Rain all day, I’ll stay with you*

Moisture is definitely encompassing the Cornerstone grounds today. It seems that some campers have packed up, but those who remain are in for an unforgettable day. For some, the unforgettable nature will come from the switch of Main Stage acts to Encore I and Gallery Stages (as mentioned by others on the blog already). For others, the unforgettable aspects may come as a result of a new Saturday feature: a general session with worship & speakers in the Gallery.

This afternoon, in addition to being a refuge from the rain & mud, the Gallery is home to a general session with worship led by Bifrost Arts, a keynote address from Phyllis Tickle, and a round table response/discussion. Those attending will have opportunities to participate in worship (which, as the speakers reminded “is not a spectacle”), and be challenged with big ideas about the future of evangelicalism and more. It’s an opportunity to take the seminar conversations to the larger festival, and hopefully also a good way for the attendees to reconnect with God.

Organizers welcomed feedback about this Saturday general session to info@cornerstonefestival.com

*For the old-time music geeks out there, yes, the title of this post is inspired by Fleming & John. We listened to that on the drive in today.


Honestly, last night’s Anberlin show on the mainstage was the best performance I’ve seen from them. The band was tight, Steven Christian’s voice was particularly strong, and the mix was decent. They added a great cover of New Order’s “True Faith” to a wide mix of material from their last three studio albums. It was worth sitting in the rain to get to see that show.

Day 3 Wrap Up

So much good stuff was packed into this evening that I was all over the place.  I saw a ton of shows and I only hope I can remember half of what I saw and heard.

I started the afternoon off seeing Terry Taylor at the Gallery Stage.  The front man of so many famous bands, Daniel Amos, Swirling Eddies, Lost Dogs, etc. brought some of his friends, such as Mike Roe and Steve Hindalong on the stage and also his own son to play bass guitar.  The group reinterpreted many old classic songs to the delight of the crowd, many who have been fans for decades.

I hadn’t gotten a chance to get down to Main Stage at all this week, so I knew if I didn’t go tonight I wouldn’t get to.   I’ve gotten spoiled by having all my shows a short trek away.  So, I made the long walk down the hill and around the lake.  Just as I reached the lake I heard mewithoutyou finishing up “In A Sweater Poorly Knit” and crested the top of the hill above the stage to see a massive crowd at the show. The band was obviously a crowd favorite for many this year.  Following them was Shiny Toy Guns which brought a unique mix of dance and rock music to Main Stage.  After a couple songs, though, the rain began to fall and I, having expensive gadgetry and stuff to cover them back up the hill decided I should probably head back.

Fortunately, this gave me enough time to get back for Lost Dogs at the Gallery Stage.  Mike Roe, Terry Taylor, Steve Hindalong, and Derri Daugherty took a trip on Route 66 last summer, documenting the journey on video.  The show featured some nice rope twirling that Steve learned on the trip.  I had leave after a couple of songs, though, because there was one show at Cornerstone that I couldn’t miss.  When the best man in your wedding plays a show at Cornerstone, that trumps everything else.  Dave Richards was pumping out beats at the After Hours dance club.  I’ve said before that you can only go to Cornerstone so many times before you are driven to create also while you are there, whether it be playing music, painting, photography, or writing.   Indeed, there we were, Dave behind the turntables and me photographing him.

The rain started to fall a little harder, but it didn’t slow things down.  Cool Hand Luke played what many believe to be their last show at Cornerstone.  Mark Nicks played alone on keyboards while his wife joined him on a couple of songs and shared his heart about his many past years at Cornerstone and how much it meant to him as he played a couple of songs, both old and new.

I did a loop around the grounds to catch as much as I can at midnight.  The Gallery Stage featured music sponsored by To Write Love On Her Arms.  Zac Williams played a smoky set of soulful rock and blues.  Stephen Christian, fresh off of what I hear was an epic set by Anberlin (sad I missed it, but there’s only so much you can see), played some new music from his new project, Anchor and Braille.  Following them, Jamie Tworkowski came on stage and shared about TWLOHA.  He made an interesting comparsion about the life of the recently departed Micheal Jackson and how his life was a stark contrast of childlike wonder and deep, darkness from being wounded and wounding others and that many of us are the same.  His organization is doing a lot of good for people suffering from depression and self-mutilation, I would encourage you to check it out.

