The Post-Cornerstone Depression

Main Stage setup. Photo by Matt Laswell

The fest was fantastic. You made new friends and enjoyed old ones. God’s presence was obvious to you. You heard awesome music.

But now… you’re home again.

Home where there are commitments, stress, and the stuff of the other 51 weeks of the year.

I know that the Post-Cornerstone Depression is not listed in the DSM IV, but I’m confident it’s a real phenomenon for many people returning home after Cornerstone. It’s usually mild, but very real for those who get it. I’ve experienced it myself after many festivals, and am already feeling some of the symptoms.

So, what can we do about it? Based on my own experience, what works is to allow myself to relive the happy memories, then force myself to get back to “real” life with new passion. Here are some other tips (based on my own experiences at Cornerstone and years as a church staff member helping people with the stuff of real life):

  • Find the bands you loved on facebook & twitter. Download their songs.  Chat about the bands with other fans.
  • Look for the next concerts in your area.
  • Take time for silence & solitude, two spiritual practices you don’t get much of at Cornerstone. Be quiet and just listen.
  • Share music with friends. Make playlists. Link to the exclusive videos posted here on or to band MySpace pages (give a description more than “this band is awesome” so people have a reason to click the links you share).
  • If you’re feeling some “holy discontent,” (maybe an idea to make a change in your life) don’t squash it. Talk to God about what’s up. Keep going with life-as-normal for now, but also be praying for direction on what’s next.
  • Plan a night to hang out again with the friends from your youth group who also attended. Trade tips about your favorite bands. Pass around your photos. Sing the worship songs you shared at the festival.
  • Learn to play the guitar. Or, at least get all the downloadable content from Rock Band for bands that have played Cornerstone.
  • Wear all your new shirts.
  • Hang your wristband on your bulletin board.
  • Find a photo (one you took, or one from the fantastic fest photo coverage) and make it the desktop background on your computer.
  • Watch all the videos on the website, then watch them again.
  • Buy a ticket to come back next year. You really will be part of making Cornerstone 2011 great.
  • Look for new spiritual habits (like prayer, Bible reading, simplicity, celebration, etc.) that can help you stay connected to what God is up to around you.
  • Listen to seminar podcasts and think about the topics discussed. (I think podcasts will be coming to the blog in a few weeks – or you could always catch up on the 2009 seminars.)
  • Remember the reality: Driving back to the festival grounds would do no good. You’d just get recruited for cleanup. haha. 🙂 Seriously, though, I know the immense feelings of just wanting to turn the car around. Yet, I also know, rationally, that it wouldn’t matter. The festival is not about the place.
  • Write a list of what you’re thankful for. I do this a lot throughout the year (in a series of posts on my personal blog called “Good Fridays”). Even if you feel crummy, there’s something to be thankful. Be thankful that you’re home again in the land of flushable toilets, comfy beds, and private showers. Be thankful for the laughs and smiles of last week. Be thankful for the talent God gave these musicians & artists.
  • Sing along, play air drums, and completely rock out while listening to these new tunes.
  • Talk about how you’re feeling. This is probably the most important factor. It’s OK to cry and admit you feel bad, hug a friend and get courage to go back to “real life.” Of course, though, if you’re feeling something that’s bigger than mild Post-Cornerstone Depression, talk to someone who can help (like a pastor, youth worker, counselor, etc.)

What about you? Do you get the Post-Cornerstone Depression too? What helps you through it?


(p.s. our festival photo album is here)

The joy of singing along

Sing to him a new song;  play skillfully, and shout for joy. (Psalm 33:3)

Tonight, on the Gallery Stage, in the battle of sit vs. stand, well, singing along somehow won.

Stacy DuPree of Eisley, photo by Matt Laswell

Cornerstone veterans (especially the fiercely loyal Gallery Stage dwellers) know that the Gallery is a different kind of stage. Chairs are provided. People bring lawnchairs. Patrons display long and complicated efforts to get the very best seat before the midnight shows. But, at times, when the Gallery shines bright and the crowd swells, the questions come: is this a sitting or standing show?

Tonight, as Eisely prepared to take the stage, the shouts went back & forth: “This isn’t a sitting band.” Then the reply: “Down in Front!

Somehow, it just didn’t matter. Whether sitting or standing, everyone was clearly awed over Eisely returning to Cornerstone after 8 years away. In those 8 years, the band members have grown up: they’re no longer 12 or 13 years old, but instead are about to be married. In those 8 years, the band has also clearly garnered a large and loyal fan-base. As I looked around me, it was beautiful to see so many people (mostly girls, but some guys, too) singing along with huge smiles on their faces. And, I’m happy to report that I joined in. I even saw many people, who I’m quite certain were there mostly to get good seats for Over the Rhine, chair-dancing and smiling broadly.

