Day 2 Is Under Way!

It’s Thursday and I’m finally starting to settle into “Cornerstone time” where staying up to 2 AM and sleeping in until 10 AM doesn’t seem all that unusual.  Everyone at the festival seems to be settling in.  It’s not quite as frantic around the grounds and more established bands are taking the stages.  We’re now in the thick of it.

Today I start the day out over on the Indoor Stage.  The lead singer of Army of Me starts the day off with a show on acoustic guitar.  Normally he plays with a full band, but for Cornerstone he travelled alone from DC to the festival in his small car.  His show was good enough that I will have to check out their music and see what they sound like as a band.  From there, I walked over to the Gallery Stage to see Mike Roe.  Roe plays a set of new songs from his upcoming solo album as well as some 77’s songs from their most recent album.  The audience gave Roe standing ovations when he started and when he ended appreciating his status as a long-standing veteran of the festival.

I saw my second set of Deas Vail which delivered a whole different set of songs.  Their energy is infectous and a crowded  tent  at the Indoor Stage was into the show.  I love seeing shows like this that are fun and joyous.  Finally, I wrapped up the afternoon with Andrew Oliver and Jeff Elbel+Ping at the Jesus Village tent.  Andrew Oliver is Elbel’s drummer and played a solo set of his own before sitting behind the kit and playing another show for Elbel.  Jeff’s show was loose with lots of covers (“No Matter What” by Badfinger, “North and South Of The River” by U2) but probably the most fun show I’ve seen him do so far.

I take a flier on a band called The Rocketboys on the Indie Community Stage.  The lead singer hurled ten times(!) into the port-a-potties the day before, but he was a professional and sang fantastic for the show.  I really enjoyed their show and I’ll have to check out their CD.  This is the fun part of Cornerstone, discovering new bands.  There’s still more stuff to discover tonight before Mark Solomon returns to the festival to wrap things up first tonight with Stavesacre and then tomorrow night with a renunion of The Crucified.

Ending Day 1

(I should note that right as I was submitting my last blog, Allan Aguirre was sitting with some of my friends cracking jokes and talking about the best places to eat in Chicago.  Cornerstone and friendships, indeed.)

After an intermission, the Square Pegs came back out for another set of songs.  The crowd, which was a little quiet and unfamilar with these artists, started to warm up to them in the second set and the artists delivered another great set of songs.  Derek Webb, the ninth Square Peg who would be headlining his own show arrived late, so the Square Pegs went longer than expected.  Of course, they had plenty of material to draw from since each of the artists has multiple albums, so adding in some extra songs was no problem.  All told, they played about four hours total which is a long concert for anyone.

Derek Webb did finally arrive and after some initial guitar issues, played a solo set of songs featuring some of his favorites and gave us a sneak preview of his new album Stockholm Syndrome.  Derek has never been one to shy away from controversy and some of the material on his new album has caused some issues with his label.  In the meantime, he has been unveiling new material by way of an Alternate Reality Game online.  Check out and see if you can follow the rabbit trail to hidden goodies on the web.

At the end of the evening, I checked out Copeland on one of the Encore Stages.  They rocked it out a little more than previous times that I had seen them before and I really enjoyed the show.

Yesterday was one of those days that seem crammed with music.  I didn’t have a lot of time for blogging or wandering much, so we’ll see if today allows me a little more space in the schedule to catch up.

I’m uploading my photos to Flickr as the fest goes along…. check them out !

Wednesday: Watching how we’ve grown

While Tuesday was an interesting day with lots of new acts, by Wednesday morning, it felt like Cornerstone was in full force. All around the grounds, favorite bands were taking to the stage. For me, it was a day of watching how the fest has grown. I’m not talking about numbers, just talking about how the fest has grown up over the years to include so many new things, and about how individual people have grown.

