Wrapping Up Day 4

The Gallery tent was overflowing with throngs of people at the The Devil Wears Prada and Underoath.  I haven’t seen many shows that full and I’m sure inside it was chaos.  Strobe lights blasted the night sky and the ground thudded from the bass.  I caught a little bit of it, but there was some other music to see, also.  I finished the night with Nitengale and Seabird at the P12/Grrrr tent, just a short slide through the mud from Gallery Stage.  Nitengale comes all the way from Fairbanks, Alaska via Nashville.  They are currently in discussions with Word Records, so you may be hearing from them soon.  Seabird took the stage next and played everything they knew.  It looks like the venue was willing to give them a little more time, but they were out of songs!

So, Cornerstone is now over.  I’ll need a day or two to process it all and see if I can summarize everything up as far as what was my favorite show, what was my favorite new band, and what other superlatives I can think of.  It’s been a great week away from all the of worries of the world where my biggest issue was which band to see.  I’ll be heading back home tomorrow, but I’ll have a whole new group memories to take with me.

Day 4, Now With Rain!

Rain fell hard last night so many tents were flooded and washed out.  The rain has slowed down a little bit, but it hasn’t dampened spirits too much.  For sure by the end of the day we’ll be seeing kids covered in mud.

The big news of the afternoon is that the Main Stage acts of the day have been moved to covered tents for the evening.  The times are the same, but War Of Ages and Living Sacrifice will be playing at the Encore 1 stage while The Devil Wears Prada and Underoath will be playing at the Gallery Stage.  Those shows are going to be crazy.  I might have to at least take a peek at those shows.

Meanwhile, there’s fun in the afternoon to be had.  Seabird started out the day on the Indoor Stage.  This piano-based band sounds great and they will be performing again tonight so I’ll have to drop by again.  Afterwards, a large crowd was present for The Classic Crime as they delivered a high energy show.  The last band we saw on the Indoor Stage was The Fold who actually delivered the first full Micheal Jackson cover of the day, playing Billie Jean, complete with a kid brought onto the stage to do MJ’s moondance.  The band threw beach balls into the crowd, which after hitting the muddy floor, managed to spray every one with mud as they flew around.  Good times.

It’s time for a little dinner break, my last one at Cornerstone this year.  After that, the craziness with the Main Stage bands starts.  I’m probably going to check out Nitengale and Seabird again, but I can’t possibly pass watching some of the wild action going down just a tent or two away tonight.

Day 3 Wrap Up

So much good stuff was packed into this evening that I was all over the place.  I saw a ton of shows and I only hope I can remember half of what I saw and heard.

I started the afternoon off seeing Terry Taylor at the Gallery Stage.  The front man of so many famous bands, Daniel Amos, Swirling Eddies, Lost Dogs, etc. brought some of his friends, such as Mike Roe and Steve Hindalong on the stage and also his own son to play bass guitar.  The group reinterpreted many old classic songs to the delight of the crowd, many who have been fans for decades.

I hadn’t gotten a chance to get down to Main Stage at all this week, so I knew if I didn’t go tonight I wouldn’t get to.   I’ve gotten spoiled by having all my shows a short trek away.  So, I made the long walk down the hill and around the lake.  Just as I reached the lake I heard mewithoutyou finishing up “In A Sweater Poorly Knit” and crested the top of the hill above the stage to see a massive crowd at the show. The band was obviously a crowd favorite for many this year.  Following them was Shiny Toy Guns which brought a unique mix of dance and rock music to Main Stage.  After a couple songs, though, the rain began to fall and I, having expensive gadgetry and stuff to cover them back up the hill decided I should probably head back.

Fortunately, this gave me enough time to get back for Lost Dogs at the Gallery Stage.  Mike Roe, Terry Taylor, Steve Hindalong, and Derri Daugherty took a trip on Route 66 last summer, documenting the journey on video.  The show featured some nice rope twirling that Steve learned on the trip.  I had leave after a couple of songs, though, because there was one show at Cornerstone that I couldn’t miss.  When the best man in your wedding plays a show at Cornerstone, that trumps everything else.  Dave Richards was pumping out beats at the After Hours dance club.  I’ve said before that you can only go to Cornerstone so many times before you are driven to create also while you are there, whether it be playing music, painting, photography, or writing.   Indeed, there we were, Dave behind the turntables and me photographing him.

The rain started to fall a little harder, but it didn’t slow things down.  Cool Hand Luke played what many believe to be their last show at Cornerstone.  Mark Nicks played alone on keyboards while his wife joined him on a couple of songs and shared his heart about his many past years at Cornerstone and how much it meant to him as he played a couple of songs, both old and new.

