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.

Famous Last Words

Alright, it’s my last post of the year – let’s talk about bands!  As you’ve probably ascertained, I’m an old guy (39), but I come to Cornerstone as much for younger bands (Deas Vail, Seabird, Eisley, Paper Route) as I do for the older ones (The Choir, Over the Rhine, Lost Dogs).  I thought this year’s schedule was very strong in terms of Gallery bands (and Gallery-esque bands on other stages, like Deas Vail), but maybe a little weaker than usual in terms of newer melodic rock bands (Run Kid Run was a late addition and the Kicks were a fun new band, but in previous years we’ve had a lot more of that kind of stuff – Jonezetta, Capital Lights, Mae, and others of that ilk, many of whom have broken up in the interim).  It seems to me that a lot of bands that would otherwise sound pretty good (polished, capable musicians) are still doing the screamy hardcore thing, and I just can’t get into that stuff.  I’ll be kind of glad when the screamy stuff falls out of fashion a little bit.

I suppose at this point, the done thing is to list some superlatives.

  • Best Generator Band.  The best band I saw exclusively on generator stages was Oh! The Humanity!, a duo doing autotuned dance pop stuff.  They did some nice covers (We the Kings, Owl City) and their original material was pretty good, too.  They were one of the most fun bands I saw all week.
    • Honorable Mention.  The Rendition, the first band I saw during the fest, were tight and polished.  It would be nice to see them graduate to a real stage next year
  • Dustiest Road.  Could the road between the big merch tent and the Rising Storm and Encore stages have been any dustier?  Possibly, but I don’t see how.  By the end of the week, there were stretches of that road that were nothing but an inch of fine grit.  Nasty!
  • Best Cover.  As I wrote earlier in the week, I LOVE cover songs, and it seemed like there were a lot more than usual this year, including two entire cover sets (from Ping and Lightshine Theater).  I think the coolest cover I saw all week, though, was Lightshine Theater’s cover of King’s X’s “Over My Head.”  It’s a great song, and the band did a nice rendition of it, adding in a three-way guitar shred-off in the middle.  I hope Lightshine Theater comes back next year – they’re a nice link to the old days of Cornerstone (REZ, Steve Taylor, Barren Cross, and stuff like that).
  • Best Food.  There were some new food options this year (a salad bar!?) that I didn’t get to try, because I stuck with some of the old standards.  I think the best thing I ate this year was probably the Cajun Alfredo from the pasta trailer.  That stuff is addictive!
    • Honorable Mention.  The $3 bag of like 100 chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies from the grocery store is hard to beat.
  • Most Improved.  I think Quiet Science was probably the most improved band that I saw this year.  I saw them last year, and they were good (and fun to watch), but their live performance didn’t quite measure up to what I heard on their EP.  Even after seeing them a couple more times (once here at home, and once early in the fest), they didn’t quite reach their potential.  But on the Impact Stage on Friday, they finally played the set that I thought they were capable of, and they sounded great.  Hopefully that’ll become the norm for them, because I really like their music.
  • Best New (To Me) Band.  This one’s really hard to call, because I saw three very different bands that I’d never seen before, and all of them impressed me.  Lightshine Theater was nostalgic and a lot of fun, but I can’t go with a cover band as my best new (to me) band.  Campbell the Band had an impressive performance, handing instruments into the crowd and stuff like that, but I can’t really remember much about their actual songs, so I can’t say it was them, either.  I’m going to go with the Kicks as the best new (to me) band that I saw.  They play straightforward southern rock with a bit of a modern twist and some very nice Beatle-esque harmonies, and they’re very tight and polished.  They were very impressive.
  • Encore!  Seriously!  There were a couple of shows (from two of my favorite bands, Eisley and Over the Rhine) that ended up a bit shorter than they might have been for various reasons.  I saw Eisley’s setlist, and they basically knew going in that they couldn’t play the full headlining set that they’ve been playing on their tour, so they crossed off some stuff that happens to be among my favorites: “Come Clean,” “Ten Cent Blues,” “Combinations,” and “Go Away.”  Over the Rhine just ran out of time in their first set and had to cut “Poughkeepsie,” and skipped a planned 3-song encore in their second set, in what was a rather weird ending to their show.  I know it’s tough for the festival to balance cramming in a lot of bands with allowing bands time to spread their wings a bit.  There were a few shows that I saw this year that I wish had been a little more open-ended, time-wise.
  • Practice Makes Perfect.  It pains me to say it, but the Choir was a little bit disappointing (though I must make it clear that I was still very glad for the chance to see them again).  That’s mostly because my expectations were just so high, though – they play very rarely, and the last few times I’ve seen them at the fest and elsewhere, they killed it.  But Thursday, alas, just wasn’t their night.  They were pretty loose as they struggled through their set, the set itself was fairly short, and while it contained a lot of my favorite songs, it was also a little on the predictable side.  Hopefully they’ll find a way to do a little mini-tour in support of their new album (which is wonderful, by the way) to shake off the rust, and I’ll get to see them in better form down the line.
  • Loudest Band.  There’s a surprising winner in this category.  I figured the last night on Main Stage, with The Devil Wears Prada and others would be the loudest, anticipating that it would sound like (as Mike Roe once described a Stavesacre set playing on a stage near him) “they were raising the lid of hell over there.”  But actually, the Skillet set was far and away the loudest thing I heard all week.  I never got particularly close to the actual show, but it was freakin’ loud even as I was walking down the road over to the Chelsea Café.  They apparently also win the award for “most fire” and “most smoke.”
  • Sorry I Missed It.  Even with all the pre-fest planning that I do every year to try to find bands that I want to hear, there are always a few things that I want to hear that I miss out on.  This year, I missed the Lost Dogs, and I heard they did a really good show.  Thankfully, I got to see them here at home a couple of days after the fest, so that makes up for it a little bit.  I’ve heard good things about SHEL and The Farewell Drifters, but didn’t make it to either of their sets.  I’m bummed that I missed out on Run Kid Run, because their music is right in the wheelhouse of stuff that I enjoy.  Oh, well, there’s always next year.
  • Favorite Set.  There were a ton of great performances this year, so I’ll count down to the one I liked the best (a very hard choice).

