Cornerstone Superlatives

Superlative, adj. of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme.

Now that everybody is getting home from Cornerstone, we’ve had a chance to think about our favorite fest moments. Jeff has listed his top 10 shows already; expect more in that in the days to come. Rather than focusing on music, I wanted to make up a list of other superlative moments from Cornerstone 2009. Matt kicked us off with the funniest moment of the fest on the blog earlier.

So, in no particular order, here’s my list of the best, most, muddiest, loudest, and craziest moments of Cornerstone 2009.

(links generally take you to photos, but some go to band websites)

Photo by Angela Behm

Photo by Angela Behm for

Best homemade costume: Knight & Dragon. Whoever made these out of cardboard boxes has too much time on their hands. Nice work, though! We caught these guys fighting outside one of the Encore stages early in the week. Not only was the costume fascinating, it was also the most creative way I personally observed to promote a band – At Cliffs End. Thinking of costumes – the platypus gets the award for “Most Photographed Guy in a Costume.”  And, Scooby Doo of Audio Strobelight gets the award for “Best Ironic Costume for a Band Member.”

Geekiest place to hang out: The First-Ever Tweet up. Yeah, I helped put this on (in a small way) so I’m biased, but it was a good way to meet people and hopefully form some new connections. Check out the video from to learn more, or follow @cstn on twitter.

Most under-appreciated festival job: TP distributor. The garbage haulers always do a great job. But, this year, I was told of a guy named Steven (I think that was his name) who is the one who services each & every porta-pottie with fresh tp. Hats off to you!

Dirtiest way to have good clean fun: Mud, Mud, Mud. Friday’s showers brought Saturday’s mud. At least people made the best of it. Sorry to any moms stuck laundering muddy clothes this week!

Best way to have good fun at a show: Rodent Emporium. Photos can’t begin to capture just how much fun this show was. Thankfully, there’s also a video of a show & a special exclusive performance.

Photo by Matthew Smith for

Photo by Matthew Smith for

Best picture from the festival photo team. These volunteers did a great job capturing hundreds of photos, which you can browse here. I’m sure arguments could be made for any number of best photos, but this one captured me in a special way. Check out more of Matthew Smith’s photography here.

Child who captured the most hearts: The adorable blonde boy who announced Anberlin on Main Stage. So cute! Jamie from To Write Love on Her Arms brought him out, as an illustration of innocence.

Instrument we most need more of: the Keytar.

Photo by Thomas Wray for

Photo by Thomas Wray for

Female musician with the sweetest voice and most enviable hair: Maron. And, while I’m thinking about hair, I don’t even know the band name, but wow, this is amazing.

Most creative way for your little kids to have fun at Cornerstone: ArtRageous for kids. They’ve got face-painting, crafts, activities, and all sorts of great ways to entertain & enrich youngsters.

Largest instrument played at Cornerstone: The huge electronic juke-box-looking thing Family Force 5 had. I can’t find a photo of anybody playing it, but this picture shows what I’m trying to explain. Look for the large box with squares on it. The band members could press on the squares to control synthesized sounds.

Best way to take your favorite band to work, without blasting out your coworkers with loud music: Ping’s patches. Jeff Elbel modeled these with his band, Ping, on a work-shirt. You, too, could be a member of the Ping tour just by picking up a patch.

Longest song performed at Main Stage: “Deathbed” from Relient K. I didn’t wear a stop-watch for anything, of course, but this song is 11+ minutes on the album, which has got to be a record for a single song on Main Stage this year. Anberlin probably comes in second with “Fin.” I never expected to hear either band play either of these songs, which are both epic in length (but which are among my favorites to sing along to). Both songs were encores for their respective bands.

Hardest worship moment: Sleeping Giant. I wrote about this earlier, but it still stands out to me.

Photo by Rudy Harris for

Photo by Rudy Harris for

Biggest Main Stage Crowd: mewithoutYou. No, I didn’t count heads, but that’s what I heard widely reported. I was headed towards Main Stage as this show let out. For every person going towards Main Stage at that moment, there were easily 200 going away.

