Everyone comes to Cornerstone Festival for a variety of reasons to see a variety of bands, but almost everyone looks at the schedule and singles out “The Day.” It’s that day when from afternoon to after midnight, there is a great show after great show happening all day long. Today is that day for me. On the Gallery Stage, Over the Rhine will be playing two sets, Paper Route will have a show and over on Main Stage Deas Vail will have a show. That’s an incredibly solid lineup for me. After the Deas Vail show, I may plant myself at the Gallery Stage and stay there all day.
There’s some exciting stuff before all that, though. I’m going to check out Centralia Mine Fire and I’m curious about Campell, The Band. I hope all of you have “The Day” sometime during the week here at Cornerstone, for me it’s today.
The second or third day is when the “Cornerstone Burn’ kicks in. You aren’t used to this kind of sleeping schedule. You aren’t used to this kind of noise all day. You aren’t used to walking this much. This is when you start to wear down. Keep on going! We’ll all settle into “Cornerstone time” soon enough.
I started out the day with some newer bands at the festival. The Clutter played first today for me with some instrumental songs mixed with some rock music. Over on the Label Showcase stage, News From Verona and Don’t Wake Aislin got a great reaction from the kids. News From Verona leaned towards the power-pop side while Don’t Wake Aislin delivered powerful driving rock with female-led vocals.
Continuing the theme of women bringing great music, Brooke Waggoner, joined by harpist Timbre, played a fantastic set at the Gallery stage. From there, I finished the afternoon with a very loose and very fun second set by Jeff Elbel and Ping, consisting mostly of covers.
I’m dragging a little bit, but I need to get a second wind, because The Choir plays at midnight tonight. I’m pushing through the “Cornerstone Burn” because the best stuff is yet to come.
On any given night at Cornerstone Festival, there are a dizzying variety of choices to make for who to see in concert. The choices are as across the board as can be, too. I started my evening out with mewithoutyou on the Main Stage. They commanded a big crowd and hit through many of their more popular songs while adding in a few from their new album. I can’t really accurately describe their sound, but they have a pretty big following here at the festival and they all showed up for the show.
I could’ve stayed for Red and TobyMac (who I did hear while walking back and forth on the grounds, it’s just about impossible to miss whoever is playing on Main Stage), but I headed to the Gallery tent where two longstanding acts performed once again. The Lost Dogs are a yearly favorite and this year they finally had their newest album, Old Angel, a travelogue about their trip on Route 66 for sale. Mike Roe wailed on guitar during “Bullet Train” and “Eleanor It’s Raining” and Steve Hindalong twirled a rope to the crowd’s delight. After their show, Iona brought their Celtic progressive rock back to Cornerstone after an absence of nearly 15 years. The band performed some old favorites from their albums in the 90’s, a couple longer progressive pieces, and even an Irish jig or two.
The cold temperature starting kicking in and my residue exhaustion from my banished strep throat had me bailing out early, but what I saw of Iona was great. On to today with The Almost, some new Nashville stuff on the Gallery stage, a visit to see my friend David DJ at the Dance Tent, and then the long-awaited return of The Choir tonight.
Jeff Elbel and the Ping family
If the Main Stage move is somewhat drastic, the Gallery move seems almost imperceptible. Oh sure, the tent has moved, but it’s almost as if it was teleported, complete with fans and bands to the new location. The stage is the same. The arrangement of chairs and tables is the same. The coffee shop is still there. Even many of the same people that frequent the crowd from year to year seem to have found their way to the new location.
The afternoon set of artists reinforced that familiarity. Mike Roe performed solo and then joined Terry Taylor for an acoustic set. Later, Roe performed a duet with Derri Daugherty with all sorts of cover songs. Guitar tech Jeff Elbel brought his band Ping on the stage and even brought children of the band on stage for a song. Family is a strong theme at Cornerstone and for many of the artists and patrons of the Gallery stage, this is their family at the festival.
As a postscript: I also caught The Kicks on the Underground Stage and they were great. They have a free album for download at thekicksrock.com
One of the great things about Cornerstone is that many of the performers are also fans. While I was down front for the Switchfoot show (which by the way, thumbs up for the new Main Stage. Loved seeing everyone all gathered in the middle of the grounds and the views of the stage were perfect even if you weren’t down front), the lead signer for Nitengale was standing right in front of me. Only 40 minutes later I was watching him performing on the Chelsea Cafe stage.
Seems like everyone is here to see someone perform. So many shows to see.
