Things Are Heating Up

Dude crashed on the ground at the first band of the day.Admit it – we’ve all felt like the guy in the picture from time to time at Cornerstone.  Although not usually at the first band on the first day of the fest – dude, you’ve got to pace yourself!  It’s amazing to see what people (including myself) can manage to sleep through.  Brain-thumping dance music?  Check.  Two hardcore bands at the same time?  No problem.  I once saw a guy sleeping on the ground in the crowd outside a Flatfoot 56 show.  Everybody deftly avoided him, somehow – I almost felt like I should go kick him in the head (lovingly) just to get the inevitable over with.  Anyway, remember – Cornerstone is a marathon, not a sprint.

(Seriously, though, if the forecast that I’ve been seeing holds, it’s going to be hotter for the next couple of days than it’s been for several years at the fest, with a heat index of 110 on Saturday.  Wear sunscreen, get into some shade when you can, and drink more water than you think you need – if you’re not visiting the Little Blue Room a few times a day, you’re probably not drinking enough.  Take care of each other!)

“Day 0” of the festival is in the books.  I spent a lot of time catching up with friends (including some folks I wasn’t expecting to see, like Mark from Scotland, who came all the way from, well, Scotland for his second Cornerstone in a row).  Musically, the day was heavy on bands playing the generator stages, along with some unexpected surprises.  Some bands worth mentioning:

  • Tim Serdynski – Some nice acoustic music to kick off Cornerstone 2011.  Very pleasant stuff – if you’re looking for something to chill out to, he’s playing a ton of generator sets through the week.  There’s a trio playing similarly acoustic-driven worship music that usually plays before or after him (sorry, I didn’t catch the name) that’s also worth a listen.
  • Belair, Stone Throw Second, and Adelaine – Honestly, there’s a bit of a dearth of melodic but rocking bands at the festival this year if you’re not into the screaming.  Anberlin on Main Stage is going to be great, but a lot of other bands in that vein either aren’t here this year or have broken up.  All of these new-to-me bands filled that niche admirably, though.  They’re all playing several more generator sets this week, so if non-screamy melodic rock is your thing, check them out.
  • Rodent Emporium – OK, so the music (bizarre and occasionally indescribable Scottish punk) isn’t necessarily my thing, but this is still a must-see band.  They’re outrageously fun.  Just watching the crowd dance and enjoy themselves with reckless abandon is totally worth it.
  • Resurrection Band – So the on-again, off-again “open rehearsal” by Daniel Amos on the Gallery last night fell through (there are still rumblings of efforts to secure them another slot besides their all-too-brief Main Stage slot today, so keep your ear to the ground), but that meant we got an extra-long rehearsal set from REZ.  I admit that I’m a total fanboy for REZ – I only ever saw them once during their heyday, back in 1991, so every chance to see them is exciting.  Wendi, Glenn, and crew are parents and grandparents at this point, but they can still kick some butt when given the chance.

Today gives us some new bands worth checking out (Dead American Radio, Milano), some legendary artists that laid the foundation for literally all of the music that we’re listening to this week (Stonehill, Keaggy, DA, REZ, Petra), an agonizing choice (Paper Route versus Keaggy and Petra), and a Flatfoot 56 people-watching extravaganza to top it all off.  Should be great!

Opening Day…

Cornerstone has arrived. In a few hours the merch tents will be opening up selling all manner of music related swag and gear. The main stage opens up tonight with a huge dance party led by DJ Andy Hunter, there are a few films going on over at the Imaginarium, the generator stages are up and running, and tonight at midnight Grave Robber brings the scary.

What always amazes me most about Cornerstone is the variety of reasons people come to the fest. The obvious reason is the music, but think about why you come. What really draws you here? Is it just the music? The fellowship with other like minded people? The challenging teaching at the seminar tents? Gathering with other pop culture geeks at the Imaginarium? A combination of all of these? Whatever reason you are here, enjoy, soak it in, renew your self this week as we seek to get closer to God through the activities we all enjoy so much.

First in Line!

Kristin and Ethan Tobias

Meet Kristin and Ethan Tobias, the first ones in line for Cornerstone 2011!

Kristin and Ethan arrived around 4:40 in the morning on Monday, after heavy storms hit the Bushnell area Late Sunday.

Winds were reported 50 miles an hour or more, and there was some flooding in this part of Illinois. The tents were rocking, but they all survived the storms.

Ethan and Kristin made it to the grounds just after the final round of storms.

By Monday afternoon, cars were backed up at the front gate. Ethan says they hung out and made new friends waiting in line. (And for the record, the Tobiases weren’t first, there were two vans in front of them, but they were bands and got it early).

