Electricity! You Fickle Friend!

By now you’ve heard about the heat. The oppressive, sizzling, sweltering heat. It’s draining everyone, including the power for the entire county apparently. The electricity vaporized from the grounds again today leaving everywhere except the Main Stage and generator stages, each with their own power, down to a stand-still. This made me very sad because it happened right as Quiet Science was about to take the stage. It looks like their show is going to be rescheduled for tonight at 7 PM which gives me a massive conundrum as they are playing at the same time as The Choir and also Campbell The Band. Tough choices.

I was sad to have no music, but it did afford a chance to have some conversations with friends, including people as far away as Scotland. That’s one of the coolest things about Cornerstone. I’ve met people from all over the country, indeed all over the world, and we all share common musical interests that make discussions seem perfectly natural.

Some artists made the best of the lack of electricity. Mike Roe and Derri Daugherty performed through a single amp powered by an RV. Total professionals, they played a great show featuring their new project Kerosene Halo with their humor and sentiment.

The power finally returned for Jeff Elbel and his band Ping. Jeff brought new music to the festival this year and even invited me up on stage to take a group photo. I’m glad I didn’t trip over any cords and knock instruments all over the stage, so it’s a big win for me.

The sun is finally starting to set and hopefully the heat will start to break. There is a whole bunch of music going on tonight, including Deas Vail which should be great. There’s also the conflict of Quiet Science/The Choir/Campbell the Band. Were I a younger person on a cooler day, I would try to make my rounds and hit all three shows. We’ll see if I have any energy left to do that or if I just collapse in a chair at one of the tents.

Day 2 – Jesus Music and Superheroes

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The Jesus Music Rally was on the minds of almost everyone at Cornerstone on Thursday. Even Paper Route’s lead singer admitted to wanting to see Petra right as his show was about to start. The sun and heat made it a bit of a challenge of endurance, but the unique opportunity to see artists, some who haven’t performed in 20 years, draw people to sit in the open sun.

Before that, though, there were plenty of artists making their first appearance at Cornerstone. The band members of Dead American Radio had just been through the tornadoes of Joplin, Missouri, even lifting the guitarist/singer off the ground, but still made an appearance to play punk-pop music at the festival. On the Main Stage, Milano made a colorful debut at the festival festooned with paint and feathers. Things went a little out of order when Vinacious took the stage and the power cut out (even causing the Big Events slide to deflate, hope no one was one it when it happened!) Since they were a band heavy on electronics, there wasn’t much for them to do, but that’s the unpredictable nature of Cornerstone.

On Main Stage, Servant started the day off. The band hadn’t played in over 20 years, so this was a rare opportunity to see them perform. One of the surprises for me for the day was Barry McGuire. I really didn’t know much of his music, so I didn’t know what to expect, but he was comfortable and colloquial with the crowd. I enjoyed his comment about “stress identifying the parts of your life that you don’t trust to God” and thought about how that tied into my “Keep Calm and Rock On” theme for Cornerstone this year. On the side of the stage I could see Terry Taylor enjoying the show also, applauding as McGuire would play familiar favorites. Taylor’s band, Daniel Amos, was all business for their performance on the Main Stage. DA has been known sometimes for their Swirling Eddies antics and jokes on stage, but today they ran through a great set of favorite songs. The heat of the day was starting to get to me by this point and so I spent the next couple of hours trying to find shade where I could, but I listened to Randy Stonehill while eating dinner.

I had originally feared that I would have to make a choice between Phil Keaggy, Paper Route, and Petra in the evening. However, due to the delays from power outages and main Stage sound checks, I was able to see most of all of these shows. Paper Route returned to a very crowded Gallery stage and teased us with a new song in their set. The Phil Keaggy show ended up actually being a Glass Harp show and in the true ethos of 70’s music poured out some long jams on electric guitar. I was particularly happy to see Keaggy on electric guitar as I’ve seen his solo act on acoustic many many times, but seeing him in a band context was a new thing for me. Petra finished up the night, bringing back the 80’s with the lineup that produced Beat The System. Greg Volz had a marathon night, performing earlier with e Band.

On the way out, we couldn’t resist stopping by the Encore tent for Flatfoot 56. The Superheroes theme was on tonight and I loved the signs “Pow!”, “Boom!”, “Zot!” that raced across the stage as band fervently belted out punk rock with bagpipes and mandolins. The kids, of course, are almost as much fun to watch as the band as they raced around, bedecked with flags and costumes.

