“Cornerstone or bust,” he said …

I have arrived, and to prove it, I’m here!  … and I’m definitely not first. Looks like a good crowd, and plenty of dust getting kicked up already.   I’m looking forward to a great week, and maybe I’ll avoid a sunburn.

If anyone wants to be my absolute hero, find me and let me borrow your “bilingual Firewire” cable. It goes from Firewire 400 to Firewire 800.  It’s the one critical piece of gear that I left behind, and it’ll keep me from multi-track recording Ping, and more importantly, THE CHOIR.

You can find me almost anytime or leave a message backstage at Gallery.

I get to play bass with Maron tonight on the Jesus Village stage, which I’m really looking forward to.  I predict some bleed from the Switchfoot set, so maybe we can learn a couple of their songs and play along with them.

Ping’s set at the new Gallery Stage location is tomorrow at 4:15.  The band is sounding good, and we whipped up a brand new track on Monday (yesterday) that we’re going to play tomorrow. The song is called “Lucky.”  Very vibey.  Probably the closest thing to Choir style we’ve done since some of us were in Farewell to Juliet back in the dark ages.

Excited to be back here with everyone!

It’s Here…

The festival officially opens at 8 PM with Switchfoot’s Main Stage performance, but it is already in full swing. About an hour ago, the merch tents opened up selling all sorts of swag from tshirts, to jewelery, to tattoos (temporary and permanent). Of course there are tons of cds, vinyls, and cassettes. Several booths are giving away free Ipads and other goodies, but if you sign up for those you lessen my chances of winning so stay away! Just kidding, but I signed up for all of them that were being offered. One place is even offering free backpacks to everyone that comes by if you need that. (I forgot one and regretted it these past two days. Thanks Trevecca Nazarene University for solving my problem.)

Things are different this year, but it is still undeniably Cornerstone. I was on the fence about the Main Stage moving to the midway, but it seems to be a good change. It looks great right in the middle of the action. The volleyball courts are moved, but today as I looked out the window from the coverage trailer a large group of kids had a game of ultimate frisbee going; Cornerstone fans are always able to adapt.

The weather is  great, music is loud, food is greasy, lake is cold, and Cornerstone is ready for you. If you haven’t made it out yet, there is still plenty of time left; get in your car and head on out to Bushnell!

You rock, ladies

Unconsciously, it seems that rock & roll is a man’s world. Most bands have guys as lead singers, guys as drummers, guys as bass players… you get the picture. Maybe there would be a girl running the merch booth (probably somebody’s wife or girlfriend), but that’s it.

But, today… it seems that this unwritten rule is being revised. I saw not one, but two bands with female singers today (The Rendition and Men as Trees Walking). I also saw a solo female singer on a generator stage. And, friends tell me they saw a woman rocking a 5-string bass.

Whenever I see a band with a female singer or backing musician, I notice many more females in the crowd. Rock on girls – turns out that music is our world, too!


Feel the flex

Ah, the first full day of the festival.  Feels like home.

If you come to Cornerstone a few times, you quickly realize how important it is to be flexible.  The generator stage schedules are usually in flux, bands show up late, and all the rest.  The one thing you can be confident of is that everything won’t go the way you envisioned it when you first read the program.

And that’s OK.  Part of the genius of Cornerstone is that there is so much going on, that you’re always stumbling across something you didn’t plan on but that grabs your attention.  Half the time, it’s something that you never even heard of before the band took the stage.  And all of a sudden, you’ve found a band that’s going to be the soundtrack of your summer.

I missed a couple of bands I wanted to see today. But I stumbled into a Men As Trees Walking set.  Their blend of reggae-infused worship was the perfect fit for my afternoon.    I was glad I found it.  And I listened to Switchfoot’s soundcheck while I ate dinner.  Nice.

Who knows what I’ll see next.

Tuesday: Early day concerts

Early in the festival, especially with the generator stages, flexibility is the key word at Cornerstone. Things invariably go off schedule. Bands fail to show up. Stages lose power. Things happen. So, sometimes the band you intended to see end up playing at a different time. That means I’ve been on the move a lot, trying to see what I’m intending to see. Early in the day, I caught Karina Mia, who played a Jason Mraz cover for us on ukelele. The Rendition played probably the best set of he early afternoon with a nice rock show with keyboards and guitars and nice, strong vocals from the female lead singer. Over on the Anchor Stage, Allen Aguirre exorted the crowd “who can approach the throne of God? You can!” with his band Men As Trees Walking. The band is truly a family as one of the singers, Aquirre’s daughter and one of the guitarists, his son-in-law, are expecting a child very, very soon.

