Tuesday Night

Ah. Well, friends, it’s great to be home.

Arriving late at night was new for me this year. Driving on unfamiliar country roads put me on edge even with my boyfriend navigating from the passenger seat, but about the time we hit Canton, I could feel that I was close to home. The anticipation that had been growing for a year was building to the point of bursting, and I considered taking up my co-pilot’s offer to drive so I could just sit and bounce in my seat. “Looking familiar yet?” he asked for about the tenth time. As a sign emerged from the shadows reading CORNERSTONE: 5 MILES, I couldn’t help but yell, “It looks familiar now!”

The familiar smell of the gravel road poured through my open window as we made our way through the gate and to our camp. Before I could even get out of the car, my younger brother ran up to us and said, “Laura! Flatfoot is playing RIGHT NOW!” He led us through the maze of tents to the generator stage where my favorite band was playing. I weaved though the croud, waving to many friends I hadn’t seen since the festival last year. I pulled my boyfriend along me. I’d been waiting for months to share a Flatfoot 56 show at Cornerstone. Being as this is his first year, I figured that now was as good of a time as ever to break him in.

After a few of the old favorites, Josh Robieson (the original bagpipe/mandolin player for the band), came on stage with his pipes in hand. Being a “seasoned pro” at Flatfoot 56 shows, I wound my arms around my friends on either side of me. “This one goes out to Levi.” Levi Thomas had been a friend from years past, whose untimely death had left a hole in the lives of those who knew and loved him. His presence here at the fest is definitely missed.

Together, with all my friends, family, and soon-to-be-friends around me, we sang Amazing Grace with the tones of bagpipes. I threw back my head and smiled. I was here, home after a long year, with my closest friends, at a show for my favorite band. As the band came around to the final verse of “Praise God,” I knew that a great week lies ahead.

Praise God indeed.



Day 1 Is Only Hours Away

Well, here we are in Illinois for another Cornerstone Festival. Thanks to the time shift I’m up at 7:22 AM, so I figure now is a good time to check in and introduce myself. My name is Jeff and I’ve been coming to Cornerstone now since 1998 (with a few years skipped in between.) I’ve seen some pretty epic shows and made a lot of good friends along the way and that’s what keeps me coming back year after year.

So, the theme for me this year is “Keep Calm and Rock On” which I stole from a sign that my wife and I picked up to decorate the house. It’s a play on the old British propaganda sign “Keep Calm and Carry On” but it actually fits well. I’m hoping to drop the pressures of work and life at home, just a for a couple days, and see some great bands, enjoy some great conversation, and pay a little more attention to what God has to say to me.

There are plenty of bands to look forward to this week. I’m especially interested in the Jesus Rally that will bring several bands that haven’t played at Cornerstone Festival in decades or ever to the Main Stage. I’m really excited to see Anberlin return (and as far as I know, no band playing at the same time that I also want to see! A common theme that happens every year is that Anberlin plays at the same time as some other band I really want to see.) I’m looking forward to Paper Route’s return after their breakout show last year and there is no doubt the “Superheroes” themed Flatfoot 56 show will be talked about for years to come. I’m also looking forward to seeing my friends perform on stage. Dave Richards will be bringing the beats at the AfterHours Dance Club, Jeff Elbel will be working as hard as he does every year at the Gallery Stage and bringing his band, Ping, to the stage with new music and also this year a friend of mine and his band, Songs of Water, plays at their very first Cornerstone. I love the intertwining themes of friendship and music here at the festival.

As for today, things get started right out of the gate at noon. We’ll be wandering the generator stages. These stages were once as simple as just three kids plugged into a gas-powered generator on the side of the road, but they’ve evolved into something a little more professional. However, they still embrace the chaos of their youth. Any band can play on a generator stage and most of them are bands just getting their start and trying to get the attention of a crowd that’s here to see one of any of hundreds of other bands, so anything can happen. Sometimes you might see the next big thing (several big name bands here at Cornerstone got their start on the side of the road) and sometimes you might just be hearing unintelligible noise. You never know, and that’s part of the fun of the unpredictable stages. Then today, the Main Stage fires up with DJ Andy Hunter which will introduce the AfterHours Dance Club to the whole festival grounds and start of a Dance Party to begin the festival. Everything is starting to get warmed up for incredible first day of Cornerstone Festival. Keep Calm and Rock On.

