Cornerstone Superlatives

Superlative, adj. of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme.

Now that everybody is getting home from Cornerstone, we’ve had a chance to think about our favorite fest moments. Jeff has listed his top 10 shows already; expect more in that in the days to come. Rather than focusing on music, I wanted to make up a list of other superlative moments from Cornerstone 2009. Matt kicked us off with the funniest moment of the fest on the blog earlier.

So, in no particular order, here’s my list of the best, most, muddiest, loudest, and craziest moments of Cornerstone 2009.

(links generally take you to photos, but some go to band websites)

Photo by Angela Behm

Photo by Angela Behm for

Best homemade costume: Knight & Dragon. Whoever made these out of cardboard boxes has too much time on their hands. Nice work, though! We caught these guys fighting outside one of the Encore stages early in the week. Not only was the costume fascinating, it was also the most creative way I personally observed to promote a band – At Cliffs End. Thinking of costumes – the platypus gets the award for “Most Photographed Guy in a Costume.”¬† And, Scooby Doo of Audio Strobelight gets the award for “Best Ironic Costume for a Band Member.”

Geekiest place to hang out: The First-Ever Tweet up. Yeah, I helped put this on (in a small way) so I’m biased, but it was a good way to meet people and hopefully form some new connections. Check out the video from to learn more, or follow @cstn on twitter.

Most under-appreciated festival job: TP distributor. The garbage haulers always do a great job. But, this year, I was told of a guy named Steven (I think that was his name) who is the one who services each & every porta-pottie with fresh tp. Hats off to you!

Dirtiest way to have good clean fun: Mud, Mud, Mud. Friday’s showers brought Saturday’s mud. At least people made the best of it. Sorry to any moms stuck laundering muddy clothes this week!

Best way to have good fun at a show: Rodent Emporium. Photos can’t begin to capture just how much fun this show was. Thankfully, there’s also a video of a show & a special exclusive performance.

Photo by Matthew Smith for

Photo by Matthew Smith for

Best picture from the festival photo team. These volunteers did a great job capturing hundreds of photos, which you can browse here. I’m sure arguments could be made for any number of best photos, but this one captured me in a special way. Check out more of Matthew Smith’s photography here.

Child who captured the most hearts: The adorable blonde boy who announced Anberlin on Main Stage. So cute! Jamie from To Write Love on Her Arms brought him out, as an illustration of innocence.

Instrument we most need more of: the Keytar.

Photo by Thomas Wray for

Photo by Thomas Wray for

Female musician with the sweetest voice and most enviable hair: Maron. And, while I’m thinking about hair, I don’t even know the band name, but wow, this is amazing.

Most creative way for your little kids to have fun at Cornerstone: ArtRageous for kids. They’ve got face-painting, crafts, activities, and all sorts of great ways to entertain & enrich youngsters.

Largest instrument played at Cornerstone: The huge electronic juke-box-looking thing Family Force 5 had. I can’t find a photo of anybody playing it, but this picture shows what I’m trying to explain. Look for the large box with squares on it. The band members could press on the squares to control synthesized sounds.

Best way to take your favorite band to work, without blasting out your coworkers with loud music: Ping’s patches. Jeff Elbel modeled these with his band, Ping, on a work-shirt. You, too, could be a member of the Ping tour just by picking up a patch.

Longest song performed at Main Stage: “Deathbed” from Relient K. I didn’t wear a stop-watch for anything, of course, but this song is 11+ minutes on the album, which has got to be a record for a single song on Main Stage this year. Anberlin probably comes in second with “Fin.” I never expected to hear either band play either of these songs, which are both epic in length (but which are among my favorites to sing along to). Both songs were encores for their respective bands.

Hardest worship moment: Sleeping Giant. I wrote about this earlier, but it still stands out to me.

Photo by Rudy Harris for

Photo by Rudy Harris for

Biggest Main Stage Crowd: mewithoutYou. No, I didn’t count heads, but that’s what I heard widely reported. I was headed towards Main Stage as this show let out. For every person going towards Main Stage at that moment, there were easily 200 going away.

Most impromptu fun on Main Stage between acts: Playing Buck Buck. The most serious, but touching moment between Main Stage Acts was the artist who was “repainting Jesus.” He painted live, and then talked about how we’re all called to repaint Jesus to those around us.

Most enthuiastic parent: The dad who was passing out flyers for his daughters’ band, Poema. These talented teenage daughters put on a fun acoustic pop show, performing to plenty of their peers. Check out their music here. Their dad was definitely excited to see his daughters play – enthusiasm that was contagious.