The heat is in full force at Cornerstone this year. Stay cool, drink water, and apply sunburn!

Day 1 – The Cornerstone Way of Life

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The first day of the festival is all about easing yourself into the “Cornerstone Festival Way of Life.” Most normal people don’t stay up to 2 AM listening to loud music all day, cooking food over a camp stove or getting something fried from a vendor. Most people don’t have face the conundrum of “should I see this band or this other band that’s playing half a mile away at the same time?” It takes a day or so to get used to the “normal” way of life here, but once you do, you start to think of your life at home as “odd.”

So today we eased into the Cornerstone Way of Life again for another year. I started off with some nice acoustic music by Tim Serdynski and Ryan Shelley. Along with Preson Phillips’ show on the Anchor Stage, there was some nice worship music on the first day to get people in the right frame of mind for the week.

My friends and I do hours and hours of research on all of the hundreds of bands that play at Cornerstone on the real stages and the generator stages so that we know who is playing and who we think we would enjoy seeing. Even still, the unpredictable nature of the generator stages at Cornerstone mean a band can still surprise you. On the Arkansas Stage, Sunset delivered a nice set of rock that reminded me a little bit of a rawer, simpler Further Seems Forever. We totally missed them when doing our research, but sometimes to only way to discover a band is to walk by the tent and say “hey, this sounds pretty good.”

It’s gotta be tough to be a band from far away that no one has heard of and try to make a beachhead at Cornerstone. Some bands like Campbell The Band have it figured out. Just like last year they are walking around the festival like a traveling minstrel band stopping for a moment to play a song and then they vanish into the Cornerstone dust to play at another location. Quiet Science is hard at it, too, dressing up in elaborate costumes and marching through the grounds. That’s why I always root for the bands that drive thousands of miles to Cornerstone without any support to play at a generator stage (and I and my friends are the only four people watching them.) That was the case for Belair and Stone Throw Second, but as they started playing people started wandering into the tent to check out a band they surely have never heard of before. It’s always a good sign when there are more people in the tent when they have finished then when they started. Both bands are playing multiple sets this week at generator stages so there is plenty of time to build up a new fan base far from home. Other bands benefit from the serendipity of good scheduling. Witness 7 and Adelaine were lined up in front of the increasingly popular Don’t Wake Aislin and girl-rock power was strong in the Impact Stage for the evening.

DJ Andy Hunter started the Main Stage off tonight with a dance party. Kids were dancing all around the stage as Hunter exhorted them to praise, worship, dance, and have fun. We’re starting to get into the groove of things here. The festival is heating up (both musically and literally, stay cool and drink lots of water kids!) and The Cornerstone Way of Life is starting to take over.

Day 1 Is Only Hours Away

Well, here we are in Illinois for another Cornerstone Festival. Thanks to the time shift I’m up at 7:22 AM, so I figure now is a good time to check in and introduce myself. My name is Jeff and I’ve been coming to Cornerstone now since 1998 (with a few years skipped in between.) I’ve seen some pretty epic shows and made a lot of good friends along the way and that’s what keeps me coming back year after year.

So, the theme for me this year is “Keep Calm and Rock On” which I stole from a sign that my wife and I picked up to decorate the house. It’s a play on the old British propaganda sign “Keep Calm and Carry On” but it actually fits well. I’m hoping to drop the pressures of work and life at home, just a for a couple days, and see some great bands, enjoy some great conversation, and pay a little more attention to what God has to say to me.

There are plenty of bands to look forward to this week. I’m especially interested in the Jesus Rally that will bring several bands that haven’t played at Cornerstone Festival in decades or ever to the Main Stage. I’m really excited to see Anberlin return (and as far as I know, no band playing at the same time that I also want to see! A common theme that happens every year is that Anberlin plays at the same time as some other band I really want to see.) I’m looking forward to Paper Route’s return after their breakout show last year and there is no doubt the “Superheroes” themed Flatfoot 56 show will be talked about for years to come. I’m also looking forward to seeing my friends perform on stage. Dave Richards will be bringing the beats at the AfterHours Dance Club, Jeff Elbel will be working as hard as he does every year at the Gallery Stage and bringing his band, Ping, to the stage with new music and also this year a friend of mine and his band, Songs of Water, plays at their very first Cornerstone. I love the intertwining themes of friendship and music here at the festival.

