OK, first things first.  It’s hot.  Like, circus hot.  Having daytime shows out in the open at Main Stage really hammers the point home, and today’s going to be worse, so remember to get out of the sun when you can, and drink more water than you think you need.  Cornerstone’s no fun if you’re passed out in the first aid trailer.

Day 2 of the festival, the first “official” day with all of the stages fully up and running, was eventful.  An hour-long power outage took down just about everything on the grounds (and, from what I hear, some stuff out in Bushnell, as well) except for the generator stages and Main Stage (which also runs off of some industrial strength generators).  That ensured that the schedules were in complete disarray on most of the stages.  Some artists soldiered on, like Mike Roe playing his set unplugged (literally).  Others, like Vinacious (whose sound is mostly keyboards and electric guitar), just had to call it a day when the power went out.  Even the giant inflatable water slide went flat.  But everybody took it in stride, the generator stages got a good boost, and eventually things got back to normal (or as close as it gets out here).

The big event for the day was the Jesus Rally on Main Stage, with a full day of classic Christian Rock pioneers (some of whom hadn’t played a show together in 20 years or more).  It, too, was on “Cornerstone Time,” running about an hour late all day due to some late arrivals and extra-long sound checks.  The older folks were out in force, braving the heat to see the bands of their youth, and there were a lot of younger fans there too, which was nice to see.  I fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, so for me, it was a mix of artists that I’m a big fan of but have rarely seen (Resurrection Band, Petra with Greg Volz, Daniel Amos) and artists that I’m aware of but had never really listened to (Barry McGuire, Phil Keaggy, Servant, and others).

Barry McGuire was my favorite out of the artists that I wasn’t that familiar with.  He was obviously enjoying himself, and his enthusiasm was infectious as he told the stories behind songs like “Bullfrogs and Butterflies” and “Eve of Destruction,” led the crowd in sing-alongs, and shared his testimony (which involved marijuana, the Mamas and the Papas, and Good News for Modern Man).  And I’m pretty sure he’ll win the award for the most unexpected cover of the week with his version of Madonna’s “Frozen.”

Daniel Amos, who have actually been out on the road for the last few weeks on their first tour in a decade or so, played a fun, tight, hit-laden 45 minute set that spanned their career, from the first song they ever recorded (“Ain’t Gonna Fight It”), to the last song on their latest album (“And So It Goes”).  In between, they hit a lot of favorites, like “Mall (All Over the World),” “Walls of Doubt,” “Sanctuary,” and “I Love You #19.”  It was fantastic seeing Terry, Jerry, Greg, and Ed playing together again, and bassist Tim Chandler (who couldn’t join the tour due to other commitments) was missed, but touring bassist Paul Averitt was incredibly fun to watch.  He played with authority, sang most of the background parts, and stomped around the stage like he was playing with Anberlin instead of DA.  My only complaint is that there wasn’t more of the set to love.

As John Thompson pointed out in his introduction, without Resurrection Band, there wouldn’t be a Cornerstone Wendi and Glenn Kaiser of Resurrection BandFestival.  Glenn and Wendi Kaiser and their cohorts were one of the first Christian hard rock bands, tackling issues in their lyrics that a lot of other bands wouldn’t touch.  The music and the message both still resonate today.  The band sounded great, and played with a lot of fire.  Wendi, in particular, gave it everything she had – at rehearsal the day before, she was using a cane to move around the stage, but during the Main Stage set, she had the crew bring her a wireless microphone so she could get out on the catwalk to speak and sing and get closer to the fans.  I’m thankful for every opportunity I get to see REZ play a show.

I literally ran from the Resurrection Band set to the Gallery to see Paper Route, who delivered my favorite set of last year’s festival.  After the departure of one member, they added a couple more, so they’re playing as a six-piece now.  Lead singer J.T. spoke about how hard the last year had been for him, and his gratitude for the support of the fans who packed the front of the stage was evident.  The set drew primarily from Absence, along with a sneak peek at a song from their forthcoming album.  The set was great, and I can’t wait to hear the new album.

