Saturday’s Youth Group of the Day

Saturday Group of the Day“We clean main stage every morning,” even if it means Kyle Anderson and the rest of the Clarksville First Church of the Nazarene climb through the mud on the hill.

“Today was especially bad,” Kyle said of this dirty job. With a large group it’s about a 30 minute job that entails picking up trash around the stage and behind stage too.

Senior Sam Wyatt says it’s the group’s second year volunteering, and third year He was especially excited by the music, especially Sleeping Giant.

Thanks to these willing volunteers, who take time to serve during the festival!

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.

Mainstage Shows Moving!

UPDATE:  The mainstage shows are moving tonight!  War of Ages and Living Sacrifice will be playing at the same time as scheduled before, but they will now be playing on the Encore 1 Stage.

The Devil Wears Prada and Underoath will be playing at the Gallery Stage at the same time as originally scheduled.

Ok, I’m not really a hardcore fan, but the shows at the Gallery Stage and Encore 1 Stage will probably be epic.  It will be just like the old days when they were just getting famous at Cornerstone.  Should be crazy.

Rain!

Raindrops started falling during Shiny Toy Guns’ set Friday night, and kept on coming through the night.

The festival plugs along though. From where I sit I can hear the youth worship band at Breakaway. People are making the most of the weather, and getting excited to close out Cornerstone 2009 with Underoath tonight.

Day 3 Report

Friday was the big day at the fest for me in terms of the number of bands I wanted to see. And given that the fest is more than half over, it’s fitting that I’m finally adjusting to the Cornerstone schedule of sleeping late (unless you need to get up and write a blog) and getting to bed in the wee hours of the morning.

After starting the day helping out some friends (jumping off a car battery, and buying some bread for the hard-working denizens of the web coverage trailer), the avalanche of bands began. First up was Everfound, a 4-piece made up of brothers who are Russian immigrants. They played piano-driven rock that was surprisingly mature considering that the singer and songwriter was, if I heard correctly, 19 years old. Quiet Science, who I’ve been missing all week long on generator stages, followed them with a high-energy set of melodic rock. They once again proved that bass players have all the fun, too – their bassist was wearing a lab coat and dancing all over the stage for the whole set. Poema completed my initial stint at the New Band Showcase. The band consists of two teenaged sisters playing piano and acoustic guitar, with a younger brother adding percussion. I only caught a couple of their songs, but what I heard sounded pretty good.

Don’t Wake Aislin was next, playing on the Texas generator stage. They’ve been playing everywhere all week, and both the singer and guitarist were having voice problems from all the wear and tear. They were a pretty polished female-fronted rock band that even sounded good on a generator stage.

Two other bands I wanted to see, Remedy Drive and Good Luck Varsity, were playing at the same time on the two Encore stages, so I caught a few songs of each. Good Luck Varsity had the best “seriously, we’re not hardcore” fliers up around the fest, and Remedy Drive was the most smashy, with the singer diving off his piano a few times, diving into the drum kit, jumping on the bass player, etc. Both were melodic rock bands (thank goodness that melody is making a comeback!), but Remedy Drive seemed a little more seasoned, and I’d have liked to have seen more of their set.

The flurry of bands continued as I briefly surfed by stages to hear bits of Flatfoot 56 (a wildly entertaining band to watch), Hand Drawn Mountains, Exit the Ordinary, and Spoken Nerd (whose song “I Love the Police” drew a chuckle from me).

I caught about half of Terry Taylor’s set at the Gallery. It seemed odd that such a Cornerstone legend was playing a short set early in the evening, but even playing acoustically (with Steve Hindalong on percussion, Mike Roe joining him on guitar for a song or two, and his son playing bass), it was a fun set. I caught a Swirling Eddies song (“Outdoor Elvis”), some DA classics (“Walls of Doubt,” “Shedding the Mortal Coil,” “Mall All Over the World”) and some Taylor solo songs (“Papa Danced on Olvera Street,” “Buffalo Hills”). I hated to leave the set, but as was the theme of the day, there were other things to see.

Before heading to Main Stage, I stopped by for most of the set from Ramoth-Gilead. The name sounds like a death metal band, but it’s actually a clever soul singer with a good voice and an acoustic guitar.  His song “My Hoopty Flashy Thangz” brought several laughs (check it out on his MySpace page).  This was one of the more unique and enjoyable shows I’ve seen so far.