The No Longer Sick Wrapup

So, health-wise, Cornerstone 2010 was probably my least favorite year. I entered the festival sick and I left the festival as sick or sicker. Not a fun way to spend a week. Musically, though, the year was pretty good. Friday was incredible with a solid set of musicians from early in the day right up to the midnight show. The opening day was better than last year’s set of disappointing new bands, though the generator stages were, as probably expected, a total roulette with frequent schedule changes and unknown bands playing. Even with doing some research before the festival, I still didn’t know who was playing half of the time.

The veteran bands were strong, Over the Rhine returned to the festival and made up for last year’s absence by giving us almost two full sets. The Lost Dogs brought out a touching tribute to Route 66. Some of the bands that I hoped would have incredible shows, Future of Forestry and Paper Route, delivered. The only disappointment I had was that there were not as many interesting new bands. Campbell The Band showed promise, but I really only saw three songs by them.

I do wish I had seen more worship-focused bands. David Crowder Band was on Main Stage, but at the same time as another show I wanted to see and I think I would’ve enjoyed The Glorious Unseen more if I hadn’t been feeling so sick at the time.

So, let’s narrow it down to my Top 5 shows:
Paper Route– This was my number 1 most anticipated show coming into the festival and they hit it out of the park. The band drew energy off of the crowd and the crowd was totally into it.

Deas Vail – Successfully navigated the rocky waters of moving from the side stage to Main Stage. Played much of their newest album which contains their strongest material yet.

Future of Forestry – Only three members played about 20 instruments. The band brought energy on the last day with a wide variety of instruments with drums, keyboards, guitars, cellos, and even a harmonium

Eisley – Welcome back DuPree family! Please come back sooner than eight years to Cornerstone.

The Kicks – Good old fashioned four-piece rock and roll songs with girl’s names in the titles. Just a fun show that reminds me of 80’s rock.

The Next 5: These shows are in the second tier, in no particular order.
Over The Rhine – The new songs are still in development, but it was very cool of the band to share them with us. Can’t wait to see how they end up on the new album. Two full sets of material gave us plenty to enjoy.

Lost Dogs – Loved the new Old Angel material and Steve Hindalong thrilled the crowd with twirling a rope. Not as much old schtick as previous shows.

Seabird – Nice end to the festival. The new album might not be as strong as their previous album, but it’s still pretty good and the crowd was into it even though everyone was fatigued from the long week.

The Choir – It was a little rough, sure, with some underrehearsed moments, but it was great to see the band back after a five year absence and the new music was great.

Nitengale – Strange to see only the lead signer at the festival, with the rest of the band dismissed, but his voice is compelling and the new songs are great. Even just on guitar or keyboards, the songs were enough to make me see him twice.

Five Bands That You Will Hear About Soon:
These five bands are flush with potential. We’ll see if they return next year, but if they do, they are going to come back with higher expectations and bigger crowds.

Campbell The Band – They toured around the grounds, playing impromptu shows on drums, guitars, and pianos and it worked, drawing a big crowd to the New Band Stage. They only had three songs, and they sound totally different than the EP they sold, so we’ll have to see what they develop into.

Quiet Science – Saw them last year and they are so close to turning the corner and becoming a big band at Cornerstone. The promotion with the “protestors” and costumes was genius and I think it drew bigger crowds. The first Jesus Village show was a little rough, but they hit on all cylinders on the Impact Stage. They are on the way up.

House of Heroes – For some reason I didn’t expect to like this band, but they rocked it out. The new material has a little bit of Muse influence and I may have to check out some more from this band.

News From Verona – This band is strongly influenced from bands like New Found Glory and Taking Back Sunday and the kids loved it. Fun teenage rock.

The Rendition – Nice piano rock with female lead vocals. I’d like to see this band again with a year of experience.

So there you go, Cornerstone 2010 is in the books! I hope I can go again next year, but just like every year, you never know. At the very least, I’m hoping next year I won’t be ill the entire week.