Most impromptu fun on Main Stage between acts: Playing Buck Buck. The most serious, but touching moment between Main Stage Acts was the artist who was “repainting Jesus.” He painted live, and then talked about how we’re all called to repaint Jesus to those around us.

Most enthuiastic parent: The dad who was passing out flyers for his daughters’ band, Poema. These talented teenage daughters put on a fun acoustic pop show, performing to plenty of their peers. Check out their music here. Their dad was definitely excited to see his daughters play – enthusiasm that was contagious.

Best way to justify buying new shoes: losing your old pair in the mud (a.k.a. “Mud vs. Shoes: Mud wins”). I wonder how many pairs of shoes might have been permanently swallowed up by some of the mud holes. My own shoes didn’t make it back home with me, but at least they found their way to a trash can! 🙂

Photo by Megan Sontag for

Photo by Megan Sontag for

Most flexible fans & most unique venue change: Moving Main Stage to The Gallery & Encore I stages. I only went to about 15 seconds of the Underoath show, but the tent was packed. It seems that everybody rolled with the changes easily. Rock on Cornerstone for being able to handle this crazy situation. If it weren’t for this unexpected change, I would have said that the Los Lonely Boys were the act I least expected on the Gallery (they did an amazing show on Tuesday night! Hope they consider coming back to Cornerstone again someday).

That ends my list. What would you add? Post a comment!

Living the Dream

Watching Seabird

Saturday evening, six tweens lived the dream. With sounds of Underoath booming faintly in the background, these six people stood right down front at a show that might not necessarily have been targeted towards their stereotype. They bounced their heads, sang along, used the edge of the stage as a drum, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing one of their favorite bands, Seabird.

This wouldn’t be interesting if it weren’t for this fact: they were the only 6 people standing.

No worries that others sat still as they bopped along. They were living the dream.

No worries that the people directly behind were sitting as they stood. They were living the dream.

No worries that their peers were elsewhere. They were living the dream.

I sat in back, happy to see these 5 guys and a girl (I think that’s the gender distribution, at least, seeing them from behind) living the dream. I’m glad they did. I’m glad that places exist where all kinds of people can live out all kinds of dreams.

I love that there are places like Cornerstone where we can live the dream together. I’m glad we can live out a 26-year dream of JPUSA. I’m glad for the bands who lived the dream of playing one of their first “real” shows this week. I’m glad for the parents I met who were supporting their kid’s dreams of being in a band. I’m glad for the people who drove hours just to live their dream of one day getting to Cornerstone at all. I’m glad for the fulfilled dreams of those who sometimes feel left out at home, finding community here.

I’m glad for the visions God gives young men, and the dreams He gives old men. I pray that we all have the unashamed nature those 6 tweens did, so we, too, can live the dream.

Getting the most out of the festival

With over 300 bands to choose from during Cornerstone, and with upwards of 15 bands often playing at once (maybe more if you counted all the generator stages!), how can you possibly know which shows to go to? You can simply go thru the program and mark bands you’ve heard of, or use one of the online schedule makers to print your own schedule. I took that approach for years – and it worked fairly well. But, what about the bands you haven’t heard of yet which might be amazing? Every year, I’d hear about some great band that I missed. All too often, I missed their show while merely tolerating another band or just sitting around the campsite.

Over the past few years, our group of friends has come up with a pretty effective way to make sure we spend our festival time wisely and don’t miss out on new bands. We review the bands in advance, make notes & print up our own program. Since we’ve started the program, we’ve done a lot less random walking back-and-forth between shows, and we haven’t often missed something spectacular.

These directions won’t help much now that the fest is just hours from ending, but read them, file them away, and try it out with your friends for Cornerstone 2010.

