Electricity! You Fickle Friend!

By now you’ve heard about the heat. The oppressive, sizzling, sweltering heat. It’s draining everyone, including the power for the entire county apparently. The electricity vaporized from the grounds again today leaving everywhere except the Main Stage and generator stages, each with their own power, down to a stand-still. This made me very sad because it happened right as Quiet Science was about to take the stage. It looks like their show is going to be rescheduled for tonight at 7 PM which gives me a massive conundrum as they are playing at the same time as The Choir and also Campbell The Band. Tough choices.

I was sad to have no music, but it did afford a chance to have some conversations with friends, including people as far away as Scotland. That’s one of the coolest things about Cornerstone. I’ve met people from all over the country, indeed all over the world, and we all share common musical interests that make discussions seem perfectly natural.

Some artists made the best of the lack of electricity. Mike Roe and Derri Daugherty performed through a single amp powered by an RV. Total professionals, they played a great show featuring their new project Kerosene Halo with their humor and sentiment.

The power finally returned for Jeff Elbel and his band Ping. Jeff brought new music to the festival this year and even invited me up on stage to take a group photo. I’m glad I didn’t trip over any cords and knock instruments all over the stage, so it’s a big win for me.

The sun is finally starting to set and hopefully the heat will start to break. There is a whole bunch of music going on tonight, including Deas Vail which should be great. There’s also the conflict of Quiet Science/The Choir/Campbell the Band. Were I a younger person on a cooler day, I would try to make my rounds and hit all three shows. We’ll see if I have any energy left to do that or if I just collapse in a chair at one of the tents.

Thursday

I figured it would be to typical of me to write about the AMAZING Flatfoot 56 show last night, so I’m not going to.

Coleman camping gear once released a commercial calling the camp site the “original social networking site.” The same is true of the camping here at Cornerstone Festival.

Cornerstone gives people an amazing opportunity to meet like-minded people in their fields, whether it be art, politics, music, sci-fi, etc. As a newbie photographer, I was very excited to spend some time following around my favorite fest photographer. Watching her shoot and asking her questions gave me a lot of insight into ways to further myself as an artist.

After shooting, I spent some time at her camp with another photographer talking about different post-processing methods and dark room photo manipulation. We discussed topics that affect us as Christian photographers; questions I’d been asking and wresting with for months were finally being talked through with like-minded people.

I spent some time walking around holding a sign asking people if I could photograph their tattoos. Most times, they were more than willing to share the stories behind their ink. For many of them, I found ways that my life and interests connected to their ink, even though I don’t have any “real” tattoos.

A friend of mine and I were talking about how we wished the real world was as friendly as people at Cornerstone. If you get out of your comfort zone and talk to someone, chances are great that you’ll make a new friend and your Cornerstone experience will be truly enriched.

-Laura

Cornerstone… Community In Action

Cornerstone is often referred to as a community. You hear that word mentioned a lot on these campgrounds. What does it mean? If you’ve been coming to Cornerstone for several years, then you probably know about JPUSA, the organization that sponsors the festival. JPUSA is an intentional community in Chicago, IL made up of Christians who live together, minister together, work together, and worship together. It is a radical approach to Christianity that most would not be up to. These principles of working and living together that make up JPUSA’s way of life translate to life on the festival grounds every summer. Here are just a few examples of community in action that I have witnessed over the years coming to Cornerstone:

Four years ago, I brought a big group of people in a church van. Just after arriving, our van got stuck in the mud. A group of people camping around there sprang into action summoning help, rope, and an ATV to pull us out. All they asked in return was if we saw someone in need during the week, to help them.

There is a lady here on the grounds who for the last several years has been offering free ramen noodles to anyone who wants them. She’ll even provide the stove and propane to cook them. All she asks is that you clean up after yourself.