I did a loop around the grounds to catch as much as I can at midnight.  The Gallery Stage featured music sponsored by To Write Love On Her Arms.  Zac Williams played a smoky set of soulful rock and blues.  Stephen Christian, fresh off of what I hear was an epic set by Anberlin (sad I missed it, but there’s only so much you can see), played some new music from his new project, Anchor and Braille.  Following them, Jamie Tworkowski came on stage and shared about TWLOHA.  He made an interesting comparsion about the life of the recently departed Micheal Jackson and how his life was a stark contrast of childlike wonder and deep, darkness from being wounded and wounding others and that many of us are the same.  His organization is doing a lot of good for people suffering from depression and self-mutilation, I would encourage you to check it out.

Meanwhile, The Crucified played a reunion show at Cornerstone for what must be the first time in many, many years.  This was a special moment for long-time veterans of the festival and the band delivered a hot set of punk/thrash music contrast with Mark Solomon’s sense of humor.  Nearly twenty years ago, people would be stage diving of the stage left and right and crowd surfing and moshing all around, but as he laughed, we’re all too old for that.

On the way back, I passed White Collar Sideshow, a drum and bass theatrical act at the Underground Stage.  The frontman and his wife were speaking a powerful message about pornography, fidelity, and living life for God instead of getting trapped in the American Dream.  I couldn’t stay for long, but I reflected on their words compared to the speaking going on at the same time for TWLOHA.  I hope Cornerstone is doing at least a small part to help beat back the hurts of the world in many of the people here and gives them hope and renewed faith in God, because once the festival ends, the reality of life hits back hard.

I’m uploading photos to my Flickr site as the week goes along.  Check them out and there should be more to come once I get home and give some of them a little Photoshop love!

Day 3: Discovering New Music

There is so much going on at the festival today that I’m whirling around the festival grounds like one of those kids around the poles at the Flatfoot 56 show last night.  First in the day, however, I camped out at the New Band Stage.  At least once every day I like to spend an afternoon here to see what is coming around in the corner in music at the festival.  I was not disapointed today as I saw three good bands in a row on the stage.  First in the day Everfound performed.  The band was a family of kids, immigrants from Russia, that delivered a well-polished set of piano-driven rock music.  The kids at the show seemed to love it because their merchandise table was mobbed after the concert was over.

Next, Quiet Science played and they sounded great.  The band had great stage presence with the bass player bounding around the stage as they played a show sounding like U2, Mew, and Death Cab For Cutie.  This band has worked hard this week, playing generator stages all over the place for the entire festival and I was glad that I finally got a chance to catch them.  The last band I caught on the New Band Stage was Poema, two sisters backed up by their younger brother on percussion.  The sisters performed a set of music on guitar and piano that was whimsical and lilting.  Being a father of two girls myself, I hope someday that my little girls develop an appreciation and talent for music, even if they are never in a band.  I found myself enjoying the songs and hoping one day that I’ll get to hear them try out their own creativity.

I was running around fast after that, dropping by the Indoor Stage to see Remedy Drive.  This band has recently started to get attention, earning a nomination for a Dove Award earlier in the year and they were well attended.  The band took audience participation seriously as the lead singer pulled three kids onto the stage to play keyboards and hit drums and guitars for them as they jammed at the end of a song.  From there, I ran quickly down to the Gallery Stage to catch the end of Brooke Waggoner’s show.  I managed to catch the last two songs of the show which were jaunty and musical with keys and strings accompanying Waggoner’s voice.

Early in the day I took in new bands starting out their careers.  Later today, I’ll be seeing some of the veterans of the festival like Terry Taylor’s solo show along with his show with the Lost Dogs.  There’s also my friend David’s DJ set and all sorts of great stuff at midnight tonight.  I’ve got my running shoes on and I’m going to try to take in as much as I can.

Midnight Between Bagpipes and Thundering Guitars

Only at Cornerstone do you have to make the choice between seeing one of the most popular bands at the festival, Flatfoot 56, and one of the most legendary bands at the festival, Stavesacre, which is playing only a couple hundred of yards away.  I did my best to try and catch a little of both.