For me, the day started with the first-ever tweet-up. People who follow @cstn on twitter got together in the back of the Gallery stage to meet each other, talk about new music & even the ministry impact of new technology. There wasn’t any organized conversation, just people with a shared interest chatting with voices rather than keyboards. If you missed it, be sure to check it out next year – I’m 99% sure we’ll be doing it again (I use “we” in a loose sense, of course…) Around the tweet-up, I met moms coming with their kids from California & Michigan, an acoustic singer-songwriter from Pennsylvania, a member of the band Don’t Wake Aislin, some music lovers & photography geeks from England, and many others (including some from my hometown!). It was a nice little slice of Cornerstone life. It’s nice to see the fest continuing to grow to use new technology. Twitter has definitely brought more people into the conversation.

The acoustic singer-songwriter I met at the tweet-up was Hiram Ring. He told me he was playing 1:30 at the Impromptu stage. He seemed like a nice guy, so after catching a bit of the Owl City show (super packed; I’m sure one of our other bloggers will write about it), I headed over. I’m glad I did! Hiram’s vocals were clear & strong, and though it was just him, he managed to beat a rhythmic melody on his guitar. Beautiful! This was another moment to contemplate how people have grown – Hiram mentioned how he grew up in West Africa, and his songs included references to navigating what home means.

Next up was All the Day Holiday, a 4-piece from Ohio. I really enjoyed them last year, so I was glad to see a fairly crowded tent. The title track of their new album “Thhe Things We’ve Grown to Love” has a nice quality to the vocals. The album is available in August (or at the fest for just $5). “Fingerprints” from their older album would be a good introduction to this band, if you ask me – clap-along beat, melodies that punch thru, and very open airy yet strong vocals. As far as I know, these guys had their Cornerstone debut on a generator stage a few years ago. Another example of bands growing into their prime after a few fest experiences.

I wrote in my earlier post about Men As Trees Walking. This family-and-friends project brought an authentic, beautiful style to heartfelt worship music. I caught the phrase “firstborn over all creation” in one song; that’s the kind of big idea we ought to have songs about.

Later in the afternoon, our friends gathered to watch another friend & his band rock the Gallery stage. Jeff Elbel + Ping brought their catchy songs and a give-away of debatable value. Excellent! They’re playing again on the Jesus Village Stage today. Continuing the theme of how we’ve grown – this band seems to grow every time I see them. Jeff gets tons of talented artists to join him each year.

I’m sure Jeff Holland will blog about the Square Peg Alliance shows. I just want to add how I enjoyed the thoughtfulness these guys & girl have in expressing truth & love. One of the guys (sorry, I forget which one) had a lyric about resurrection & redemption in a song about where he’d be buried that was just beautiful: “Lay me anywhere, just remember this. When you lay me down to die, you lay me down to live.” Several of these talented songwriters are people I was famliar with in the past, working with bands of a different era. It was beautiful to see them growing into their own voices.

As a friend likes to say, we then shifted gears without a clutch and went from the land of pretty acoustic music to Main Stage. Family Force 5 brought a dancier show than last year. The guys came out wearing football pads – with their dancer dressed as a referee. I love how these guys feel like a band, and not just a solo act with backup – they all get into the mix with crazy wackiness and high energy. These guys, too, have grown so much since their first Cornerstone experiences.

After an inspiring interlude with a visual performance artist, Relient K came back to familiar territory they hadn’t seen in a while. Last year, these guys played Warped Tour, and the year before their bus broke down (and burned, if I recall correctly). But, it was apparent they were happy to be back at Cornerstone, a place some of them have been around since the late ’90s (selling merch for other bands; they first played in 2001). Relient K seems to be a band that is navigating the akward growing-up stage — from writing super catchy high-school-inspired songs like “Sadie Hawkins Dance” into moments like their closing song, “Deathbed.” They said they haven’t been touring a lot lately, and seemed a little tired on some songs, but brought it strong for several new songs which struck a great balance between the fun Relient K of their first Cornerstone (including a tribute to The Office, with the line “transfer us to Scranton”) and the maturing guys they’re now becoming (with lyrics like “resurrect the saint from within the wreck” and “accept the things I can’t change now”). I hope the band can grow thru this transition and continue to put on shows that both excite the students down front and their peers who are increasingly choosing to sit up on the hill (but who are still singing along & moving to the beat).

