After doing some damage to the pizza buffet at the Godfather’s That Time Forgot in Macomb (seriously, that place is straight out of 1985), I meandered toward the grounds for some of the early shows.
First up was supposed to be Army of Me, who sounded pretty good when I previewed them on MySpace. As it turns out, only the singer for the band made the trip, and he played an acoustic set that for some reason I found very engaging. I don’t know what it is about some “guy with acoustic guitar” shows that causes me to wander off while others hold my attention. Maybe it’s that some “guys with acoustic guitars” approach it from the rock side of things (just “taking it down a notch”), while others approach it from the mellower side of things. Whatever it is, I enjoyed this set quite a bit.
After catching parts of sets by Take the Sky and the Dark Romantics, I watched Deas Vail again play to a big crowd on the Indoor stage. Watching their bass player play is one of the best things about their sets – despite the fact that the band as a whole leans toward the mellower side of rock, that guy’s all over the stage thrashing around and having a great time. He’s fun to watch.
Next, I headed over to the Jesus Village to set up merch for Jeff Elbel + Ping, and watched them play another fun set. The large band (including Maron on background vocals, Harry Gore on lead guitar, Mike Choby on organ, Andrew Oliver on drums, the violinist from Photoside Cafe, and still more people) was probably a little too much for the smallish stage and PA, so mixing the show was probably a huge problem, but everybody had a good time regardless. Ping’s a longtime Cornerstone band that people probably overlook, and Jeff’s really not much for self-promotion, but next year, everybody should come check out their set – it’s a good time.
Following Ping, in true Cornerstone tradition, I missed a bunch of shows I wanted to see (All the Day Holiday, Rocketboys, the Becoming, Orphan Project, Rosie Thomas, and others) to just go hang out, eat dinner, and regroup for the evening. The reason I come here is to see bands, but sometimes you just have to sacrifice seeing a few of them so you can better enjoy the ones you do see later.
I went to see Rodent Emporium on the Impromptu stage with some trepidation. They were fun enough yesterday, but not really my thing. This show hooked me, though. I started out sitting in the back, and wound up standing on stage with the band at the end. Musically, highlights included “I’m A Man, Not A Woman,” “Snake Patrol,” and a catchy song that I don’t know the title of with the chorus “we set you on fire, fire, fire, and gave you radiation poisoning.” (Seriously, it’s awesome.) Entertainment-wise, highlights included an old guy in an Over the Rhine t-shirt in a circle pit, watching the stage divers, and finding out that, thankfully, at least one Scotsman wears boxers under his kilt as he tumbled headfirst off of the crowd onto the stage. At the end, the singer said “if I point to you, come up on the stage and stand there quietly.” I was beside the stage taking photos, and who am I to disagree with a man with a mohawk and a kilt? This was one of the most fun shows at the fest thus far
I caught a couple more shows, including a high-energy set from Astellaway and a very polished set from the Record Kid (from my hometown of Atlanta) before heading to Encore 2 for the midnight Stavesacre set. The last time I saw them, on Main Stage a couple of years ago, the wall of rock the threw off the stage was absolutely blistering. The Encore set didn’t quite reach that level, but it was a lot of fun. The band was tight, but not so tight that they didn’t make a couple of mistakes – guitarist Jeff Bellew screwed up the opening riff to one song and had to stop and try again, and drummer Sam West tried to hit his sticks together to count off a song and missed, drawing a laugh from singer Mark Salomon. They rocked hard for well over an hour, the longest set I’ve seen at the fest this year. Salomon is awesome to watch as well as listen to, putting his whole body into what he’s singing, and Bellew and the rest of the band bring amazing intensity on every song. I’m glad the band decided to stay together after nearly disbanding a couple of years ago.
I’m starting to see some repeat shows, so Astellaway’s cover of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round” was a repeat. I saw a random generator band covering the Romantics’ “What I Like About You.” Ping gave us both Badfinger’s “No Matter What” and U2’s “North and South of the River.” And both Ping and Dark Romantics introduced songs as covers that I was not familiar with, so I’m not sure who they were covering.
Today’s schedule is absolutely ridiculous, with up to 5 bands I want to see playing at the same time, and some hard choices tonight with Anberlin and Shiny Toy Guns conflicting with Terry Taylor and the Lost Dogs. Check back tomorrow to see what I end up seeing.