Early in the festival, especially with the generator stages, flexibility is the key word at Cornerstone. Things invariably go off schedule. Bands fail to show up. Stages lose power. Things happen. So, sometimes the band you intended to see end up playing at a different time. That means I’ve been on the move a lot, trying to see what I’m intending to see. Early in the day, I caught Karina Mia, who played a Jason Mraz cover for us on ukelele. The Rendition played probably the best set of he early afternoon with a nice rock show with keyboards and guitars and nice, strong vocals from the female lead singer. Over on the Anchor Stage, Allen Aguirre exorted the crowd “who can approach the throne of God? You can!” with his band Men As Trees Walking. The band is truly a family as one of the singers, Aquirre’s daughter and one of the guitarists, his son-in-law, are expecting a child very, very soon.
Continuing along the lines of flexibilty, I wandered by the old Main Stage grounds heading out to the new Main Stage. I have to say I really like how the Main Stage towers above the rest of the grounds. You can see it from almost anywhere at the festival. When the Main Stage was over by the lake, it was special because it was separate from the rest of the action. Now, however, its the center of the action. I’m looking forward to seeing how Switchfoot commands the center of attention tonight.
It should come as no surprise to me that a crisis arises right as I’m about to leave for Cornerstone Festival. I started feeling ill on Saturday and went to see the doctor yesterday on Sunday and sure enough, I have strep throat. Ugh. Fortunately, the antibiotics are already starting to kick in so by the time I arrive on the grounds on Tuesday I should be just about full-strength. I just hope I’m not too much of a biohazard to the people in my car during the trip up to Illinois.
This isn’t the first year that something has come up right as I’m about to leave for Cornerstone Festival. Just a few years ago, someone decided to run up a couple thousand dollars using my credit card number right as I was about to leave, so I had to frantically call and cancel the card and find alternate ways to get money for the festival. Such is the way of my trips to Cornerstone.
On the note of my illness, what should you do at Cornerstone if you get sick or injured? There is a first-aid trailer in the midway section of the festival grounds near the Main Stage (check the map on this website). Also, there is a hospital in Macomb, Illinois, which is about a 20-30 minute drive. I recommend bringing a small first-aid kit to deal with minor cuts and injuries and some hand-sanitizer is a must. You will want to have it when you emerge from the infamous portapotties and it will keep you from contracting dread diseases from ill people like me.
Have a safe drive, keep well, and let’s get ready to have some fun.
Last year the grounds were covered with mud on the final day. Will we avoid the rain this year?
I should preface this post with a big caveat. Always, always, ALWAYS prepare for the worst weather at Cornerstone Festival. It will rain, so bring shoes you don’t mind getting muddy and possibly ruined. Bring ponchos so you aren’t miserable and wet the entire day. Bring plenty of socks so you don’t have wet feet all week. Bring tarps and covers for your tents so all of your stuff isn’t ruined. It will be dusty if it doesn’t rain. It can be choking if it doesn’t rain at all, so if you have respiration problems, be prepared. It will be hot. Bring sunscreen, you will be sunburnt if you are not careful. Drink plenty of water and stay cool. Don’t use up all your energy perfecting your roundhouse kick at the hardcore shows the first day so that you are dead tired on the last day. It will be cold. In the evenings, it can get downright chilly. Bring something to wear in the evenings. Bring appropriate gear to sleep in.
Now, having said all that, checking various weather sites it looks like the weather is going to be incredible for the week of Cornerstone Festival! So far the predictions seem to be in the mid 80’s for highs and 60s – 70s for lows (some nights as low as the high 50s!) so be prepared. The chance of rain looks small, but never count on it not raining at Conerstone.
Now, I know there have been some legendary times at Cornerstone in inclement weather. Do you have any memorable times at Cornerstone in the rain, heat, or cold? It was fun and all watching the kids slide around in the mud last year and of course, moving the Underoath and The Devil Wears Prada shows to the Gallery tent was epic. I’ve been to Cornerstone under all conditions. However, I prefer a nice, sunny, days with low temperatures and cool evenings. Keep your fingers crossed because we *might* get that this year.
…and if we don’t, please don’t flood this post with hate comments directed at me for jinxing it. Just a little while more now before the fun begins!