I made the trek to Main Stage to see Shiny Toy Guns and Anberlin.  I don’t know much about Shiny Toy Guns, so I was curious to see their set.  I arrived just as mewithoutyou was ending, and there was a mass exodus away from the stage.  There was still a good crowd for Shiny Toy Guns, so the mewithoutyou crowd must have been massive.  Shiny Toy Guns seems an odd fit for Cornerstone.  There’s a tie-in to the Christian industry (two members used to be in the techno band Cloud2Ground back in the 90s, and played Cornerstone a few times), but the band doesn’t really have any current association with this scene that I’m aware of.  Their set reflected that tension, as it switched gears a little awkwardly from dance rock tracks like “Le Disko” to a cover of a Delirious worship song.  The band even made mention of the MC Hammer show on Main Stage back in 1998, which was a similarly odd show.  Musically, the band sounded pretty good, with plenty of pounding bass, and the highlight was current single “Major Tom,” as heard in a current Lincoln commercial.

Anberlin closed out the night (in the rain) on Main Stage.  I like the band a lot, but they’ve been hit and miss at Cornerstone in the past.  A couple of years ago, the mix was so bass-heavy that the songs were unintelligible, and singer Stephen Christian has occasionally had trouble balancing the demands of singing and running around the stage.  Last night, the mix was a little bass-heavy, but that’s the only complaint I can find – the set was absolutely awesome.  I’ve never heard the band (and especially Christian) sound better as they ripped through an hour’s worth of songs from their last 3 albums and one cover that I’ll discuss below.  They proved that they totally deserved the headlining slot for the night, and if you missed the set, you missed one of the best shows of the fest.

The night ended with the Crucified on an Encore stage.  I’ve been aware of the seminal Christian thrash metal band only as the precursor to Stavesacre (both Mark Salomon and Jeff Bellew were in the Crucified before Stavesacre) up to this point.  I’m not really all that into the genre, but since this was kind of a big deal reunion show, I decided to check it out.  As it turns out, it was really good.  Salomon’s personality and stage presence are worth going to the show for, and both the band and the crowd are a lot of fun to watch.  It’s not really my thing, but I’m glad that I can say that I’ve seen them play.

Cover Watch!

Not a large quantity of covers on Friday, but the quality of the covers made up for it.  Shiny Toy Guns worked three covers into their set – the aforementioned version of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” (which was very cool), the Delirious song that I didn’t catch the title of, and Depeche Mode’s “Stripped” (not my favorite Depeche Mode song, but still cool to hear).  In addition to working in a chorus of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” at the end of “Dismantle. Repair.”, Anberlin also wins for the best cover of the day (and maybe for the week) – New Order’s “True Faith.”  It’s a great song, and their performance of it (especially with the massive cloud of smoke and light on Main Stage) was outstanding.  It sounded like Anberlin, while still maintaining the 80s dance vibe.  Totally awesome – look for it on YouTube.

And that brings us to today, the last day of the fest.  It’s rainy and cool and nasty looking outside, but there are plenty of bands playing (in tents, thankfully) that I’m anxious to see, including Seabird, Nitengale, and a band called Audrey that namechecks Anberlin, Copeland, Mae, Eisley, and Deas Vail on their flier.  If they can live up to half of that list, I’ll be really impressed.

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.

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 !

Day 1 Report

Well, the first official day of the fest has come and gone.  I’m still struggling to adjust to the Cornerstone schedule, so I was a little draggy for most of the day (until about 2 AM, when it was time to try to go to sleep), but I still managed to see a variety of shows from some new bands and some old favorites.

I started the day with Owl City, a happy, dancey synthpop band.  I’ve got a lot of time for that sort of thing, so I enjoyed their set and was glad to see that the tent was full to overflowing.  It did seem a little odd to me that there wasn’t more dancing going on, though.  When bands like The Echoing Green used to play, people would be dancing and jumping around like mad; now, just standing still and watching the show seems to be the way of things.