Famous Last Words

Alright, it’s my last post of the year – let’s talk about bands!  As you’ve probably ascertained, I’m an old guy (39), but I come to Cornerstone as much for younger bands (Deas Vail, Seabird, Eisley, Paper Route) as I do for the older ones (The Choir, Over the Rhine, Lost Dogs).  I thought this year’s schedule was very strong in terms of Gallery bands (and Gallery-esque bands on other stages, like Deas Vail), but maybe a little weaker than usual in terms of newer melodic rock bands (Run Kid Run was a late addition and the Kicks were a fun new band, but in previous years we’ve had a lot more of that kind of stuff – Jonezetta, Capital Lights, Mae, and others of that ilk, many of whom have broken up in the interim).  It seems to me that a lot of bands that would otherwise sound pretty good (polished, capable musicians) are still doing the screamy hardcore thing, and I just can’t get into that stuff.  I’ll be kind of glad when the screamy stuff falls out of fashion a little bit.

I suppose at this point, the done thing is to list some superlatives.

  • Best Generator Band.  The best band I saw exclusively on generator stages was Oh! The Humanity!, a duo doing autotuned dance pop stuff.  They did some nice covers (We the Kings, Owl City) and their original material was pretty good, too.  They were one of the most fun bands I saw all week.
    • Honorable Mention.  The Rendition, the first band I saw during the fest, were tight and polished.  It would be nice to see them graduate to a real stage next year
  • Dustiest Road.  Could the road between the big merch tent and the Rising Storm and Encore stages have been any dustier?  Possibly, but I don’t see how.  By the end of the week, there were stretches of that road that were nothing but an inch of fine grit.  Nasty!
  • Best Cover.  As I wrote earlier in the week, I LOVE cover songs, and it seemed like there were a lot more than usual this year, including two entire cover sets (from Ping and Lightshine Theater).  I think the coolest cover I saw all week, though, was Lightshine Theater’s cover of King’s X’s “Over My Head.”  It’s a great song, and the band did a nice rendition of it, adding in a three-way guitar shred-off in the middle.  I hope Lightshine Theater comes back next year – they’re a nice link to the old days of Cornerstone (REZ, Steve Taylor, Barren Cross, and stuff like that).
  • Best Food.  There were some new food options this year (a salad bar!?) that I didn’t get to try, because I stuck with some of the old standards.  I think the best thing I ate this year was probably the Cajun Alfredo from the pasta trailer.  That stuff is addictive!
    • Honorable Mention.  The $3 bag of like 100 chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies from the grocery store is hard to beat.
  • Most Improved.  I think Quiet Science was probably the most improved band that I saw this year.  I saw them last year, and they were good (and fun to watch), but their live performance didn’t quite measure up to what I heard on their EP.  Even after seeing them a couple more times (once here at home, and once early in the fest), they didn’t quite reach their potential.  But on the Impact Stage on Friday, they finally played the set that I thought they were capable of, and they sounded great.  Hopefully that’ll become the norm for them, because I really like their music.
  • Best New (To Me) Band.  This one’s really hard to call, because I saw three very different bands that I’d never seen before, and all of them impressed me.  Lightshine Theater was nostalgic and a lot of fun, but I can’t go with a cover band as my best new (to me) band.  Campbell the Band had an impressive performance, handing instruments into the crowd and stuff like that, but I can’t really remember much about their actual songs, so I can’t say it was them, either.  I’m going to go with the Kicks as the best new (to me) band that I saw.  They play straightforward southern rock with a bit of a modern twist and some very nice Beatle-esque harmonies, and they’re very tight and polished.  They were very impressive.
  • Encore!  Seriously!  There were a couple of shows (from two of my favorite bands, Eisley and Over the Rhine) that ended up a bit shorter than they might have been for various reasons.  I saw Eisley’s setlist, and they basically knew going in that they couldn’t play the full headlining set that they’ve been playing on their tour, so they crossed off some stuff that happens to be among my favorites: “Come Clean,” “Ten Cent Blues,” “Combinations,” and “Go Away.”  Over the Rhine just ran out of time in their first set and had to cut “Poughkeepsie,” and skipped a planned 3-song encore in their second set, in what was a rather weird ending to their show.  I know it’s tough for the festival to balance cramming in a lot of bands with allowing bands time to spread their wings a bit.  There were a few shows that I saw this year that I wish had been a little more open-ended, time-wise.
  • Practice Makes Perfect.  It pains me to say it, but the Choir was a little bit disappointing (though I must make it clear that I was still very glad for the chance to see them again).  That’s mostly because my expectations were just so high, though – they play very rarely, and the last few times I’ve seen them at the fest and elsewhere, they killed it.  But Thursday, alas, just wasn’t their night.  They were pretty loose as they struggled through their set, the set itself was fairly short, and while it contained a lot of my favorite songs, it was also a little on the predictable side.  Hopefully they’ll find a way to do a little mini-tour in support of their new album (which is wonderful, by the way) to shake off the rust, and I’ll get to see them in better form down the line.
  • Loudest Band.  There’s a surprising winner in this category.  I figured the last night on Main Stage, with The Devil Wears Prada and others would be the loudest, anticipating that it would sound like (as Mike Roe once described a Stavesacre set playing on a stage near him) “they were raising the lid of hell over there.”  But actually, the Skillet set was far and away the loudest thing I heard all week.  I never got particularly close to the actual show, but it was freakin’ loud even as I was walking down the road over to the Chelsea Café.  They apparently also win the award for “most fire” and “most smoke.”
  • Sorry I Missed It.  Even with all the pre-fest planning that I do every year to try to find bands that I want to hear, there are always a few things that I want to hear that I miss out on.  This year, I missed the Lost Dogs, and I heard they did a really good show.  Thankfully, I got to see them here at home a couple of days after the fest, so that makes up for it a little bit.  I’ve heard good things about SHEL and The Farewell Drifters, but didn’t make it to either of their sets.  I’m bummed that I missed out on Run Kid Run, because their music is right in the wheelhouse of stuff that I enjoy.  Oh, well, there’s always next year.
  • Favorite Set.  There were a ton of great performances this year, so I’ll count down to the one I liked the best (a very hard choice).