Meanwhile, The Crucified played a reunion show at Cornerstone for what must be the first time in many, many years.  This was a special moment for long-time veterans of the festival and the band delivered a hot set of punk/thrash music contrast with Mark Solomon’s sense of humor.  Nearly twenty years ago, people would be stage diving of the stage left and right and crowd surfing and moshing all around, but as he laughed, we’re all too old for that.

On the way back, I passed White Collar Sideshow, a drum and bass theatrical act at the Underground Stage.  The frontman and his wife were speaking a powerful message about pornography, fidelity, and living life for God instead of getting trapped in the American Dream.  I couldn’t stay for long, but I reflected on their words compared to the speaking going on at the same time for TWLOHA.  I hope Cornerstone is doing at least a small part to help beat back the hurts of the world in many of the people here and gives them hope and renewed faith in God, because once the festival ends, the reality of life hits back hard.

I’m uploading photos to my Flickr site as the week goes along.  Check them out and there should be more to come once I get home and give some of them a little Photoshop love!

Two things on everyone’s mind

1. Oh no! It’s the last day!

2. Oh no! It’s still raining!

The weather forecast calls for pretty solid rain thru 2pm, lesser chances after that. The festival forecast calls for it to be relatively calm this morning, then a strong wind will bring new bands & speakers to the stage this afternoon, finally culminating in a rock-your-face-off night at Main Stage.

Saturday evening should bring about a great end to the fest with favorites Living Sacrifice, The Devil Wears Prada, and Underoath rocking the mud at main stage. (Please, God, send some sun this afternoon to make it less messy down there!) Up at the midway area, it looks like Alethian wasn’t able to make the trip for their 10th Cornerstone, but other bands will certainly rock the Sanctuary. Other venues will feature the sweet modern sounds of bands like Seabird and Nightengale, or the great musicianship of bands like The Wayside or Glen Clark.

The rain may dampen our tents, but let’s not let it dampen our spirits for one final day of great music, great ideas, great friends, and great worship.

Day 3: Discovering New Music

There is so much going on at the festival today that I’m whirling around the festival grounds like one of those kids around the poles at the Flatfoot 56 show last night.  First in the day, however, I camped out at the New Band Stage.  At least once every day I like to spend an afternoon here to see what is coming around in the corner in music at the festival.  I was not disapointed today as I saw three good bands in a row on the stage.  First in the day Everfound performed.  The band was a family of kids, immigrants from Russia, that delivered a well-polished set of piano-driven rock music.  The kids at the show seemed to love it because their merchandise table was mobbed after the concert was over.

Next, Quiet Science played and they sounded great.  The band had great stage presence with the bass player bounding around the stage as they played a show sounding like U2, Mew, and Death Cab For Cutie.  This band has worked hard this week, playing generator stages all over the place for the entire festival and I was glad that I finally got a chance to catch them.  The last band I caught on the New Band Stage was Poema, two sisters backed up by their younger brother on percussion.  The sisters performed a set of music on guitar and piano that was whimsical and lilting.  Being a father of two girls myself, I hope someday that my little girls develop an appreciation and talent for music, even if they are never in a band.  I found myself enjoying the songs and hoping one day that I’ll get to hear them try out their own creativity.

I was running around fast after that, dropping by the Indoor Stage to see Remedy Drive.  This band has recently started to get attention, earning a nomination for a Dove Award earlier in the year and they were well attended.  The band took audience participation seriously as the lead singer pulled three kids onto the stage to play keyboards and hit drums and guitars for them as they jammed at the end of a song.  From there, I ran quickly down to the Gallery Stage to catch the end of Brooke Waggoner’s show.  I managed to catch the last two songs of the show which were jaunty and musical with keys and strings accompanying Waggoner’s voice.

Early in the day I took in new bands starting out their careers.  Later today, I’ll be seeing some of the veterans of the festival like Terry Taylor’s solo show along with his show with the Lost Dogs.  There’s also my friend David’s DJ set and all sorts of great stuff at midnight tonight.  I’ve got my running shoes on and I’m going to try to take in as much as I can.

Day 2 Report

After doing some damage to the pizza buffet at the Godfather’s That Time Forgot in Macomb (seriously, that place is straight out of 1985), I meandered toward the grounds for some of the early shows.

First up was supposed to be Army of Me, who sounded pretty good when I previewed them on MySpace.  As it turns out, only the singer for the band made the trip, and he played an acoustic set that for some reason I found very engaging.  I don’t know what it is about some “guy with acoustic guitar” shows that causes me to wander off while others hold my attention.  Maybe it’s that some “guys with acoustic guitars” approach it from the rock side of things (just “taking it down a notch”), while others approach it from the mellower side of things.  Whatever it is, I enjoyed this set quite a bit.

