Thursday, as things turned out, seemed to be the unofficial “day of the cover song” at Cornerstone. I love covers, especially when bands are playing live. It’s interesting to hear different takes on songs, the songs that bands choose to cover often give you a little insight into a band’s influences (or at least into what kind of stuff they like), and when you’re watching an unfamiliar band, a cover provides something familiar to draw you into the set. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a day at the fest with quite so many covers, so I had a great time on Thursday.
I spent the afternoon wandering around to see various bands, most of whom were new to me: The Clutter, News From Verona (very high-energy and fun), Don’t Wake Aislin (better than last year, when the singer had worn out her voice from too many generator sets), Divided By Friday (who had a go at covering “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins, of all things), and others.
One highlight of the afternoon was Crosswire, a young band playing on the New Band Showcase. They play old-school 80s hard rock, a la AC/DC (the singer does a pretty dead-on impersonation of Brian Johnson at times), and they’re a lot of fun. The guitarist was particularly impressive – he had some nice, shreddy chops (using all of Eddie Van Halen’s tricks), and a good start on learning some crucial rock clichés like Angus Young’s stage hop, splits, jumps, and holding the guitar aloft in various ways. You don’t see that sort of stuff much anymore, and as a child of the 80s, I enjoyed it quite a bit. They also covered Collective Soul’s “Shine” and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”
Completely different but also very nice was Brooke Waggoner, who played piano-driven pop songs accompanied by a drummer and bassist (and joined by harpist Timbre on a couple of songs). Her stuff was quirky and fun, and her piano playing was enthralling. I really enjoyed her set, and bought a couple of CDs that will hopefully represent her live set well. No covers, though.
Jeff Elbel + Ping played their second set of the week at the Jesus Village, and as it turned out, it was an all covers set where Jeff got to pick some stuff he really likes, and have some fun with it with a bunch of talented musicians, including Harry Gore, Maron, and Mike Choby, and Andrew Oliver. I had a blast listening to it. They covered “Nod Over Coffee” by Mark Heard, “Violent Blue” by Chagall Guevara, “The Whole of the Moon” by the Waterboys,” and songs by the Magnetic Fields, Bob Dylan, and the Kinks. Good fun.
I caught a bit of Phil Joel (he was a member of the Newsboys, so I’m not sure his versions of “Entertaining Angels” and other Newsboys songs count as covers, but they’re close enough) and The Almost (who covered Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’”) on the Main Stage. Then I remembered that I was late for a set that I was really curious about, Resurrection Band tribute band Lightshine Theater.
I’ve never seen a tribute band (and it’s especially odd to see one playing Cornerstone), and I love REZ, so I was intrigued by this set. As it turned out, it was probably my favorite thing that I’ve seen all week. The band is made up of 5 “old guys,” including three guitarists that can really shred, and a singer that does a credible impersonation of Glenn Kaiser. They ran through a number of REZ songs, including “Waves,” “Colours,” “Military Man,” “City Streets,” and “Alienated,” but they also mixed in a few other fun things like a Barren Cross song (“King of Kings,” as I recall), a Steve Taylor song (“I Want To Be A Clone”), a killer version of “Over My Head” from King’s X, and a very nice song (“Vision of Perfection”) from a band called Legacy that two of the guys in the band were in back in the 80s. The biggest highlight, though, was when the band closed with REZ’s “Love Comes Down,” and various stage hands and members of Leper (who were playing on the stage next) started mimicking the dance moves from the famously cheesy video for that song. This set was made of win all around.
I caught a bit of I’m Not A Pilot, a very interesting band made up of piano, bass, drums, and electric cello. Very pretty music, including a nice cover of the Cure’s “Lovesong.” I wish I’d been able to stay for their whole set, but I had to run off to my final show of the night, the Choir.
The Choir is one of my all-time favorite bands, and they’ve just released a new album, Burning Like the Midnight Sun. They don’t play much anymore, and they almost never play with bassist Tim Chandler anymore, so I was very excited to see them and took up a spot right down front. They played a lot of my favorite songs from Chase the Kangaroo and Circle Slide, plus selections from some of their other albums and 3 new songs. As Steve Hindalong described it, the set was “a little rough.” The band was a little rusty, and it showed, but I was still happy for the opportunity to see them play again, and I’m excited to hear the new album. (It’s available in the merch tent, but my preordered copy is probably sitting in my mailbox in Atlanta currently).
So, lots of covers and then one of my favorite bands. That’s not a bad day. Today, though, promises to be even better, with a great lineup that includes Deas Vail, Paper Route, Over the Rhine, and Eisley. I can’t wait!