Flatfoot 56 had the Underground Stage decorated as a Mexican village and took the stage dressed in sombreros for a “Fiesta Night.”  The crowd, which had arrived early and anxiously waited during a long soundcheck whirled into motion as soon the band began.  The effect was a chaotic, but somehow orderly mass of kids that wheeled around the tent in a giant circle pit as bagpipes, guitars, and mandolin played from the stage.  It’s really quite a visual that I don’t think I can describe accurately.  I’m sure there were more flags, but I saw two flags for Scotland, an American flag, and a flag for the City of Chicago making its way around the crowd (and of course, a lawn ormanent Santa Claus making his rounds also.)  When I get back to the grounds today, I will be totally surprised if the tent is still standing.

I managed to catch a couple of songs and then quickly made my way over to the Encore tent where Stavesacre had returned to the festival.  I believe this is their first trip back to the festival in about five years.  The crowd was composed of fans who all had fond memories of their shows in years past here at Cornerstone.   The band, aware of the crowd’s sentimentalism, played mostly a set of old favorites, plus a couple new songs off of their EP.  Many of the songs had special meaning to different people in the crowd and got strong reactions when they started them.  It was a different, less rowdy kind of crowd (all of the excitable kids were at Flatfoot 56  or The Chariot, I guess), but still a very appreciative kind of crowd.  Mark Solomon returns tonight with another one of his memorable bands, The Crucified.  Maybe some of those kids at the Flatfoot 56 show will stop by and see where their roots come from.

Day 2 Is Under Way!

It’s Thursday and I’m finally starting to settle into “Cornerstone time” where staying up to 2 AM and sleeping in until 10 AM doesn’t seem all that unusual.  Everyone at the festival seems to be settling in.  It’s not quite as frantic around the grounds and more established bands are taking the stages.  We’re now in the thick of it.

Today I start the day out over on the Indoor Stage.  The lead singer of Army of Me starts the day off with a show on acoustic guitar.  Normally he plays with a full band, but for Cornerstone he travelled alone from DC to the festival in his small car.  His show was good enough that I will have to check out their music and see what they sound like as a band.  From there, I walked over to the Gallery Stage to see Mike Roe.  Roe plays a set of new songs from his upcoming solo album as well as some 77′s songs from their most recent album.  The audience gave Roe standing ovations when he started and when he ended appreciating his status as a long-standing veteran of the festival.

I saw my second set of Deas Vail which delivered a whole different set of songs.  Their energy is infectous and a crowded  tent  at the Indoor Stage was into the show.  I love seeing shows like this that are fun and joyous.  Finally, I wrapped up the afternoon with Andrew Oliver and Jeff Elbel+Ping at the Jesus Village tent.  Andrew Oliver is Elbel’s drummer and played a solo set of his own before sitting behind the kit and playing another show for Elbel.  Jeff’s show was loose with lots of covers (“No Matter What” by Badfinger, “North and South Of The River” by U2) but probably the most fun show I’ve seen him do so far.

I take a flier on a band called The Rocketboys on the Indie Community Stage.  The lead singer hurled ten times(!) into the port-a-potties the day before, but he was a professional and sang fantastic for the show.  I really enjoyed their show and I’ll have to check out their CD.  This is the fun part of Cornerstone, discovering new bands.  There’s still more stuff to discover tonight before Mark Solomon returns to the festival to wrap things up first tonight with Stavesacre and then tomorrow night with a renunion of The Crucified.

Ending Day 1

(I should note that right as I was submitting my last blog, Allan Aguirre was sitting with some of my friends cracking jokes and talking about the best places to eat in Chicago.  Cornerstone and friendships, indeed.)

After an intermission, the Square Pegs came back out for another set of songs.  The crowd, which was a little quiet and unfamilar with these artists, started to warm up to them in the second set and the artists delivered another great set of songs.  Derek Webb, the ninth Square Peg who would be headlining his own show arrived late, so the Square Pegs went longer than expected.  Of course, they had plenty of material to draw from since each of the artists has multiple albums, so adding in some extra songs was no problem.  All told, they played about four hours total which is a long concert for anyone.

Derek Webb did finally arrive and after some initial guitar issues, played a solo set of songs featuring some of his favorites and gave us a sneak preview of his new album Stockholm Syndrome.  Derek has never been one to shy away from controversy and some of the material on his new album has caused some issues with his label.  In the meantime, he has been unveiling new material by way of an Alternate Reality Game online.  Check out http://www.derekwebb.com and see if you can follow the rabbit trail to hidden goodies on the web.

At the end of the evening, I checked out Copeland on one of the Encore Stages.  They rocked it out a little more than previous times that I had seen them before and I really enjoyed the show.

