Cornerstone Festival 2012 Is Underway!

We’re here! Our car pulled into Illinois today, but Cornerstone Festival is already off and running. It’s going to be a hot one this year, so stay cool, drink lots of water, and pace yourself.

This is going to be an unusual Cornestone, what with the announcement that this is the last one. We’re going to have a lot of fun, but there will be a lot of memories, a lot of introspection, and hopefully some fond farewells. I’m looking forward to not only reporting about this year’s festival, but sharing some of my great memories from festivals past. Everyone I’ve talked to has so many stories and we’ll try to share some of them during the week.

It’s the last dance, so let’s make it a good one. Here we go with Cornerstone 2012

Jeff

Sunday

Well, guys, it’s been a great week.

It’s with a heavy heart that I write my last post from my seat here at the web coverage trailer(which also happens to be the cooler containing our secret media team elixr: Mountain Dew and/or Diet Coke). Yes, regardless of my bruised heel, heat-rash covered body, and crazy sleep deprivation, it’s still hard for me to think that this will be my last night curling up in my dew-damp sleeping bag.

Regardless of all the last day sentiments, it’s been a fabulous day here on the fest grounds.  My camp family went to the Underground Stage this morning to see The Suitcase Sideshow(http://www.suitcasesideshow.org)

Phillip & Sari Shorey present a puppet show built out of  a suitcase using marionettes once used by Phillip’s grandfather. The stories they tell are taken from the Bible and set in a modern environment. Although the stories are familiar and the puppets may seem gimmicky at first, the more you watch, the more you realize how powerful the skits truly are.

The afternoon brought the opportunity to check out a great generator stage band, The La De Les(http://www.facebook.com/theladeles). Back at home, I shoot for a lot of shows, and it’s always a privilege to see a band that plays with passion and intensity. Saying that The La De Les plays with passion is an understatement. In my 17 years of going to shows, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band play like these young people do.

These guys made for a great afternoon. I’ll definitely be listening to them on the way home tomorrow.

Well, the last band has finished, and the rain has started to fall. Cornerstone 2011 has come to an end. Thank you so much to everyone who made this fest as great as it has been.

See you guys next year!

-Laura

Saturday

A few years back at the fest, there used to be nightly worship at the beach. One of my favorite memories of beach worship is my first time seeing the Psalters. Traveling nomads playing haunting worship songs filled with heavy liturgical content and songs that reflect their political views make for lots of thought. 

This year at the fest, we’ve been blessed with the return of many of the bands that more seasoned attendees are familiar with. It’s been a pleasure to introduce my fest-newbie, music-obsessed boyfriend to the bands I grew up listening to here at the fest.

The ash-covered faces peer out from behind a bizarre array of instruments, including many you may have never seen or heard before like the “hurdy gurdy.”

I’ve heard Psalters described as folksy worship music, middle-eastern-esque nomad tunes, and many others. Everyone has an opinion on this band, and if the opportunity arises for you to see them and develop our own opinion, I highly encourage you to do just that.

 

Friday

Friday brought me back to the fests of my childhood with the return of high-temp days at Cornerstone. The past few years haven’t been as hot as a stereotypical week at the fest, but Friday kept us hiding in the shade and nursing our water bottles. Even I, an advocate of long pants and dark t shirts, could be seen in shorts and a white tank top.

By mid-afternoon, I’d come to terms with the heat and sweat and took to the roads to capture one of the beautiful sights of Cornerstone: Tattoos. The artwork and skill of the ink around the fest varies from the raw, diy stick and poke tattoos

to the professional and colorful.

 

But even better than the tattoo itself is the story that inspires it and makes it worth permanently inking onto someone’s body. As I snapped shots of people’s ink, I asked them, “What does your tattoo mean?”  

The man with this piece told me about how he is now a single parent, and his tattoo reminds him that it’s never too late to step up and be a good father. I respected that man’s drive and desire to improve himself  as a parent.

So far, though, I think this may be my favorite.

As I walked through the merch tent, I stopped by the My Broken Palace table(http://www.mybrokenpalace.com) and talked to the people there. The young lady saw my sign inquiring about tattoos and showed me hers. She told me about how she used to cut herself, but how she now wanted to use her scars to show the grace she had found in the love of God.  Seeing as I have a similar story and desire for a similar tattoo, I really loved the opportunity to talk to her.

