Introducing…

I’m sitting in a town surrounded by corn fields and cows. But something’s missing… because sadly I’m not in Bushnell, IL right now.

My name is Steve and I’m in the middle of Nebraska, two states away.

Like Jerry who posted to the blog earlier, this year is lucky number 13 for me. Cornerstone is definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. To quote 1 Corinthians completely out of context, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.”

I don’t get much sleep at Cornerstone (although I get more than some of the other CornerstoneFestival.com staff). But it’s totally worth it.

While I spend my work days on the TV news here in Nebraska, on this week off I put my skills to work serving at the festival. I take thousands (and thousands) of photos. You can keep tabs on them from my Flickr account.Plus I’ll be hanging out with about 15 kids from my church youth group. Just for the record, I don’t get paid to be part of the coverage team that puts all this content online for you. I do get access to bands, but the guys in bands are people too, and I’m not often starstruck. I do it because I believe in what Cornerstone stands for, and I want you to be able to relive the fest again when you get home, or enjoy it from afar if you can’t make it.

I usually take in some seminars and youth events, and definitely lots of shows (I’ll tell you which ones I’m looking forward to later!)

Just a few more days to go

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?

Sanctuary at Cornerstone 1

The two Pastor Bob's

In a few short days my wife and will be heading down to Cornerstone Festival (about a 6 hour drive)! I began attending Cornerstone back in the mid 90′s as a late teenager. Something happened when I turned 22 that prevented me from attending any longer…I became a youth pastor. One of the highlights for me was to attend the Sanctuary tent to hear Pastor Bob Beeman speak each night. It was his ministry that got me excited to work with young people.

Fast forward a few years to 2010 and now I am the lead pastor of a church and good friends with Pastor Bob Beeman. Over the past few years Pastor Bob and I have become good friends, he even came up a couple times to speak at the church I pastor. This year I get to return to Cornerstone with my wife (a newbie to C-Stone) to enjoy the great concert line-up and times of ministry. The highlight for me will be speaking at the Sanctuary tent due to Pastor Bob’s absence. I am literally bummed he will not be able to make it and am truly humbled that I would be asked to speak at this event I loved as a young adult (now 36).

There are some amazing things going on at the Sanctuary tent and I will keep you posted on all that is happening. Be sure to stop by the Sanctuary tent and say hi to me!

Holy Cow, It’s Almost Time!

I can’t believe that one week from today, I’ll be back at the festival.   Cornerstone has been the centerpiece of my summers for a long time now, but I still get excited every time the end of June rolls around.   Looks like it’s been a wet summer in western Illinois – might be smart to prepare for some mud.

Can’t wait to see all of you there.  I wonder what bands we’ll see this year that we’ll still be talking about in 2020?

Cornerstone Superlatives

Superlative, adj. of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme.

Now that everybody is getting home from Cornerstone, we’ve had a chance to think about our favorite fest moments. Jeff has listed his top 10 shows already; expect more in that in the days to come. Rather than focusing on music, I wanted to make up a list of other superlative moments from Cornerstone 2009. Matt kicked us off with the funniest moment of the fest on the blog earlier.

So, in no particular order, here’s my list of the best, most, muddiest, loudest, and craziest moments of Cornerstone 2009.

(links generally take you to photos, but some go to band websites)

Photo by Angela Behm

Photo by Angela Behm for www.cornerstonefestival.com

Best homemade costume: Knight & Dragon. Whoever made these out of cardboard boxes has too much time on their hands. Nice work, though! We caught these guys fighting outside one of the Encore stages early in the week. Not only was the costume fascinating, it was also the most creative way I personally observed to promote a band – At Cliffs End. Thinking of costumes – the platypus gets the award for “Most Photographed Guy in a Costume.”  And, Scooby Doo of Audio Strobelight gets the award for “Best Ironic Costume for a Band Member.”

Geekiest place to hang out: The First-Ever Tweet up. Yeah, I helped put this on (in a small way) so I’m biased, but it was a good way to meet people and hopefully form some new connections. Check out the video from www.cornerstonefestival.com to learn more, or follow @cstn on twitter.