Next up, Rodent Emporium, a gleefully odd punk band from Scotland.  They did a fun set full of songs about sports and Sasquatch and so forth.  I was also amused to see that their guitarist was wearing a t-shirt from my alma mater, Georgia Tech.  How the guitarist from a Scottish punk band came to be wearing a shirt from an engineering school in Atlanta as he played in a cornfield in Illinois is probably a story worth hearing.

I caught the last half of All the Day Holiday’s set on the Indoor stage (which, for those not familiar, is no more indoor than any of the other stages here – the name’s a holdover from a stage at the fest’s previous location in Chicago 15 or so years ago).  I liked what I heard of them, so hopefully I can catch them again.  They’re also selling their new album for 5 bucks, so I picked that up.

Jeff Elbel + Ping played next, on the Gallery stage.  Jeff’s the stage manager at the Gallery, occasionally plays bass for other artists at the fest, and can often be found tuning guitars for artists like the 77’s and the Choir, but every year he also gets to step up to the microphone for a little while.  The band sounded great this year, and was probably my favorite set of the day.  They’re playing again today at 5:00 on the Jesus Village stage, so come check them out if you get the chance.

I kind of crashed a bit after the Ping set, so I ate an early dinner and sat in a corner to recover for a while before heading to Main Stage for Family Force 5 and Relient K.  FF5 were dumb fun, as they always are, and Relient K played a good set, including a couple of songs from the new album they’re currently recording.  They sounded good, and a little different from the typical Relient K sound, so look for them on YouTube any time now.

Copeland closed out the night with an hour long Encore show in a packed tent.  The band seems better served by the smaller, more intimate Encore stage than the giant Main Stage where I saw them last.  They opened with a set of mellow stuff from You Are My Sunshine, before moving on to some rockier stuff from their earlier albums.  My only regret was that Rae Cassidy, who played the fest yesterday and is prominently featured on a couple of songs from the new album, didn’t come sing with the band, but that’s a small quibble with what was otherwise a solid show.

Cover Watch!

It was another good day for cover songs at the fest.  And Then There Were None gave us a rocked-up version of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven,”  Ping opened their set with the Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love,” and Relient K covered Cake’s “The Distance,” complete with muted trumpet.

Day 0 Report

“Day 0” of the fest has come and gone, with some highs, some lows, and some things that are hard to describe.

I’ll start with the weather, because that’s such a big factor in my ability to enjoy the fest.  The weather was…weird.  I don’t remember a day like this in all the years I’ve been here.  About the time my friends and I arrived on the grounds, clouds rolled in and the wind kicked up, a constant 15 mph breeze that kept up all day long.  It was actually somewhat chilly when you were exposed to it, even in the middle of the day.  That’s weird, but I’ll take it over the 100 degree days of misery.  The wind did make it hard for me to do my job hanging up fliers for my friend Jeff’s band (Jeff Elbel + Ping, playing today at 4:15 on the Gallery – come check them out!), because the wind kept blowing them away.

As for the bands, it was kind of hit and miss.  In years past, “day 0” was “Tooth & Nail Day,” with the record label sponsoring the day and having some degree of involvement in organizing it.  Generally, the only thing that was going on was bands playing 30 minute sets on the two Encore stages, with the schedule staggered so you could just wander back and forth between the two for continuous music.  This year, though, it was “REIGNITE Day” sponsored from Traa from the band P.O.D., and a couple of things were noticeably different.  The schedule was different – bands played on the Encore stages, but they played 30 minute sets with 40 minute breaks in between, so there was never really a flow back and forth from one stage to the other and there was a lot of downtime.  The average quality of the bands wasn’t as good either, in my opinion.  There were bands playing in styles that I like, but a lot of them didn’t seem to be very experienced just yet, so their performances weren’t great.  Traa’s thing seemed to be about artist development, so I guess having some rather raw bands is to be expected, but from a fan perspective, it just wasn’t as much fun to watch as it might have been.  The crowds seemed to reflect that, too – all day long (at least until the evening shows started), the Encore crowds were miniscule, with just a couple dozen people watching each of the bands from a respectful distance.