After catching parts of sets by Take the Sky and the Dark Romantics, I watched Deas Vail again play to a big crowd on the Indoor stage.  Watching their bass player play is one of the best things about their sets – despite the fact that the band as a whole leans toward the mellower side of rock, that guy’s all over the stage thrashing around and having a great time.  He’s fun to watch.

Next, I headed over to the Jesus Village to set up merch for Jeff Elbel + Ping, and watched them play another fun set.  The large band (including Maron on background vocals, Harry Gore on lead guitar, Mike Choby on organ, Andrew Oliver on drums, the violinist from Photoside Cafe, and still more people) was probably a little too much for the smallish stage and PA, so mixing the show was probably a huge problem, but everybody had a good time regardless.  Ping’s a longtime Cornerstone band that people probably overlook, and Jeff’s really not much for self-promotion, but next year, everybody should come check out their set – it’s a good time.

Following Ping, in true Cornerstone tradition, I missed a bunch of shows I wanted to see (All the Day Holiday, Rocketboys, the Becoming, Orphan Project, Rosie Thomas, and others) to just go hang out, eat dinner, and regroup for the evening.  The reason I come here is to see bands, but sometimes you just have to sacrifice seeing a few of them so you can better enjoy the ones you do see later.

I went to see Rodent Emporium on the Impromptu stage with some trepidation.  They were fun enough yesterday, but not really my thing.  This show hooked me, though.  I started out sitting in the back, and wound up standing on stage with the band at the end.  Musically, highlights included “I’m A Man, Not A Woman,” “Snake Patrol,” and a catchy song that I don’t know the title of with the chorus “we set you on fire, fire, fire, and gave you radiation poisoning.”  (Seriously, it’s awesome.)  Entertainment-wise, highlights included an old guy in an Over the Rhine t-shirt in a circle pit, watching the stage divers, and finding out that, thankfully, at least one Scotsman wears boxers under his kilt as he tumbled headfirst off of the crowd onto the stage.  At the end, the singer said “if I point to you, come up on the stage and stand there quietly.”  I was beside the stage taking photos, and who am I to disagree with a man with a mohawk and a kilt?  This was one of the most fun shows at the fest thus far

I caught a couple more shows, including a high-energy set from Astellaway and a very polished set from the Record Kid (from my hometown of Atlanta) before heading to Encore 2 for the midnight Stavesacre set.  The last time I saw them, on Main Stage a couple of years ago, the wall of rock the threw off the stage was absolutely blistering.  The Encore set didn’t quite reach that level, but it was a lot of fun.  The band was tight, but not so tight that they didn’t make a couple of mistakes – guitarist Jeff Bellew screwed up the opening riff to one song and had to stop and try again, and drummer Sam West tried to hit his sticks together to count off a song and missed, drawing a laugh from singer Mark Salomon.  They rocked hard for well over an hour, the longest set I’ve seen at the fest this year.  Salomon is awesome to watch as well as listen to, putting his whole body into what he’s singing, and Bellew and the rest of the band bring amazing intensity on every song.  I’m glad the band decided to stay together after nearly disbanding a couple of years ago.

Mark Salomon of Stavesacre

Cover Watch!

I’m starting to see some repeat shows, so Astellaway’s cover of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round” was a repeat.  I saw a random generator band covering the Romantics’ “What I Like About You.”  Ping gave us both Badfinger’s “No Matter What” and U2’s “North and South of the River.”  And both Ping and Dark Romantics introduced songs as covers that I was not familiar with, so I’m not sure who they were covering.

Today’s schedule is absolutely ridiculous, with up to 5 bands I want to see playing at the same time, and some hard choices tonight with Anberlin and Shiny Toy Guns conflicting with Terry Taylor and the Lost Dogs.  Check back tomorrow to see what I end up seeing.

Cornerstone Life in Photos

Feel like you’re missing out on Cornerstone since you couldn’t make it to the farm this year?

Wondering what your kids are up to this week?

Wanting to know what there is beyond music?

Here’s a little of what you could be experiencing (all links take you to the photo gallery):

Next year, just outside Bushnell!

Running strong to the end

Midway thru the fest, and I feel like I need a shot in the arm – a shot of energy to keep me going for another 2 days of great music.

