Ahh, change. It’s been kind of a theme for the last couple of years, hasn’t it? Personally, I’m a creature of habit and I love my “rituals” - once I get used to something, I kind of enjoy the sense of familiarity that I get from its sameness. That’s why, for example, I tend to stop at the same gas stations every year when I drive to Cornerstone (Pelham, TN Stuckey’s, I know you have a root beer and a Goo-Goo cluster waiting for me…). All things being equal, I usually like things to stay the way they are.
Now, Cornerstone has seen its share of changes. The band lineup, of course, changes every year. There’s a crazy amount of turnover in the schedule from year to year, and bands that stay together and become regulars for more than a couple of years are the exception. Bands like the Choir, who played the first Cornerstone and are playing this year’s model as well, with their original members, are REALLY the exception. The big change came in 1991, when the fest packed up and moved from its original Grayslake, IL location to its present location on the farm outside Bushnell. (I’ve only experienced the Bushnell version, but from what I’ve seen, I’d say that was a change for the better. But I probably wouldn’t have liked it at the time…)
So what’s changing this year? Well, for the first time since I started attending the fest in 1998, the festival is doing a major overhaul of the stage layout. (There have been tweaks in the past, but nothing of this magnitude.) Check out the festival grounds map to see what I’m talking about. As you might assume from reading my first paragraph, I’m a little leery of this change, but I’m trying to keep an open mind. I’m curious to hear what people think going into the festival (I’ve already seen some comments about the change on the festival Facebook page) and to compare that with what people think after living with the changes for a week.
Some of my thoughts:
- The changes to generator stages are probably a net positive. There was something cool about generator stages when they were mostly DIY efforts where young bands brought their little PA and played out of the trunk of their car on the side of the road. But things started to evolve – the generator stages got bigger and more complex and started competing with each other (and at times interfering with the “real” stages). Things kind of reached a breaking point last year, with 6 or 8 stages (many with questionable PAs) all squeezed in around that one intersection by the showers. The bands were stomping on each other, fans had to run a gauntlet of rawk to get through the area, and it generally wasn’t a good situation for anybody.
So, this year the generator stages are more regimented. They’re strung out along the road to the lake, and they’re required to have tents and presumably equipment of a certain quality. They should be more organized and less intrusive, which is good, but you probably lose a little bit of the freewheeling, DIY ethos that characterizes Cornerstone.
- Several other stages are getting reshuffled – Encore 2 is gone, Encore 1 has moved over by the merch tent, and the Gallery has moved over to where the Encore stages used to be (among other changes). These changes hit home to me, because I tend to see a lot of shows at the Encore stages and the Gallery. I loved when I was able to surf back and forth between the two Encores (especially on the late, lamented Tooth & Nail Day, when those two stages alternated bands for constant music all afternoon long), and the Gallery made for a great (cool and shady) gathering place next to the food court and midway during the day.
Sitting outside the Gallery on hay bales with friends on cool nights, with the food court lights flickering behind me and a band like Over the Rhine or the Lost Dogs on the stage, are some of my favorite memories of Cornerstone. I fear it’s not going to be quite the same with the Gallery out on the fringes.
- But the really big change is that Main Stage is moving to the midway area. I don’t have a good sense for what that’s really going to look like yet. I understand the rationale for wanting to integrate the BIG stage into the core of the festival grounds, but I’m not sure I like the disruption to the way things have been (again, I’m a creature of habit), and I feel like not using the bowl down by the lake is a waste of a fantastic, unique resource.
Yeah, it’s a long walk down to Main Stage, and that can be tough for somebody like me that enjoys both Family Force 5 and REZ – running down to Main Stage and back a couple times a night will wear you out. But making the pilgrimage to Main Stage also gave those shows a sense of “specialness.” That’s where the really big bands play, so having to go through a bit of hassle (if walking down a road next to a beautiful lake is really that much of a hassle) to see them just enhances the experience, in my opinion. Walking to the crest of the hill and seeing the place packed out (like for POD a few years ago), with the floor packed and the hill covered is an awesome thing.
Plus, you’re not going to get a scene like this in the new location:
So, how do you feel about change? Are you looking forward to the new layout, or hoping they’ll decide to change it back next year? Post some comments now, and we’ll compare and see how everybody feels about the changes post-fest.