Wrap It Up

Well, Cornerstone 2010 is in the books, and I’ve had over a week to ease back into the real world and process everything that I saw and heard during my favorite week of the year.  I wanted to leave a few (OK, a lot – brevity is not my strong point) parting words as we head into the long Cornerstone “off-season.”

Let’s start with the weather – it really couldn’t have been much better, could it?  It wasn’t too hot during the day, it was pleasantly cool at night (of course, I was in the dorm so I didn’t have to sleep in it…), it wasn’t humid, and it didn’t rain.  The only thing that’s possibly worth complaining about was that it was dusty, but the fest folks did a great job of keeping the roads watered to keep the dust down, and the dust we did have just made for some fun graffiti on car windows.

Smiling hot dog graffiti on a car window

The topic that was seemingly on everybody’s mind going into the festival was the effect that the changes to the fest layout (notably the relocation of Main Stage, and some other changes that followed on from that) would have on the “feel” of the festival.  If you’ve been following the fest blog, you know that I was a bit worried about the changes going in, but in the end, I’m happy to say that I didn’t really mind them all that much.

  • Main Stage looked pretty cool in its new location (especially with the two big video screens flanking the stage this year).  From most places on the grounds, you could see it looming in the distance (especially at night) – at one point, I was on the far side of the Gallery, and if you bent down a bit, you got a clear view of the stage and the video screens off in the distance, and it looked pretty impressive.  We didn’t get one of the truly glorious sunsets that you sometimes see at Cornerstone this year, but if we had, it would have made an epic backdrop for the stage.
  • The new location meant that it was less of a commitment to sample shows on Main Stage.  That’s a good thing, although I think I actually spent less time at the evening Main Stage shows than I usually do.  My Main Stage attendance tends to vary year to year based on who’s playing, and this year, the only full set I saw was Switchfoot, but I was able to get a taste of some other things I might not have seen otherwise, like the Almost, Toby Mac, Phil Joel, and The Devil Wears Prada.  Being able to sample Main Stage bands and then go to other shows is pretty cool.
  • With bands playing Main Stage during the day (a new thing for Cornerstone), it did occur to me that if the weather had been hotter, sitting out in the midday sun to watch bands might have been a problem.  Thankfully, none of the bands I saw on Main Stage in the afternoons got swallowed up by the giant stage, although some of them would have been as good or better playing Gallery or Encore sets where the crowd was a bit more packed in and the band was a bit closer to the fans.
  • The Gallery actually didn’t feel much different in its new location when you were inside the tent.  It was a bit less convenient to hike back over to the food court for a quick dinner between sets, but otherwise, the Gallery move was barely noticeable.  One thing I did miss, though, was having the Gallery and other covered stages near the food court to provide a centralized, shady place to hang out during the day.  A covered place to sit and eat would be a nice thing to add if Main Stage stays on the midway next year.
  • I didn’t see many bands on the Encore Stage this year, but it seems like that stage got demoted a little this year.  The fact that there weren’t that many bands on Encore that I wanted to see this year (several that would have played Encore were on Main Stage instead) might be coloring my perception.
  • The new layout for the generator stages worked about as well as it could.  The schedules were kind of mixed up on all the stages, and adjacent stages stomped on each other’s sound occasionally, but overall, the quality of the generator stage experience was much higher this year.  I would like to see all the generator stage schedules posted (and updated) in a location closer to the rest of the grounds so I didn’t have to go all the way out to the stages to find out that the band I wanted to see wasn’t playing after all.

 So, how was your Cornerstone experience this year?  Have you gotten all the dust out of your shoes and off your car?  Are you working through your post-fest depression?  I think I’ve got one more blog post in me – I’ve got to talk about the bands that rocked my face this year, so stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, if you need EVEN MORE photos of the festival, go check out my Flickr Cornerstone set.


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.

Buck Buck


I’ll be posting my own summary and concluding thoughts about the festival soon, but first I wanted to let things ruminate a little bit and think about the festival as a whole before posting anything yet.

So, I’ll share some fun from the last day of the festival.

Cornerstone Festival has some “official” sports competitions (soccer, volleyball, basketball) on the grounds but sometimes the most fun ones are the spontaneous ones that spring up from the ground. This particular sport that seems to happen every year cracks me up. The game is called “Buck Buck” and if you’ve ever heard the Bill Cosby sketch about Fat Albert, then you know the rules. Essentially one team of kids lines up and the other team of kids jumps on top of the first team until they collapse. There are more nuances to the rules than that, but that’s the gist of it. I don’t know how much fun it would be to have all those people jumping on you, but from an observer’s standpoint, it’s pretty funny to watch. I love taking photos of kids flying through the air.

I’ve included one photo from my collection at the top of this post, but there’s more on my photostream on Flickr.

Have you ever played Buck Buck? Did you play this year? Ever gotten hurt playing Buck Buck? Seems like something that would leave some bruises!


