Thursday – Feeling the Cornerstone burn

The second or third day is when the “Cornerstone Burn’ kicks in. You aren’t used to this kind of sleeping schedule. You aren’t used to this kind of noise all day. You aren’t used to walking this much. This is when you start to wear down. Keep on going! We’ll all settle into “Cornerstone time” soon enough.

I started out the day with some newer bands at the festival. The Clutter played first today for me with some instrumental songs mixed with some rock music. Over on the Label Showcase stage, News From Verona and Don’t Wake Aislin got a great reaction from the kids. News From Verona leaned towards the power-pop side while Don’t Wake Aislin delivered powerful driving rock with female-led vocals.

Continuing the theme of women bringing great music, Brooke Waggoner, joined by harpist Timbre, played a fantastic set at the Gallery stage. From there, I finished the afternoon with a very loose and very fun second set by Jeff Elbel and Ping, consisting mostly of covers.

I’m dragging a little bit, but I need to get a second wind, because The Choir plays at midnight tonight. I’m pushing through the “Cornerstone Burn” because the best stuff is yet to come.


The Hippies…They Are a Dancing!

Last night proved something to me that I already knew….hippies, head-bangers, Goths, etc. cannot resist the sounds of growing up. When Toby Mac hit the stage last night I will admit I was thinking what many were saying, “Toby Mac? Cornerstone? Really?” You could hear people jokingly say how much they don’t care for his music. Some where I was sitting would even leave and then come back. This concert by far was the largest production on the main stage so far. From dancers to full band Toby Mac was in full effect.
I have come to the conclusion as a person that grew up listening to DC Talk that Toby Mac is today’s Carman. It should come as no surprise because when Carman was at the top of his game it was Toby Mac and DC Talk that were touring with him.
This is why I say he is today’s Carman. If you grow up with a certain artist that you listened to and years later get to hear him again, though your music likes have changed….sometimes you cannot beat listening to music that you can sing along with word for word.
On my way to see Iona last night I saw a sight that confirmed this. My wife and I were walking and I turned to her and pointed, I said…”The hippies, they are a dancing!” It was a great sight to see people with dread locks and sundresses dancing hip hop to the tunes of Toby Mac. Cornerstone once again knows what it is doing by bringing in the likes of Toby Mac. It is a place for everyone!

Irish Day, then Canada Day, then USA day …

Iona and the Choir are the big draws for me as a fan this year. It’s a little bit weird to say that about Iona, since I never bought any of their CDs before last night … But I”ve  had one of their songs stuck in my head for the 14 years it’s been since the last time I saw them at Cornerstone.  That song is “Irish Day,” and after a gorgeous set full of pipes and reels and prog rock riffing, the band gave me another treat by playing “Irish Day” in the encore.  I loved it.

Today is Canada  Day, and we started Gallery with native Beth Holtby on Gallery.  Very nice.

Now, counting down the days to USA day … two more days, and then the 4th of July. In the meantime, I’m counting down hours and minutes until the Choir’s set tonight!

By the way, I got my recording rig working. If anyone needs to set up a Mac with two MOTU devices, I can give you the tutorial.  Just be sure you’ve got all your cables and drivers ready.

p.s. Thanks to anyone who came to saw Ping yesterday.  That was such an excellent time.  Absolutely loved it.

Movie Zombies…

What really sets Cornerstone apart from other festivals is the abundance of things to do that are not music related.  One Cornerstone tradition that developed a few years back is the Bad Movie Night. Geeks gather in the Imagnarium tent long after the seminars are over for the day to laugh at and make fun of extremely bad movies. Past movies that have received the honor of being chosen for this screening include Frogs, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and this year’s movie: Troll 2.

Troll 2 has nothing to do with Troll 1, has no trolls in it, and was made and written by people who spoke English as a second language. They insisted the all American cast (it was filmed in Utah!) follow their poorly written script EXACTLY as it was written. What ensues is a complete ripping apart of the English language coupled with very amateur acting.

The basic plot goes like this: the ghost of a little boy’s grandfather warns of vegetarian goblins who haunt the forest and feed humans a potion in order to turn them into vegetables so they can eat them. Conveniently, after this warning, the family goes on a vacation to the remote, woodsy farming community of Nilbog (try spelling it backwards).  You can guess what happens from there.

