Day 1 – Swing, Swing

Wednesday was the first full day of Cornerstone 2010 proper, with all of the stages getting into full swing.  Thankfully after an exhausting Tuesday, I was finally getting into the swing of things as well – my body finally clicked over to “Cornerstone time.”

The day started with one of the bands that I was most looking forward to seeing after previewing them pre-fest, the Kicks.  They’re a 4-piece from Nashville that plays southern rock with a modern slant.  They’re tight, and their harmony vocals are great.  I really enjoyed this show – my favorite of the fest thus far.  You can download their album for free at

After the Kicks, I did a little stage surfing, because several of the bands I wanted to see ended up not playing.  Then I headed over to the Gallery stage to catch a couple of sets from some long-time Cornerstone vets – Terry Taylor of DA (with Mike Roe of the 77s and Steve Hindalong of the Choir backing him on bass and drums, respectively), followed by a set from Roe and Derri Daugherty of the Choir.  Their set was surprising – I expected it to focus on stuff from Derri’s solo EP, but instead they played a couple of Roe songs, some Lost Dogs stuff, and a couple of Daniel Amos songs.  Good stuff, and they’re working on an album together, as well.

Next, Jeff Elbel + Ping played their annual Gallery set, with a wide array of musicians on stage (drums, percussion, more percussion, organ, violin, and more besides).  It was great – they played some oldies from Elbel’s previous band, Farewell to Juliet, some older Ping songs, and some brand new material from Ping’s forthcoming CD.  If you like straightforward rock and roll, well-performed by a bunch of solid musicians, come check out Ping on the Jesus Village tonight at 6 PM.  Also, visit to download a free Ping record.

After Ping’s set, I was adrift for a couple of hours once more, as a couple more bands that I wanted to see were no-shows.  I had dinner and checked out a few different stages, up until the hard choices began around 10 PM.  At 10, there were three bands that I specifically wanted to see: tobyMac on Main Stage, the Lost Dogs on the Gallery, and Quiet Science on the Jesus Village.  I eventually settled on starting out with tobyMac.  His set was very much like what I’ve seen from him in the past, but he does what he does so well that I don’t mind seeing it again.  With a 9-piece backing band flying all over the stage, and a couple of big LED-curtain backdrops that were a first for Cornerstone as far as I can recall, this was a band that was perfect for Main Stage.  I enjoyed about 30 minutes of the set, and then moved on to Quiet Science.

I first saw Quiet Science at Cornerstone last year, and I’ve seen them once more since.  Their songs are quite good, but it’s been my experience that they don’t completely come across live just yet.  Last night’s set was hindered by some technical problems (the singer broke strings on both of his guitars), but in some ways, that just made the set cooler.  The band soldiered on sans-guitar for a song, and then a guy showed up with a rockin’ Gibson SG for the singer to borrow, which he seemed excited to play.  So, although it wasn’t the most polished set, it was one of the most fun that I’ve seen this year.

I missed the Lost Dogs (but then found out that they’re playing in my hometown next week, so that worked out), so I ended my night at the Gallery with Iona, a Celtic progressive rock band that’s been around for a long time but apparently doesn’t make it to the States very often.  I’d never seen them live, so although I never got into their music, I was curious to give them a listen.  The individual performances were outstanding (as befits prog rock) and the Gallery sound was pristine, so they sounded really good.  I wasn’t as into it as I might have been had I been more familiar with their music, but it was good stuff that I’m glad I got a chance to see.

So, that brings us up to today.  There are only a few “must-see” things that I’m scheduling my day around (Ping, the Choir), so I’ll be spending a lot of time checking out new-to me stuff like The Clutter, News From Verona, Bleach, The Almost, and Lightshine Theater (a REZ tribute band, of all things).  Should be a fun day, and thankfully devoid of hard schedule decisions.


Wednesday Night

On any given night at Cornerstone Festival, there are a dizzying variety of choices to make for who to see in concert. The choices are as across the board as can be, too. I started my evening out with mewithoutyou on the Main Stage. They commanded a big crowd and hit through many of their more popular songs while adding in a few from their new album. I can’t really accurately describe their sound, but they have a pretty big following here at the festival and they all showed up for the show.