Best way to justify buying new shoes: losing your old pair in the mud (a.k.a. “Mud vs. Shoes: Mud wins”). I wonder how many pairs of shoes might have been permanently swallowed up by some of the mud holes. My own shoes didn’t make it back home with me, but at least they found their way to a trash can! ūüôā

Photo by Megan Sontag for

Photo by Megan Sontag for

Most flexible fans & most unique venue change: Moving Main Stage to The Gallery & Encore I stages. I only went to about 15 seconds of the Underoath show, but the tent was packed. It seems that everybody rolled with the changes easily. Rock on Cornerstone for being able to handle this crazy situation. If it weren’t for this unexpected change, I would have said that the Los Lonely Boys were the act I least expected on the Gallery (they did an amazing show on Tuesday night! Hope they consider coming back to Cornerstone again someday).

That ends my list. What would you add? Post a comment!

Day 4 Report

After a marginally more civilized lunch in Macomb on Saturday morning, my friends and I headed out to the grounds for the last day of the fest.¬† Now that I think about it, a lot has been written on this blog about how Cornerstone has evolved over the decade plus that my fellow bloggers and I have been attending the fest, but the changes in Macomb (the nearest “big city” to the festival grounds; that is, where the Wal-Mart is located) and the surrounding area over that same period are also kind of interesting.¬† Besides my actual home, I’ve probably spent more days of my life in Macomb and Cornerstone than anywhere else in the world.¬† You get an odd but cool view of a place when you see it once a year every year, and I find it strangely cool that I know a bunch of tiny details about a place I’ve never lived that’s 13 hours away from my house.

Mud But cool though it may be, I don’t go to the fest to visit Macomb, so we did indeed make our way to the grounds for another day of music and fun.¬† The rain that had sprinkled on Shiny Toy Guns and Anberlin had become a downpour overnight, and though the rain was mostly over by the time we reached the grounds, the damage had been done.¬† All the roads were covered with a layer of soupy mud and were slippery but passable.¬† The grassy areas around the stages were treacherous, and we saw a lot of band vans and trailers getting stuck in the mud and getting pushed or towed out.¬† The walking paths between stages, if they weren’t just lakes, were mud bogs, with the worst that I encountered surrounding the Gallery stage along the midway.

The rain also led to one of the more exciting and cool things I’ve seen at Cornerstone in quite a while.¬† I was sitting in the web trailer distracting the hard-working web coverage team from their work when Festival Director John Herrin came in and announced that because of the conditions at Main Stage, the Main Stage bands were going to be relocated, with War of Ages and Living Sacrifice playing¬†one of the¬†Encore stages (a smaller venue, but nothing too unusual) and The Devil Wears Prada and Underoath moving to the Gallery.¬† Having those bands on the Gallery is a jaw-dropper for longtime Cornerstoners, because it’s traditionally the stage for older people to sit in chairs and watch older and/or mellower bands.¬† There are exceptions – the Violet Burning rocked so hard on that stage that they killed the power a couple of years ago, and Leeland brought a much younger than usual crowd to the stage that year as well.¬† But generally, evenings at the Gallery generally bring the likes of the Lost Dogs or Over the Rhine playing to a calm, quiet audience sitting in chairs and golf carts¬†eating dinner and making bootleg recordings.¬† There was a palpable buzz around the festival as preparations were made for the Gallery to be rocked like never before.

The first band of the day for me was Gasoline Heart.¬† I’ve seen them a few times before and liked them well enough.¬† This time, I got there a little late, and instead of being a band, only the singer was playing and accompanying himself on an electric guitar.¬† If anybody got there early enough to hear what the deal was, please leave a comment.¬† There was a pretty fair crowd in the tent by the standards of this year’s fest, and I assumed that was just because the rain had shut down the generator stages and driven everybody under cover, but the crowd sang along to some of the songs, so I guess the band has more of a following than I knew.¬† That’s good to see, and I enjoyed the set.

Next up, I caught Seabird, who readers from last year may recall was my pick for “most improved band” in 2008.¬† Their Encore set was cut short by a long setup and sound check, which was too bad, but they had a good crowd and played most of my favorites from Til We See The Shore.

The Classic Crime and the Fold followed Seabird on the same stage, providing an opportunity to just pick a spot and listen to 2 or 3 bands in a row that was rare this year.¬† Both were melodic rock bands, with the Classic Crime edging toward the heavier side of things, and the Fold edging toward the poppier side of things.¬† Both were tight and fun to watch, one of the better back-to-back combos among the bands I saw that I wasn’t really familar with.

After catching¬†encore performances by Darcy and the Fold (one of the cool things about Cornerstone – if you like a band, you often get to see them more than once) followed by the fest’s most ubiquitous band, “Dinner Break,” I settled into the Grrr/P12 stage for my last couple of shows of the fest, from piano-heavy bands Nitengale and Seabird.