8. Future of Forestry.  One of the most musically diverse bands I saw at the fest, Future of Forestry played as a 3-piece (drums, guitar, cello, augmented with harmonium and other stuff) but created a remarkably full sound nonetheless.

Future of Forestry

7. Jeff Elbel + Ping.  An underrated Cornerstone mainstay, Jeff and friends played a set of original stuff (new and old) that I really liked, and then played another set of covers that I may have enjoyed even more.  Make it a point to check them out next year.

6. Over the Rhine.  Two sets from Over the Rhine, with no repeats.  That’s an embarrassment of riches, and the band was wonderful as always.  They’d be higher on the list, but I’m getting just a little weary of this “mellow and sophisticated” phase that they’re in and wish they’d change it up a little (rocking it up a bit, or going full-on into a bluegrass album, or something).  I’m looking forward to hearing where their forthcoming album, The Long Surrender, takes them.

Linford Detweiler of Over the Rhine

5. Deas Vail.  I was worried that Deas Vail would get swallowed up on the Main Stage during the day, but they did an admirable job of expanding their stage presence to fill all the extra room, and they sounded great.  I’ve been listening to Birds and Cages a lot since it came out, so I was more familiar with the material this time around and really liked it.

Wes Blaylock of Deas Vail

4. The Kicks.  I mentioned this band above, so I won’t go into all that stuff again, except to say that this was the only band that I previewed before the fest (back in March or so) and then went and downloaded their album immediately.

3. Lightshine Theater.  Not many folks saw their set on the Sanctuary Stage, and it was mostly a bunch of old guys, but we really got a treat from this band.  It was a fun show all around, from the REZ songs, to the other covers they did, to seeing Glenn Kaiser enjoying their set, to watching some guys from other bands mimicking the dance steps from the awesomely cheesy “Love Comes Down” video backstage.

2. Eisley.  Simply sublime.  I’m amazed every time I listen to this band at just how mature beyond their years they sound.  The harmonies are beautiful, the songs are great, and they know how to rock.  I’ve been talking them up to my friends for a couple of years, and thankfully, they totally delivered, so I didn’t sound like an idiot.

Sherri DuPree of Eisley

1. Paper Route.  I’ve seen this band a few times in various settings, but there’s just something about playing at Cornerstone that seems to bring out the best in bands.  There was a small but fanatical group of fans standing down front at the Gallery, and I was right in the middle of them, enjoying every note this band played.  My only regret was that they couldn’t play longer.  I can’t wait to see them again.

Paper Route


So, that’s it from me on the blog this year.  Hopefully you’re stumbling across this post sometime during the Cornerstone offseason, and it can bring back some good memories of the 2010 edition of the fest.  Please jump into the comments and discuss what you thought about Cornerstone 2010, and then go buy your tickets for 2011 – it’s not the same without you!  (Yes, even you, Mr. Hardcore Singer, growling at me from afar.)  See you all next year!

