Getting the most out of the festival

With over 300 bands to choose from during Cornerstone, and with upwards of 15 bands often playing at once (maybe more if you counted all the generator stages!), how can you possibly know which shows to go to? You can simply go thru the program and mark bands you’ve heard of, or use one of the online schedule makers to print your own schedule. I took that approach for years – and it worked fairly well. But, what about the bands you haven’t heard of yet which might be amazing? Every year, I’d hear about some great band that I missed. All too often, I missed their show while merely tolerating another band or just sitting around the campsite.

Over the past few years, our group of friends has come up with a pretty effective way to make sure we spend our festival time wisely and don’t miss out on new bands. We review the bands in advance, make notes & print up our own program. Since we’ve started the program, we’ve done a lot less random walking back-and-forth between shows, and we haven’t often missed something spectacular.

These directions won’t help much now that the fest is just hours from ending, but read them, file them away, and try it out with your friends for Cornerstone 2010.

Step 1: Recruit some friends. It’s crucial to have similar interests in music. (Your friends using my list wouldn’t work so well, since we probably have very different tastes in music.) You might also look for people you think can hear a band and accurately identify the style. Basically, you want to choose people so what one of you says is awesome, the rest of the group would also agree is worth seeing (or vice-versa), and who can identify a genre well enough to help you choose what to see.

Step 2: Set up a wiki or shared document (use your favorite web 2.0 tool, such as google docs, so you can all access the file & make changes to it).

Step 3: Grab the schedules at and copy & paste it into your shared document. Sort as desired.

Step 4: Get your friends started. Assign all of your friends to start with a different section of the schedule. (i.e. alphabetical, by day, by stage, whatever)

Step 5: Preview the bands. Using albums you already own, previews on iTunes, myspace pages, or whatever else you can find, listen to samples from each band.

Step 6: Write a short paragraph identifying the style of music and giving it a brief review. Merely saying “This is awesome” could work, but something like “Post-hardcore band that put on a great live show last time I saw them. Definitely worth seeing” works better.

Step 7: Compile everybody’s contributions, and email or print your own cheat-sheet reference guide to each band. You could arrange them alphabetically or by day/stage. Jerry, who compiles our programs, color codes everything: Green is for bands we all know & already love. Blue is for bands that we’re not familiar with but which seem solid. Yellow is borderline. Purple bands are random, but possibly good (that color also goes for most seminars). Red are bands that don’t suit our style at all.

Step 8: Use that info to make your schedule. There will still be schedule conflicts, but at least this way you can make a more informed decision which band to see.

Step 9: During the fest, when you’re not sure what to see next, simply look at your cheat sheet. Enjoy being able to see your favorite bands without as much stress, and also being able to catch great new music.