I could’ve stayed for Red and TobyMac (who I did hear while walking back and forth on the grounds, it’s just about impossible to miss whoever is playing on Main Stage), but I headed to the Gallery tent where two longstanding acts performed once again. The Lost Dogs are a yearly favorite and this year they finally had their newest album, Old Angel, a travelogue about their trip on Route 66 for sale. Mike Roe wailed on guitar during “Bullet Train” and “Eleanor It’s Raining” and Steve Hindalong twirled a rope to the crowd’s delight. After their show, Iona brought their Celtic progressive rock back to Cornerstone after an absence of nearly 15 years. The band performed some old favorites from their albums in the 90’s, a couple longer progressive pieces, and even an Irish jig or two.

The cold temperature starting kicking in and my residue exhaustion from my banished strep throat had me bailing out early, but what I saw of Iona was great. On to today with The Almost, some new Nashville stuff on the Gallery stage, a visit to see my friend David DJ at the Dance Tent, and then the long-awaited return of The Choir tonight.

Wednesday at Cornerstone

If you’re looking for diversity (or as TobyMac calls it “diverse city”), look no further than Main Stage at Cornerstone on Wednesday night.

From the quirky indie-rock of mewithoutyou to the aggressive alternarock of Red, and finally the hip-hop, pop, funk machine that is TobyMac and his band, Cornerstone had a little  bit of everything Wednesday night.

The much-discussed main stage move is showing some benefits. For one, the ccentral location makes it easier to get to. I think more people are stopping and checking out the main stage shows that they would’ve otherwise missed completely.

And having the stage right in the middle of the grounds makes it the focal point of the physical environment. You can see the main stage from much of the outlying area. It was always cool for me to come up over the hill and see the stage. But for the rest of the day, main stage was out of sight and out of mind. Now it’s always lurking.

If you’re not here, there’s still time for some great shows — Skillet, The Devil Wears Prada, The Almost, David Crowder Band, and a ton more.

Wednesday afternoon with the Gallery Family

Jeff Elbel and the Ping family

If the Main Stage move is somewhat drastic, the Gallery move seems almost imperceptible. Oh sure, the tent has moved, but it’s almost as if it was teleported, complete with fans and bands to the new location. The stage is the same. The arrangement of chairs and tables is the same. The coffee shop is still there. Even many of the same people that frequent the crowd from year to year seem to have found their way to the new location.

The afternoon set of artists reinforced that familiarity. Mike Roe performed solo and then joined Terry Taylor for an acoustic set. Later, Roe performed a duet with Derri Daugherty with all sorts of cover songs. Guitar tech Jeff Elbel brought his band Ping on the stage and even brought children of the band on stage for a song. Family is a strong theme at Cornerstone and for many of the artists and patrons of the Gallery stage, this is their family at the festival.

As a postscript: I also caught The Kicks on the Underground Stage and they were great. They have a free album for download at


Day 0 – All Mixed Up

The “start” of the festival is a little fuzzy anymore, since a lot of bands played on generator stages on Monday and early Tuesday.  Let’s call Tuesday “Day 0” since there were at least a handful of bands on the actual festival stages.  The weather was beautiful – sunny, dry, not too hot – and looks to continue that way for the rest of the week.  I’m loving that, though I could do with a bit less dust.

As my blogging compatriots have already written, the schedules that are published before the festival for the generator stages are suggestions at best, and between that, some technical problems on a couple of stages that put them behind schedule and a few last-minute cancellations, we had a bit of trouble actually finding the bands that we wanted to see.  That’s par for the course, though, so you just have to be flexible and try to keep up as best you can.  It does, however, seem like some sort of centralized way of distributing schedule information (Twitter?) would be handy (“Pilate Error starts in 5 minutes on the Impact Stage”) if the technical details could be worked out.

I started the day wandering amongst the generator stages and saw a handful of good bands, including the Rendition, Sleep For Sleepers, Rodent Emporium, and bits and pieces of Men As Trees Walking, Preson Phillips, the Wayside, and Breille.  Breille was playing an old-school (and unauthorized) generator set on the side of the road, just 3 guys and a minimal amount of gear, but they sounded pretty tight until they got shut down.  There were a few other impromptu side-of-the-road sets around the grounds, too, but they were mostly acoustic things, including a guy with an accordion trying to make enough tips to pay off a speeding ticket.