Yesterday shall be dubbed as “nap day” in my memory of Cornerstone 2009. Feeling the effects of the Cornerstone Dust, I took cold medicine that completely wiped me out (so much for being “non-drowsy”). I slept thru all or part of at least 4 shows, several of which were decidedly in the hard rock category (proving, once again, that I can sleep thru anything!). Too bad, because I know I missed out on some great stuff! Here’s a quick rundown of what I was actually awake for on Thursday at Cornerstone:

The Rocketboys: I hail from the self-described “Live Music Capital of the World” but over the years the presence of Austin, Texas at Cornerstone has been somewhat limited (with the obvious exception of the fine folks from HM Magazine who hail from just outside our fair city). So, I was happy to see The Rocketboys at the Indie Community stage. They sufficiently rocked my face and I’ll be checking out their upcoming dates back home.

Deas Vail & The Wedding drew strong back-to-back crowds at the Indoor stage, with lots of college-aged people in attendance for both shows. I’ve known Deas Vail’s music for years – it’s a great soundtrack to keep me going during the workday – memorable guitar riffs and an overall beautiful sound work well with the lead singer’s distinctive vocals. The Wedding was new for me, but I’ll be coming back to their music as well.

Rodent Emporium literally rocked the Impromptu stage; the tent poles were dancing along with the audience. This is just plain silly fun – songs about snakes, sports, radiation, anything – and the crowd eats it up.

The best part of yesterday, though (other than the naps!) was just hanging out with friends. Sometimes, we can too quickly categorize Cornerstone as being just a music fest – when it’s really more like a community. I hope to do more of that today – talking to these friends energizes me! These friends are the best – they laugh at my jokes and I feel like I belong when I’m around them.

Here’s a bit of what I’d like to see today (not in order of importance, clearly!):

  • More time laughing with friends. That’s always good.
  • Eat a funnel cake.
  • Walk thru the art pligrimage (leading from near the big merch booth down to the footbridge)
  • Leadership Forum with Glenn Kaiser at noon (a forum for church staffers)
  • Anberlin at Main Stage. This may mean I miss Nightengale (the best new band I saw last year) but I can catch them on Saturday instead.

Here’s to hoping I can keep going strong and not miss out on all Cornerstone has to offer!

Day 2 Is Under Way!

It’s Thursday and I’m finally starting to settle into “Cornerstone time” where staying up to 2 AM and sleeping in until 10 AM doesn’t seem all that unusual.  Everyone at the festival seems to be settling in.  It’s not quite as frantic around the grounds and more established bands are taking the stages.  We’re now in the thick of it.

Today I start the day out over on the Indoor Stage.  The lead singer of Army of Me starts the day off with a show on acoustic guitar.  Normally he plays with a full band, but for Cornerstone he travelled alone from DC to the festival in his small car.  His show was good enough that I will have to check out their music and see what they sound like as a band.  From there, I walked over to the Gallery Stage to see Mike Roe.  Roe plays a set of new songs from his upcoming solo album as well as some 77’s songs from their most recent album.  The audience gave Roe standing ovations when he started and when he ended appreciating his status as a long-standing veteran of the festival.

I saw my second set of Deas Vail which delivered a whole different set of songs.  Their energy is infectous and a crowded  tent  at the Indoor Stage was into the show.  I love seeing shows like this that are fun and joyous.  Finally, I wrapped up the afternoon with Andrew Oliver and Jeff Elbel+Ping at the Jesus Village tent.  Andrew Oliver is Elbel’s drummer and played a solo set of his own before sitting behind the kit and playing another show for Elbel.  Jeff’s show was loose with lots of covers (“No Matter What” by Badfinger, “North and South Of The River” by U2) but probably the most fun show I’ve seen him do so far.

I take a flier on a band called The Rocketboys on the Indie Community Stage.  The lead singer hurled ten times(!) into the port-a-potties the day before, but he was a professional and sang fantastic for the show.  I really enjoyed their show and I’ll have to check out their CD.  This is the fun part of Cornerstone, discovering new bands.  There’s still more stuff to discover tonight before Mark Solomon returns to the festival to wrap things up first tonight with Stavesacre and then tomorrow night with a renunion of The Crucified.

Wednesday: Watching how we’ve grown

While Tuesday was an interesting day with lots of new acts, by Wednesday morning, it felt like Cornerstone was in full force. All around the grounds, favorite bands were taking to the stage. For me, it was a day of watching how the fest has grown. I’m not talking about numbers, just talking about how the fest has grown up over the years to include so many new things, and about how individual people have grown.