The Post-Cornerstone Depression

Main Stage setup. Photo by Matt Laswell

The fest was fantastic. You made new friends and enjoyed old ones. God’s presence was obvious to you. You heard awesome music.

But now… you’re home again.

Home where there are commitments, stress, and the stuff of the other 51 weeks of the year.

I know that the Post-Cornerstone Depression is not listed in the DSM IV, but I’m confident it’s a real phenomenon for many people returning home after Cornerstone. It’s usually mild, but very real for those who get it. I’ve experienced it myself after many festivals, and am already feeling some of the symptoms.

So, what can we do about it? Based on my own experience, what works is to allow myself to relive the happy memories, then force myself to get back to “real” life with new passion. Here are some other tips (based on my own experiences at Cornerstone and years as a church staff member helping people with the stuff of real life):

  • Find the bands you loved on facebook & twitter. Download their songs.  Chat about the bands with other fans.
  • Look for the next concerts in your area.
  • Take time for silence & solitude, two spiritual practices you don’t get much of at Cornerstone. Be quiet and just listen.
  • Share music with friends. Make playlists. Link to the exclusive videos posted here on cornerstonefestival.com or to band MySpace pages (give a description more than “this band is awesome” so people have a reason to click the links you share).
  • If you’re feeling some “holy discontent,” (maybe an idea to make a change in your life) don’t squash it. Talk to God about what’s up. Keep going with life-as-normal for now, but also be praying for direction on what’s next.
  • Plan a night to hang out again with the friends from your youth group who also attended. Trade tips about your favorite bands. Pass around your photos. Sing the worship songs you shared at the festival.
  • Learn to play the guitar. Or, at least get all the downloadable content from Rock Band for bands that have played Cornerstone.
  • Wear all your new shirts.
  • Hang your wristband on your bulletin board.
  • Find a photo (one you took, or one from the fantastic fest photo coverage) and make it the desktop background on your computer.
  • Watch all the videos on the website, then watch them again.
  • Buy a ticket to come back next year. You really will be part of making Cornerstone 2011 great.
  • Look for new spiritual habits (like prayer, Bible reading, simplicity, celebration, etc.) that can help you stay connected to what God is up to around you.
  • Listen to seminar podcasts and think about the topics discussed. (I think podcasts will be coming to the blog in a few weeks – or you could always catch up on the 2009 seminars.)
  • Remember the reality: Driving back to the festival grounds would do no good. You’d just get recruited for cleanup. haha. 🙂 Seriously, though, I know the immense feelings of just wanting to turn the car around. Yet, I also know, rationally, that it wouldn’t matter. The festival is not about the place.
  • Write a list of what you’re thankful for. I do this a lot throughout the year (in a series of posts on my personal blog called “Good Fridays”). Even if you feel crummy, there’s something to be thankful. Be thankful that you’re home again in the land of flushable toilets, comfy beds, and private showers. Be thankful for the laughs and smiles of last week. Be thankful for the talent God gave these musicians & artists.
  • Sing along, play air drums, and completely rock out while listening to these new tunes.
  • Talk about how you’re feeling. This is probably the most important factor. It’s OK to cry and admit you feel bad, hug a friend and get courage to go back to “real life.” Of course, though, if you’re feeling something that’s bigger than mild Post-Cornerstone Depression, talk to someone who can help (like a pastor, youth worker, counselor, etc.)

What about you? Do you get the Post-Cornerstone Depression too? What helps you through it?


(p.s. our festival photo album is here)

Back from Bushnell…

As I sit here writing this from my house in Arkansas, I can’t help but feel a little “Cornersick” for the festival that means so much to me. True,  I just left about 12 hours ago, but the desire to go back has been overwhelming at times.The weather could not have been better, and the overall atmosphere at the festival this year was one of the best I can remember.

Each day of the fest started for me with Catholic Mass at the Imaginarium. I am not Catholic, but have an interest in liturgical, ancient forms of prayer and worship. This was ideal for me as Father Tom Holloway from the Bushnell Catholic church taught us throughout the services what each action and prayer meant. Contemporary liturgical music led by Sal Solo was great as well and led us each morning to the throne of God. While I couldn’t participate in communion in the Mass being United Methodist, I did go down each day for a blessing from Father Tom; I figure I can use as many blessings as I can get. It was also good to see the small, but dedicated group of Catholic Christians who attend Cornerstone.

On the music front, my favorite shows were Paper Route (see my other blog specifically about them), Switchfoot, All The Day Holiday, and Over The Rhine. I didn’t see as much music this year; I focused on quality rather than quantity.

I spent most of my nights at Movie Zombies, a new program this year for fans of the horror and action genres. Each night we watched movies together and discussed how these applied to our faith. Some of the titles were controversial to say the least, but it is refreshing to see a group of people who aren’t afraid to confront and talk about the darkness and evil in the world. As an urban legend fan, I really enjoyed the night we discussed the “satanic panic” rumors of the 1980s and the part the church had in spreading those rumors. My favorite movie had to be Fido, a heartwarming zombie movie set in the 1950s. (It really was heartwarming; If you don’t believe me, get it on dvd from Netflix and watch it.)