Overall, a very successful day – filled with new artists I hope to see in the years ahead, and also watching old favorites who have grown into themselves and are making great music.

Day 1 Report

Well, the first official day of the fest has come and gone.  I’m still struggling to adjust to the Cornerstone schedule, so I was a little draggy for most of the day (until about 2 AM, when it was time to try to go to sleep), but I still managed to see a variety of shows from some new bands and some old favorites.

I started the day with Owl City, a happy, dancey synthpop band.  I’ve got a lot of time for that sort of thing, so I enjoyed their set and was glad to see that the tent was full to overflowing.  It did seem a little odd to me that there wasn’t more dancing going on, though.  When bands like The Echoing Green used to play, people would be dancing and jumping around like mad; now, just standing still and watching the show seems to be the way of things.

Next up, Rodent Emporium, a gleefully odd punk band from Scotland.  They did a fun set full of songs about sports and Sasquatch and so forth.  I was also amused to see that their guitarist was wearing a t-shirt from my alma mater, Georgia Tech.  How the guitarist from a Scottish punk band came to be wearing a shirt from an engineering school in Atlanta as he played in a cornfield in Illinois is probably a story worth hearing.

I caught the last half of All the Day Holiday’s set on the Indoor stage (which, for those not familiar, is no more indoor than any of the other stages here – the name’s a holdover from a stage at the fest’s previous location in Chicago 15 or so years ago).  I liked what I heard of them, so hopefully I can catch them again.  They’re also selling their new album for 5 bucks, so I picked that up.

Jeff Elbel + Ping played next, on the Gallery stage.  Jeff’s the stage manager at the Gallery, occasionally plays bass for other artists at the fest, and can often be found tuning guitars for artists like the 77’s and the Choir, but every year he also gets to step up to the microphone for a little while.  The band sounded great this year, and was probably my favorite set of the day.  They’re playing again today at 5:00 on the Jesus Village stage, so come check them out if you get the chance.

I kind of crashed a bit after the Ping set, so I ate an early dinner and sat in a corner to recover for a while before heading to Main Stage for Family Force 5 and Relient K.  FF5 were dumb fun, as they always are, and Relient K played a good set, including a couple of songs from the new album they’re currently recording.  They sounded good, and a little different from the typical Relient K sound, so look for them on YouTube any time now.

Copeland closed out the night with an hour long Encore show in a packed tent.  The band seems better served by the smaller, more intimate Encore stage than the giant Main Stage where I saw them last.  They opened with a set of mellow stuff from You Are My Sunshine, before moving on to some rockier stuff from their earlier albums.  My only regret was that Rae Cassidy, who played the fest yesterday and is prominently featured on a couple of songs from the new album, didn’t come sing with the band, but that’s a small quibble with what was otherwise a solid show.

Cover Watch!

It was another good day for cover songs at the fest.  And Then There Were None gave us a rocked-up version of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven,”  Ping opened their set with the Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love,” and Relient K covered Cake’s “The Distance,” complete with muted trumpet.

The church needs this music

Last night, I purposefully went to a hardcore show. Not wanting to intrude (though I imagine I would be welcome, despite not quite looking the part), I stood outside and just observed.

Sleeping Giant Photo by Matthew Smith

Sleeping Giant Photo by Matthew Smith

I chose this particular band (Sleeping Giant) based on reviews from one of the great fest photographers. She explained that their shows were some of the most worshipful hardcore music she’d ever heard. These words immediately came out of my mouth: “the church needs worship music like that.” I knew I had to be there.