Watching us grow up

As I blogged about earlier, coming home from Cornerstone is always hard for me. There’s something wonderful about that little piece of farmland that makes it feel like a little glimpse of heaven. Now that I’m home, if I had to pick a theme to summarize this year at Cornerstone, it would be watching the festival continue to grow up.

Bands growing up

Seabird's Aaron Morgan, and his daughter. Photo by Steve White for www.cornerstonefestival.com

This was my fourth year to see Seabird play Cornerstone, and their sound has matured each year. These guys have been coming to Cornerstone for years, even before they became a band. Seeing lead singer Aaron Morgan bring up his adorable little girl, “to see Daddy make music” was a beautiful moment for this band that I hope to see in an evening show at the festival every year from here on out (and which I will be seeing in my home town of Austin, TX tonight!).

Another growing-up moment was found in Don’t Wake Aislin, a band that’s also been around Cornerstone for several years. This year, in addition to the well-executed generator stage shows, they put on a fun show at the Label Showcase. These guys & one girl seem to know a thing or two about how to get people into their music, with creative ideas like using fortune cookies to promote their shows and being friendly with fans on twitter and other social media.

Eisley, a band that returned after an 8-year hiatus, also ranks in my list of growing-up moments. I sincerely hope their label & CD release issues get worked out soon, since I’d love to see more new material from this very talented family! I think this show marks a good growing-up moment, not just for the band to return, but for the Millennial generation (the generation after X) to be more represented in major evening slots at the festival.

The festival itself

Two weeks ago, I would have predicted that the Main Stage move would be the talk of the fest, but it really wasn’t. Everybody ran with the changes, which I think demonstrate how Cornerstone is growing up again, in ways that will help keep the fest viable for the long-haul.

I see the festival growing to accommodate the democratization of music. So many bands aren’t label-dependent anymore (and may hardly associate with the “Christian Music Industry” whatever that is these days). And, they’re not all just coming to Cornerstone as one stop on the festival circuit. So, I see Cornerstone growing to have places for these bands to play (with all the improvements to the generator stage area, changes to encore tents, etc.)

I also see the festival growing to accommodate how we, as listeners, enjoy music. The first major map change since the festival moved to the Cornerstone Farm reflects how I see most people enjoying the fest these days. Attendees aren’t just plopping down at one tent and staying there all day; we’re wandering from show to show, catching moments of one band and moments of another. The revised map makes that a whole lot easier. It also greatly helped sound-bleed issues, so soft sweet music (like at the Chelsea Cafe) wasn’t overrun by equally-passionate musicians singing hardcore.

The festival is continuing to grow to be a place for the American church of tomorrow. The Youth Leader Oasis and seminar & Imaginarium topics are excellent ways to swap stories and encounter the big ideas about what’s next in the American church. I’m excited to see how the fest will continue to tackle those big ideas.

And… the personal side

Cornerstone 20ten was another year filled with amazing friendships. I drive to Cornerstone with just my husband (who I actually met at the festival in 1998 – here’s a photo of us from this year’s coverage) and we spend the week with friends from all over. It’s always good to see each other face-to-face (normally we only interact online) and see what has changed. I sit by my sister-in-law at most evening shows and get to know her better. I talk to my friend Heather who works with JPUSA’s shelter and get inspired for community & causes (and quilting!). I laugh with friends and re-remember that I’m not alone. Cornerstone is a moment to mark how thankful I am that God put all of us in a place to grow as individuals and grow together through Cornerstone.

I love how Cornerstone is becoming this kind of community for even more people – it’s not just us internet geeks who find lasting friends there: it seems to be happening for the next generations, too.

I’m happy to have been part of Cornerstone 20ten and look forward to seeing all of us continue to grow up next year.

Day 4 – The Final Countdown

Well, I’m back at home in suburban Atlanta (with a post-fest day off for the first time I can remember, thankfully – the first day back is always rough), and like most of my fellow bloggers, some post-fest wrapup posts are forthcoming, but I wanted to go through the final day of the fest for the sake of completeness.

Unfortunately, the Godfathers Pizza in Macomb has closed.  It’s a bit of a tradition among my circle of friends to hit up the pizza buffet at least one day of the trip, so without it, we were left a bit adrift, trying to fill a Godfathers-shaped hole.  There’s probably a tortured metaphor to be had there, but I’m not the guy to write it, so everybody fill in your own.  Anyway, we ended up at Jimmy John’s, which was probably marginally more healthy and significantly less satisfying.

