So Much More Than I Expected

The Cornerstone Farm is filled with memories for me (Becky). Every year, as we roll into Bushnell and turn down the country road, my mind gets filled with happy thoughts – of bands, friends, food, worship, growing up, and more. As we pulled into the grounds Monday evening, I was remembering my first Cornerstone (1998), and thinking about what I expected out of it, and how most of my expectations were completely shattered, in a good way. For those of you reading along at home who have never made it to Cornerstone, maybe this will give you a taste of what it’s like here.

Photo by Azuree Witala for

Photo by Azuree Witala for

I expected formality & organized camping, like at a state park. I guess I expected things to somehow be strict – with people telling you where you had to camp & park, and maybe even telling you what time you had to go to bed or something. Camping at Cornerstone has a lot to offer – strict organization is not one of those things. And, that’s the beauty of it. Little things like tents set up in every direction, generator stages, and porta-potties covered in band posters somehow illustrates the freedom of Cornerstone for me. That freedom goes far beyond simple things like this, of course, but this is a very present reminder.

I expected the stages to all be outdoors. I know this expectation came from experience with other festivals, where you were guaranteed to burn like toast within the first day. I was so happy to see that Cornerstone stages (all of them other than Main Stage & the unofficial generators) are under the cover of huge tents. I am often thankful for whoever it was who made that decision!

I expected that 99.999% of all attendees would have been from Illinois or Iowa. For my first fest (1998) I drove over with my brother (coming from South Dakota). I figured that there wouldn’t be many people who drove longer than we did. How wrong I was! The grounds are filled with car license plates from Illinois & Iowa, obviously – and other surrounding states. But, you also find people who trekked much further – all across Canada, California, the southeast, around New England, etc. Funny how I had that expectation 11 years ago – but these days, my husband & I are quite happy to drive 1,000 miles+ from our home in Austin, Texas.

I expected people to present a put-the-best-face-on-it, youth-group-approved image. I don’t know that I would have used quite those words back in 1998, but I had the idea that people choosing to spend a week at a Christian festival would own a lot of rather cheesy witnessing t-shirts. I never expected the diversity that actually exists. I never expected to meet people like me, either. I didn’t expect to find so many people who love Jesus so much, and demonstrate it in such clear ways.

I didn’t expect to meet people who would be life-long friends. 11 years later… I’m married to a guy I (mostly) met at Cornerstone. Every Sunday night, we go out to dinner after church with 4 friends made mostly thru the fest. My twitter friends list is filled with Cornerstone-rs (is that a word? I never know what to call us!). I exchange emails, texts, and chats all the time with friends I’ve made here about not just music, but the stuff of real life – from weddings to funerals, from surgeries to new babies, from travel to work stress. I never would have expected for a week-long event in a cornfield in Illinois to have such lasting impact.

I certainly didn’t expect to still be coming back 11 years later. Yet, I’m always glad I do.

For those of you who have been here before, what expectations did you have your first year?

Mid Afternoon REIGNITE Day

The fantastic weather took a turn a little bit and the wind started coming in. I have been to many Cornerstones now and I’m used to brain-broiling heat, rain, mud, humidity and more, but I’ve never shivered cold in the middle of the day in July. There’s always a first isn’t there?

The windy weather didn’t slow things down on the generator stages, though. Scooby-Doo (or at least someone dressed up like him) made his debut at Cornerstone with the baind Audio Strobelight that played a high energy show that had people dancing in the street. A husband-wive duo called Carolina Story just returned from their honeymoon and traveled here to Cornerstone to play. Their acoustic music was a nice break from he audio assault coming from all the generator stages and they were charming and personal.

Many of the bands on REIGNITE day are here at Cornerstone for the first time. There’s a lot of new acts and on the upside, they bring a lot of new youth and energy. Many of these bands are still rough around the edges and will only improve as they tour and perform more. As I took a dinner break at the Gallery Stage, I was reminded just what a group of experienced musicans can do. Maron brought several JPUSA Cornerstone veterans on the stage and wowed me with soulful show that started with “We Are Finding Who We Are” by King’s X and kept up the quality throughout the show. I hadn’t even planned on seeing them, I just wanted a place to sit down and eat, but I’m glad I stopped by.

With the wind calming down and some food in my belly, I’m renewed for the evening and ready to go.

REIGNITE Day ignites Cornerstone

We’re underway at Cornerstone 2009! Hello kids, my name is Jeff and I’ll be bringing you updates as the festival goes on. The weather is incredible so far with a cool breeze and big clouds moving across the sky. Today is REIGNITE day and many bands are making the debut at the festival. I don’t recognize many of the names on the schedule, but I’m having fun discovering new bands. Crimson Refuge started the day out well and Divided By Friday followed it up with a fun show featuring a cover the Temptations “My Girl.”

After a brief lunch, I headed back over to the Encore stages to see Darcy. They were a fun, hooky, catchy band dressed to the nines in vests and ties. Like many of the bands here, this is their first time on the stage here.

On the streets at the entrance of the festival, there are several ad hoc stages put together and powered by generators. These “generator stages” give a lot of bands the chance to play even if they aren’t on the official stages or give the crowd a chance to preview the band before they play their show. Shows on these stages can be totally unpredictable, it can be a noisy mess or a taste of something great. While walking down the street, I stopped to hear a performance by Astellaway. I’ll have to catch them again on their Encore Stage later in the week.

Everything is under way! The generator stages are cranking and kids are rocking. The fun has just begun.

Let’s get started!

Hey everybody, and welcome to this year’s Cornerstone blog!  My name is Jerry, and I’m one the bloggers here to give you a taste of what’s going on at the fest this week.  This is my 12th Cornerstone (all in a row – since 1998), and this year is shaping up to be a lot of fun.  The weather looks great (sunny and low 80s in the day, with nice, cool 60s at night), and the band lineup is absolutely massive!

Today is the unofficial first day of the fest proper, with several stages up and running with tons of bands.  I’m going to see a bunch of them, but I’ve picked out a few that I’m particularly interested in:

  • Quiet Science – This band from Florida is playing a bunch of shows at the fest, including 2 generator stage appearances today.  From what I’ve heard, they’re pretty much dead center in the zone of stuff I like – very melodic, with plenty of rock.  I’m really looking forward to seeing them play.
  • Los Lonely Boys – A Texas band that had a pretty big hit a few years back with their song “Heaven,” they’re one of the surprise bookings at the fest this year, because they seem to come from a little outside of the Christian music industry (however broadly you define the term).  It’s also unusual for a “name” band to play a show on the Gallery Stage on Tuesday, so it’ll be interesting to see how much of a crowd they draw this early in the fest.
  • Stephen Petree – A singer with a strong voice and an interesting mix of styles in the samples on his MySpace page.  I’m curious to see what he sounds like live.

Check back for updates, and in the meantime, let’s get some comments going!  What bands are you looking forward to most?  Who should I be sure not to miss?