For me, the day started with the first-ever tweet-up. People who follow @cstn on twitter got together in the back of the Gallery stage to meet each other, talk about new music & even the ministry impact of new technology. There wasn’t any organized conversation, just people with a shared interest chatting with voices rather than keyboards. If you missed it, be sure to check it out next year – I’m 99% sure we’ll be doing it again (I use “we” in a loose sense, of course…) Around the tweet-up, I met moms coming with their kids from California & Michigan, an acoustic singer-songwriter from Pennsylvania, a member of the band Don’t Wake Aislin, some music lovers & photography geeks from England, and many others (including some from my hometown!). It was a nice little slice of Cornerstone life. It’s nice to see the fest continuing to grow to use new technology. Twitter has definitely brought more people into the conversation.

The acoustic singer-songwriter I met at the tweet-up was Hiram Ring. He told me he was playing 1:30 at the Impromptu stage. He seemed like a nice guy, so after catching a bit of the Owl City show (super packed; I’m sure one of our other bloggers will write about it), I headed over. I’m glad I did! Hiram’s vocals were clear & strong, and though it was just him, he managed to beat a rhythmic melody on his guitar. Beautiful! This was another moment to contemplate how people have grown – Hiram mentioned how he grew up in West Africa, and his songs included references to navigating what home means.

Next up was All the Day Holiday, a 4-piece from Ohio. I really enjoyed them last year, so I was glad to see a fairly crowded tent. The title track of their new album “Thhe Things We’ve Grown to Love” has a nice quality to the vocals. The album is available in August (or at the fest for just $5). “Fingerprints” from their older album would be a good introduction to this band, if you ask me – clap-along beat, melodies that punch thru, and very open airy yet strong vocals. As far as I know, these guys had their Cornerstone debut on a generator stage a few years ago. Another example of bands growing into their prime after a few fest experiences.

I wrote in my earlier post about Men As Trees Walking. This family-and-friends project brought an authentic, beautiful style to heartfelt worship music. I caught the phrase “firstborn over all creation” in one song; that’s the kind of big idea we ought to have songs about.

Later in the afternoon, our friends gathered to watch another friend & his band rock the Gallery stage. Jeff Elbel + Ping brought their catchy songs and a give-away of debatable value. Excellent! They’re playing again on the Jesus Village Stage today. Continuing the theme of how we’ve grown – this band seems to grow every time I see them. Jeff gets tons of talented artists to join him each year.

I’m sure Jeff Holland will blog about the Square Peg Alliance shows. I just want to add how I enjoyed the thoughtfulness these guys & girl have in expressing truth & love. One of the guys (sorry, I forget which one) had a lyric about resurrection & redemption in a song about where he’d be buried that was just beautiful: “Lay me anywhere, just remember this. When you lay me down to die, you lay me down to live.” Several of these talented songwriters are people I was famliar with in the past, working with bands of a different era. It was beautiful to see them growing into their own voices.

As a friend likes to say, we then shifted gears without a clutch and went from the land of pretty acoustic music to Main Stage. Family Force 5 brought a dancier show than last year. The guys came out wearing football pads – with their dancer dressed as a referee. I love how these guys feel like a band, and not just a solo act with backup – they all get into the mix with crazy wackiness and high energy. These guys, too, have grown so much since their first Cornerstone experiences.

After an inspiring interlude with a visual performance artist, Relient K came back to familiar territory they hadn’t seen in a while. Last year, these guys played Warped Tour, and the year before their bus broke down (and burned, if I recall correctly). But, it was apparent they were happy to be back at Cornerstone, a place some of them have been around since the late ’90s (selling merch for other bands; they first played in 2001). Relient K seems to be a band that is navigating the akward growing-up stage — from writing super catchy high-school-inspired songs like “Sadie Hawkins Dance” into moments like their closing song, “Deathbed.” They said they haven’t been touring a lot lately, and seemed a little tired on some songs, but brought it strong for several new songs which struck a great balance between the fun Relient K of their first Cornerstone (including a tribute to The Office, with the line “transfer us to Scranton”) and the maturing guys they’re now becoming (with lyrics like “resurrect the saint from within the wreck” and “accept the things I can’t change now”). I hope the band can grow thru this transition and continue to put on shows that both excite the students down front and their peers who are increasingly choosing to sit up on the hill (but who are still singing along & moving to the beat).

Overall, a very successful day – filled with new artists I hope to see in the years ahead, and also watching old favorites who have grown into themselves and are making great music.