Several of the bands I wanted to watch on Saturday were daytime Main Stage bands, which points out one deficiency in the new Main Stage location – it’s hot and sunny in the daytime, and there’s almost no shade to be had around Main Stage.  People were crowding into the wake of the sound tower and under the spotlight platform to get out of the sun, and this was a very mild weather year.  When another of those 100+ degree days hits in the future, I don’t think you’ll find me watching any bands at Main Stage.

The first band I saw was the Glorious Unseen (who gave us a very “Cornerstone” moment – a guitarist playing worship music in an Anthrax t-shirt – just a funny visual).  They were good, but by that point, my attention span for unfamiliar stuff was pretty short, so I didn’t get as much out of it as I might have.  After a brief diversion to see Tonight Tonight on the Encore stage (a set marred by sound problems and a struggling vocalist early, but both got better by the end), it was back to Main Stage to see House of Heroes (better than I remembered, and good fun to watch) and All the Day Holiday (not very well suited for Main Stage – they’d have gone down better on Gallery or Encore – but they did a good set, nonetheless).

My friends and I headed out to the generator stages to try to catch some hip hop acts, but as is the generator stage custom, the schedule was completely destroyed, and none of the acts we wanted to see were actually there.  Instead, we caught another set from Oh! The Humanity! (a synthpop-and-guitar duo that I saw earlier in the week).  They had a better crowd this time, people that were actually up and dancing, and they seemed to feed off the energy and put on a very good show.  They were one of very few new bands that I saw and enjoyed this year.

I hitched a golf cart ride down to the old Main Stage bowl area, just to see what it looks like.  It looks kind of sad without a stage down there – it’s all grown up with weeds and  a JPUSA vegetable garden, and the buildings (the t-shirt shed and what I assume is the artist hospitality trailer) look pretty decrepit.  I’ve heard that the artist hospitality area (now located in the former dance barn building, a bigger, better space) was improved this year, so I imagine that was one change that the bands playing on Main Stage appreciated.  Still, it was kind of sad to see the old place in that condition.

Running low on energy, I parked myself at the Gallery for the rest of the night.  The first band I saw was O’Brother, playing music that’s dramatic but hard to really find a hook into (stuff my friends and I have dubbed “projector band” music, after bands like Ester Drang that used to play similarly hookless music).  I didn’t mind them, but I don’t particularly get the style – I tend to like stuff you can dance to or sing along with.  I’d love to hear a fan of that style describe to me what they hear in it, though – I’m genuinely curious.

Future of Forestry were next.  I was marvelling at how full their sound was with only three people in the band (they were multitasking, but still…), and the singer mentioned that they normally play with 5 or 6 people on the stage.  I was quite taken with their set, enough to spend most of the rest of my cash on their three Travel EPs.  I kind of get the feeling that their music is the sort of stuff that I’ll find less interesting on my iPod in the car than I did live, but their live set was good enough to convince me to take a shot on it.

I was looking forward to seeing Ivoryline, who I’d missed a couple of times in years past.  They’re a little heavy for some of the Gallery crowd, but I don’t mind seeing rock bands.  I didn’t love their set, though – it was a little rawer than the studio stuff I’d heard before.  It’s also possible that I was just tired enough that I wasn’t going to particularly enjoy anything at that point.

The final band of 2010 for me was Seabird.  I really like Seabird, though I kind of overdosed myself on their music after the 2008 fest and haven’t really fully recovered.  They sounded great, though, and were a nice fit at the Gallery, with a very respectable crowd (many of whom were probably there to avoid The Devil Wears Prada on Main Stage, but you play the hand you’re dealt).  They probably won over some new fans.

