Friday was the big day at the fest for me in terms of the number of bands I wanted to see. And given that the fest is more than half over, it’s fitting that I’m finally adjusting to the Cornerstone schedule of sleeping late (unless you need to get up and write a blog) and getting to bed in the wee hours of the morning.
After starting the day helping out some friends (jumping off a car battery, and buying some bread for the hard-working denizens of the web coverage trailer), the avalanche of bands began. First up was Everfound, a 4-piece made up of brothers who are Russian immigrants. They played piano-driven rock that was surprisingly mature considering that the singer and songwriter was, if I heard correctly, 19 years old. Quiet Science, who I’ve been missing all week long on generator stages, followed them with a high-energy set of melodic rock. They once again proved that bass players have all the fun, too – their bassist was wearing a lab coat and dancing all over the stage for the whole set. Poema completed my initial stint at the New Band Showcase. The band consists of two teenaged sisters playing piano and acoustic guitar, with a younger brother adding percussion. I only caught a couple of their songs, but what I heard sounded pretty good.
Don’t Wake Aislin was next, playing on the Texas generator stage. They’ve been playing everywhere all week, and both the singer and guitarist were having voice problems from all the wear and tear. They were a pretty polished female-fronted rock band that even sounded good on a generator stage.
Two other bands I wanted to see, Remedy Drive and Good Luck Varsity, were playing at the same time on the two Encore stages, so I caught a few songs of each. Good Luck Varsity had the best “seriously, we’re not hardcore” fliers up around the fest, and Remedy Drive was the most smashy, with the singer diving off his piano a few times, diving into the drum kit, jumping on the bass player, etc. Both were melodic rock bands (thank goodness that melody is making a comeback!), but Remedy Drive seemed a little more seasoned, and I’d have liked to have seen more of their set.
The flurry of bands continued as I briefly surfed by stages to hear bits of Flatfoot 56 (a wildly entertaining band to watch), Hand Drawn Mountains, Exit the Ordinary, and Spoken Nerd (whose song “I Love the Police” drew a chuckle from me).
I caught about half of Terry Taylor’s set at the Gallery. It seemed odd that such a Cornerstone legend was playing a short set early in the evening, but even playing acoustically (with Steve Hindalong on percussion, Mike Roe joining him on guitar for a song or two, and his son playing bass), it was a fun set. I caught a Swirling Eddies song (“Outdoor Elvis”), some DA classics (“Walls of Doubt,” “Shedding the Mortal Coil,” “Mall All Over the World”) and some Taylor solo songs (“Papa Danced on Olvera Street,” “Buffalo Hills”). I hated to leave the set, but as was the theme of the day, there were other things to see.
Before heading to Main Stage, I stopped by for most of the set from Ramoth-Gilead. The name sounds like a death metal band, but it’s actually a clever soul singer with a good voice and an acoustic guitar. His song “My Hoopty Flashy Thangz” brought several laughs (check it out on his MySpace page). This was one of the more unique and enjoyable shows I’ve seen so far.
I made the trek to Main Stage to see Shiny Toy Guns and Anberlin. I don’t know much about Shiny Toy Guns, so I was curious to see their set. I arrived just as mewithoutyou was ending, and there was a mass exodus away from the stage. There was still a good crowd for Shiny Toy Guns, so the mewithoutyou crowd must have been massive. Shiny Toy Guns seems an odd fit for Cornerstone. There’s a tie-in to the Christian industry (two members used to be in the techno band Cloud2Ground back in the 90s, and played Cornerstone a few times), but the band doesn’t really have any current association with this scene that I’m aware of. Their set reflected that tension, as it switched gears a little awkwardly from dance rock tracks like “Le Disko” to a cover of a Delirious worship song. The band even made mention of the MC Hammer show on Main Stage back in 1998, which was a similarly odd show. Musically, the band sounded pretty good, with plenty of pounding bass, and the highlight was current single “Major Tom,” as heard in a current Lincoln commercial.
Anberlin closed out the night (in the rain) on Main Stage. I like the band a lot, but they’ve been hit and miss at Cornerstone in the past. A couple of years ago, the mix was so bass-heavy that the songs were unintelligible, and singer Stephen Christian has occasionally had trouble balancing the demands of singing and running around the stage. Last night, the mix was a little bass-heavy, but that’s the only complaint I can find – the set was absolutely awesome. I’ve never heard the band (and especially Christian) sound better as they ripped through an hour’s worth of songs from their last 3 albums and one cover that I’ll discuss below. They proved that they totally deserved the headlining slot for the night, and if you missed the set, you missed one of the best shows of the fest.
The night ended with the Crucified on an Encore stage. I’ve been aware of the seminal Christian thrash metal band only as the precursor to Stavesacre (both Mark Salomon and Jeff Bellew were in the Crucified before Stavesacre) up to this point. I’m not really all that into the genre, but since this was kind of a big deal reunion show, I decided to check it out. As it turns out, it was really good. Salomon’s personality and stage presence are worth going to the show for, and both the band and the crowd are a lot of fun to watch. It’s not really my thing, but I’m glad that I can say that I’ve seen them play.
Not a large quantity of covers on Friday, but the quality of the covers made up for it. Shiny Toy Guns worked three covers into their set – the aforementioned version of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” (which was very cool), the Delirious song that I didn’t catch the title of, and Depeche Mode’s “Stripped” (not my favorite Depeche Mode song, but still cool to hear). In addition to working in a chorus of U2′s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” at the end of “Dismantle. Repair.”, Anberlin also wins for the best cover of the day (and maybe for the week) – New Order’s “True Faith.” It’s a great song, and their performance of it (especially with the massive cloud of smoke and light on Main Stage) was outstanding. It sounded like Anberlin, while still maintaining the 80s dance vibe. Totally awesome – look for it on YouTube.
And that brings us to today, the last day of the fest. It’s rainy and cool and nasty looking outside, but there are plenty of bands playing (in tents, thankfully) that I’m anxious to see, including Seabird, Nitengale, and a band called Audrey that namechecks Anberlin, Copeland, Mae, Eisley, and Deas Vail on their flier. If they can live up to half of that list, I’ll be really impressed.