As for today, things get started right out of the gate at noon. We’ll be wandering the generator stages. These stages were once as simple as just three kids plugged into a gas-powered generator on the side of the road, but they’ve evolved into something a little more professional. However, they still embrace the chaos of their youth. Any band can play on a generator stage and most of them are bands just getting their start and trying to get the attention of a crowd that’s here to see one of any of hundreds of other bands, so anything can happen. Sometimes you might see the next big thing (several big name bands here at Cornerstone got their start on the side of the road) and sometimes you might just be hearing unintelligible noise. You never know, and that’s part of the fun of the unpredictable stages. Then today, the Main Stage fires up with DJ Andy Hunter which will introduce the AfterHours Dance Club to the whole festival grounds and start of a Dance Party to begin the festival. Everything is starting to get warmed up for incredible first day of Cornerstone Festival. Keep Calm and Rock On.

The No Longer Sick Wrapup

So, health-wise, Cornerstone 2010 was probably my least favorite year. I entered the festival sick and I left the festival as sick or sicker. Not a fun way to spend a week. Musically, though, the year was pretty good. Friday was incredible with a solid set of musicians from early in the day right up to the midnight show. The opening day was better than last year’s set of disappointing new bands, though the generator stages were, as probably expected, a total roulette with frequent schedule changes and unknown bands playing. Even with doing some research before the festival, I still didn’t know who was playing half of the time.

The veteran bands were strong, Over the Rhine returned to the festival and made up for last year’s absence by giving us almost two full sets. The Lost Dogs brought out a touching tribute to Route 66. Some of the bands that I hoped would have incredible shows, Future of Forestry and Paper Route, delivered. The only disappointment I had was that there were not as many interesting new bands. Campbell The Band showed promise, but I really only saw three songs by them.

I do wish I had seen more worship-focused bands. David Crowder Band was on Main Stage, but at the same time as another show I wanted to see and I think I would’ve enjoyed The Glorious Unseen more if I hadn’t been feeling so sick at the time.

So, let’s narrow it down to my Top 5 shows:
Paper Route- This was my number 1 most anticipated show coming into the festival and they hit it out of the park. The band drew energy off of the crowd and the crowd was totally into it.

Deas Vail - Successfully navigated the rocky waters of moving from the side stage to Main Stage. Played much of their newest album which contains their strongest material yet.

Future of Forestry – Only three members played about 20 instruments. The band brought energy on the last day with a wide variety of instruments with drums, keyboards, guitars, cellos, and even a harmonium

Eisley – Welcome back DuPree family! Please come back sooner than eight years to Cornerstone.

The Kicks – Good old fashioned four-piece rock and roll songs with girl’s names in the titles. Just a fun show that reminds me of 80’s rock.

The Next 5: These shows are in the second tier, in no particular order.
Over The Rhine – The new songs are still in development, but it was very cool of the band to share them with us. Can’t wait to see how they end up on the new album. Two full sets of material gave us plenty to enjoy.

Lost Dogs – Loved the new Old Angel material and Steve Hindalong thrilled the crowd with twirling a rope. Not as much old schtick as previous shows.

Seabird – Nice end to the festival. The new album might not be as strong as their previous album, but it’s still pretty good and the crowd was into it even though everyone was fatigued from the long week.

The Choir – It was a little rough, sure, with some underrehearsed moments, but it was great to see the band back after a five year absence and the new music was great.

Nitengale – Strange to see only the lead signer at the festival, with the rest of the band dismissed, but his voice is compelling and the new songs are great. Even just on guitar or keyboards, the songs were enough to make me see him twice.

Five Bands That You Will Hear About Soon:
These five bands are flush with potential. We’ll see if they return next year, but if they do, they are going to come back with higher expectations and bigger crowds.

Campbell The Band – They toured around the grounds, playing impromptu shows on drums, guitars, and pianos and it worked, drawing a big crowd to the New Band Stage. They only had three songs, and they sound totally different than the EP they sold, so we’ll have to see what they develop into.

Quiet Science – Saw them last year and they are so close to turning the corner and becoming a big band at Cornerstone. The promotion with the “protestors” and costumes was genius and I think it drew bigger crowds. The first Jesus Village show was a little rough, but they hit on all cylinders on the Impact Stage. They are on the way up.

House of Heroes – For some reason I didn’t expect to like this band, but they rocked it out. The new material has a little bit of Muse influence and I may have to check out some more from this band.

News From Verona – This band is strongly influenced from bands like New Found Glory and Taking Back Sunday and the kids loved it. Fun teenage rock.