The main thing that I took away from my experience at the new generator stage layout was that trying to stagger things so that stages aren’t playing at the same time right next to each other would be nice.  Given the fluid nature of the schedules for those stages, it’s probably not possible, though.

The centerpiece of the evening took place on the new centerpiece of the festival grounds, Switchfoot on the relocated Main Stage.  The stage looks kind of cool in its new location – it kind of looms in the background of most of the places around the grounds now.  Seeing the right band play on that stage when one of the occasional glorious Cornerstone sunsets is going on behind them will be pretty awesome.  As for Switchfoot, they were better than I expected them to be.  I saw them a couple of times way back in the day and didn’t much care for them, but their newer material comes across better live, and the band (with Jon Foreman in the lead) does deliver a good rock show.  Foreman takes a lot of cues from the Bono school of performance – climbing stage scaffolding, jumping into the crowd, slinging his guitar behind his back, pulling out a harmonica – but Bono’s not a bad guy to emulate if you’re trying to put on a big rock show.

I was dead tired by the end of the night – apparently I’m getting old, and it takes me a bit longer to switch over to “Cornerstone time” than it used to – so I ended my musical evening with Nitengale (who are apparently down to just the singer playing piano or acoustic guitar).  Unfortunately, I only caught the last 3 or 4 songs of the set, but they were quite good.  Playing solo, the singer’s voice really shines – I never realized what a good singer he is from seeing the band live and listening to their first album.  I’m going to try to catch more of the set tonight at 9 on the Jesus Village.

Today: the Kicks (a straightforward rock and roll band that I’m really looking forward to seeing live), perennial fest favorites Terry Taylor, Mike Roe, and the Lost Dogs, Jeff Elbel + Ping; and too much other stuff to choose from.  It should be a good day for music!


Tuesday Wrapup

One of the great things about Cornerstone is that many of the performers are also fans. While I was down front for the Switchfoot show (which by the way, thumbs up for the new Main Stage. Loved seeing everyone all gathered in the middle of the grounds and the views of the stage were perfect even if you weren’t down front), the lead signer for Nitengale was standing right in front of me. Only 40 minutes later I was watching him performing on the Chelsea Cafe stage.

Seems like everyone is here to see someone perform. So many shows to see.


You rock, ladies

Unconsciously, it seems that rock & roll is a man’s world. Most bands have guys as lead singers, guys as drummers, guys as bass players… you get the picture. Maybe there would be a girl running the merch booth (probably somebody’s wife or girlfriend), but that’s it.

But, today… it seems that this unwritten rule is being revised. I saw not one, but two bands with female singers today (The Rendition and Men as Trees Walking). I also saw a solo female singer on a generator stage. And, friends tell me they saw a woman rocking a 5-string bass.

Whenever I see a band with a female singer or backing musician, I notice many more females in the crowd. Rock on girls – turns out that music is our world, too!


Tuesday: Early day concerts

Early in the festival, especially with the generator stages, flexibility is the key word at Cornerstone. Things invariably go off schedule. Bands fail to show up. Stages lose power. Things happen. So, sometimes the band you intended to see end up playing at a different time. That means I’ve been on the move a lot, trying to see what I’m intending to see. Early in the day, I caught Karina Mia, who played a Jason Mraz cover for us on ukelele. The Rendition played probably the best set of he early afternoon with a nice rock show with keyboards and guitars and nice, strong vocals from the female lead singer. Over on the Anchor Stage, Allen Aguirre exorted the crowd “who can approach the throne of God? You can!” with his band Men As Trees Walking. The band is truly a family as one of the singers, Aquirre’s daughter and one of the guitarists, his son-in-law, are expecting a child very, very soon.