Step 1: Recruit some friends. It’s crucial to have similar interests in music. (Your friends using my list wouldn’t work so well, since we probably have very different tastes in music.) You might also look for people you think can hear a band and accurately identify the style. Basically, you want to choose people so what one of you says is awesome, the rest of the group would also agree is worth seeing (or vice-versa), and who can identify a genre well enough to help you choose what to see.

Step 2: Set up a wiki or shared document (use your favorite web 2.0 tool, such as google docs, so you can all access the file & make changes to it).

Step 3: Grab the schedules at and copy & paste it into your shared document. Sort as desired.

Step 4: Get your friends started. Assign all of your friends to start with a different section of the schedule. (i.e. alphabetical, by day, by stage, whatever)

Step 5: Preview the bands. Using albums you already own, previews on iTunes, myspace pages, or whatever else you can find, listen to samples from each band.

Step 6: Write a short paragraph identifying the style of music and giving it a brief review. Merely saying “This is awesome” could work, but something like “Post-hardcore band that put on a great live show last time I saw them. Definitely worth seeing” works better.

Step 7: Compile everybody’s contributions, and email or print your own cheat-sheet reference guide to each band. You could arrange them alphabetically or by day/stage. Jerry, who compiles our programs, color codes everything: Green is for bands we all know & already love. Blue is for bands that we’re not familiar with but which seem solid. Yellow is borderline. Purple bands are random, but possibly good (that color also goes for most seminars). Red are bands that don’t suit our style at all.

Step 8: Use that info to make your schedule. There will still be schedule conflicts, but at least this way you can make a more informed decision which band to see.

Step 9: During the fest, when you’re not sure what to see next, simply look at your cheat sheet. Enjoy being able to see your favorite bands without as much stress, and also being able to catch great new music.

I swear it was the fourth of July

The calendar claims that it’s July 4th. My body does not believe it, nor does my mind. Where are the great-American cookouts in the back yard? Where are the parades? Where’s the heat? Answer: not here. But, it’s still a great day here at Cornerstone.

(And, we did have fireworks on Friday night.)

This afternoon, I took refuge under the Encore I tent, along with a huge percentage of fest-goers who haven’t packed up yet. Turns out this was a great choice.

First up was Seabird, favorites of mine from the past few fests. They welcomed us by saying “We love it here. Cornerstone is like a sanctuary. But, we get here and it turns out it’s more like a cesspool.” The band talked about how they weren’t exactly on a morale high, but with the crowd’s response to each song, it was rising. I hope this fares well for their other show, tonight at 9:15 at the Grrr Records stage, as well as for their new album, which they start recording next week.

Classic Crime CrowdClassic Crime was up next. And, not shockingly, they too made reference to the weather, saying “This is like the Christian woodstock, it’s so muddy!” The wet & muddy crowd responded to this band very well, with a lot of togetherness – singing & swaying together.

The Fold played next, to another crowd happy to see some driving rock, and also stay out of the rain. The highlight of the show was a guy from the audience coming on stage to dance along to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

So, despite this not feeling at all like Independence Day, Cornerstone keeps going strong. Check out the fest photo page, which is bound to include lots of fun in the mud (as well as coverage of all the bands that are playing “main stage” tonight).

*Oh, and continuing the trend of my prior post, the title of this one is also from a song. This time – from The Violet Burning. I think we listen to this coming into the festival grounds every year.

Rain all day, I’ll stay with you*

Moisture is definitely encompassing the Cornerstone grounds today. It seems that some campers have packed up, but those who remain are in for an unforgettable day. For some, the unforgettable nature will come from the switch of Main Stage acts to Encore I and Gallery Stages (as mentioned by others on the blog already). For others, the unforgettable aspects may come as a result of a new Saturday feature: a general session with worship & speakers in the Gallery.

This afternoon, in addition to being a refuge from the rain & mud, the Gallery is home to a general session with worship led by Bifrost Arts, a keynote address from Phyllis Tickle, and a round table response/discussion. Those attending will have opportunities to participate in worship (which, as the speakers reminded “is not a spectacle”), and be challenged with big ideas about the future of evangelicalism and more. It’s an opportunity to take the seminar conversations to the larger festival, and hopefully also a good way for the attendees to reconnect with God.