Just today, I had lunch at a restaurant in town with two guys who are here playing in a band on generator stages. This means they are not getting paid and are playing because they love music and want to share it with others. On the second day of the festival, they hit a deer with their van and really messed it up. They spoke of the outpouring of love and support from people at the fest who had come to their aid helping them with the van and helping them with food.

No telling how many countless teenagers over the years have made it home due to donations from strangers who helped them out when they ran out of money.

This year, I am camping in approximately the same spot I did last year. My neighbors are the same people I camped with last year. Being alone at the fest, it is nice to have familiar faces to speak with when I am at the campsite.

This list could go on and on. What instances of community in action have you experienced at Cornerstone over the years?

Blackout!

OK, first things first.  It’s hot.  Like, circus hot.  Having daytime shows out in the open at Main Stage really hammers the point home, and today’s going to be worse, so remember to get out of the sun when you can, and drink more water than you think you need.  Cornerstone’s no fun if you’re passed out in the first aid trailer.

Day 2 of the festival, the first “official” day with all of the stages fully up and running, was eventful.  An hour-long power outage took down just about everything on the grounds (and, from what I hear, some stuff out in Bushnell, as well) except for the generator stages and Main Stage (which also runs off of some industrial strength generators).  That ensured that the schedules were in complete disarray on most of the stages.  Some artists soldiered on, like Mike Roe playing his set unplugged (literally).  Others, like Vinacious (whose sound is mostly keyboards and electric guitar), just had to call it a day when the power went out.  Even the giant inflatable water slide went flat.  But everybody took it in stride, the generator stages got a good boost, and eventually things got back to normal (or as close as it gets out here).

The big event for the day was the Jesus Rally on Main Stage, with a full day of classic Christian Rock pioneers (some of whom hadn’t played a show together in 20 years or more).  It, too, was on “Cornerstone Time,” running about an hour late all day due to some late arrivals and extra-long sound checks.  The older folks were out in force, braving the heat to see the bands of their youth, and there were a lot of younger fans there too, which was nice to see.  I fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, so for me, it was a mix of artists that I’m a big fan of but have rarely seen (Resurrection Band, Petra with Greg Volz, Daniel Amos) and artists that I’m aware of but had never really listened to (Barry McGuire, Phil Keaggy, Servant, and others).

Barry McGuire was my favorite out of the artists that I wasn’t that familiar with.  He was obviously enjoying himself, and his enthusiasm was infectious as he told the stories behind songs like “Bullfrogs and Butterflies” and “Eve of Destruction,” led the crowd in sing-alongs, and shared his testimony (which involved marijuana, the Mamas and the Papas, and Good News for Modern Man).  And I’m pretty sure he’ll win the award for the most unexpected cover of the week with his version of Madonna’s “Frozen.”

Daniel Amos, who have actually been out on the road for the last few weeks on their first tour in a decade or so, played a fun, tight, hit-laden 45 minute set that spanned their career, from the first song they ever recorded (“Ain’t Gonna Fight It”), to the last song on their latest album (“And So It Goes”).  In between, they hit a lot of favorites, like “Mall (All Over the World),” “Walls of Doubt,” “Sanctuary,” and “I Love You #19.”  It was fantastic seeing Terry, Jerry, Greg, and Ed playing together again, and bassist Tim Chandler (who couldn’t join the tour due to other commitments) was missed, but touring bassist Paul Averitt was incredibly fun to watch.  He played with authority, sang most of the background parts, and stomped around the stage like he was playing with Anberlin instead of DA.  My only complaint is that there wasn’t more of the set to love.

As John Thompson pointed out in his introduction, without Resurrection Band, there wouldn’t be a Cornerstone Wendi and Glenn Kaiser of Resurrection BandFestival.  Glenn and Wendi Kaiser and their cohorts were one of the first Christian hard rock bands, tackling issues in their lyrics that a lot of other bands wouldn’t touch.  The music and the message both still resonate today.  The band sounded great, and played with a lot of fire.  Wendi, in particular, gave it everything she had – at rehearsal the day before, she was using a cane to move around the stage, but during the Main Stage set, she had the crew bring her a wireless microphone so she could get out on the catwalk to speak and sing and get closer to the fans.  I’m thankful for every opportunity I get to see REZ play a show.

