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!

The other side of Cornerstone

For my Friday report, I’m going to leave the band comments to the guys (we wound up seeing a lot of the same shows yesterday and they’re better able to describe them!). I’d like, instead, to focus on the other side of Cornerstone. While we talk mostly about music here, there’s a lot else that the festival has to offer. I took in several things on the other side yesterday.


As the emcee at the Stavesacre show said on Thursday, “If you’ve been coming to Cornerstone for more than 4 years and haven’t seen a seminar, you’re missing out.” This year’s seminar lineup was first-rate, featuring authors of popular books and thought-provoking topics.

Tony Jones & Phyllis Tickle brought seminars about the Emerging Church (or whatever you want to call that these days). Tickle also offered a short seminar on Friday about fixed-hour prayer, where she outlined the 7 practices or disciples brought into Christianity from Judaism: tithing, fasting, sacred meal (3 practices to disciple the physical), fixed hour prayer, sabbath, liturgical year, and pilgrimage (4 practices to discipline time).

Also on Friday, Andrew Marin continued his Love is An Orientation series. I didn’t hang around for it (went to another seminar instead) but he was definitely drawing large crowds for this talk, presumably related to the book by the same name.

The Music Professionals Series provided an accessible way for industry folks and up-and-coming bands to learn more about radio. That tent was packed with people asking questions of how to get their songs to break thru into radio.

The seminars are done for 2009 (other than the general session this afternoon), but there’s no doubt next year will offer another round of inspiring & challenging talks.


Burning Brush, the visual arts wing of the fest, presented the Parables of Jesus as the theme for their 2009 pilgrimage art installation. The pilgrimage, which runs from the Merch Tent to the Footbridge, features maybe 20 different art pieces of all kinds of media. A gorgeous batik and large mosaic of flowers anchor one end of the pilgrimage (the mosac shows great ingenuity by the artist, since it uses recycled bottle caps – from soda bottles, hershey’s syrup bottles, and more).


Breakaway is held each morning in the Gallery, with worship & speakers relevant to high school students & those who work with them. I chaperoned a youth group several years ago, and though I don’t do so anymore, I still remember what a powerful experience Cornerstone can be for students. Breakaway is an excellent thing to include alongside seeing your favorite bands and hanging out with friends.

And many more…

Cornerstone is so diverse; it’s impossible to experience all of it. Try as I might, I never quite get around to seeing films at Flickerings (though maybe tonight for The Wizard of Oz or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – both old favorites of mine). I don’t have kids, so I don’t make use of Creation Station – though every time I walk by, I can’ t help but smile. Then there’s the volleyball torunament, skateboard ramp, soccer fields, prom at the Asylum, impromptu rounds of buck-buck on the main stage hill, swimming in the lake, etc. Way too much to possibly take in!

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.

Friday’s Youth Group of the Day

Friday Group of the DayComing to us from Cedar Rapids, IA is Echo Hill Presbyterian, joining us for the first time at Cornerstone.

This group loves the music, but says the food is another favorite.

They love grabbing a sandwich from the food court but no meal is complete without the sugary goodness of an elephant ear.

The guys say they really liked Family Force 5 and they are excited to see The Devil Wears Prada, Underoath and Shiny Toy Guns.

Lots of youth groups make Cornerstone part of their summer plans. In addition to the great music and seminars, there’s Breakaway, our youth program with its own speaker and worship band. If you haven’t brought a group, think about doing what Echo Hill did and bring your youth group to Cornerstone!

What’s the future of the church? It’s us.

This afternoon presented a new-to-me experience at Cornerstone: a Leadership Forum for church & ministry leaders. Glenn Kaiser moderated a conversation about burn-out among ministry leaders, helping the body act according to their gifts, community & accountability for ministers, and other tough issues church & ministry leaders face. The seminar was a cross-section of Cornerstone (minus teenagers, naturally) – but with men & women of all ages & styles, representing different denominations, methodologies, and styles.

As a church staff member, when I read the description of this forum, I knew I had to be there. Though I’m part of a large staff, it’s still nice to network with others who understand some of the struggles I face. Since I suppose most of our blog readers aren’t church staffers, I’m not going to give a point-by-point summary. Instead, I want to just talk about one of the final questions and hopefully inspire you to think.

One attendee asked “What’s the future of the church?” How would you answer that question? I know I can find statistics that show trends, and talk to theorists who say this or that, and can find plenty of online debates about church methodology or practice. But, really, what is the future of the church?

Glenn Kaiser answered this way, giving the response I want to embody as well: “It’s us.”

So, amidst the blog coverage of bands, silly costumes, and everything else that’s going on around us right now – here’s your introspective question of the day.

What’s the future of the church & how are you living it out?

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!

Midnight Between Bagpipes and Thundering Guitars

Only at Cornerstone do you have to make the choice between seeing one of the most popular bands at the festival, Flatfoot 56, and one of the most legendary bands at the festival, Stavesacre, which is playing only a couple hundred of yards away.  I did my best to try and catch a little of both.

Flatfoot 56 had the Underground Stage decorated as a Mexican village and took the stage dressed in sombreros for a “Fiesta Night.”  The crowd, which had arrived early and anxiously waited during a long soundcheck whirled into motion as soon the band began.  The effect was a chaotic, but somehow orderly mass of kids that wheeled around the tent in a giant circle pit as bagpipes, guitars, and mandolin played from the stage.  It’s really quite a visual that I don’t think I can describe accurately.  I’m sure there were more flags, but I saw two flags for Scotland, an American flag, and a flag for the City of Chicago making its way around the crowd (and of course, a lawn ormanent Santa Claus making his rounds also.)  When I get back to the grounds today, I will be totally surprised if the tent is still standing.

I managed to catch a couple of songs and then quickly made my way over to the Encore tent where Stavesacre had returned to the festival.  I believe this is their first trip back to the festival in about five years.  The crowd was composed of fans who all had fond memories of their shows in years past here at Cornerstone.   The band, aware of the crowd’s sentimentalism, played mostly a set of old favorites, plus a couple new songs off of their EP.  Many of the songs had special meaning to different people in the crowd and got strong reactions when they started them.  It was a different, less rowdy kind of crowd (all of the excitable kids were at Flatfoot 56  or The Chariot, I guess), but still a very appreciative kind of crowd.  Mark Solomon returns tonight with another one of his memorable bands, The Crucified.  Maybe some of those kids at the Flatfoot 56 show will stop by and see where their roots come from.

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!