After this movie, a documentary about the making of the film was shown: Best Worst Movie. This movie follows the actors around 20 years later as they try to embrace or escape the small group of rabid fans who see them as stars. The documentary states that Troll 2 is the Rocky Horror of this generation, a film so bad you can’t help but watch.

After all the laughter died down and the documentary played, one realized that these actors are people struggling to make their living and live their lives like everyone else. It added a real human touch to the film. While we had a riotous time laughing at these people, it was eye opening to realize most of them didn’t even realize they were in a bad film until they saw it themselves on HBO or VHS.  Some of them are embarrassed by what happened; one, like the dentist from Alabama who had the most memorable line in the entire movie, embraces it; the mother from the film was perhaps the most touching as she has tried to escape the fame and spends her days taking care of her disabled mother.

Both the film and the documentary were a hilarious eye opening look into the desire of the human spirit to create art in its many forms. While I don’t think this film could be considered art, it certainly has developed its fan following and continues to pack out theaters (and tents at funky little music festivals).

If you get a chance to watch the film, enjoy it for what it is, a very badly made movie, and whatever you do DON’T DRINK THE MILK OR EAT ANYTHING OFFERED TO YOU BY A GOBLIN IN THE WOODS!

Real stories. Real music. Real God.

Before I ever came to Cornerstone, I was rather star-struck. I waited in lines to get autographs. Every band was “the greatest ever.”

I think that’s a common phenomenon, and I don’t criticize it. I had *finally* found music I liked that reflected my faith.

But, perhaps in part due to watching band members eat a ribeye sammich for so many years around Cornerstone, things are different for me now. (Or really, it’s probably more that I’ve actually befriended people who used to be in bands… and their spouses, left at home while the band is touring.). And, maybe, just maybe, I’ve changed a bit myself.

These days, I’m more interested in seeing how people in bands are real people, just like me. They have bad days, stressed relationships, and ask real questions.

Whatever your festival looks like… whether you hang out at the Gallery with immensely talented songwriters who share deeply personal lyrics in their songs, attend talks put on by your favorite bands, or wander up and down generator stage row, I challenge you to look for the very real person behind the music. You’ll find many real stories… real music… and a very real God.

I had a few such moments on Wednesday:

  • Listening to Nitengale. I sat back and listened to someone telling stories that sound like my own. Stories of faith mingling with doubt. Stories of love. Stories of blame. He even talked about finding critters in his walls (oh, how I wish we didn’t have that in common…).
  • Watching Quiet Science. It was a rough show, with the lead singer’s guitar dying half way through. But, even through some musical hiccups, I heard a story of a real guy (the lead singer works in a psych ward with patients who have attempted suicide), who sees real ways that his faith, his art, and his passions intersect.

Look for these moments, and I think you’ll find them, too.


Day 1 – Swing, Swing

Wednesday was the first full day of Cornerstone 2010 proper, with all of the stages getting into full swing.  Thankfully after an exhausting Tuesday, I was finally getting into the swing of things as well – my body finally clicked over to “Cornerstone time.”

The day started with one of the bands that I was most looking forward to seeing after previewing them pre-fest, the Kicks.  They’re a 4-piece from Nashville that plays southern rock with a modern slant.  They’re tight, and their harmony vocals are great.  I really enjoyed this show – my favorite of the fest thus far.  You can download their album for free at

After the Kicks, I did a little stage surfing, because several of the bands I wanted to see ended up not playing.  Then I headed over to the Gallery stage to catch a couple of sets from some long-time Cornerstone vets – Terry Taylor of DA (with Mike Roe of the 77s and Steve Hindalong of the Choir backing him on bass and drums, respectively), followed by a set from Roe and Derri Daugherty of the Choir.  Their set was surprising – I expected it to focus on stuff from Derri’s solo EP, but instead they played a couple of Roe songs, some Lost Dogs stuff, and a couple of Daniel Amos songs.  Good stuff, and they’re working on an album together, as well.

Next, Jeff Elbel + Ping played their annual Gallery set, with a wide array of musicians on stage (drums, percussion, more percussion, organ, violin, and more besides).  It was great – they played some oldies from Elbel’s previous band, Farewell to Juliet, some older Ping songs, and some brand new material from Ping’s forthcoming CD.  If you like straightforward rock and roll, well-performed by a bunch of solid musicians, come check out Ping on the Jesus Village tonight at 6 PM.  Also, visit to download a free Ping record.