Continuing along the lines of flexibilty, I wandered by the old Main Stage grounds heading out to the new Main Stage. I have to say I really like how the Main Stage towers above the rest of the grounds. You can see it from almost anywhere at the festival. When the Main Stage was over by the lake, it was special because it was separate from the rest of the action. Now, however, its the center of the action. I’m looking forward to seeing how Switchfoot commands the center of attention tonight.



The highlight of the week for me so far has been seeing The Scoffer.  Two brothers who appear to be nothing extraordinary have been playing on the side of the road here at the fest for years, and now, they’re on  a real stage. Its like that with a lot of bands that “grow up” here at the fest. You see them for years, you support them, you cheer for them, and then they make it. You beam with pride and you feel excited for them even though you’re not even on stage with them.

As an acoustic musician, you’re definitely at a disadvantage.  You don’t have the sheer power that comes with massive stacks and a ka-jillion piece drum kit.  But Scoffer has something that those bands are often lacking. The words of every song stems from some story or some desire that these two have had. Austin and Logan have faced their own share of struggles with depression and fighting with God,  but through that, they’ve got something real to share with people.

If you weren’t there, you, my friend, missed out on something truly beautiful.


A Visit To The Asylum…

At a typical Cornerstone, the goth community often keeps to itself.  Those of us who don’t identify with that lifestyle tend to stay away from The Asylum, the goth community’s tent at Cornerstone. After last night,  I hope that will change some.

The festival program contained a description of what sounded like a unique worship experience, Nailed (To The Cross), so I headed over to The Asylum to check it out. Being greeted at the door with a piece of laffy taffy (trick or treating) and walking beneath a sign that said “Enter if you dare…” I found this rather dark tent (for obvious reasons) ironically inviting. Several people made a point to speak with me and make me feel welcome as I gazed around in amazement at the decor of skeletons, coffins, bats, Heath Ledger’s “Joker”, and artistic renderings of Jesus and icons.  I settled into a seat and waited on the service to begin.

Shortly after 11, the service started up, although it was bit difficult to compete with the loud generator stages next door. Musical instruments were passed out to the entire audience (which consisted almost entirely of non-goths). We then sang through several Taize like songs based on the language of the Psalms, the worship book of the Jewish people and the early church. The energy felt in the room as each person played their instrument for God could only be described as joy, although fully describing the feeling would be impossible. It was clear that the Holy Spirit showed up. After a short evangelical message based on Psalm 22 and a retelling of the Gospel, a pastor led us through communion and the Lord’s prayer.

I wouldn’t call this service goth in anyway, other than being led by people who identify with that community; I think it would be best described as post-modern. It is very indicative of how Christianity is changing. Young Christians are becoming dissatisfied with the way churches are doing things and long to grow deeper in their faith by connecting with the ancient root of it (as evidenced through the singing and use of Psalms in worship). Also evident that this hunger for ancient Christian spirituality exists is the fact that the majority of the audience would not normally hang out at The Asylum.

Maybe I will go back Friday night for the Halloween party…

The Worship Aspect

When you walk onto the Cornerstone grounds a day or two early you begin to hear much of the same music. I am not talking down about it; I think it is great to see so many bands playing back to back. With that many bands and what seems to be about 70% all sounding the same on the generator stages it is great to see a tent like “Sanctuary” or “HM” doing worship and doing it well. Last night I saw many people that may not be familiar with the ministry of the tent just walk in and begin to worship because it sounds good and it is a refreshing sound from bands that scream and growl everything.
This reminds me when I attended Cornerstone back in the early to mid 90’s with a press pass. One of my favorite questions to ask artists in the press tent was “what is your favorite style of music?” This question was usually answered with one simple word…..worship. I love all styles of music here at Cornerstone from bands like “Iona” to “Becoming the Archetype.” One could and does sit through hours upon hours of music like this but when you hit a great set of worship….it is truly a breath of fresh air to simply remind us why we are here…because we serve a great God and everything here should be used for HIS glory.
What is the group you have or will enjoy the most at Cornerstone 2010?