Back at Main Stage, a reunited “classic” Petra lineup (singer Greg Volz, drummer Louie Weaver, bassist Mark Kelley, keyboardist John Lawry, and guitar stalwart Bob Hartman) closed out the Jesus Rally.  If I’m honest, things didn’t go too well for them – Greg stumbled on a few lyrics, and not even Guitar Hero “Star Power” could keep them from failing out after they started “Clean” in about 3 different keys and had to have a band huddle to sort things out.  But I was a teenage Petra fanboy who never got to see the band with Volz, even though I always liked that era of the band the best, so even though the performance wasn’t great, it was still fun to have the chance (which I never thought I’d have) to sing along with the band on songs like “Bema Seat,” “Angel of Light,” “It Is Finished,” and “All Over Me.”  I wish they’d been a little tighter, but it was still really cool to see them play.

So I made it through the day without bursting into flames, I saw some of my favorite bands from back in the day, and I saw one of my favorite current bands.  That’s a win all around.

Sunscreen, shade, shake-ups

The heat was on Thursday at Cornerstone, and Friday may be even hotter. To help you beat the heat, here are some time-honored suggestions:

  • Drink lots of water, then drink some more. To quote many a youth pastor, “drink enough so you have to pee.” Sounds obvious, but I know people who have missed their favorite bands from not drinking enough water. After satisfying hydration needs with water, a lemon or strawberry shake up is refreshing.
  • Enjoy the shade, but don’t overheat in a tent without a breeze, either. You might even take a cue from some folks often found near The Asylum and pop open an umbrella for portable shade.
  • If it’s your turn to fetch ice for your campsite, believe me that it is remarkably satisfying to carry it on your head.
  • This might also be a good day to offer to make a run into Macomb for extra supplies…
  • Stay positive, laugh about the heat, help a friend or a total stranger, and enjoy another great day at Cornerstone!

The morning came too soon

Perhaps it was inspired by the retro music last night.

Perhaps it was inspired by going to bed sometime after 2am, knowing I had a date with a washer & dryer at 8am.

Perhaps it was inspired by a hot day Thursday, with an even hotter day predicted for Friday.

I’m not sure what, but I went to bed & woke up with these lyrics from 1992 in my head:

Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so much work left to do
But so much You’d already done

Some of my fellow bloggers are picking heat-inspired songs to listen to today. I doubt they’ll come up with this old ccm-ish Rich Mullins tune (in fact, I’m surprised *I* thought of it!), but I think it fits perfectly today. The morning has come way too soon, the day will most definitely be too hot, there’s a whole lot left, but there’s so much our God has already done!

Cornerstone-rs (is that what we call ourselves? I’m never sure) have celebrated what God has done a lot already this week.

I’ve heard female-fronted Witness 7 playing the Impact generator stage talking about surviving a suicide attempt. Lead singer for Paper Route, J.T. Daly, told the excited crowd at the Gallery about how this has been an incredibly hard year, but he still sees how God shows up. Some young guys from Joplin who make up Dead American Radio on the Ignite generator stage pointed out that their drum kit (and them!) had survived an EF5 tornado, with the lead singer sharing a remarkable story of surviving being yanked into the rotating cloud. Barry McGuire at the Jesus Rally talked about using way too many drugs, but encountering “Good News for Modern Man” and eventually surrendering to Christ.

It’s not just bands who celebrate… You can see the evidence of God at work as you walk by the Art Pilgrimage, notice people willingly choose to sit in hot tents to pray or listen to seminary-level talks, and catch snippets of conversations of friends gathered around campsites. It even happens for me: I’ve talked with friends, rejoicing that (for the first time in 2 years), I’m able to actually walk around the fest grounds without severe pain. I really & truly thank God for that.

There’s a lot left to do this week… There are more lemon shake-ups to be drunk. There’s a very hot day to be positive about. There’s at least one fried dough product in my future. There are several bands left on my must-not-miss list. There are seminars to attend. There are laughs to be had. The Cornerstone Coverage Team has a lot of videos to make (yes, videos are coming ). There are friends to hug. But, there’s already a lot that God has done!