The Rendition – Nice piano rock with female lead vocals. I’d like to see this band again with a year of experience.

So there you go, Cornerstone 2010 is in the books! I hope I can go again next year, but just like every year, you never know. At the very least, I’m hoping next year I won’t be ill the entire week.

Buck Buck

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I’ll be posting my own summary and concluding thoughts about the festival soon, but first I wanted to let things ruminate a little bit and think about the festival as a whole before posting anything yet.

So, I’ll share some fun from the last day of the festival.

Cornerstone Festival has some “official” sports competitions (soccer, volleyball, basketball) on the grounds but sometimes the most fun ones are the spontaneous ones that spring up from the ground. This particular sport that seems to happen every year cracks me up. The game is called “Buck Buck” and if you’ve ever heard the Bill Cosby sketch about Fat Albert, then you know the rules. Essentially one team of kids lines up and the other team of kids jumps on top of the first team until they collapse. There are more nuances to the rules than that, but that’s the gist of it. I don’t know how much fun it would be to have all those people jumping on you, but from an observer’s standpoint, it’s pretty funny to watch. I love taking photos of kids flying through the air.

I’ve included one photo from my collection at the top of this post, but there’s more on my photostream on Flickr.

Have you ever played Buck Buck? Did you play this year? Ever gotten hurt playing Buck Buck? Seems like something that would leave some bruises!

Jeff

Quick Saturday Summary

Saturday is over and Cornerstone 20ten is in the books! If you are like me, you are packing up and heading home. Drive safely! The last day of Cornerstone Festival had plenty for everyone. I saw The Glorious Unseen, House of Heroes, All The Day Holiday, Oh! The Humanity, Future of Forestry, Ivoryline, and Seabird. Not a bad way to finish up the week.

We’ll all be posting our summaries and thoughts about the whole week in the next few days. My battery is about to die and the car is about to be cranked, so it’s time for me to go. Until then, check out my pictures of Cornerstone 2010 on Flickr. See you on the flip side.

Friday – There Are No Words

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After an amazing Friday afternoon and evening, I don’t think I can come up with a suitable review or summary. Let’s just sum it up by saying that Deas Vail, Over the Rhine, Quiet Science, Paper Route and Eisley all brought incredible energy and some of the best sets that I’ve seen by any of them before. Over the Rhine had missed a year at Cornerstone and their absence was felt last year. It’s been a couple years since Paper Route has been here and almost a decade since Eisley played at the festival. I hope all of them return sooner than later!

It does feel a little like the festival hit it’s peak last night, but there’s still more to go. As usual, I’m finally hitting my stride and adjusting to “Cornerstone Time” on the last day, but that’s the way it goes with this festival. Some great bands will finish up the festival, I’m looking forward to All The Day Holiday, Future of Forestry, and Seabird today. While it’s not my thing, I know the kids are excited about August Burns Red and The Devil Wears Prada. Cornerstone is wrapping up, make sure to get everything you can out of the fun today!

Jeff

Cornerstone brings the best out of the band

Bands play a variety of stops in a tour. I’m sure after a blur of shows, venues start to seem the same for bands. But Cornerstone is always different. Something about the festival brings out the excitement and action of the band.

Paper Route played at the Gallery tent earlier tonight. I’ve seen the band a couple of times now, even at the first appearance here at the festival a couple years ago. The band has energy and stage presence sure, but this year’s show at Cornerstone was something else. The band was all smiles, leaping across the stage and playing with gusto I’ve never seen in their previous shows.

Girls in the crowd were so overwhelmed they were crying. Guys were nodding along with their eyes closed. These kind of shows are what make Cornerstone so special and different from other concerts.

Jeff

Three Songs To Win The Crowd Over

The soundcheck took too long and by the time the show started a band curiously named Campbell The Band, had only three songs to win the crowd over. Of course, the band had already done their work, canvasing the Cornerstone grounds playing impromptu shows for crowds of people. So, the tent was completely full for Campbell The Band, and those three songs.

And how were those three songs? Not bad. The band got the crowd involved immediately by handing a drum into the crowd and playing it from the stage. It only took three songs to get the crowd rushing back to the merch table to buy the EP.

Cornerstone balances new and old during the fesitval. The Choir, a band that played at the first festival, played last night on the Gallery Stage. Today, Campbell The Band started a story at Cornerstone Festival of their own.

Jeff