Organizers welcomed feedback about this Saturday general session to

*For the old-time music geeks out there, yes, the title of this post is inspired by Fleming & John. We listened to that on the drive in today.

The other side of Cornerstone

For my Friday report, I’m going to leave the band comments to the guys (we wound up seeing a lot of the same shows yesterday and they’re better able to describe them!). I’d like, instead, to focus on the other side of Cornerstone. While we talk mostly about music here, there’s a lot else that the festival has to offer. I took in several things on the other side yesterday.


As the emcee at the Stavesacre show said on Thursday, “If you’ve been coming to Cornerstone for more than 4 years and haven’t seen a seminar, you’re missing out.” This year’s seminar lineup was first-rate, featuring authors of popular books and thought-provoking topics.

Tony Jones & Phyllis Tickle brought seminars about the Emerging Church (or whatever you want to call that these days). Tickle also offered a short seminar on Friday about fixed-hour prayer, where she outlined the 7 practices or disciples brought into Christianity from Judaism: tithing, fasting, sacred meal (3 practices to disciple the physical), fixed hour prayer, sabbath, liturgical year, and pilgrimage (4 practices to discipline time).

Also on Friday, Andrew Marin continued his Love is An Orientation series. I didn’t hang around for it (went to another seminar instead) but he was definitely drawing large crowds for this talk, presumably related to the book by the same name.

The Music Professionals Series provided an accessible way for industry folks and up-and-coming bands to learn more about radio. That tent was packed with people asking questions of how to get their songs to break thru into radio.

The seminars are done for 2009 (other than the general session this afternoon), but there’s no doubt next year will offer another round of inspiring & challenging talks.


Burning Brush, the visual arts wing of the fest, presented the Parables of Jesus as the theme for their 2009 pilgrimage art installation. The pilgrimage, which runs from the Merch Tent to the Footbridge, features maybe 20 different art pieces of all kinds of media. A gorgeous batik and large mosaic of flowers anchor one end of the pilgrimage (the mosac shows great ingenuity by the artist, since it uses recycled bottle caps – from soda bottles, hershey’s syrup bottles, and more).


Breakaway is held each morning in the Gallery, with worship & speakers relevant to high school students & those who work with them. I chaperoned a youth group several years ago, and though I don’t do so anymore, I still remember what a powerful experience Cornerstone can be for students. Breakaway is an excellent thing to include alongside seeing your favorite bands and hanging out with friends.

And many more…

Cornerstone is so diverse; it’s impossible to experience all of it. Try as I might, I never quite get around to seeing films at Flickerings (though maybe tonight for The Wizard of Oz or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – both old favorites of mine). I don’t have kids, so I don’t make use of Creation Station – though every time I walk by, I can’ t help but smile. Then there’s the volleyball torunament, skateboard ramp, soccer fields, prom at the Asylum, impromptu rounds of buck-buck on the main stage hill, swimming in the lake, etc. Way too much to possibly take in!

Two things on everyone’s mind

1. Oh no! It’s the last day!

2. Oh no! It’s still raining!

The weather forecast calls for pretty solid rain thru 2pm, lesser chances after that. The festival forecast calls for it to be relatively calm this morning, then a strong wind will bring new bands & speakers to the stage this afternoon, finally culminating in a rock-your-face-off night at Main Stage.

Saturday evening should bring about a great end to the fest with favorites Living Sacrifice, The Devil Wears Prada, and Underoath rocking the mud at main stage. (Please, God, send some sun this afternoon to make it less messy down there!) Up at the midway area, it looks like Alethian wasn’t able to make the trip for their 10th Cornerstone, but other bands will certainly rock the Sanctuary. Other venues will feature the sweet modern sounds of bands like Seabird and Nightengale, or the great musicianship of bands like The Wayside or Glen Clark.

The rain may dampen our tents, but let’s not let it dampen our spirits for one final day of great music, great ideas, great friends, and great worship.