Ending out the festival, I caught the last two songs of Grave Robber’s Underground Stage set. If you don’t know these guys, they are a thrash/punk type of band who wear skeleton masks and use some kind of voice changer thing. It had to be the scariest thing I have ever seen. I know about the spiritual reasons behind the masks they wear (dying to sin), but just don’t know if I fully get it. Part of this has to be related to the way I initially discovered them. Last year I went to bed early one night and about one in the morning got up to walk to the porta pottie. In my half awake stupor, I stumbled past the Sanctuary tent and saw Grave Robber performing. I honestly thought I was having a nightmare it was so scary looking, and since I was half asleep, my brain wasn’t exactly able to fully process what I was seeing. The kids at the show seemed to be having a good time, probably one of the most outspoken  bands for Christ at the festival as well, if you can get used to the creepy voice the guy talks in.

Overall, I saw some great music, heard some wonderful teaching, engaged in some heartfelt and passionate discussion with other movie fans, ate a lot of greasy food, and had the greatest week of my year. See you in 358 days…

What about the music?

Movies, church services, goth parties- have you seen any music yet?

Yes. Music is alive and well at Cornerstone. Here is a breakdown of what I have seen so far:

Tug Fork River Band- Southern metal at the Sancrosanct Records Stage- These guys are very talented, but it wasn’t my thing so I didn’t stay around too long.

Hand Drawn Mountains- Dreamy pop at the Chasing Canadia Stage- Saw a flyer and thought this sounded great, it was. They are playing the Gallery stage tomorrow.

News from Verona- Pop rock at Love Can’t be Baht Stage- One of the band members stopped me and asked me to listen to his band on an Ipod. I liked what I heard so went back. Good for fans of New Found Glory, Further Seems Forever, etc.

Flatfoot 56- Irish punk rock at the Legacy Stage- Saw these guys a couple years ago. CIRCLE PIT! When the pit is churning, even if you aren’t in it, you better be aware, moshers are always flying into and over you.

Switchfoot- Pop rock on the Main Stage- Not much needs to be said about this amazing band. John Foreman is an awesome frontman.

mewithoutYou- Artsy rock on the Main Stage- mewithoutYou has become one of the fest’s favorite bands. The only stage big enough to hold their crowds is main stage which is strange, because their brilliant music is not exactly radio friendly. It is poetry.

Brooke Waggoner- Piano rock on the Gallery Stage- I had heard this gal was good, so after today’s seminars I headed over to hear. It was beautiful; the addition of artist Timbre on harp made this some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard.

And there is more to come: All the Day Holiday, Over the Rhine, Living Sacrifice, Dignan, Seabird….. So yes, I have definitely seen plenty of music, and there is plenty to come. I hope this post has given you some insight into both my diverse musical tastes and the diversity of music that is available at the festival.

Cornerstone: the next generation

A fine father-daughter moment: Ping's youngest member

I admit that I’m a bit of a people-watcher around the Cornerstone grounds. I love observing things like crazy costumes, creative campsites or the latest fashion trends.

One thing in particular I enjoy is watching families around the festival grounds. I like seeing little children wearing earplugs and headphones. I like seeing children with faces painted after hanging out at Creation Station. I like seeing toddlers decked in tiny black band shirts crashed out, sound asleep in a wagon, while their parents watch a hardcore show. I like seeing kids spinning around and dancing to music clearly not written for them. I’ve seen all of those moments today.

Yes, Cornerstone is not the picture of a typical family vacation, loading up in the family truckster and heading to Wally World. But, judging from the smiles on children’s faces around the fest, I think it’s not a bad way to pass some love for music, and yes, even love for Jesus, to a new generation.


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.


It’s Here…

The festival officially opens at 8 PM with Switchfoot’s Main Stage performance, but it is already in full swing. About an hour ago, the merch tents opened up selling all sorts of swag from tshirts, to jewelery, to tattoos (temporary and permanent). Of course there are tons of cds, vinyls, and cassettes. Several booths are giving away free Ipads and other goodies, but if you sign up for those you lessen my chances of winning so stay away! Just kidding, but I signed up for all of them that were being offered. One place is even offering free backpacks to everyone that comes by if you need that. (I forgot one and regretted it these past two days. Thanks Trevecca Nazarene University for solving my problem.)

Things are different this year, but it is still undeniably Cornerstone. I was on the fence about the Main Stage moving to the midway, but it seems to be a good change. It looks great right in the middle of the action. The volleyball courts are moved, but today as I looked out the window from the coverage trailer a large group of kids had a game of ultimate frisbee going; Cornerstone fans are always able to adapt.

The weather is  great, music is loud, food is greasy, lake is cold, and Cornerstone is ready for you. If you haven’t made it out yet, there is still plenty of time left; get in your car and head on out to Bushnell!

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…