The music clearly isn’t my style. I don’t really mind it, but this type of music tends to just become background noise to me; I can tune it out at a moment’s notice. Not last night. Last night, I listened and heard God’s people joining in honest prayers and worship. I heard people who don’t look like me on the outside, listening to music that I don’t really get. But, we’re all part of the same great story.

Sleeping Giant’s first few songs (I admit, I did leave partway into the show) were unabashedly & unashamedly spirit filled. While other acts were drawing equally large crowds to sing about life, romance, daily struggles or whatever (which is all fine & definitely has it’s place), this tent was filled with people overjoyed to use the whole bodies (via dancing) and whole voices in worship.

The music isn’t for me – a fact that my friends pointed out several times. I know that. But, on another level, this is for all of us. Who knows the soundtrack of heaven?

Earlier in the afternoon, I smiled, tapped my foot and tried to sing along to the sweetly-dissonate worship of Men As Trees Walking (Allen Aguirre’s latest project). That, too, is music that doesn’t show up often on Sunday morning across the US. Yet, that music, too, caused me to say “The church needs this.”

The church needs people to use their God-given gifts, and express themselves according to their God-given passions. The church needs places where people can worship God wholeheatedly and “come as you are” instead of always having to try to fit in, clapping their hands or singing four-part harmony.

I am so glad that music like this exists. I am so glad it pops up all over the Cornerstone grounds. You see it around campsites often, with youth groups pulling out an acoustic guitar and belting out the songs of their generation. You see it in the world music venues, with people who have first-hand knowledge that Christ is at work all around our world expressing praise in different ways. You see it in the crowds that always show up for Flatfoot 56 and dance the circle pit while singing their hearts out to “Amazing Grace.” You see it in the closing lines of the Relient K show last night, with a gorgeous chorus about Jesus being the way, truth, and light. And last night, I feel honored to have also heard it in the Sleeping Giant show.

I am so glad that there’s a place at Cornerstone for music like this. But, even more so, I am so glad that there’s a place around God table for all of us.

Cornerstone and friendship

One of the best parts of Cornerstone is that it’s not just a bunch of concerts by a bunch of anonymous people. The more times you go to Cornerstone, the more relationships you build an soon it’s not just concerts, it’s concerts by friends.

Today was such a day. I was torn when I saw the schedule and saw that the wildly entertaining bands Family Force 5 and Relient K were playing on the main stage, but I knew I would be staying up at the Gallery Stage all day today. First Jeff Elbel + Ping would be playing and then a conglomeration called the Square Peg Alliance would be following him.

Jeff Elbel started at Cornersone with his band Farewell to Juliet many moons ago, but year after year he returns to do had work behind the stage as a guitar tech and then take the front of the stage with his band, Ping. Jeff’s shows always feel like a gathering of friends as his sense of humor and catchy songs are welcoming and intimate. This year, his set gave me a chance to make my debut on the Gallery Stage as I leaped up on stage to take a family photo of the band. A couple years ago Jerry came out on stage to throw t-shrts to the crowd, well now we’re even!

Following him, the nine person group formed for the purposes of awesome, The Square Peg Alliance took the stage. Eight of the Square Pegs, Andy Gullahorn, Andrew Peterson, Eric Peters, Ben Shive, Randall Goodgame, Andrew Osenga, Jeremy Casella, and Jill Phillips all took the stage together. The ninth, Derek Webb would be headlining later in the evening. The Square Pegs are not only musicians together, but they also friends living close to each other in Nashville. The close community of friendship makes their collaborations authentic and their performances feel real. Each of them adds a unique sense of humor and talent to the shows as each of them performed individually and also backed each other up on all of the songs.

The sense of community of friendship is strong draw to Cornerstone. Many people come to the festival first for the concerts, but after coming several years, many keep coming back for the relationships, both on the stage and off the stage.