8. Future of Forestry.  One of the most musically diverse bands I saw at the fest, Future of Forestry played as a 3-piece (drums, guitar, cello, augmented with harmonium and other stuff) but created a remarkably full sound nonetheless.

Future of Forestry

7. Jeff Elbel + Ping.  An underrated Cornerstone mainstay, Jeff and friends played a set of original stuff (new and old) that I really liked, and then played another set of covers that I may have enjoyed even more.  Make it a point to check them out next year.

6. Over the Rhine.  Two sets from Over the Rhine, with no repeats.  That’s an embarrassment of riches, and the band was wonderful as always.  They’d be higher on the list, but I’m getting just a little weary of this “mellow and sophisticated” phase that they’re in and wish they’d change it up a little (rocking it up a bit, or going full-on into a bluegrass album, or something).  I’m looking forward to hearing where their forthcoming album, The Long Surrender, takes them.

Linford Detweiler of Over the Rhine

5. Deas Vail.  I was worried that Deas Vail would get swallowed up on the Main Stage during the day, but they did an admirable job of expanding their stage presence to fill all the extra room, and they sounded great.  I’ve been listening to Birds and Cages a lot since it came out, so I was more familiar with the material this time around and really liked it.

Wes Blaylock of Deas Vail

4. The Kicks.  I mentioned this band above, so I won’t go into all that stuff again, except to say that this was the only band that I previewed before the fest (back in March or so) and then went and downloaded their album immediately.

3. Lightshine Theater.  Not many folks saw their set on the Sanctuary Stage, and it was mostly a bunch of old guys, but we really got a treat from this band.  It was a fun show all around, from the REZ songs, to the other covers they did, to seeing Glenn Kaiser enjoying their set, to watching some guys from other bands mimicking the dance steps from the awesomely cheesy “Love Comes Down” video backstage.

2. Eisley.  Simply sublime.  I’m amazed every time I listen to this band at just how mature beyond their years they sound.  The harmonies are beautiful, the songs are great, and they know how to rock.  I’ve been talking them up to my friends for a couple of years, and thankfully, they totally delivered, so I didn’t sound like an idiot.

Sherri DuPree of Eisley

1. Paper Route.  I’ve seen this band a few times in various settings, but there’s just something about playing at Cornerstone that seems to bring out the best in bands.  There was a small but fanatical group of fans standing down front at the Gallery, and I was right in the middle of them, enjoying every note this band played.  My only regret was that they couldn’t play longer.  I can’t wait to see them again.