There were also a lot more bands playing in places other than the Encore stages compared to years past.  Most of the action was on the generator stages.  A bit of background as I understand it: generator stages started when young upstart bands would literally bring a small PA and a gas-powered generator and set up along the road and start playing.  I guess that got kind of out of hand a few years ago, so Cornerstone started licensing the generator band to keep things a little less chaotic.  I think the success of that move is debatable, though.  What you have now are a few “real” stages (with tents, fancy lighting, and good PA systems) that are technically labeled generator stages even though they’re as good or better than some of the “real” stages, a larger number of mid-level stages that may have a decent PA and some form of stage, and then some of the old-style do-it-yourself “stages.”  Most of them are all piled together alongside the roads between the Encore stages and the midway area, and they all play at the same time, competing with each other.  At one point yesterday, I walked by a row of three stages where an acoustic worship band was playing on one, a screamy metal band was playing on another, and the third had no band but had a hardcore CD cranked up to the limits of the PA.  Nobody wins in that situation – the bands have to compete with each other to be heard, and if you’re just trying to walk by, it’s pretty miserable.  From a fan perspective, it seems like it may be time for the fest to scale back the generator stages.

There’s also a trend toward “real” bands (bands playing actual scheduled festival slots) also playing on much smaller generator stages, and I’m not sure that really does the bands any favors.  For example, I saw the band Astellaway playing on one of the stages.  Their songs on MySpace sound pretty good, kind of a pop rock sound not unlike Paramore.  But on a PA on the side of the road, with speakers that were a lot smaller than the guitar and bass amps, and one small monitor, it was nearly impossible for them to sound good.  They did the best they could under the circumstances, and they sounded promising enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing them play their actual fest-scheduled set, but I’m not sure there’s a lot of benefits for some of the bands playing those low-end stages.

I only really made it to see one of the three bands that I said I was looking forward to yesterday.  Both times Quiet Science played, I was watching another show, but they’ve still got a bunch of sets left (admittedly, one of the benefits of the generator stages), so I’ll catch them eventually.  By the time Los Lonely Boys went on, I was pretty exhausted, so I only listened to a bit of their set.  They sounded good, but I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind or body to appreciate it.  But I did see Stephen Petree, and he was one of the better sets I saw all day.  As it turns out, he’s the brother of one of the founders of Shiny Toy Guns, and co-wrote some stuff on their first album.  His band was tight and the songs sounded good, so I wouldn’t mind hearing more from him when his album comes out in August.  One interesting thing about the set was the instrument he played, which he called a “Telekeyster” – a Fender Telecaster with a keyboard grafted onto the top half of the body.  Kind of a unique take (invented by his guitarist, apparently) on the keytar.

Stephen Petree's Telekeyster

In addition to the aforementioned set from Stephen Petree, the other musical highlights of the day for me were the following:

  • Darcy, a hooky, poppy band from Texas with a pretty good stage presence.  “Catchy Melody” was the highlight of their set.
  • Carolina Story, a married acoustic duo from Tennessee.  They were playing a generator stage crammed in between a couple of hardcore bands, but still managed to sound good and drew a surprisingly big crowd.
  • Down From Up, a melodic metal band from Tennessee, with one of the shreddiest guitarists I’ve seen in a new band at the fest in a long time.  The band was pretty good as a whole, but watching that guy play was a whole lot of fun.
  • Deas Vail, an indie pop band from Arkansas that I’ve watched grow over the last couple of festivals.  I first saw them a couple of years ago, and they had a nice sound and a decent crowd.  Last year their popularity had grown and the played a couple of well-attended sets.  This year, their first set was on the Indie Community stage (one of the largest and nicest generator stages), and the tent was almost packed with fans that were singing along to every word.  It’s fun to watch a band get bigger and bigger from year to year.

Cover Watch!

I always enjoy seeing bands play covers, and yesterday was a good day for covers.  Divided By Friday covered the Temptations’ “My Girl.”  Astellaway covered Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round.”  Maron covered King’s X’s “We Are Finding Who We Are” (which totally rocked).  And Down From Up went all out, sound checking with Guns’n’Roses’ “Sweet Child O’Mine,” and then playing an instrumental version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and a lengthy medley of Led Zeppelin songs.  I’d never really thought of “Whole Lotta Love” in quite that context before, but I guess it kind of works with just a couple of minor edits.

Things coming up today that I’m looking forward to: Ping, a good night on Main Stage with Capital Lights, Family Force 5, and Relient K, a bunch of other bands I want to see that are all playing at exactly the same time, and a midnight set from Copeland.