Most under-appreciated festival job: TP distributor. The garbage haulers always do a great job. But, this year, I was told of a guy named Steven (I think that was his name) who is the one who services each & every porta-pottie with fresh tp. Hats off to you!

Dirtiest way to have good clean fun: Mud, Mud, Mud. Friday’s showers brought Saturday’s mud. At least people made the best of it. Sorry to any moms stuck laundering muddy clothes this week!

Best way to have good fun at a show: Rodent Emporium. Photos can’t begin to capture just how much fun this show was. Thankfully, there’s also a video of a show & a special exclusive performance.

Photo by Matthew Smith for www.cornerstonefestival.com

Photo by Matthew Smith for www.cornerstonefestival.com

Best picture from the festival photo team. These volunteers did a great job capturing hundreds of photos, which you can browse here. I’m sure arguments could be made for any number of best photos, but this one captured me in a special way. Check out more of Matthew Smith’s photography here.

Child who captured the most hearts: The adorable blonde boy who announced Anberlin on Main Stage. So cute! Jamie from To Write Love on Her Arms brought him out, as an illustration of innocence.

Instrument we most need more of: the Keytar.

Photo by Thomas Wray for www.cornerstonefestival.com

Photo by Thomas Wray for www.cornerstonefestival.com

Female musician with the sweetest voice and most enviable hair: Maron. And, while I’m thinking about hair, I don’t even know the band name, but wow, this is amazing.

Most creative way for your little kids to have fun at Cornerstone: ArtRageous for kids. They’ve got face-painting, crafts, activities, and all sorts of great ways to entertain & enrich youngsters.

Largest instrument played at Cornerstone: The huge electronic juke-box-looking thing Family Force 5 had. I can’t find a photo of anybody playing it, but this picture shows what I’m trying to explain. Look for the large box with squares on it. The band members could press on the squares to control synthesized sounds.

Best way to take your favorite band to work, without blasting out your coworkers with loud music: Ping’s patches. Jeff Elbel modeled these with his band, Ping, on a work-shirt. You, too, could be a member of the Ping tour just by picking up a patch.

Longest song performed at Main Stage: “Deathbed” from Relient K. I didn’t wear a stop-watch for anything, of course, but this song is 11+ minutes on the album, which has got to be a record for a single song on Main Stage this year. Anberlin probably comes in second with “Fin.” I never expected to hear either band play either of these songs, which are both epic in length (but which are among my favorites to sing along to). Both songs were encores for their respective bands.

Hardest worship moment: Sleeping Giant. I wrote about this earlier, but it still stands out to me.

Photo by Rudy Harris for www.cornerstonefestival.com

Photo by Rudy Harris for www.cornerstonefestival.com

Biggest Main Stage Crowd: mewithoutYou. No, I didn’t count heads, but that’s what I heard widely reported. I was headed towards Main Stage as this show let out. For every person going towards Main Stage at that moment, there were easily 200 going away.

Most impromptu fun on Main Stage between acts: Playing Buck Buck. The most serious, but touching moment between Main Stage Acts was the artist who was “repainting Jesus.” He painted live, and then talked about how we’re all called to repaint Jesus to those around us.

Most enthuiastic parent: The dad who was passing out flyers for his daughters’ band, Poema. These talented teenage daughters put on a fun acoustic pop show, performing to plenty of their peers. Check out their music here. Their dad was definitely excited to see his daughters play – enthusiasm that was contagious.

Best way to justify buying new shoes: losing your old pair in the mud (a.k.a. “Mud vs. Shoes: Mud wins”). I wonder how many pairs of shoes might have been permanently swallowed up by some of the mud holes. My own shoes didn’t make it back home with me, but at least they found their way to a trash can! :)

Photo by Megan Sontag for www.cornerstonefestival.com

Photo by Megan Sontag for www.cornerstonefestival.com

Most flexible fans & most unique venue change: Moving Main Stage to The Gallery & Encore I stages. I only went to about 15 seconds of the Underoath show, but the tent was packed. It seems that everybody rolled with the changes easily. Rock on Cornerstone for being able to handle this crazy situation. If it weren’t for this unexpected change, I would have said that the Los Lonely Boys were the act I least expected on the Gallery (they did an amazing show on Tuesday night! Hope they consider coming back to Cornerstone again someday).