The debate didn’t matter. All we needed was the simple joy of singing along to a great show.


A little bit of everything

I’m starting to lose track of what day it is. To me, this means Cornerstone is a success. After staying up to have my first taste of celtic prog legends Iona last night, and getting back to Macomb in the wee hours of the morning, I’m happy to say that I haven’t yet fallen asleep during a show today. That’s likely because today has truly been filled with a little bit of everything.

I’ve heard snippets of ska (Send out Scuds), singer-songwriter acoustic (Brooke Waggoner), hardcore, electronic pop-punk (Oh! The Humanity), some old-school punk, hip-hop (Da MAC), rap (John Reuben), various flavors of rock & roll (ranging from Jeff Elbel + Ping doing a bunch of fun covers, to The Clutter and Don’t Wake Aislin), pop-punk (News from Verona), old school 80s rock (Crosswire), and even a bit of post-rock instrumental (Brian Beyke).

There have been good crowds at all those shows, proving that whatever your Cornerstone experience, there’s somebody else here who’s having just as much fun, but hasn’t seen any of the same shows as you.

And… the day goes on. A little bit more of everything to come this evening.


Real stories. Real music. Real God.

Before I ever came to Cornerstone, I was rather star-struck. I waited in lines to get autographs. Every band was “the greatest ever.”

I think that’s a common phenomenon, and I don’t criticize it. I had *finally* found music I liked that reflected my faith.

But, perhaps in part due to watching band members eat a ribeye sammich for so many years around Cornerstone, things are different for me now. (Or really, it’s probably more that I’ve actually befriended people who used to be in bands… and their spouses, left at home while the band is touring.). And, maybe, just maybe, I’ve changed a bit myself.

These days, I’m more interested in seeing how people in bands are real people, just like me. They have bad days, stressed relationships, and ask real questions.

Whatever your festival looks like… whether you hang out at the Gallery with immensely talented songwriters who share deeply personal lyrics in their songs, attend talks put on by your favorite bands, or wander up and down generator stage row, I challenge you to look for the very real person behind the music. You’ll find many real stories… real music… and a very real God.

I had a few such moments on Wednesday:

  • Listening to Nitengale. I sat back and listened to someone telling stories that sound like my own. Stories of faith mingling with doubt. Stories of love. Stories of blame. He even talked about finding critters in his walls (oh, how I wish we didn’t have that in common…).
  • Watching Quiet Science. It was a rough show, with the lead singer’s guitar dying half way through. But, even through some musical hiccups, I heard a story of a real guy (the lead singer works in a psych ward with patients who have attempted suicide), who sees real ways that his faith, his art, and his passions intersect.

Look for these moments, and I think you’ll find them, too.


Cornerstone: the next generation

A fine father-daughter moment: Ping's youngest member

I admit that I’m a bit of a people-watcher around the Cornerstone grounds. I love observing things like crazy costumes, creative campsites or the latest fashion trends.

One thing in particular I enjoy is watching families around the festival grounds. I like seeing little children wearing earplugs and headphones. I like seeing children with faces painted after hanging out at Creation Station. I like seeing toddlers decked in tiny black band shirts crashed out, sound asleep in a wagon, while their parents watch a hardcore show. I like seeing kids spinning around and dancing to music clearly not written for them. I’ve seen all of those moments today.

Yes, Cornerstone is not the picture of a typical family vacation, loading up in the family truckster and heading to Wally World. But, judging from the smiles on children’s faces around the fest, I think it’s not a bad way to pass some love for music, and yes, even love for Jesus, to a new generation.


You rock, ladies

Unconsciously, it seems that rock & roll is a man’s world. Most bands have guys as lead singers, guys as drummers, guys as bass players… you get the picture. Maybe there would be a girl running the merch booth (probably somebody’s wife or girlfriend), but that’s it.

But, today… it seems that this unwritten rule is being revised. I saw not one, but two bands with female singers today (The Rendition and Men as Trees Walking). I also saw a solo female singer on a generator stage. And, friends tell me they saw a woman rocking a 5-string bass.

Whenever I see a band with a female singer or backing musician, I notice many more females in the crowd. Rock on girls – turns out that music is our world, too!