Nitengale was another band that totally took me by surprise last year, so I was greatly looking forward to their set.¬† They were good, but their sound tends a little more toward the experimental, long-form side of things, and I don’t think they’re well served by a 50 minute set.¬† They seemed to just be getting warmed up and finding a good groove when it was time to wrap things up.¬† A longer, more open-ended set like they played last year at the Jesus Village would seem to play to their strengths.

Seabird’s second set of the day was superior to the first – they had 50 minutes instead of 30, the sound was better, and they sounded a little more warmed up than at the first show earlier in the day.¬† The only problem was that they don’t have all that much material – only one album’s worth, although they’re starting work on a follow-up next week.¬† They basically played everything they knew, which resulted in something I’ve never seen at Cornerstone before.¬† When the sound guy gave them the “two more songs” indication, the guitarist responded by saying “we’ve only got one more.”¬† Seeing a band (besides Starflyer 59) leave the stage with time to spare just doesn’t happen.¬† But the set was still one of my favorites of the fest.


In between the piano band sets, I did walk over to the Gallery to see what the scene was like at the TDWP and Underoath shows.¬† It was a little surreal – there was a moat of mud surrounding the tent, blinding strobelights flashing behind the band, a huge crowd, and a wall of rock coming from the stage.¬† It’s not really my thing, but it certainly was a sight to behold, and I’m sure it’ll be legendary among the people who attended, like the epic 3 hour Vigilantes of Love “power failure” set in 1997 is to a previous generation of fans.

I do miss having the “grand finale” midnight shows on the last day of the fest, but the “early” end to my night (10:30 or so) left plenty of time to hang out with my friends and recap the festival.¬† We were even able to brainstorm with some fest people for some potential bands to try to get for Cornerstone 2010.¬† I won’t give away any secrets here, but if some of the suggestions work out, you won’t want to miss it.

Cover Watch!

One last batch of songs for the Cover Watch this year.¬† Gasoline Heart had one of the more unexpected covers of the fest with a singalong version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” most famously performed by The Tokens in 1961.¬† The Fold padded out the list impressively, with four covers between their two sets.¬† Their second set opened with the Foo Fighters’ “Monkey Wrench,” and it ended with Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” and the Outfield’s “Your Love,” with their drummer taking the mic for the latter.¬† They also pulled out the stops on the first full Michael Jackson cover I saw at the fest, with a nice version of “Billie Jean,” complete with a pair of moonwalking kids from the audience that had obviously been practicing their MJ moves.

Well, that wraps up “almost live” coverage of the festival for me (sorry this was late – things like driving home and working my real job got in the way), but keep checking the blogs for more thoughts and wrapups and other goodness in the days to come, and then join us on the grounds, same time next year!

Saturday’s Youth Group of the Day

Saturday Group of the Day“We clean main stage every morning,” even if it means Kyle Anderson and the rest of the Clarksville First Church of the Nazarene climb through the mud on the hill.

“Today was especially bad,” Kyle said of this dirty job. With a large group it’s about a 30 minute job that entails picking up trash around the stage and behind stage too.

Senior Sam Wyatt says it’s the group’s second year volunteering, and third year He was especially excited by the music, especially Sleeping Giant.

Thanks to these willing volunteers, who take time to serve during the festival!

Living the Dream

Watching Seabird

Saturday evening, six tweens lived the dream. With sounds of Underoath booming faintly in the background, these six people stood right down front at a show that might not necessarily have been targeted towards their stereotype. They bounced their heads, sang along, used the edge of the stage as a drum, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing one of their favorite bands, Seabird.

This wouldn’t be interesting if it weren’t for this fact: they were the only 6 people standing.

No worries that others sat still as they bopped along. They were living the dream.

No worries that the people directly behind were sitting as they stood. They were living the dream.

No worries that their peers were elsewhere. They were living the dream.

I sat in back, happy to see these 5 guys and a girl (I think that’s the gender distribution, at least, seeing them from behind) living the dream. I’m glad they did. I’m glad that places exist where all kinds of people can live out all kinds of dreams.

I love that there are places like Cornerstone where we can live the dream together. I’m glad we can live out a 26-year dream of JPUSA. I’m glad for the bands who lived the dream of playing one of their first “real” shows this week. I’m glad for the parents I met who were supporting their kid’s dreams of being in a band. I’m glad for the people who drove hours just to live their dream of one day getting to Cornerstone at all. I’m glad for the fulfilled dreams of those who sometimes feel left out at home, finding community here.

I’m glad for the visions God gives young men, and the dreams He gives old men. I pray that we all have the unashamed nature those 6 tweens did, so we, too, can live the dream.