Things Are Heating Up

Dude crashed on the ground at the first band of the day.Admit it – we’ve all felt like the guy in the picture from time to time at Cornerstone.  Although not usually at the first band on the first day of the fest – dude, you’ve got to pace yourself!  It’s amazing to see what people (including myself) can manage to sleep through.  Brain-thumping dance music?  Check.  Two hardcore bands at the same time?  No problem.  I once saw a guy sleeping on the ground in the crowd outside a Flatfoot 56 show.  Everybody deftly avoided him, somehow – I almost felt like I should go kick him in the head (lovingly) just to get the inevitable over with.  Anyway, remember – Cornerstone is a marathon, not a sprint.

(Seriously, though, if the forecast that I’ve been seeing holds, it’s going to be hotter for the next couple of days than it’s been for several years at the fest, with a heat index of 110 on Saturday.  Wear sunscreen, get into some shade when you can, and drink more water than you think you need – if you’re not visiting the Little Blue Room a few times a day, you’re probably not drinking enough.  Take care of each other!)

“Day 0” of the festival is in the books.  I spent a lot of time catching up with friends (including some folks I wasn’t expecting to see, like Mark from Scotland, who came all the way from, well, Scotland for his second Cornerstone in a row).  Musically, the day was heavy on bands playing the generator stages, along with some unexpected surprises.  Some bands worth mentioning:

  • Tim Serdynski – Some nice acoustic music to kick off Cornerstone 2011.  Very pleasant stuff – if you’re looking for something to chill out to, he’s playing a ton of generator sets through the week.  There’s a trio playing similarly acoustic-driven worship music that usually plays before or after him (sorry, I didn’t catch the name) that’s also worth a listen.
  • Belair, Stone Throw Second, and Adelaine – Honestly, there’s a bit of a dearth of melodic but rocking bands at the festival this year if you’re not into the screaming.  Anberlin on Main Stage is going to be great, but a lot of other bands in that vein either aren’t here this year or have broken up.  All of these new-to-me bands filled that niche admirably, though.  They’re all playing several more generator sets this week, so if non-screamy melodic rock is your thing, check them out.
  • Rodent Emporium – OK, so the music (bizarre and occasionally indescribable Scottish punk) isn’t necessarily my thing, but this is still a must-see band.  They’re outrageously fun.  Just watching the crowd dance and enjoy themselves with reckless abandon is totally worth it.
  • Resurrection Band – So the on-again, off-again “open rehearsal” by Daniel Amos on the Gallery last night fell through (there are still rumblings of efforts to secure them another slot besides their all-too-brief Main Stage slot today, so keep your ear to the ground), but that meant we got an extra-long rehearsal set from REZ.  I admit that I’m a total fanboy for REZ – I only ever saw them once during their heyday, back in 1991, so every chance to see them is exciting.  Wendi, Glenn, and crew are parents and grandparents at this point, but they can still kick some butt when given the chance.

Today gives us some new bands worth checking out (Dead American Radio, Milano), some legendary artists that laid the foundation for literally all of the music that we’re listening to this week (Stonehill, Keaggy, DA, REZ, Petra), an agonizing choice (Paper Route versus Keaggy and Petra), and a Flatfoot 56 people-watching extravaganza to top it all off.  Should be great!

Free. Feast. Friends.

Free hugs? That’s, like, so 2007.

I’ll still happily take a free hug,  but free ramen is where it’s at these days.

Wander through a few competing hardcore bands, then head behind the Gallery stage and you’ll see an unexpected red and white tent that is not on any map. Get up the courage to go in, and you’ll see friendly people sharing what they have: camp stoves, boxes of ramen noodles, and the remnants of pbj. Signs ask you to not only clean up after yourself (your mom is not here, after all), but also to cook your own food. Considering that it is all free, that’s not such a bad trade.