I literally ran from the Resurrection Band set to the Gallery to see Paper Route, who delivered my favorite set of last year’s festival.  After the departure of one member, they added a couple more, so they’re playing as a six-piece now.  Lead singer J.T. spoke about how hard the last year had been for him, and his gratitude for the support of the fans who packed the front of the stage was evident.  The set drew primarily from Absence, along with a sneak peek at a song from their forthcoming album.  The set was great, and I can’t wait to hear the new album.

Back at Main Stage, a reunited “classic” Petra lineup (singer Greg Volz, drummer Louie Weaver, bassist Mark Kelley, keyboardist John Lawry, and guitar stalwart Bob Hartman) closed out the Jesus Rally.  If I’m honest, things didn’t go too well for them – Greg stumbled on a few lyrics, and not even Guitar Hero “Star Power” could keep them from failing out after they started “Clean” in about 3 different keys and had to have a band huddle to sort things out.  But I was a teenage Petra fanboy who never got to see the band with Volz, even though I always liked that era of the band the best, so even though the performance wasn’t great, it was still fun to have the chance (which I never thought I’d have) to sing along with the band on songs like “Bema Seat,” “Angel of Light,” “It Is Finished,” and “All Over Me.”  I wish they’d been a little tighter, but it was still really cool to see them play.

So I made it through the day without bursting into flames, I saw some of my favorite bands from back in the day, and I saw one of my favorite current bands.  That’s a win all around.

Day 2 – Jesus Music and Superheroes

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The Jesus Music Rally was on the minds of almost everyone at Cornerstone on Thursday. Even Paper Route’s lead singer admitted to wanting to see Petra right as his show was about to start. The sun and heat made it a bit of a challenge of endurance, but the unique opportunity to see artists, some who haven’t performed in 20 years, draw people to sit in the open sun.

Before that, though, there were plenty of artists making their first appearance at Cornerstone. The band members of Dead American Radio had just been through the tornadoes of Joplin, Missouri, even lifting the guitarist/singer off the ground, but still made an appearance to play punk-pop music at the festival. On the Main Stage, Milano made a colorful debut at the festival festooned with paint and feathers. Things went a little out of order when Vinacious took the stage and the power cut out (even causing the Big Events slide to deflate, hope no one was one it when it happened!) Since they were a band heavy on electronics, there wasn’t much for them to do, but that’s the unpredictable nature of Cornerstone.

On Main Stage, Servant started the day off. The band hadn’t played in over 20 years, so this was a rare opportunity to see them perform. One of the surprises for me for the day was Barry McGuire. I really didn’t know much of his music, so I didn’t know what to expect, but he was comfortable and colloquial with the crowd. I enjoyed his comment about “stress identifying the parts of your life that you don’t trust to God” and thought about how that tied into my “Keep Calm and Rock On” theme for Cornerstone this year. On the side of the stage I could see Terry Taylor enjoying the show also, applauding as McGuire would play familiar favorites. Taylor’s band, Daniel Amos, was all business for their performance on the Main Stage. DA has been known sometimes for their Swirling Eddies antics and jokes on stage, but today they ran through a great set of favorite songs. The heat of the day was starting to get to me by this point and so I spent the next couple of hours trying to find shade where I could, but I listened to Randy Stonehill while eating dinner.

I had originally feared that I would have to make a choice between Phil Keaggy, Paper Route, and Petra in the evening. However, due to the delays from power outages and main Stage sound checks, I was able to see most of all of these shows. Paper Route returned to a very crowded Gallery stage and teased us with a new song in their set. The Phil Keaggy show ended up actually being a Glass Harp show and in the true ethos of 70′s music poured out some long jams on electric guitar. I was particularly happy to see Keaggy on electric guitar as I’ve seen his solo act on acoustic many many times, but seeing him in a band context was a new thing for me. Petra finished up the night, bringing back the 80′s with the lineup that produced Beat The System. Greg Volz had a marathon night, performing earlier with e Band.