Here at the fest,  when you see someone with a tattoo that piques your curiosity, take the time to ask. You may learn something new, make a new friend, and it might teach you something more about yourself.

-Laura

An Evening With Doug Jones- Actor, Gentleman, Christ Follower

Are there Christians working in Hollywood? Of course, and I’m not just talking about Kirk Cameron. The Imaginarium, a unique component of the Cornerstone experience that focuses on film and pop culture, hosted actor Doug Jones tonight.

Most moviegoers will be familiar with Doug’s work from his role as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies and as The Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. He is also known as Pan in Pan’s Labryinth as well as for playing characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the zombie in Hocus Pocus with Bette Midler. Most of his characters have a common element of requiring heavy makeup.

In addition to being a talented actor, Doug is also known and respected in Hollywood for his Christian faith, a faith that is evident guides his actions and career as a Hollywood actor. Some may find it odd that he plays so many monsters. Wouldn’t that conflict with his faith? According to Doug, we are all monsters at times due to the problem of sin in our lives. If the entire movie takes us to a positive place in the end, that is a good thing.

I  found it interesting when Doug discussed what guides his decision in choosing to work on a film. He first decides if he likes the script; does it make him laugh or cry? What is the director’s purpose? He has passed on some projects that do conflict with his faith (for instance he won’t do any horror film that follows the formula of half naked teenagers having sex and doing drugs and then they get killed; Doug finds that boring and offensive.) He has also had an influence on directors and their vision for a film. He was offered one film that portrayed Christians in a bad light. When he expressed to the director that this film was going to alienate the Christian audience as well as being something that creatively had been done to death, the director rewrote the film. Another film, Legion, showed God as the enemy destroying the world. When Doug realized that this was essentially a modern retelling of the flood story from the Bible, this gave him a unique opportunity to share his faith and Christian worldview on a national level.

Doug and his wife put their faith into action by intentionally  mentoring young, up and coming actors helping them, giving them a home to spend Christmas in, and generally being there for them.

To say that all of us at The Imaginarium were impressed by Doug would be an understatement. Doug took time to sign anything we had: dvds, pictures, collectibles. I think everyone there received one of his famous Dougie hugs and the encouragment to show BIG LOVE to those around us. Following this, we were able to watch two short films Doug starred in; the most striking of the two was Butterfly Circus, a film with the message of redemption and hope for the hopeless. Butterfly Circus will soon be made into a full length feature starring Doug. Look for it in your local theater.

The sillery (yes, sillery, you have to have been there) is continuing on into the night with a screening of Hellboy 2. Cornerstone has always been about more than the music. If you haven’t made it past the stages, venture out into the outskirts of the festival. You may just find something you had no idea existed here.

Thursday

I figured it would be to typical of me to write about the AMAZING Flatfoot 56 show last night, so I’m not going to.

Coleman camping gear once released a commercial calling the camp site the “original social networking site.” The same is true of the camping here at Cornerstone Festival.

Cornerstone gives people an amazing opportunity to meet like-minded people in their fields, whether it be art, politics, music, sci-fi, etc. As a newbie photographer, I was very excited to spend some time following around my favorite fest photographer. Watching her shoot and asking her questions gave me a lot of insight into ways to further myself as an artist.

After shooting, I spent some time at her camp with another photographer talking about different post-processing methods and dark room photo manipulation. We discussed topics that affect us as Christian photographers; questions I’d been asking and wresting with for months were finally being talked through with like-minded people.

I spent some time walking around holding a sign asking people if I could photograph their tattoos. Most times, they were more than willing to share the stories behind their ink. For many of them, I found ways that my life and interests connected to their ink, even though I don’t have any “real” tattoos.

A friend of mine and I were talking about how we wished the real world was as friendly as people at Cornerstone. If you get out of your comfort zone and talk to someone, chances are great that you’ll make a new friend and your Cornerstone experience will be truly enriched.

