I’m finally home after the 1000 mile post-festival drive. I’m sure I’ll have more cogent thoughts later, but here are a few of my observations as I look back at this year’s get together. Please note that this is just one man’s opinion – I don’t speak for the other festival bloggers, and certainly not for the festival itself or JPUSA.
Favorite Show: Anberlin on Main Stage
I realize that it’s horribly, horribly unhip of me to pick a headlining band that’s playing mainstage. But what can I say? This was a rock and roll band at the height of its powers. They were tight, they had great energy and song selection, and really connected with the audience. Their cover of New Order’s “True Faith” put them over the top.
Shows I Wish I Had Seen: mewithoutyou, Derek Webb, the Lost Dogs
The festival always presents me with tough decisions, and this year was no exception. I went to main stage for Family Force 5, Relient K, and Anberlin. But that meant missing out on the Lost Dogs and Derek Webb. I usually catch the Dogs at the festival – not only is the music solid, but the banter between them is easily worth the time. And I would have loved to have heard Derek Webb, as he’s an artist I’ve admired for years. Finally, I got to main stage late on Friday because I wanted to catch some of Terry Taylor and Ramoth-Gilead (both of whom were great, by the way). But that meant missing out on mewithoutyou, who had a truly massive crowd.
Artist Development Awards: Seabird and All the Day Holiday
It’s been a real treat to get to watch these two bands develop as they’ve played the festival the last several years. The new material that ATDH played is solid, and I look forward to giving the new CD a good long listen. Seabird has matured as a band tremendously as well. They’re headed into the studio soon to record their sophomore effort. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with.
Favorite “Only At Cornerstone” Moment (Part 1)
During The Fold’s set on the Indoor Stage, they launched into a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Midway through, they noticed a kid dancing like crazy in the audience and pulled him up on stage. Whaddya know, he knew just about all of MJ’s steps, right down to the crotch grabs.
Favorite New (to me) Bands: Owl City, Quiet Science, Don’t Wake Aislin
One of the reasons I go back to Cornerstone year after year is that it’s such a great chance to discover music I’ve never heard before. So it was with this trio of bands. Owl City brought their intelligent electronic pop to a packed New Band Showcase and left the audience impressed. The only disappointment was that they didn’t have their CD with them. It comes out later this month. Watch for it.
I think Quiet Science played 23 sets during the festival this year. I was excited to see them, as the material on their myspace page sounded pretty promising. But I kept missing them due to schedule conflicts. I finally caught them on the New Band Showcase and came away impressed. They mixed influences like U2, Death Cab and the Killers into a melodic but still intense blend that sounded great.
Like Quiet Science, Don’t Wake Aislin fought for the title of “hardest working band at Cornerstone.” I’m not sure who won, but DWA should get bonus points for playing most of their shows in the blazing sun at the Texas stage. This wasn’t their first time at the festival, but I had somehow managed to miss them previously. I won’t make that mistake again.
Favorite “Only At Cornerstone” Moment (Part 2)
Looking around the crowd during Owl City’s New Band Showcase set and realizing that Crouton and Phatty from Family Force 5 were standing right behind me. I’m pretty sure Soul Glo joined them later in the set. I love that at Cornerstone, the artists and the fans can mix like that without it being a big deal.
Song I Never Thought I’d Hear Live: “Deathbed” by Relient K
I’ve always had a place in my heart for this self-contained rock opera. But I never thought Relient K would mix it into their set. It’s 10 minutes long, virtually a self-contained rock opera, for crying out loud! Who breaks that out at a summer festival? Evidently, Relient K does. The only way it would have been more of a surprise would have been if Jon Foreman walked on stage to reprise his performance on the CD.
Most Missed Band: Over The Rhine
There is something simply perfect about a midnight set in the Gallery stage with Linford, Karin, et al. The festival was great, but I missed that this year.
Most Welcome Trend: Hooks
I have nothing but love for all the hardcore bands that play the festival. Metal and punk can be fun too. But it seems like this year saw a resurgence in the number of bands that rely on a catchy melody. I was glad to hear it.