If you haven’t started getting your car packed, your tent ready, your various and random accessories to wear to humor everyone at the festival grounds, there’s still time, but it’s starting to run out! My name is Jeff and I’ll be one of the bloggers bringing the latest happenings of the festival to you as it happens. This will be my 9th Cornerstone Festival since 1998 and I’m starting to get excited about number nine. I’ve been getting prepared in my own way, watching previous shows from Cornerstones past on YouTube. Check out a few that I’ve hand picked and posted on my blog. I’ve been scanning for bands I’ve never heard of on MySpace and Facebook to see if there’s anything new to see this year. I’ve made a schedule using the amazing Cornerstone Schedule Maker, but I’m keeping my options open just in case something surprises me.
I’ll be posting photos as the week goes along to my Flickr account and sending out updates on Twitter as well as posting here. You can participate too! Just add the hash tag #cstn20ten to your tweets as the festival goes along.
The top bands that I’m looking forward to this year initially are Paper Route, Eisley, Switchfoot, and Future of Forestry plus the return of well-known bands like The Choir and Over The Rhine. There’s always new bands too that surprise me and find their way on to my list of favorites by the end of the week. Hopefully I’ll also get to catch some seminars and even find some quiet moments for some prayer and introspection. Of course, there are the old friendships, too. If you’ve been to Cornerstone multiple years, you know that you form bonds with people you may only see one time a year at the festival, but every year you look forward to seeing them again.
What are you looking forward to most about Cornerstone? What bands are you looking forward to seeing?
So, I’m home from the long drive back from Cornerstone and just starting to sort through my photos and CD’s from the week. It’s been a great week and the organizers of the festival should be saluted for once again giving us a music and arts festival that just barely kisses the edge of chaos, but at the same time gives us the freedom to enjoy music in whatever manner we like. Whether it’s moshing in a pit of crazy kids, sitting in our chairs in the back, taking photographs, journaling, or hanging out with our friends before they turn up the amps and crank it to 11 on a stage powered by a generator on the side of the road, I think everyone enjoyed Cornerstone in their own way. Yet, through all of it, things go mostly on schedule and everyone stays safe and has a great time.
Looking back on the week, I wanted to give my list of favorite performances of the week. I already KNOW Anberlin and Family Force 5 were two of the highlights of the week and yes, I’m a fool for missing them. Unfortunately, they were both playing at the same time as friends of mine performing on other stages and friendship is a closer tie than rocking. So, I know I missed some awesomeness at the festival, but at the same time I think my friends appreciated me showing up for their shows and letting them live the “rock star” dream for a day.
Here’s my Top 5, in no particular order of the shows I actually did see:
- The Square Peg Alliance – 4 hours was a lot of time for them to fill, but fortunately each of these talented artists has a pretty extensive library of songs to draw from. I love the comraderie and friendship these guys and gal have with each other and it shows on stage.
- Copeland – They brought out the more rock side of their music and I appreciated that. The band sounded great and the new stuff from their latest album mixed well with their classic material. This was, to me, one of the best examples of a midnight show at Cornerstone.
- All The Day Holiday – I really liked the material from their new album from the show and I can’t wait to hear it. They were dedicated in promoting their shows during the week and a large crowd showed up in response. They didn’t disappoint us.
- Terry Taylor – Great, intimate show where Taylor reinterpreted some of his older 80’s material in an acoustic setting. It was very cool to see his own son join him on stage on bass and watch the father/son interaction.
- Nitengale – My friends raved about this show last year and I’m glad I got a chance to see them this year. For the few of us not at the legendary The Devil Wears Prada show at the Gallery down the street, I think this show will hold fond memories.
Oh, why not, I’ll give you the next five favorite shows I that I saw too:
- Deas Vail – Indie Community tent show with an excited buzzing crowd was great, but the one at the Indoor Stage may have been even better.
- Jeff Elbel + Ping – fun, loose set at the Jesus Village stage.
- Lost Dogs – I’m loving the new route 66 material, I wish I could’ve stayed longer for this show.
- Quiet Science – Fun new band with a lot of energy and they draw from great influences (U2, Death Cab for Cutie, The Cure)
- Seabird – Fantastic way to end the festival with some intelligent piano-based rock music.
So, there you go, Cornerstone 2009 is over! Thanks to everyone in the media trailer who worked so hard this week. These folks essentially pulled all-nighters every day of the week to deliver videos, photos, and more to you almost immediately after things happened. Take a chance to surf around the site and take it all in and send them an e-mail of thanks.
I’ve uploaded many photos to my Flickr site and I’ll be upload more in the next couple of days, check them out and leave some comments!
Sum up your Cornerstone, what were your favorite shows of the week?