Yesterday was one of those days that seem crammed with music.  I didn’t have a lot of time for blogging or wandering much, so we’ll see if today allows me a little more space in the schedule to catch up.

I’m uploading my photos to Flickr as the fest goes along…. check them out !

Cornerstone and friendship

One of the best parts of Cornerstone is that it’s not just a bunch of concerts by a bunch of anonymous people. The more times you go to Cornerstone, the more relationships you build an soon it’s not just concerts, it’s concerts by friends.

Today was such a day. I was torn when I saw the schedule and saw that the wildly entertaining bands Family Force 5 and Relient K were playing on the main stage, but I knew I would be staying up at the Gallery Stage all day today. First Jeff Elbel + Ping would be playing and then a conglomeration called the Square Peg Alliance would be following him.

Jeff Elbel started at Cornersone with his band Farewell to Juliet many moons ago, but year after year he returns to do had work behind the stage as a guitar tech and then take the front of the stage with his band, Ping. Jeff’s shows always feel like a gathering of friends as his sense of humor and catchy songs are welcoming and intimate. This year, his set gave me a chance to make my debut on the Gallery Stage as I leaped up on stage to take a family photo of the band. A couple years ago Jerry came out on stage to throw t-shrts to the crowd, well now we’re even!

Following him, the nine person group formed for the purposes of awesome, The Square Peg Alliance took the stage. Eight of the Square Pegs, Andy Gullahorn, Andrew Peterson, Eric Peters, Ben Shive, Randall Goodgame, Andrew Osenga, Jeremy Casella, and Jill Phillips all took the stage together. The ninth, Derek Webb would be headlining later in the evening. The Square Pegs are not only musicians together, but they also friends living close to each other in Nashville. The close community of friendship makes their collaborations authentic and their performances feel real. Each of them adds a unique sense of humor and talent to the shows as each of them performed individually and also backed each other up on all of the songs.

The sense of community of friendship is strong draw to Cornerstone. Many people come to the festival first for the concerts, but after coming several years, many keep coming back for the relationships, both on the stage and off the stage.

Now It Feels Like Cornerstone

Up until the early evening, I’ve felt like I’m at bizarro Cornerstone.  The weather has been cold and windy.  The crowd has been scattered across the festival at generator stages so everything felt sparse.  REIGINITE Day introduced me to a lot of bands I had never heard before (Stephen Petree was great with his “Telekeyster” and Down From Up brought shredding goodness with covers of Micheal Jackson and Gn’R’s “Sweet Child Of Mine”), but I hadn’t seen anyone I knew all day.  I had yet to experience that “hot, crowded tent” show until I walked over to the Indie Community Stage.  Deas Vail had the small place packed out and when I walked in and the crowd was buzzing, I finally felt like I was at Cornerstone.  The band did not fail to deliver with ethereal high-pitched vocals, keyboards, guitars, and a bass player who took pictures of the crowd as he played.

After the show was over, I strolled over to the Gallery Stage where Los Lonely Boys were playing before an overflowing crowd.  I didn’t feel like trying to wade in and try to find an open spot to sit, so I enjoyed just hanging out in the courtyard and listening to the music.  With all the people milling about and the music blasting, now it feels like Cornerstone is underway.

Mid Afternoon REIGNITE Day

The fantastic weather took a turn a little bit and the wind started coming in. I have been to many Cornerstones now and I’m used to brain-broiling heat, rain, mud, humidity and more, but I’ve never shivered cold in the middle of the day in July. There’s always a first isn’t there?

The windy weather didn’t slow things down on the generator stages, though. Scooby-Doo (or at least someone dressed up like him) made his debut at Cornerstone with the baind Audio Strobelight that played a high energy show that had people dancing in the street. A husband-wive duo called Carolina Story just returned from their honeymoon and traveled here to Cornerstone to play. Their acoustic music was a nice break from he audio assault coming from all the generator stages and they were charming and personal.

Many of the bands on REIGNITE day are here at Cornerstone for the first time. There’s a lot of new acts and on the upside, they bring a lot of new youth and energy. Many of these bands are still rough around the edges and will only improve as they tour and perform more. As I took a dinner break at the Gallery Stage, I was reminded just what a group of experienced musicans can do. Maron brought several JPUSA Cornerstone veterans on the stage and wowed me with soulful show that started with “We Are Finding Who We Are” by King’s X and kept up the quality throughout the show. I hadn’t even planned on seeing them, I just wanted a place to sit down and eat, but I’m glad I stopped by.

With the wind calming down and some food in my belly, I’m renewed for the evening and ready to go.