That ends my list. What would you add? Post a comment!

Recap!

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?

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!

Living the Dream

Watching Seabird

Saturday evening, six tweens lived the dream. With sounds of Underoath booming faintly in the background, these six people stood right down front at a show that might not necessarily have been targeted towards their stereotype. They bounced their heads, sang along, used the edge of the stage as a drum, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing one of their favorite bands, Seabird.

This wouldn’t be interesting if it weren’t for this fact: they were the only 6 people standing.

No worries that others sat still as they bopped along. They were living the dream.

No worries that the people directly behind were sitting as they stood. They were living the dream.

No worries that their peers were elsewhere. They were living the dream.

I sat in back, happy to see these 5 guys and a girl (I think that’s the gender distribution, at least, seeing them from behind) living the dream. I’m glad they did. I’m glad that places exist where all kinds of people can live out all kinds of dreams.

I love that there are places like Cornerstone where we can live the dream together. I’m glad we can live out a 26-year dream of JPUSA. I’m glad for the bands who lived the dream of playing one of their first “real” shows this week. I’m glad for the parents I met who were supporting their kid’s dreams of being in a band. I’m glad for the people who drove hours just to live their dream of one day getting to Cornerstone at all. I’m glad for the fulfilled dreams of those who sometimes feel left out at home, finding community here.

I’m glad for the visions God gives young men, and the dreams He gives old men. I pray that we all have the unashamed nature those 6 tweens did, so we, too, can live the dream.

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.

Getting the most out of the festival

With over 300 bands to choose from during Cornerstone, and with upwards of 15 bands often playing at once (maybe more if you counted all the generator stages!), how can you possibly know which shows to go to? You can simply go thru the program and mark bands you’ve heard of, or use one of the online schedule makers to print your own schedule. I took that approach for years – and it worked fairly well. But, what about the bands you haven’t heard of yet which might be amazing? Every year, I’d hear about some great band that I missed. All too often, I missed their show while merely tolerating another band or just sitting around the campsite.

Over the past few years, our group of friends has come up with a pretty effective way to make sure we spend our festival time wisely and don’t miss out on new bands. We review the bands in advance, make notes & print up our own program. Since we’ve started the program, we’ve done a lot less random walking back-and-forth between shows, and we haven’t often missed something spectacular.

These directions won’t help much now that the fest is just hours from ending, but read them, file them away, and try it out with your friends for Cornerstone 2010.

Step 1: Recruit some friends. It’s crucial to have similar interests in music. (Your friends using my list wouldn’t work so well, since we probably have very different tastes in music.) You might also look for people you think can hear a band and accurately identify the style. Basically, you want to choose people so what one of you says is awesome, the rest of the group would also agree is worth seeing (or vice-versa), and who can identify a genre well enough to help you choose what to see.

Step 2: Set up a wiki or shared document (use your favorite web 2.0 tool, such as google docs, so you can all access the file & make changes to it).

Step 3: Grab the schedules at www.cornerstonefestival.com and copy & paste it into your shared document. Sort as desired.

Step 4: Get your friends started. Assign all of your friends to start with a different section of the schedule. (i.e. alphabetical, by day, by stage, whatever)

Step 5: Preview the bands. Using albums you already own, previews on iTunes, myspace pages, or whatever else you can find, listen to samples from each band.

Step 6: Write a short paragraph identifying the style of music and giving it a brief review. Merely saying “This is awesome” could work, but something like “Post-hardcore band that put on a great live show last time I saw them. Definitely worth seeing” works better.

Step 7: Compile everybody’s contributions, and email or print your own cheat-sheet reference guide to each band. You could arrange them alphabetically or by day/stage. Jerry, who compiles our programs, color codes everything: Green is for bands we all know & already love. Blue is for bands that we’re not familiar with but which seem solid. Yellow is borderline. Purple bands are random, but possibly good (that color also goes for most seminars). Red are bands that don’t suit our style at all.

Step 8: Use that info to make your schedule. There will still be schedule conflicts, but at least this way you can make a more informed decision which band to see.

Step 9: During the fest, when you’re not sure what to see next, simply look at your cheat sheet. Enjoy being able to see your favorite bands without as much stress, and also being able to catch great new music.