industry (however broadly you define the term).  It’s also unusual for a “name” band to play a show on the Gallery Stage on Tuesday, so it’ll be interesting to see how much of a crowd they draw this early in the fest.
  • Stephen Petree – A singer with a strong voice and an interesting mix of styles in the samples on his MySpace page.  I’m curious to see what he sounds like live.

Check back for updates, and in the meantime, let’s get some comments going!  What bands are you looking forward to most?  Who should I be sure not to miss?