Paper Route


So, that’s it from me on the blog this year.  Hopefully you’re stumbling across this post sometime during the Cornerstone offseason, and it can bring back some good memories of the 2010 edition of the fest.  Please jump into the comments and discuss what you thought about Cornerstone 2010, and then go buy your tickets for 2011 – it’s not the same without you!  (Yes, even you, Mr. Hardcore Singer, growling at me from afar.)  See you all next year!

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.


Take Me Back

Its July 15th.  I’ve been away from Cornerstone for nine days, and I’m still completely homesick. Yes, the wonders of flushing toilets, showers, and paved roads just dont seem to delight me. I came home from the fest and was practically escorted to the nearest shower so I could start chipping away at the multiple layers of dirt, sweat, dust, and even other people’s sweat.  But I still rebel even now.  One of my best friends at the fest gave me a single dreadlock that I simply can’t wash.  Knowing that there’s still some Cornerstone dirt in there keeps me a little more sane.

Through various social medias, the overall question is: “How does one recover after a week at the fest?” For some, its as simple as a shower and a few extra hours of sleep.  But for people like me, the ones that are the lifeblood of Cornerstone, its much more difficult.  Cornerstone has become a home to many “social rejects” like myself, and it’s just not as easy as washing all the dirt from our clothes.

Some Facebook statuses and comments Ive seen are as follow:

Cornerstone relapse….when cleaning your shoes avoid breathing any dust that may come off lest you aquire a severe case of C-stone Homesickness..

Who knew some of the worst smells could bring such joy and memories?

It’s like heroine, you get hooked the first time, but after every time after that you only get more addicted; with one exception: it gets better with every time.

I was listening to Flatfoot 56, my favorite of Cornerstone bands, and the faces of all my new friends flew through my mind. Ducky, the punk from Nashville; Justin and Luke, the brothers from Indiana; Youngest… We’re all different people, but these along with a few more familiar faces became my family.  I laughed with them, I cried with them, I let them laugh at how much of an idiot I am. But through it all, there is still that overall sense of family.

And family isn’t something you can just leave behind. So what is the cure for a bad case of Cornerstone homesickness?

Another trip back home next year. Only 345 days left.


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

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 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)

I Found Myself at Cornerstone

The question God was asking me as I went to Cornerstone was “Who are you?” Over and over this kept playing in my head. To be honest I headed to Cornerstone yes, to participate in the ministry of Sanctuary and be a blogger…the bigger thing I went there for was to hear from God about 2010 and how it is a year of change for me. There are some things in particular that I needed firm peace on.

Before I became a pastor I really dug deep into outreach and working with people that were definitely the outcast type of people. It is funny but I even liked to dress a certain way (hippie meets metalhead) and really went into being a youth pastor as a bit of a rebel…I guess some things never change. I had no other family go before me as a pastor, I joke around that I am a PK (a polisher’s kid) but immediately saw things that began to change me. I was not a suit wearing person and the first church I went into was a fashion show in which I was required to wear a suit. From that point on I began to morph into someone that was being tamed by the institution. When I did get away to camps, outings, etc. I would wear shirts and things that made some Christians wonder. They were Godly t-shirts but some refused to see it. I remember a directors wife at a camp scolding me in front of my teens for wearing such an “ugly/ungodly” shirt. The funny thing is it said, “Dead to the World, Alive in Christ” on it in a big skull. I kindly responded…”I feel the same way about your shirt” (probably from Dress Barn or something). I have always had a rebel streak in me though I never want it to get out of control.

When I moved to Waupaca I continued to become a people pleaser for all the wrong reasons the first year or two. After I began to see the ugly side of religious politics I decided to throw it all out the window. The biggest eye-opener for me was the minute I became the youth pastor to a district official. At big meetings people would come up to me and be buddy buddy that were never that close to me before. It appeared to me that because I am now in this position working with that particular person, I am now someone that others will hang out with so they can get in with the pastor I served under. It was then that this persons silo came crashing down and I lost 90% of those “close” people as friends because of a fall-out that happened. I still get random pot-shots taken at me via email, facebook, or face to face conversation. This made me all the wiser for what was ahead as a lead pastor (senior pastor).