After Ping’s set, I was adrift for a couple of hours once more, as a couple more bands that I wanted to see were no-shows.  I had dinner and checked out a few different stages, up until the hard choices began around 10 PM.  At 10, there were three bands that I specifically wanted to see: tobyMac on Main Stage, the Lost Dogs on the Gallery, and Quiet Science on the Jesus Village.  I eventually settled on starting out with tobyMac.  His set was very much like what I’ve seen from him in the past, but he does what he does so well that I don’t mind seeing it again.  With a 9-piece backing band flying all over the stage, and a couple of big LED-curtain backdrops that were a first for Cornerstone as far as I can recall, this was a band that was perfect for Main Stage.  I enjoyed about 30 minutes of the set, and then moved on to Quiet Science.

I first saw Quiet Science at Cornerstone last year, and I’ve seen them once more since.  Their songs are quite good, but it’s been my experience that they don’t completely come across live just yet.  Last night’s set was hindered by some technical problems (the singer broke strings on both of his guitars), but in some ways, that just made the set cooler.  The band soldiered on sans-guitar for a song, and then a guy showed up with a rockin’ Gibson SG for the singer to borrow, which he seemed excited to play.  So, although it wasn’t the most polished set, it was one of the most fun that I’ve seen this year.

I missed the Lost Dogs (but then found out that they’re playing in my hometown next week, so that worked out), so I ended my night at the Gallery with Iona, a Celtic progressive rock band that’s been around for a long time but apparently doesn’t make it to the States very often.  I’d never seen them live, so although I never got into their music, I was curious to give them a listen.  The individual performances were outstanding (as befits prog rock) and the Gallery sound was pristine, so they sounded really good.  I wasn’t as into it as I might have been had I been more familiar with their music, but it was good stuff that I’m glad I got a chance to see.

So, that brings us up to today.  There are only a few “must-see” things that I’m scheduling my day around (Ping, the Choir), so I’ll be spending a lot of time checking out new-to me stuff like The Clutter, News From Verona, Bleach, The Almost, and Lightshine Theater (a REZ tribute band, of all things).  Should be a fun day, and thankfully devoid of hard schedule decisions.


Wednesday Night

On any given night at Cornerstone Festival, there are a dizzying variety of choices to make for who to see in concert. The choices are as across the board as can be, too. I started my evening out with mewithoutyou on the Main Stage. They commanded a big crowd and hit through many of their more popular songs while adding in a few from their new album. I can’t really accurately describe their sound, but they have a pretty big following here at the festival and they all showed up for the show.

I could’ve stayed for Red and TobyMac (who I did hear while walking back and forth on the grounds, it’s just about impossible to miss whoever is playing on Main Stage), but I headed to the Gallery tent where two longstanding acts performed once again. The Lost Dogs are a yearly favorite and this year they finally had their newest album, Old Angel, a travelogue about their trip on Route 66 for sale. Mike Roe wailed on guitar during “Bullet Train” and “Eleanor It’s Raining” and Steve Hindalong twirled a rope to the crowd’s delight. After their show, Iona brought their Celtic progressive rock back to Cornerstone after an absence of nearly 15 years. The band performed some old favorites from their albums in the 90’s, a couple longer progressive pieces, and even an Irish jig or two.

The cold temperature starting kicking in and my residue exhaustion from my banished strep throat had me bailing out early, but what I saw of Iona was great. On to today with The Almost, some new Nashville stuff on the Gallery stage, a visit to see my friend David DJ at the Dance Tent, and then the long-awaited return of The Choir tonight.

Wednesday at Cornerstone

If you’re looking for diversity (or as TobyMac calls it “diverse city”), look no further than Main Stage at Cornerstone on Wednesday night.

From the quirky indie-rock of mewithoutyou to the aggressive alternarock of Red, and finally the hip-hop, pop, funk machine that is TobyMac and his band, Cornerstone had a little  bit of everything Wednesday night.

The much-discussed main stage move is showing some benefits. For one, the ccentral location makes it easier to get to. I think more people are stopping and checking out the main stage shows that they would’ve otherwise missed completely.

And having the stage right in the middle of the grounds makes it the focal point of the physical environment. You can see the main stage from much of the outlying area. It was always cool for me to come up over the hill and see the stage. But for the rest of the day, main stage was out of sight and out of mind. Now it’s always lurking.

If you’re not here, there’s still time for some great shows — Skillet, The Devil Wears Prada, The Almost, David Crowder Band, and a ton more.