Like coming home

If you’ve reached the season of life where you’ve moved out from living with your parents (even just to college), you’re likely familar with what it feels like to return home. Coming back to Cornerstone brings up the same ideas for me. I get to the festival and see friends and we immediately start talking and can hardly stop (and I’m naturally an introvert). Laughing over old memories, remembering who can’t join us this year, seeing what’s new… it’s everything you ever want in a happy family gathering.

When you return home, it’s comforting because things are so familiar: you can probably walk around the house where you grew up in the dark without stubbing your toe. You don’t have to ask where the silverware is; you just know. Cornerstone is the same way. The signs around the area from the local Rotary club… The red & white striped tents… The lemon-shake-up-stand… The half-pipe and basketball courts…If you’ve been to the grounds ever before, these are completely familiar. It’s comforting.

Every time you return home, and every year at Cornerstone (no, not just this year), there are also changes. Maybe you’ve had the experience of returning home and discovering that “your” room has a whole new look. Your mom took down your old high school memorabilia, redecorated and put in a new bed. You even have to admit that it looks good, but it feels different. It is nicely decorated with a really comfortable bed, but it takes a little getting used to.

I was happy to come back “home” tonight. Yep, a few things at Cornerstone are different and will take a day to get adjusted to (and I’m not just referring to Main Stage; there are *always* changes at Cornerstone). But, it’s all so familiar. It’s filled with people I love. It’s comforting. It’s beautiful. It really is home.

And I’m so glad to be here.


Making posters this weekend?

This is a theme I blogged about last year, but since this weekend ought to be prime-time for a lot of bands to be making flyers to post about their shows at Cornerstone, I thought it was worth revisiting. ~Becky

2009 photo for from Thomas Wray

So you’re in a band. You found your way onto a generator stage. You’re excited to play Cornerstone. You’ve checked your gear, got the van ready, you know your songs… now to just have people show up… and not just anybody, but people who might like the style of music you play.

If you’re in a band playing Cornerstone, you want people to come to your show. As a fest-goer, I want to find the bands that will become favorites. I don’t want to hear about an awesome show only after-the-fact.

I do a lot of research to find bands I want to see, but sometimes, I don’t hear of a band until I see their posters covering porta-potties (or any other flat, or even semi-flat surface) around the festival grounds. Along those lines, I present these tips to bands making posters to hang at Cornerstone:

  • List your band name clearly. Yes, I’ve seen some signs that focused on other band names… not very helpful. (Sure, a “for fans of” section is great, but make that smaller than your own band name.)
  • Tell the DAY of the week, not the actual date, since I am on vacation and don’t remember what the date is. haha.
  • Give clues to what kind of music you’re playing. If you don’t tell me, I will have to guess, and most likely I will guess wrong.
  • Remember that not everybody has heard of your band already. Maybe everybody in your hometown has heard of you, but I’m not from your hometown (unless you’re from Austin, TX – in which case I’d love to meet you!)
  • List where you’re playing. If it is something like the “Elitist Music Showcase,” tell me where I can find that.
  • If you don’t know the details of when you’re playing yet, leave blank space and bring sharpies to write in the info.
  • Get creative. Wear a funny costume. Carry a sign. Put your band-name and set times on your tent. Get a friend to write your band name and set time on his tshirt. Write on your van windows. Be funny. Get my attention.
  • Don’t forget to pack the tape to hang the signs! And.. tape is also a crucial ingredient if you’re going to make a cardboard dragon costume like this.

If you’re in a band playing Cornerstone, I hope it’s an amazing experience for you! I’m looking forward to finding tons of new bands next week.

Are you ready for 20ten?

Less than a week until Cornerstone Festival? Are you ready?

This will be festival #11 for me, so I know basically what to expect, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to go yet. Over the next few days, I’ll be packing & prepping for our 1000-mile trip from Texas to Illinois and a week filled with great music & great friends. Here are some things I need to remember (which might be good for you to think about, too):

  • Finish making my list of must-see bands. Thanks to the Cornerstone Schedule Creator, hearing about bands via twitter/facebook, and the collective wisdom of many friends, I’m starting to make my must-see list. I’m already seeing several conflicts, which is just part of what makes Cornerstone fun — too many good choices! The actual program can be previewed online, to help all of us decide what to see.
  • Preview the seminars. Every year, I confess I don’t make it to as many seminars as I should. So, again this year, I’m going to preview more seminars/speakers and pick a few to attend.
  • Research what new albums I can pick up easily at the fest. And, I wonder, can I buy yet another Seabird shirt? I only own three of them… 😉
  • Pack jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. Any Cornerstone veteran knows not to trust the long-range forecast (this is the midwest afterall), but it still seems like there might be some colder nights this year. (a nice break from the heat here in Texas, I think)
  • Make a quick run to the store for my Cornerstone survival pack:
    • A small bottle of hand-sanitizer (for the porta-potties).
    • Earplugs. No, if it’s too loud, that does not mean you’re too old. 🙂 I know I’ll go down-front for a few shows, and I’d like to save my hearing so I can keep enjoying music for decades to come.
  • Remember to pack our tickets! There’s still time to purchase tickets online, and there will be tickets available at the gate.

