At this point in the festival, I really needed a day like Friday – lots of good bands (including some of my favorites) and not a lot of running around. Checking out unfamiliar stuff is great, but it’s also great to settle back and listen to a bunch of songs that you know by heart.
I started the day with a few unfamiliar bands that sounded promising. Oh! The Humanity, a duo playing autotuned synthpop with live guitars, were playing on a generator stage. I’m kind of a sucker for that kind of stuff, so my friends and I wandered in. Initially, the crowd was kind of small. It must be disheartening as a young band to start your set in front of nothing but a few dudes old enough to be your dad, but the band gave it their all, and eventually a pretty decent crowd wandered in. Their cover of “Check Yes Juliet” from We The Kings was especially fun.
In terms of promoting their set, Campbell the Band had to have been one of the hardest working bands at the fest, and that’s saying something. They played impromptu acoustic sets all around the grounds during the week, and their efforts seemed to have paid off – the New Band Showcase tent was packed out for their set on Friday. Their set was cut a bit short due to an extra-long soundcheck (sometimes you just have to plug in your stuff and hope for the best…), but what I heard was pretty good. They really engaged the crowd (including handing instruments to the crowd to hold while they played them) and gave a high energy performance, even though their music is a on the more mellow end of the spectrum.
Deas Vail (playing on Main Stage) was up next. It’s been fun watching that band come up through the ranks from the smaller stages to the larger ones over the last 3 or 4 years. In all fairness, they probably would have been on the Gallery or an Encore stage in years past, instead of in one of the newly-created daytime Main Stage slots, but regardless, there they were, up on the biggest of Cornerstone stages, with a respectable and enthusiastic crowd. Playing on that giant stage has swallowed up a lot of bands over the years, and the Deas Vail I first saw a few years ago probably wouldn’t have fared very well up there. But their music and performance has matured a lot over the years, and they really held their own with a set that drew from both of their albums and their White Lights EP.
Then it was time for an epic run of bands on the Gallery Stage (with a side trip to see Quiet Science on a generator stage, a set in which their live show finally lived up to the potential that I hear in their music) that are the reason I keep coming to Cornerstone after all these years: Over the Rhine (twice), Paper Route, and Eisley. Three very different bands, but all great.
Over the Rhine’s first set was a relaxed, mostly-acoustic set that featured a number of songs from Good Dog Bad Dog, an album they recently performed in its entirety in a special concert, and a handful of new songs from an album they recently finished recording. The performance was great as always, and it was a nice way to ease into the afternoon.
After an interesting set from Dignan and a long break to set up their ridiculously complicated equipment, Paper Route brought a bit of a clash of cultures to the Gallery. There were a bunch of older, mellower folks sitting in lawn chairs (as is the norm at the Gallery), probably holding a place for the Over the Rhine show later in the evening, as a bunch of younger fest-goers crowded down front to stand and see the band. I kind of bridge the gap between the “old people sitting down” crowd and the “standing up and rocking” crowd, so after the band’s first song, when it became clear that standing was the norm (at least down front), I gladly folded my chair and stood up to rock out with my younger fellow Paper Route fans. The band sounded great, and their set tended toward the more energetic side of their music. It was a top 5 show of the year for me – really great.
Eisley continued the culture clash, as competing shouts of “stand up!” and “sit down!” were heard between songs. I love Eisley, but they weren’t rocking quite as hard as Paper Route and most of the people behind me were sitting, so I was happy to enjoy their set from my chair. They played a nice, long set (about an hour), drawing from both of their albums and some of their EPs, as well as from their long-awaited, forthcoming album (no news yet on exactly when we should expect to see it released). I was nervous that their set wouldn’t be good, since I was talking it up to anybody that would listen, but they didn’t disappoint, and it was great to see them playing Cornerstone for the first time in 8 years. Hopefully now they’ll settle in and become regulars.
Over the Rhine closed the night with their traditional midnight (well, 11:30 this year) Gallery set. The second set wasn’t greatly different in tone from their first in style, but was a completely different set of songs. New songs again featured prominently in the set, and from what we’ve heard of their new material, it’s not a large departure from what they’ve been doing for the last couple of albums. It sounds funny to say about a band that’s as low-key as Over the Rhine, but the set seemed a little subdued compared to their sets of the last few years. There were some great moments throughout the set, though, including the opener “Born,” new song “The Laugh of Recognition,” and oldie “Professional Daydreamer.” Unfortunately, the set ended kind of awkwardly – the band left the stage and the house lights and music came on, even though there was a 3-song encore listed on the set list. Not sure what happened there, but more Over the Rhine is always a good thing.
Today it’s mostly back to sampling new stuff, with the exception of Seabird and All the Day Holiday. Tonight Tonight sounds promising, as do Highland Fall and At Cliffs End. Plus, there seems to be a lot of hip hop on the schedule today, so I might check out some of that for something a little different.