So here I am now in the desert and what an exciting place it is! There is a negative connotation that the desert can be a bad thing, however in the bible the word “desert” means “without inhabitants”, not “without vegetation or water”. I love how one author describes the desert vs. forests. “When a man walks or rides into a forest, he is lost among the trees, can’t see ahead, doesn’t know what might be lurking there. The forest surrounds him, obscures him with shadows, confuses itself with him by its vertical composition and competitive detail. But when a horseman appears on the desert plain, he dominates it instantly, his view extends as far as the eye can see, and enemies are exposed to his gaze. The desert flatters the human figure by making it seem dominant and unique, dark against the light, vertical against horizontal, solid against plane, detail against blankness.”
The openess of desert space also symbolizes infinite access. As Tomkins notes, “There is nothing to stop the horseman’s free movement across the terrain…Distance, made palpable through exposure and infinitely prolonged by the absence of obstacles, offers unlimited room to move. The man can go, in any direction, as far as he can go. The possibilities are infinite.”
It is time to run free after a refreshing time of re-finding who I am while at Cornerstone Festival where I truly feel at home among the wierdos, goths, metalheads, preps, jocks (though few), hippies and free-thinkers. Fact of the matter is two tents down was a lesbian couple that felt at home at Cornerstone. I am not downplaying the fact we all need Jesus and some things are not okay. What I am saying is God created us uniquely and we should not stray from that to fit some kind of mold or to appease some person/people/institution. God spoke to me in such awesome ways this past week through song, teachings, and one on one conversations with people I look up to.
Who am I? I am a unique free-thinking pastor that won’t be bound down by ideals that don’t line-up with scripture. I am a black t-shirt wearing person that loves everyone and hates no-one. I am a pastor that has little to no tolerance for religious crap (politics) that bogs a church down so it cannot be free to find God unless it goes through a filter. I am person that is a Christ follower first, husband and father second and pastor third. I am a pastor that welcomes questioning and skepticism in a church so that it leads to a deeper understanding of who the one true God is. I am a person that invites you to journey with me on through life understanding I am not better than you and you are not better than me. Rather we are following the one true God together which will tighten our bond to each other and to God.

I am telling you…God is at Cornerstone and he always reveals himself to me among what some might call, “THOSE PEOPLE!”

Day 4 – The Final Countdown

Well, I’m back at home in suburban Atlanta (with a post-fest day off for the first time I can remember, thankfully – the first day back is always rough), and like most of my fellow bloggers, some post-fest wrapup posts are forthcoming, but I wanted to go through the final day of the fest for the sake of completeness.

Unfortunately, the Godfathers Pizza in Macomb has closed.  It’s a bit of a tradition among my circle of friends to hit up the pizza buffet at least one day of the trip, so without it, we were left a bit adrift, trying to fill a Godfathers-shaped hole.  There’s probably a tortured metaphor to be had there, but I’m not the guy to write it, so everybody fill in your own.  Anyway, we ended up at Jimmy John’s, which was probably marginally more healthy and significantly less satisfying.

Several of the bands I wanted to watch on Saturday were daytime Main Stage bands, which points out one deficiency in the new Main Stage location – it’s hot and sunny in the daytime, and there’s almost no shade to be had around Main Stage.  People were crowding into the wake of the sound tower and under the spotlight platform to get out of the sun, and this was a very mild weather year.  When another of those 100+ degree days hits in the future, I don’t think you’ll find me watching any bands at Main Stage.

The first band I saw was the Glorious Unseen (who gave us a very “Cornerstone” moment – a guitarist playing worship music in an Anthrax t-shirt – just a funny visual).  They were good, but by that point, my attention span for unfamiliar stuff was pretty short, so I didn’t get as much out of it as I might have.  After a brief diversion to see Tonight Tonight on the Encore stage (a set marred by sound problems and a struggling vocalist early, but both got better by the end), it was back to Main Stage to see House of Heroes (better than I remembered, and good fun to watch) and All the Day Holiday (not very well suited for Main Stage – they’d have gone down better on Gallery or Encore – but they did a good set, nonetheless).