I talked to the tent’s founder, now in her third or fourth year hosting this simple feast. I wanted to know what inspired her. Was she wanting her favorite band to stop by? Was  she wanting to teach others about loving your neighbor? I asked why she went to this much work, feeding hundreds of her fellow fest-goers. She responded in true Cornerstone fashion, authentically, down to earth, and rooted far more in real faith than plastic religion. She started giving away ramen as a way for a shy person to meet people and help them out, since everybody needs to eat. Judging from the crowd happily cooking, hanging out (and, yes, I think a few were cleaning up), I think she had met her goal.

Free ramen plus authenticity apparently equals community.

I can get behind that.

Wandering around…

The first couple days of the fest don’t really have a defined schedule. Most of the official stages aren’t open and the legendary generator stages, unique to this festival, are open. They are literally called generator stages because they are powered by generators set up by fans and small, indie music companies or ministries. I like to think they are called generator stages because they generate interest in a band most otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to hear.

I don’t spend a lot of time at the generators, most of the music there skews towards the hardcore variety, a type of music I can only hear so much of. Having nothing else to do, I wandered into the Arkansas Stage for the last song of an instrumental band called Analecta. Whenever I hear the first band at the festival, I feel like I am really at the festival; it is here again. Must admit I loved hearing Analecta and wish I could have heard more, maybe I can catch them again before the weekend is over.

Wander around, find a band, enjoy the music…

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.



Opening Day…

Cornerstone has arrived. In a few hours the merch tents will be opening up selling all manner of music related swag and gear. The main stage opens up tonight with a huge dance party led by DJ Andy Hunter, there are a few films going on over at the Imaginarium, the generator stages are up and running, and tonight at midnight Grave Robber brings the scary.

What always amazes me most about Cornerstone is the variety of reasons people come to the fest. The obvious reason is the music, but think about why you come. What really draws you here? Is it just the music? The fellowship with other like minded people? The challenging teaching at the seminar tents? Gathering with other pop culture geeks at the Imaginarium? A combination of all of these? Whatever reason you are here, enjoy, soak it in, renew your self this week as we seek to get closer to God through the activities we all enjoy so much.

Welcome Home, Cornerstone!

When people talk about Cornerstone, whether on Facebook or in blog posts or Flickr captions, a recurring theme is that coming here feels like coming home, whether it’s your first year or your fourteenth.  I haven’t even made it to the actual festival grounds yet, but being here still feels like a sort of homecoming.

This year’s drive up from Atlanta was long and gloomy, and things just felt kind of off-kilter.  Inconvenient “real life” things like hassles at work meant that things got off to a bit of a tired, underprepared, “I really hope I didn’t forget anything” sort of start.  The traditional lunch destination for my friends and I, a mall outside of Nashville, had apparently fallen prey to a Zombie Apocalypse, so we had to deviate from tradition and find food elsewhere.  Strange things were afoot at the Stuckey’s– they were SOLD OUT of Goo-Goo Clusters!  That’s like McDonald’s selling out of fries – it’s just not supposed to happen.

But eventually the clouds broke and the sun came out, and as we drove on into the Illinois corn fields between Springfield and Macomb, we burned through a great iPod playlist from artists ranging from The Choir to Pristina, from The Kicks to Over the Rhine, from the Juliana Theory to King’s X.  By the time we reached the “550 Friendly People [‘and Bob’ – an in-joke that goes back about 12 or 13 years]” sign welcoming us to the great town of Industry, “real life” was far behind us and everything felt right with the world.  (Well, mostly – our WIU dorm can best be described with words like “dank” and “moist,” which isn’t exactly what you might hope for, but what do you expect for $40 a night?)

Thompson Hall, room 704

So now I’m awake at a ridiculously early hour, and can’t wait to get to the fest to see all my old friends and meet some new ones, check out some new bands on this “pre-fest” day, and settle in for a fun week.  I’m even hearing rumors of an unscheduled bonus show by a legenDAry Jesus Music band on the Gallery tonight at 10:00 that I really hope comes true…

So welcome home, Cornerstone.  Whether you’re here for the hardcore music or the lemon shake-ups, have a great week.  If you’ve got any good stories to tell about your drive to the fest or anything else, leave a comment on the blog.  And if you’re in the dorms in WIU, come by room 704 and say hi!

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.