Continuing along the lines of flexibilty, I wandered by the old Main Stage grounds heading out to the new Main Stage. I have to say I really like how the Main Stage towers above the rest of the grounds. You can see it from almost anywhere at the festival. When the Main Stage was over by the lake, it was special because it was separate from the rest of the action. Now, however, its the center of the action. I’m looking forward to seeing how Switchfoot commands the center of attention tonight.


A Visit To The Asylum…

At a typical Cornerstone, the goth community often keeps to itself.  Those of us who don’t identify with that lifestyle tend to stay away from The Asylum, the goth community’s tent at Cornerstone. After last night,  I hope that will change some.

The festival program contained a description of what sounded like a unique worship experience, Nailed (To The Cross), so I headed over to The Asylum to check it out. Being greeted at the door with a piece of laffy taffy (trick or treating) and walking beneath a sign that said “Enter if you dare…” I found this rather dark tent (for obvious reasons) ironically inviting. Several people made a point to speak with me and make me feel welcome as I gazed around in amazement at the decor of skeletons, coffins, bats, Heath Ledger’s “Joker”, and artistic renderings of Jesus and icons.  I settled into a seat and waited on the service to begin.

Shortly after 11, the service started up, although it was bit difficult to compete with the loud generator stages next door. Musical instruments were passed out to the entire audience (which consisted almost entirely of non-goths). We then sang through several Taize like songs based on the language of the Psalms, the worship book of the Jewish people and the early church. The energy felt in the room as each person played their instrument for God could only be described as joy, although fully describing the feeling would be impossible. It was clear that the Holy Spirit showed up. After a short evangelical message based on Psalm 22 and a retelling of the Gospel, a pastor led us through communion and the Lord’s prayer.

I wouldn’t call this service goth in anyway, other than being led by people who identify with that community; I think it would be best described as post-modern. It is very indicative of how Christianity is changing. Young Christians are becoming dissatisfied with the way churches are doing things and long to grow deeper in their faith by connecting with the ancient root of it (as evidenced through the singing and use of Psalms in worship). Also evident that this hunger for ancient Christian spirituality exists is the fact that the majority of the audience would not normally hang out at The Asylum.

Maybe I will go back Friday night for the Halloween party…

A Cornerstone Key Word…

When I think of Cornerstone many things come to mind: loud music, elephant ears, seminars, camping, the lake, etc. One thing that often gets lost in the shuffle for me is one that at a Christian event should be a high priority: WORSHIP.

Worship means many things to many people. A common misconception is that it consists solely of a guy or girl playing songs on a guitar while a crowd sings along. That is ONE element of worship. Worship encompasses prayer, scripture, preaching, music, dancing, pretty much our entire lives.

There is no shortage of worship opportunities at this year’s festival. No matter what your church background, liturgical to Pentecostal, you should be able to find something at Cornerstone that fits. Here is a sampling of what can be found:

Catholic Mass- Hosted by the Imagninarium seminar tent, this will take place Wed. – Fri. at 9 am.

Breakaway- Teenagers can worship each morning with a band and speaker just for them. The Alive Band will be leading this year followed by various speakers. As usual, this will be at the Gallery Stage.

Nailed (To The Cross)- This “freeform” service of music, prayer, scripture, communion, and Bible study takes place nightly at The Asylum, the goth tent. Don’t be afraid if you aren’t goth, the services are open to all. I received a warm welcome in there earlier today.

Morning Services/Bible Studies at Generator Stages- The Generator Stages are known for their loud screaming and grinding guitars but a couple of them are taking time out for worship and study this year. Check with the stages to find one. There is also a morning service at the Sancrosanct Records Stage.

11 PM Services at Anchor/Come and Live!- This tent co-hosted by Nashville church The Anchor Fellowship and Come and Live will close out the night with worship music and a speaker from a band. I attended some of their services last year, and they were very powerful.

Community Gathering- The grandaddy of all Cornerstone festival worship services! This year’s service will be held on Main Stage Friday night. Parachute Band will start off the worship followed by a little known worship artist; I believe his name is David Crowder. I sure hope he knows what to do!

These are the ones that are in the official program. If there are any worship opportunities that I have left off, feel free to add them to the comments section.

Most importantly, while at Cornerstone this week, enjoy the music, but don’t forget to nourish your soul and connect with the Savior.