The front gate opened at noon Tuesday, and people began to pour in. If you’re not here yet, there’s still time!

Kirstin says this is probably her fifth festival, and this is Ethan’s second.

Ethan’s looking forward to seeing In the Midst of Lions, while Kristin really wants to see what Rodent Emporium has lined up this year.

Take Me Back

Its July 15th.  I’ve been away from Cornerstone for nine days, and I’m still completely homesick. Yes, the wonders of flushing toilets, showers, and paved roads just dont seem to delight me. I came home from the fest and was practically escorted to the nearest shower so I could start chipping away at the multiple layers of dirt, sweat, dust, and even other people’s sweat.  But I still rebel even now.  One of my best friends at the fest gave me a single dreadlock that I simply can’t wash.  Knowing that there’s still some Cornerstone dirt in there keeps me a little more sane.

Through various social medias, the overall question is: “How does one recover after a week at the fest?” For some, its as simple as a shower and a few extra hours of sleep.  But for people like me, the ones that are the lifeblood of Cornerstone, its much more difficult.  Cornerstone has become a home to many “social rejects” like myself, and it’s just not as easy as washing all the dirt from our clothes.

Some Facebook statuses and comments Ive seen are as follow:

Cornerstone relapse….when cleaning your shoes avoid breathing any dust that may come off lest you aquire a severe case of C-stone Homesickness..

Who knew some of the worst smells could bring such joy and memories?

It’s like heroine, you get hooked the first time, but after every time after that you only get more addicted; with one exception: it gets better with every time.

I was listening to Flatfoot 56, my favorite of Cornerstone bands, and the faces of all my new friends flew through my mind. Ducky, the punk from Nashville; Justin and Luke, the brothers from Indiana; Youngest… We’re all different people, but these along with a few more familiar faces became my family.  I laughed with them, I cried with them, I let them laugh at how much of an idiot I am. But through it all, there is still that overall sense of family.

And family isn’t something you can just leave behind. So what is the cure for a bad case of Cornerstone homesickness?

Another trip back home next year. Only 345 days left.


I Found Myself at Cornerstone

The question God was asking me as I went to Cornerstone was “Who are you?” Over and over this kept playing in my head. To be honest I headed to Cornerstone yes, to participate in the ministry of Sanctuary and be a blogger…the bigger thing I went there for was to hear from God about 2010 and how it is a year of change for me. There are some things in particular that I needed firm peace on.

Before I became a pastor I really dug deep into outreach and working with people that were definitely the outcast type of people. It is funny but I even liked to dress a certain way (hippie meets metalhead) and really went into being a youth pastor as a bit of a rebel…I guess some things never change. I had no other family go before me as a pastor, I joke around that I am a PK (a polisher’s kid) but immediately saw things that began to change me. I was not a suit wearing person and the first church I went into was a fashion show in which I was required to wear a suit. From that point on I began to morph into someone that was being tamed by the institution. When I did get away to camps, outings, etc. I would wear shirts and things that made some Christians wonder. They were Godly t-shirts but some refused to see it. I remember a directors wife at a camp scolding me in front of my teens for wearing such an “ugly/ungodly” shirt. The funny thing is it said, “Dead to the World, Alive in Christ” on it in a big skull. I kindly responded…”I feel the same way about your shirt” (probably from Dress Barn or something). I have always had a rebel streak in me though I never want it to get out of control.

When I moved to Waupaca I continued to become a people pleaser for all the wrong reasons the first year or two. After I began to see the ugly side of religious politics I decided to throw it all out the window. The biggest eye-opener for me was the minute I became the youth pastor to a district official. At big meetings people would come up to me and be buddy buddy that were never that close to me before. It appeared to me that because I am now in this position working with that particular person, I am now someone that others will hang out with so they can get in with the pastor I served under. It was then that this persons silo came crashing down and I lost 90% of those “close” people as friends because of a fall-out that happened. I still get random pot-shots taken at me via email, facebook, or face to face conversation. This made me all the wiser for what was ahead as a lead pastor (senior pastor).