See you next week outside Bushnell!

The softer side

As we’ve blogged about several times already, Cornerstone Festival is known for diversity in musical selection. So many genres of music, including many I can’t define nor identify, are present at both the “official” and generator stages.

I’ve heard from several people (both at the fest, and since returning home) who were under the impression that most bands at Cornerstone were “harder.” So, to help these people (who, by the way, are not all “old” – some are in high school!), here’s a list of some things I enjoyed, on the softer side of Cornerstone. These aren’t sleep-inducing bands, they’re not all acoustic, they’re not all worship acts – this list is actually fairly diverse. The common thread seems to be intelligent lyrics, strong melodies, and an overall softer sound than some of what you hear around the festival grounds.

  • Photoside Cafe. They describe themselves as “aggressive, acoustic, art rock band” and that fits well. Mixing in violin, piano & distinctive vocals, Photoside Cafe definitely found a place with many new fans at the fest. They do bring a bit of rock, so they’re not entirely “softer” but I know many people who would like this band a lot.
  • Andrew Oliver. (I can’t find a link, sorry.) I know of Andrew from his drumming with Jeff Elbel + Ping. I was happy to wander in to the Ping set early to catch Andrew behind the mic instead, sharing stories about the prodigal son.
  • Carolina Story. Generator stages, while often being venues for harder music, work remarkably well for acoustic shows – something Carolina Story demonstrated well when I saw them at the Arkansas Stage near the showers early in the week. This recently-wed couple met in college and clearly loves to play together. They managed to draw a satisfied crowd, despite having to compete with a hardcore show just across the road. Their song, “The Unseen Sin” (available in acoustic format on their myspace page) impressed me most. Thoughtful lyrics sung with a soulful voice.
  • Erich Siemens. Hailing from San Marcos, Texas, Erich brought a beautiful singer-songwriter set to the Grrr/Project 12 tent on Saturday evening. He lists Rich Mullins & Brennan Manning among his heroes. I’d be very happy to sit and listen to Erich again – next time hopefully with a cup of good coffee!
  • Brian Beyke. I missed his shows on some generator stages at the festival, but have been enjoying his beautiful acoustic/instrumental/ambient music since returning home. No vocals (other than a few tracks with some spoken-word overlays). Very pretty.
  • Hiram Ring. His show was another suprise, this time via the Impromptu tent. This is fairly rhythmic acoustic music, clearly influenced by the songwriter growing up overseas in a missionary family.

Bands that also vaguely fit into this “softer side” category, mentioned elsewhere on the blog already:

  • Men As Trees Walking. Sweet, soothing, fascinating worship music that’s otherwise hard to describe. Listen for yourself here.
  • Nitengale. This is the kind of music that just makes me smile. It also gets me dancing in my chair.
  • Seabird. I’m really enjoying what these guys are up to. They rock more than some others on this list, but I think most fans of acoustic music wouldn’t mind adding a little Seabird to their iPods.
  • The Square Peg Alliance. Any of these individual singers who performed in the Gallery (plus Derek Webb who took the stage after them) would be a great addition to the library of anybody who likes intelligent, melodic music. I love how they emphasize presenting beauty & truth in their music.
  • Terry Taylor. Older fans should know Terry Taylor from Daniel Amos or the Lost Dogs. I’m more familiar with his solo work, surprisingly. I always get a tear in my eye when he sings about his dad dancing in the street. I hope to catch his solo tour when it rolls thru my hometown in a few weeks.
  • Hand Drawn Mountains. From the new band showcase.
  • Maron. Beautiful voice!
  • Deas Vail. Their albums are a frequent companion during my work-day. They, too, bring a bit more rock than some on this list, but you ought to check them out.
  • Anchor & Braille. Side project of Stephen Christian (of Anberlin). Album releases August 4th.

I know there’s a lot I missed – let us all know what else you’d recommend by posting a comment!