Drive, He Said

Thirteen hours of driving behind me, 5 days of music and fun ahead of me – that’s a good place to be. (Yes, technically there are also thirteen more hours of driving ahead of me, but let’s not talk about that right now.)

In my last post, I talked about being a creature of habit, somebody who enjoys it when certain things stay the same. The drive up seemed to be sending the message “get over it,” as there were a few things that, by choice or necessity, diverged from the usual pattern. We had lunch in a different place. (Chuy’s, a Texas-based Tex-Mex chain that’s expanded into Tennessee – my Austin friends encouraged me to try it, so I did. Good burrito.) We drove a different route. (Well, barely, but there was a detour that had a favorite backroads bypass around St. Louis partially blocked off.) We stopped at different places for food and gas. (I’ve gotta say, I was impressed that my rented, heavily-laden, enthusiastically-driven Ford Escape got 25+ MPG on the way up here.) But also for a change, we left Springfield, IL to drive on the backroads to Macomb just as the sun was setting, so we got to drive directly into a beautiful sunset for an hour, with a pilot doing aerobatics in a plane over our heads for part of the drive. That was really cool – it’s surprising how often something like that seems to happen when I’m driving up here.

Since I haven’t seen any bands yet, I’ll give you a few of the musical highlights of the drive.

  • Eisley, Combinations. Eisley is playing Cornerstone on Friday night, and I couldn’t be more excited. That’s probably my #1 most anticipated show. Combinations is a great album – lush, well-produced, sonically diverse, with beautifully harmonized vocals from the Dupree sisters. Buy the CD, come to the show Friday at 10.
  • Muse, Black Holes and Revelations. Yeah, they’re not a Cornerstone band, but when I saw them open for U2, I became a fan instantly. This CD is all over the map, with influence ranging from Queen to New Order and a lot of other places besides. Good stuff.
  • Paramore, Brand New Eyes. Paramore has matured musically with each release, and with Brand New Eyes they’ve produced a CD that’s good from start to finish, with hooks galore. Good steering wheel drumming music for road trips.

Today looks to be an interesting one at the fest musically. There aren’t many bands playing that I’m familiar with (until Rodent Emporium, Switchfoot, and Nitengale tonight), so it looks like I’ll be sampling a lot of new stuff. A few bands that particularly caught my ear:

  • Karina Mia (Impact Stage, 12:45) – a singer with an acoustic guitar (and maybe a ukulele). She had a cover of “CrushCrushCrush” on her MySpace page that sounded pretty good, so I’ll give her a shot.
  • Great Awakening (Anchor Stage, 1:30) – melodic, well-performed modern rock.
  • The Frozen Ocean (Anchor Stage, 3:00) – Gentle, mellow, and kind of ambient. A nice break from being pummeled by hardcore.
  • Sleep for Sleepers (Encore Stage, 6:00) – Mae-ish poppy rock, fairly polished and catchy.
  • Send Out Scuds (Chasing Canadia Stage, 7:50) – Ska, in case you want to party like it’s 1999.


Like coming home

If you’ve reached the season of life where you’ve moved out from living with your parents (even just to college), you’re likely familar with what it feels like to return home. Coming back to Cornerstone brings up the same ideas for me. I get to the festival and see friends and we immediately start talking and can hardly stop (and I’m naturally an introvert). Laughing over old memories, remembering who can’t join us this year, seeing what’s new… it’s everything you ever want in a happy family gathering.

When you return home, it’s comforting because things are so familiar: you can probably walk around the house where you grew up in the dark without stubbing your toe. You don’t have to ask where the silverware is; you just know. Cornerstone is the same way. The signs around the area from the local Rotary club… The red & white striped tents… The lemon-shake-up-stand… The half-pipe and basketball courts…If you’ve been to the grounds ever before, these are completely familiar. It’s comforting.

Every time you return home, and every year at Cornerstone (no, not just this year), there are also changes. Maybe you’ve had the experience of returning home and discovering that “your” room has a whole new look. Your mom took down your old high school memorabilia, redecorated and put in a new bed. You even have to admit that it looks good, but it feels different. It is nicely decorated with a really comfortable bed, but it takes a little getting used to.

I was happy to come back “home” tonight. Yep, a few things at Cornerstone are different and will take a day to get adjusted to (and I’m not just referring to Main Stage; there are *always* changes at Cornerstone). But, it’s all so familiar. It’s filled with people I love. It’s comforting. It’s beautiful. It really is home.

And I’m so glad to be here.