What’s the future of the church? It’s us.

This afternoon presented a new-to-me experience at Cornerstone: a Leadership Forum for church & ministry leaders. Glenn Kaiser moderated a conversation about burn-out among ministry leaders, helping the body act according to their gifts, community & accountability for ministers, and other tough issues church & ministry leaders face. The seminar was a cross-section of Cornerstone (minus teenagers, naturally) – but with men & women of all ages & styles, representing different denominations, methodologies, and styles.

As a church staff member, when I read the description of this forum, I knew I had to be there. Though I’m part of a large staff, it’s still nice to network with others who understand some of the struggles I face. Since I suppose most of our blog readers aren’t church staffers, I’m not going to give a point-by-point summary. Instead, I want to just talk about one of the final questions and hopefully inspire you to think.

One attendee asked “What’s the future of the church?” How would you answer that question? I know I can find statistics that show trends, and talk to theorists who say this or that, and can find plenty of online debates about church methodology or practice. But, really, what is the future of the church?

Glenn Kaiser answered this way, giving the response I want to embody as well: “It’s us.”

So, amidst the blog coverage of bands, silly costumes, and everything else that’s going on around us right now – here’s your introspective question of the day.

What’s the future of the church & how are you living it out?

Cornerstone Life in Photos

Feel like you’re missing out on Cornerstone since you couldn’t make it to the farm this year?

Wondering what your kids are up to this week?

Wanting to know what there is beyond music?

Here’s a little of what you could be experiencing (all links take you to the photo gallery):

Next year, just outside Bushnell!

Running strong to the end

Midway thru the fest, and I feel like I need a shot in the arm – a shot of energy to keep me going for another 2 days of great music.

Yesterday shall be dubbed as “nap day” in my memory of Cornerstone 2009. Feeling the effects of the Cornerstone Dust, I took cold medicine that completely wiped me out (so much for being “non-drowsy”). I slept thru all or part of at least 4 shows, several of which were decidedly in the hard rock category (proving, once again, that I can sleep thru anything!). Too bad, because I know I missed out on some great stuff! Here’s a quick rundown of what I was actually awake for on Thursday at Cornerstone:

The Rocketboys: I hail from the self-described “Live Music Capital of the World” but over the years the presence of Austin, Texas at Cornerstone has been somewhat limited (with the obvious exception of the fine folks from HM Magazine who hail from just outside our fair city). So, I was happy to see The Rocketboys at the Indie Community stage. They sufficiently rocked my face and I’ll be checking out their upcoming dates back home.

Deas Vail & The Wedding drew strong back-to-back crowds at the Indoor stage, with lots of college-aged people in attendance for both shows. I’ve known Deas Vail’s music for years – it’s a great soundtrack to keep me going during the workday – memorable guitar riffs and an overall beautiful sound work well with the lead singer’s distinctive vocals. The Wedding was new for me, but I’ll be coming back to their music as well.

Rodent Emporium literally rocked the Impromptu stage; the tent poles were dancing along with the audience. This is just plain silly fun – songs about snakes, sports, radiation, anything – and the crowd eats it up.

The best part of yesterday, though (other than the naps!) was just hanging out with friends. Sometimes, we can too quickly categorize Cornerstone as being just a music fest – when it’s really more like a community. I hope to do more of that today – talking to these friends energizes me! These friends are the best – they laugh at my jokes and I feel like I belong when I’m around them.

Here’s a bit of what I’d like to see today (not in order of importance, clearly!):

  • More time laughing with friends. That’s always good.
  • Eat a funnel cake.
  • Walk thru the art pligrimage (leading from near the big merch booth down to the footbridge)
  • Leadership Forum with Glenn Kaiser at noon (a forum for church staffers)
  • Anberlin at Main Stage. This may mean I miss Nightengale (the best new band I saw last year) but I can catch them on Saturday instead.

Here’s to hoping I can keep going strong and not miss out on all Cornerstone has to offer!