So here I am now in the desert and what an exciting place it is! There is a negative connotation that the desert can be a bad thing, however in the bible the word “desert” means “without inhabitants”, not “without vegetation or water”. I love how one author describes the desert vs. forests. “When a man walks or rides into a forest, he is lost among the trees, can’t see ahead, doesn’t know what might be lurking there. The forest surrounds him, obscures him with shadows, confuses itself with him by its vertical composition and competitive detail. But when a horseman appears on the desert plain, he dominates it instantly, his view extends as far as the eye can see, and enemies are exposed to his gaze. The desert flatters the human figure by making it seem dominant and unique, dark against the light, vertical against horizontal, solid against plane, detail against blankness.”
The openess of desert space also symbolizes infinite access. As Tomkins notes, “There is nothing to stop the horseman’s free movement across the terrain…Distance, made palpable through exposure and infinitely prolonged by the absence of obstacles, offers unlimited room to move. The man can go, in any direction, as far as he can go. The possibilities are infinite.”
It is time to run free after a refreshing time of re-finding who I am while at Cornerstone Festival where I truly feel at home among the wierdos, goths, metalheads, preps, jocks (though few), hippies and free-thinkers. Fact of the matter is two tents down was a lesbian couple that felt at home at Cornerstone. I am not downplaying the fact we all need Jesus and some things are not okay. What I am saying is God created us uniquely and we should not stray from that to fit some kind of mold or to appease some person/people/institution. God spoke to me in such awesome ways this past week through song, teachings, and one on one conversations with people I look up to.
Who am I? I am a unique free-thinking pastor that won’t be bound down by ideals that don’t line-up with scripture. I am a black t-shirt wearing person that loves everyone and hates no-one. I am a pastor that has little to no tolerance for religious crap (politics) that bogs a church down so it cannot be free to find God unless it goes through a filter. I am person that is a Christ follower first, husband and father second and pastor third. I am a pastor that welcomes questioning and skepticism in a church so that it leads to a deeper understanding of who the one true God is. I am a person that invites you to journey with me on through life understanding I am not better than you and you are not better than me. Rather we are following the one true God together which will tighten our bond to each other and to God.

I am telling you…God is at Cornerstone and he always reveals himself to me among what some might call, “THOSE PEOPLE!”

Cornerstone Purchases

Back home in Nebraska for less than an hour, I’m already keeping my internet connection busy (yay for high speed access)! With my wife getting cleaned up, I’m passing time waiting for the shower by downloading soon to be new favorites from Amazon and iTunes.

Among the CDs I picked up at the fest were albums by Future of Forestry and Seabird. Now downloading are works by Paper Route, Campbell the Band, and Quiet Science.

What did you pick up at the fest (or will you be downloading in the coming days)?

51 weeks to go

Safe travel to everyone still on the road (or soon to be) following Cornerstone 20ten. What a beautiful week we had, full of musical and other highlights. I had a fantastic week and will look forward to doing it again.  I’ll bring more cookies for sharing.

My favorite sets:

Iona, Over the Rhine, Shel, Timbre, the Choir, Lost Dogs. I was working at Gallery while Photoside Cafe were on Main Stage, but I heard they knocked it out. Way to go, guys!

It was a joy and privilege to play with my friends in the Maron band and Ping. Thanks to so many friends for sharing the moment(s) with us.

What a Run

As I am writing this blog I am looking at the beautiful view from my screen tent looking down the road at the lake here on the Cornerstone grounds. Looking around and reflecting back on the week, I cannot help but to say “Thank you God for letting me be here and using me in new ways.”
The events that transpired at the Sanctuary tent were great. Every day there was a great line-up of bands that loved Jesus. The Bombworks record day was definitely a highlight. That evening wrapped up with Rex Carroll (lead axeman of Whitecross) playing. When he began to play Nagasaki…IT WAS AWESOME!
For me personally to sit in the trailer and talk to band members, give some counsel and just minister to people was an experience I will never forget. I will admit that the Sanctuary tent was not the same without Pastor Bob Beeman or Jim LaVerde in attendance but God still did some awesome things at this tent.
I hope you plan on being a part of this great ministry again next year when Pastor Bob and Jim LaVerde will be back. Sanctuary is a ministry that has blessed me since I was a teenager and still does to this day. You can visit Sanctuary online at or visit my ministry online as well
Have a safe trip home!

Dignan stoled my cookies

I don’t know that I really need to say anything beyond the title of this blog post.  I left my 100% natural, whole grain Sunrise Energy Bars with Omega-3 at my little tuning station behind the Gallery Stage today.  I left briefly to do some techy things under the front-of-house mixing console, and then went to the Exhibition tent to settle up for the Ping shows. When I came back, Dignan was onstage. My cookie container had been relocated to a table, and about 1/2 of the cookies had been consumed. I noted that the Dignan folks were rocking with much energy, and seemed to faintly glow in the light of the setting sun (comparable to sunrise). They seemed to be very satisfied, so I must sadly conclude that they stole(d) my cookies, and now I cannot hog an entire box of them all by myself.

p.s. Dignan was rad and had a big Gallery crowd going bananas. Much love to them.