The softer side

As we’ve blogged about several times already, Cornerstone Festival is known for diversity in musical selection. So many genres of music, including many I can’t define nor identify, are present at both the “official” and generator stages.

I’ve heard from several people (both at the fest, and since returning home) who were under the impression that most bands at Cornerstone were “harder.” So, to help these people (who, by the way, are not all “old” – some are in high school!), here’s a list of some things I enjoyed, on the softer side of Cornerstone. These aren’t sleep-inducing bands, they’re not all acoustic, they’re not all worship acts – this list is actually fairly diverse. The common thread seems to be intelligent lyrics, strong melodies, and an overall softer sound than some of what you hear around the festival grounds.

  • Photoside Cafe. They describe themselves as “aggressive, acoustic, art rock band” and that fits well. Mixing in violin, piano & distinctive vocals, Photoside Cafe definitely found a place with many new fans at the fest. They do bring a bit of rock, so they’re not entirely “softer” but I know many people who would like this band a lot.
  • Andrew Oliver. (I can’t find a link, sorry.) I know of Andrew from his drumming with Jeff Elbel + Ping. I was happy to wander in to the Ping set early to catch Andrew behind the mic instead, sharing stories about the prodigal son.
  • Carolina Story. Generator stages, while often being venues for harder music, work remarkably well for acoustic shows – something Carolina Story demonstrated well when I saw them at the Arkansas Stage near the showers early in the week. This recently-wed couple met in college and clearly loves to play together. They managed to draw a satisfied crowd, despite having to compete with a hardcore show just across the road. Their song, “The Unseen Sin” (available in acoustic format on their myspace page) impressed me most. Thoughtful lyrics sung with a soulful voice.
  • Erich Siemens. Hailing from San Marcos, Texas, Erich brought a beautiful singer-songwriter set to the Grrr/Project 12 tent on Saturday evening. He lists Rich Mullins & Brennan Manning among his heroes. I’d be very happy to sit and listen to Erich again – next time hopefully with a cup of good coffee!
  • Brian Beyke. I missed his shows on some generator stages at the festival, but have been enjoying his beautiful acoustic/instrumental/ambient music since returning home. No vocals (other than a few tracks with some spoken-word overlays). Very pretty.
  • Hiram Ring. His show was another suprise, this time via the Impromptu tent. This is fairly rhythmic acoustic music, clearly influenced by the songwriter growing up overseas in a missionary family.

Bands that also vaguely fit into this “softer side” category, mentioned elsewhere on the blog already:

  • Men As Trees Walking. Sweet, soothing, fascinating worship music that’s otherwise hard to describe. Listen for yourself here.
  • Nitengale. This is the kind of music that just makes me smile. It also gets me dancing in my chair.
  • Seabird. I’m really enjoying what these guys are up to. They rock more than some others on this list, but I think most fans of acoustic music wouldn’t mind adding a little Seabird to their iPods.
  • The Square Peg Alliance. Any of these individual singers who performed in the Gallery (plus Derek Webb who took the stage after them) would be a great addition to the library of anybody who likes intelligent, melodic music. I love how they emphasize presenting beauty & truth in their music.
  • Terry Taylor. Older fans should know Terry Taylor from Daniel Amos or the Lost Dogs. I’m more familiar with his solo work, surprisingly. I always get a tear in my eye when he sings about his dad dancing in the street. I hope to catch his solo tour when it rolls thru my hometown in a few weeks.
  • Hand Drawn Mountains. From the new band showcase.
  • Maron. Beautiful voice!
  • Deas Vail. Their albums are a frequent companion during my work-day. They, too, bring a bit more rock than some on this list, but you ought to check them out.
  • Anchor & Braille. Side project of Stephen Christian (of Anberlin). Album releases August 4th.

I know there’s a lot I missed – let us all know what else you’d recommend by posting a comment!

  • Ty Stakes

    Oh please…you have to expand on Maron beyond a “beautiful voice” (tho I agree with that truncated analysis). I tip my hat enthusiastically to her as a songwriter, and was ESPECIALLY delighted by her band (Scott Kneis and the bass player in particular).

    And while I am at is, Josh Garrels? No mention? Wow…what an incredible artist.