On the way out, we couldn’t resist stopping by the Encore tent for Flatfoot 56. The Superheroes theme was on tonight and I loved the signs “Pow!”, “Boom!”, “Zot!” that raced across the stage as band fervently belted out punk rock with bagpipes and mandolins. The kids, of course, are almost as much fun to watch as the band as they raced around, bedecked with flags and costumes.

The heat is in full force at Cornerstone this year. Stay cool, drink water, and apply sunburn!

Sunscreen, shade, shake-ups

The heat was on Thursday at Cornerstone, and Friday may be even hotter. To help you beat the heat, here are some time-honored suggestions:

  • Drink lots of water, then drink some more. To quote many a youth pastor, “drink enough so you have to pee.” Sounds obvious, but I know people who have missed their favorite bands from not drinking enough water. After satisfying hydration needs with water, a lemon or strawberry shake up is refreshing.
  • Enjoy the shade, but don’t overheat in a tent without a breeze, either. You might even take a cue from some folks often found near The Asylum and pop open an umbrella for portable shade.
  • If it’s your turn to fetch ice for your campsite, believe me that it is remarkably satisfying to carry it on your head.
  • This might also be a good day to offer to make a run into Macomb for extra supplies…
  • Stay positive, laugh about the heat, help a friend or a total stranger, and enjoy another great day at Cornerstone!

The morning came too soon

Perhaps it was inspired by the retro music last night.

Perhaps it was inspired by going to bed sometime after 2am, knowing I had a date with a washer & dryer at 8am.

Perhaps it was inspired by a hot day Thursday, with an even hotter day predicted for Friday.

I’m not sure what, but I went to bed & woke up with these lyrics from 1992 in my head:

Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so much work left to do
But so much You’d already done

Some of my fellow bloggers are picking heat-inspired songs to listen to today. I doubt they’ll come up with this old ccm-ish Rich Mullins tune (in fact, I’m surprised *I* thought of it!), but I think it fits perfectly today. The morning has come way too soon, the day will most definitely be too hot, there’s a whole lot left, but there’s so much our God has already done!

Cornerstone-rs (is that what we call ourselves? I’m never sure) have celebrated what God has done a lot already this week.

I’ve heard female-fronted Witness 7 playing the Impact generator stage talking about surviving a suicide attempt. Lead singer for Paper Route, J.T. Daly, told the excited crowd at the Gallery about how this has been an incredibly hard year, but he still sees how God shows up. Some young guys from Joplin who make up Dead American Radio on the Ignite generator stage pointed out that their drum kit (and them!) had survived an EF5 tornado, with the lead singer sharing a remarkable story of surviving being yanked into the rotating cloud. Barry McGuire at the Jesus Rally talked about using way too many drugs, but encountering “Good News for Modern Man” and eventually surrendering to Christ.

It’s not just bands who celebrate… You can see the evidence of God at work as you walk by the Art Pilgrimage, notice people willingly choose to sit in hot tents to pray or listen to seminary-level talks, and catch snippets of conversations of friends gathered around campsites. It even happens for me: I’ve talked with friends, rejoicing that (for the first time in 2 years), I’m able to actually walk around the fest grounds without severe pain. I really & truly thank God for that.

There’s a lot left to do this week… There are more lemon shake-ups to be drunk. There’s a very hot day to be positive about. There’s at least one fried dough product in my future. There are several bands left on my must-not-miss list. There are seminars to attend. There are laughs to be had. The Cornerstone Coverage Team has a lot of videos to make (yes, videos are coming ). There are friends to hug. But, there’s already a lot that God has done!