Aaron Morgan of Seabird

Speaking of Seabird fans, though, there was one small irritation.  Last year, my friend and fellow Blogger Becky wrote about a group of kids that were “living the dream” at the Seabird show, standing down front to see their favorite band.  That bunch was back again this year, but it really wasn’t quite as cute this time around.  The Gallery tends to be a sitdown sort of venue (with rare exceptions – I was part of the bunch standing up for Paper Route this year, for example), which inevitably leads to come conflict when “younger” bands play the stage (hence the dueling cries of “stand up!” and “sit down!” during Eisley – I was in the front row, so I merrily stayed in my seat and enjoyed the show).  I understand the appeal of standing up, but I also understand the appeal of sitting down, and my general philosophy on the matter is to either follow what the majority are doing, or find a spot where I can do whatever I want without bothering anybody else.  It’s all about empathy and consideration for your fellow concert-goers.  So when you’re the only people standing in front of a stage that’s about 18″ tall, with a few hundred people sitting behind you to watch the show, that’s kind of a jerk move.  (To be fair, a few people eventually joined the standing crowd- mostly kids that were sitting directly behind the standers and couldn’t see anything otherwise, plus photographers.)  When 2 or 3 people ask you (not yell at you, but come up and ask you personally) if you’d please sit down or move so people can see, and you continue to stand, that’s kind of a jerk move.  And if you’re just going to stand there and not dance or jump around, there’s really no reason TO stand other than to stand for the sake of standing.  It kind of does a disservice to the band, too – people that can’t see the band are more likely to just say “forget it” and leave, or get ticked off about the situation and not really be in the right frame of mind for the  show.  So I guess what I’m saying is “don’t be a jerk” and “have some empathy with other people.”  Next year, I’m throwing bottles. 🙂

So that’s it for Cornerstone 2010 for me.  I’ll take a bit of time to digest everything I experienced and put it all together into some wrapup posts in the next few days, so keep reading!


Quick Saturday Summary

Saturday is over and Cornerstone 20ten is in the books! If you are like me, you are packing up and heading home. Drive safely! The last day of Cornerstone Festival had plenty for everyone. I saw The Glorious Unseen, House of Heroes, All The Day Holiday, Oh! The Humanity, Future of Forestry, Ivoryline, and Seabird. Not a bad way to finish up the week.

We’ll all be posting our summaries and thoughts about the whole week in the next few days. My battery is about to die and the car is about to be cranked, so it’s time for me to go. Until then, check out my pictures of Cornerstone 2010 on Flickr. See you on the flip side.

Day 3 – Just What I Needed

At this point in the festival, I really needed a day like Friday – lots of good bands (including some of my favorites) and not a lot of running around.  Checking out unfamiliar stuff is great, but it’s also great to settle back and listen to a bunch of songs that you know by heart.

I started the day with a few unfamiliar bands that sounded promising.  Oh! The Humanity, a duo playing autotuned synthpop with live guitars, were playing on a generator stage.  I’m kind of a sucker for that kind of stuff, so my friends and I wandered in.  Initially, the crowd was kind of small.  It must be disheartening as a young band to start your set in front of nothing but a few dudes old enough to be your dad, but the band gave it their all, and eventually a pretty decent crowd wandered in.  Their cover of “Check Yes Juliet” from We The Kings was especially fun.

In terms of promoting their set, Campbell the Band had to have been one of the hardest working bands at the fest, and that’s saying something.  They played impromptu acoustic sets all around the grounds during the week, and their efforts seemed to have paid off – the New Band Showcase tent was packed out for their set on Friday.  Their set was cut a bit short due to an extra-long soundcheck (sometimes you just have to plug in your stuff and hope for the best…), but what I heard was pretty good.  They really engaged the crowd (including handing instruments to the crowd to hold while they played them) and gave a high energy performance, even though their music is a on the more mellow end of the spectrum.

Deas Vail (playing on Main Stage) was up next.  It’s been fun watching that band come up through the ranks from the smaller stages to the larger ones over the last 3 or 4 years.  In all fairness, they probably would have been on the Gallery or an Encore stage in years past, instead of in one of the newly-created daytime Main Stage slots, but regardless, there they were, up on the biggest of Cornerstone stages, with a respectable and enthusiastic crowd.  Playing on that giant stage has swallowed up a lot of bands over the years, and the Deas Vail I first saw a few years ago probably wouldn’t have fared very well up there.  But their music and performance has matured a lot over the years, and they really held their own with a set that drew from both of their albums and their White Lights EP.

Then it was time for an epic run of bands on the Gallery Stage (with a side trip to see Quiet Science on a generator stage, a set in which their live show finally lived up to the potential that I hear in their music) that are the reason I keep coming to Cornerstone after all these years: Over the Rhine (twice), Paper Route, and Eisley.  Three very different bands, but all great.

Over the Rhine’s first set was a relaxed, mostly-acoustic set that featured a number of songs from Good Dog Bad Dog, an album they recently performed in its entirety in a special concert, and a handful of new songs from an album they recently finished recording.  The performance was great as always, and it was a nice way to ease into the afternoon.