-Laura

Cornerstone… Community In Action

Cornerstone is often referred to as a community. You hear that word mentioned a lot on these campgrounds. What does it mean? If you’ve been coming to Cornerstone for several years, then you probably know about JPUSA, the organization that sponsors the festival. JPUSA is an intentional community in Chicago, IL made up of Christians who live together, minister together, work together, and worship together. It is a radical approach to Christianity that most would not be up to. These principles of working and living together that make up JPUSA’s way of life translate to life on the festival grounds every summer. Here are just a few examples of community in action that I have witnessed over the years coming to Cornerstone:

Four years ago, I brought a big group of people in a church van. Just after arriving, our van got stuck in the mud. A group of people camping around there sprang into action summoning help, rope, and an ATV to pull us out. All they asked in return was if we saw someone in need during the week, to help them.

There is a lady here on the grounds who for the last several years has been offering free ramen noodles to anyone who wants them. She’ll even provide the stove and propane to cook them. All she asks is that you clean up after yourself.

Just today, I had lunch at a restaurant in town with two guys who are here playing in a band on generator stages. This means they are not getting paid and are playing because they love music and want to share it with others. On the second day of the festival, they hit a deer with their van and really messed it up. They spoke of the outpouring of love and support from people at the fest who had come to their aid helping them with the van and helping them with food.

No telling how many countless teenagers over the years have made it home due to donations from strangers who helped them out when they ran out of money.

This year, I am camping in approximately the same spot I did last year. My neighbors are the same people I camped with last year. Being alone at the fest, it is nice to have familiar faces to speak with when I am at the campsite.

This list could go on and on. What instances of community in action have you experienced at Cornerstone over the years?

A simple message… or is it?

Over the past several years, the band Graverobber has become one of the most popular bands at the festival. I caught a few songs last year and was intrigued. This year I was determined to make it to a full show.

If you don’t know who they are, they play old school thrash/punk music while dressed as skeletons and monsters in bloody outfits. The lead singer, Wretched, also has a very scary voice. While it is spooky and schticky, it all has symbolism and a purpose. I am not going to get into all the details here of why they do what they do; if you want to know more, check out a show here at the festival this week or look them up on the internet to read about them. The basic idea is that of dying to sin, hence the reason they dress like the living dead. They also have song titles like “Army of the Dead,” and “I Wanna Kill You (Over and Over Again).”  A couple times throughout the show, they douse the audience in blood colored water. If you don’t get that, then you’ve never heard the hymn “Washed in the Blood.” Graverobber just provides a visual aid to go with the idea. They also use terms like The Reanimator for Jesus (get it: he came back to life; he raises you from sin to new life?) and The Adversary for Satan, that one should be self explanatory.

I went in expecting to hear some creative lyrics and see some cool symbolism. I came away with a thought that I can’t get off my mind. Near the end of the show, Wretched preaches a sermon in which he discusses the two choices we have: dying from sin or dying to sin. He then encourages the Christians in the audience by saying, “Why can’t we realize what we are in Christ and just be that?” Wow. I can’t fully get my mind around that. It sounds so simple. What are we in Christ? Why can’t we just be that? I wish I was at a place where I could just be that. Seems like life would be so much simpler. I went in expecting to be entertained, and I was, but came away with something more valuable- I was challenged. At this point I don’t have all the answers, but I think the verse from Phillipians encouraging us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling definitely applies here. It’s a little easier to do when you are faced with the members of Graverobber in full costume.

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.

Wednesday

As I walked the dusty roads to a friend’s camp, my ears were met with something new. In the earlier days of the fest before the scheduled bands get going, there is a lot of heavy music and metal. While I love a good, active punk show, metal just isn’t my thing. The sound of a guitar sound checking with a reggae beat and a walking bass line was enough to draw me into the tent.

Men As Trees Walking combines a great reggae feel with honest and beautiful lyrics of praise and adoration to, as they call Him, the Lion of Zion. This 8-piece group dressed in steam-punk garb will make you want to sway, clap, and have a good time in general.

As a new song began, the two female vocalists in the front began swaying their arms back in forth in front of them. They explained that the people of Ethiopia praise by dancing in this way, much like the way we might raise our hands. As the song built, they raised their arms above their head, still swaying. When the song would decrescendo, they would bring their arms back to waist level. Seeing the whole group praise in a way that was new to me was a truly beautiful sight.

The diversity of acts at Cornerstone gives you a never-ending flow of things you’ve probably never seen before, if you can only step outside of what is comfortable and familiar to you. Although I never would have guessed that reggae praise music was something I would enjoy, I was delighted to find that with a band as great as Men As Trees Walking, I could feel right at home swaying to the rhythms of the Lion of Zion.

-Laura