My friends and I headed out to the generator stages to try to catch some hip hop acts, but as is the generator stage custom, the schedule was completely destroyed, and none of the acts we wanted to see were actually there.  Instead, we caught another set from Oh! The Humanity! (a synthpop-and-guitar duo that I saw earlier in the week).  They had a better crowd this time, people that were actually up and dancing, and they seemed to feed off the energy and put on a very good show.  They were one of very few new bands that I saw and enjoyed this year.

I hitched a golf cart ride down to the old Main Stage bowl area, just to see what it looks like.  It looks kind of sad without a stage down there – it’s all grown up with weeds and  a JPUSA vegetable garden, and the buildings (the t-shirt shed and what I assume is the artist hospitality trailer) look pretty decrepit.  I’ve heard that the artist hospitality area (now located in the former dance barn building, a bigger, better space) was improved this year, so I imagine that was one change that the bands playing on Main Stage appreciated.  Still, it was kind of sad to see the old place in that condition.

Running low on energy, I parked myself at the Gallery for the rest of the night.  The first band I saw was O’Brother, playing music that’s dramatic but hard to really find a hook into (stuff my friends and I have dubbed “projector band” music, after bands like Ester Drang that used to play similarly hookless music).  I didn’t mind them, but I don’t particularly get the style – I tend to like stuff you can dance to or sing along with.  I’d love to hear a fan of that style describe to me what they hear in it, though – I’m genuinely curious.

Future of Forestry were next.  I was marvelling at how full their sound was with only three people in the band (they were multitasking, but still…), and the singer mentioned that they normally play with 5 or 6 people on the stage.  I was quite taken with their set, enough to spend most of the rest of my cash on their three Travel EPs.  I kind of get the feeling that their music is the sort of stuff that I’ll find less interesting on my iPod in the car than I did live, but their live set was good enough to convince me to take a shot on it.

I was looking forward to seeing Ivoryline, who I’d missed a couple of times in years past.  They’re a little heavy for some of the Gallery crowd, but I don’t mind seeing rock bands.  I didn’t love their set, though – it was a little rawer than the studio stuff I’d heard before.  It’s also possible that I was just tired enough that I wasn’t going to particularly enjoy anything at that point.

The final band of 2010 for me was Seabird.  I really like Seabird, though I kind of overdosed myself on their music after the 2008 fest and haven’t really fully recovered.  They sounded great, though, and were a nice fit at the Gallery, with a very respectable crowd (many of whom were probably there to avoid The Devil Wears Prada on Main Stage, but you play the hand you’re dealt).  They probably won over some new fans.

Aaron Morgan of Seabird

Speaking of Seabird fans, though, there was one small irritation.  Last year, my friend and fellow Blogger Becky wrote about a group of kids that were “living the dream” at the Seabird show, standing down front to see their favorite band.  That bunch was back again this year, but it really wasn’t quite as cute this time around.  The Gallery tends to be a sitdown sort of venue (with rare exceptions – I was part of the bunch standing up for Paper Route this year, for example), which inevitably leads to come conflict when “younger” bands play the stage (hence the dueling cries of “stand up!” and “sit down!” during Eisley – I was in the front row, so I merrily stayed in my seat and enjoyed the show).  I understand the appeal of standing up, but I also understand the appeal of sitting down, and my general philosophy on the matter is to either follow what the majority are doing, or find a spot where I can do whatever I want without bothering anybody else.  It’s all about empathy and consideration for your fellow concert-goers.  So when you’re the only people standing in front of a stage that’s about 18″ tall, with a few hundred people sitting behind you to watch the show, that’s kind of a jerk move.  (To be fair, a few people eventually joined the standing crowd- mostly kids that were sitting directly behind the standers and couldn’t see anything otherwise, plus photographers.)  When 2 or 3 people ask you (not yell at you, but come up and ask you personally) if you’d please sit down or move so people can see, and you continue to stand, that’s kind of a jerk move.  And if you’re just going to stand there and not dance or jump around, there’s really no reason TO stand other than to stand for the sake of standing.  It kind of does a disservice to the band, too – people that can’t see the band are more likely to just say “forget it” and leave, or get ticked off about the situation and not really be in the right frame of mind for the  show.  So I guess what I’m saying is “don’t be a jerk” and “have some empathy with other people.”  Next year, I’m throwing bottles. 🙂

So that’s it for Cornerstone 2010 for me.  I’ll take a bit of time to digest everything I experienced and put it all together into some wrapup posts in the next few days, so keep reading!