After an interesting set from Dignan and a long break to set up their ridiculously complicated equipment, Paper Route brought a bit of a clash of cultures to the Gallery.  There were a bunch of older, mellower folks sitting in lawn chairs (as is the norm at the Gallery), probably holding a place for the Over the Rhine show later in the evening, as a bunch of younger fest-goers crowded down front to stand and see the band.  I kind of bridge the gap between the “old people sitting down” crowd and the “standing up and rocking” crowd, so after the band’s first song, when it became clear that standing was the norm (at least down front), I gladly folded my chair and stood up to rock out with my younger fellow Paper Route fans.  The band sounded great, and their set tended toward the more energetic side of their music.  It was a top 5 show of the year for me – really great.

Eisley continued the culture clash, as competing shouts of “stand up!” and “sit down!” were heard between songs.  I love Eisley, but they weren’t rocking quite as hard as Paper Route and most of the people behind me were sitting, so I was happy to enjoy their set from my chair.  They played a nice, long set (about an hour), drawing from both of their albums and some of their EPs, as well as from their long-awaited, forthcoming album (no news yet on exactly when we should expect to see it released).  I was nervous that their set wouldn’t be good, since I was talking it up to anybody that would listen, but they didn’t disappoint, and it was great to see them playing Cornerstone for the first time in 8 years.  Hopefully now they’ll settle in and become regulars.

Over the Rhine closed the night with their traditional midnight (well, 11:30 this year) Gallery set.  The second set wasn’t greatly different in tone from their first in style, but was a completely different set of songs.  New songs again featured prominently in the set, and from what we’ve heard of their new material, it’s not a large departure from what they’ve been doing for the last couple of albums.  It sounds funny to say about a band that’s as low-key as Over the Rhine, but the set seemed a little subdued compared to their sets of the last few years.  There were some great moments throughout the set, though, including the opener “Born,” new song “The Laugh of Recognition,” and oldie “Professional Daydreamer.”  Unfortunately, the set ended kind of awkwardly – the band left the stage and the house lights and music came on, even though there was a 3-song encore listed on the set list.  Not sure what happened there, but more Over the Rhine is always a good thing.

Karin Bergquist of Over the Rhine

Today it’s mostly back to sampling new stuff, with the exception of Seabird and All the Day Holiday.  Tonight Tonight sounds promising, as do Highland Fall and At Cliffs End.  Plus, there seems to be a lot of hip hop on the schedule today, so I might check out some of that for something a little different.

Friday – There Are No Words


After an amazing Friday afternoon and evening, I don’t think I can come up with a suitable review or summary. Let’s just sum it up by saying that Deas Vail, Over the Rhine, Quiet Science, Paper Route and Eisley all brought incredible energy and some of the best sets that I’ve seen by any of them before. Over the Rhine had missed a year at Cornerstone and their absence was felt last year. It’s been a couple years since Paper Route has been here and almost a decade since Eisley played at the festival. I hope all of them return sooner than later!

It does feel a little like the festival hit it’s peak last night, but there’s still more to go. As usual, I’m finally hitting my stride and adjusting to “Cornerstone Time” on the last day, but that’s the way it goes with this festival. Some great bands will finish up the festival, I’m looking forward to All The Day Holiday, Future of Forestry, and Seabird today. While it’s not my thing, I know the kids are excited about August Burns Red and The Devil Wears Prada. Cornerstone is wrapping up, make sure to get everything you can out of the fun today!


Friday night… wow!

It’s hard to imagine a better night than we had Friday at Cornerstone, after an already solid day. I enjoyed bands like Deas Vail, Quiet Science and Campbell the Band, but an evening at the Gallery took it to another level. Paper Route was awesome! It’s a band I’d heard about, but hadn’t actually heard. Now I can’t wait to buy their CDs and listen again and again. I knew they were a special band when I looked around and saw the guy next to me grooving out, only to realize it was David Crowder himself checking out this band.

Next up was Eisley, a band that hasn’t been here since 2002. Please don’t wait until 2018 to come back! Eisley, you need to be here every year! I’ve seen these guys (er, gals) a couple of times, but this was the best I’ve heard them sound.

All of which led up to the highlight of the evening. Over the Rhine owns that midnight slot on Friday at the Gallery. I can’t imagine seeing any other band there. As one of my friends said last night, everything left at Cornerstone is the denouement, the wrap-up after reaching the climax of the event.