Advice to Bands: Posters

Every band playing Cornerstone (whether on an “official” stage or generator) clearly wants people to show up. So, most make up some kind of poster to advertise their show. After seeing posters for many years, I offer the following advice to bands about their posters:

  • Tell me the DAY of the week, not the actual date. I’m not wearing a watch, let alone looking at a calendar. Tell me you’re playing Wednesday, not July 1st. (Thanks to twitter user and fellow Austinite Ericlylekline for reminding me of this!)
  • Give me a hint what kind of music you’re playing. You can do this by listing the genre of your music, saying you’re “For fans of…” This poster from Jeff Elbel + Ping does a great job by including a “RIYL” section (Recommended If You Like). If you don’t give me hint what you’re playing, I’ll be left to guess what kind of music you’re playing by your band name or possibly graphic design. Sometimes, I’ll be right. Most of the time, I won’t be, and I might miss out on something I would have enjoyed.
  • If the stage you’re playing on isn’t on the festival map, give me a hint where to find it. I know that can be tough when you grab a gig at a generator stage at the last minute, so I can forgive a lot of that. But, if you know in advance, try to help us out by saying something like “near the showers.”
  • Some of the best posters I’ve seen over the years had the band info printed in advance, leaving space to write in the date & time. Bands playing generator stages should take note of this – your times/dates may change and you probably can’t get back to a copier to print more, so plan ahead.
  • It’s fine if you can’t afford huge colored banners. But, remember that the porta-potties and other surfaces are going to be covered in posters like this. Printing your flyer on brightly colored paper might draw my eye to it.
  • Handing out small flyers or postcards works too. This works best, though, if you hand them out at a show similar to yours. Oh, and list your website on your flyer, so when I get home I can look you up. We received one flyer like that yesterday that was particularly well done — not the flyer itself, but because the woman handing it out took time to talk to us. As a result, I’ll probably go see Ranger on Thursday.
  • Graphic design can also help me understand what you play, if done well – like this flyer (note, also how the phrase “Day of Metal” provides a clue).
  • Day of Metal Flyer

  • This suggestion isn’t really to bands, but to generator stage organizers. I love it when generator stages keep a poster (or better yet, a white-board you can change easily) next to their stage indicating the name of the band that’s playing right now, as well as what’s coming up next.
  • And, a final suggestion that isn’t about posters at all: At the start & end of your show, remind us of your band name.
  • I present that list in the public interest, but also for my own good. I love finding new music. Anything you can do to help me get to the right place, at the right time, to see music I’ve got a chance of liking is good.

Day 0 Report

“Day 0” of the fest has come and gone, with some highs, some lows, and some things that are hard to describe.

I’ll start with the weather, because that’s such a big factor in my ability to enjoy the fest.  The weather was…weird.  I don’t remember a day like this in all the years I’ve been here.  About the time my friends and I arrived on the grounds, clouds rolled in and the wind kicked up, a constant 15 mph breeze that kept up all day long.  It was actually somewhat chilly when you were exposed to it, even in the middle of the day.  That’s weird, but I’ll take it over the 100 degree days of misery.  The wind did make it hard for me to do my job hanging up fliers for my friend Jeff’s band (Jeff Elbel + Ping, playing today at 4:15 on the Gallery – come check them out!), because the wind kept blowing them away.

As for the bands, it was kind of hit and miss.  In years past, “day 0” was “Tooth & Nail Day,” with the record label sponsoring the day and having some degree of involvement in organizing it.  Generally, the only thing that was going on was bands playing 30 minute sets on the two Encore stages, with the schedule staggered so you could just wander back and forth between the two for continuous music.  This year, though, it was “REIGNITE Day” sponsored from Traa from the band P.O.D., and a couple of things were noticeably different.  The schedule was different – bands played on the Encore stages, but they played 30 minute sets with 40 minute breaks in between, so there was never really a flow back and forth from one stage to the other and there was a lot of downtime.  The average quality of the bands wasn’t as good either, in my opinion.  There were bands playing in styles that I like, but a lot of them didn’t seem to be very experienced just yet, so their performances weren’t great.  Traa’s thing seemed to be about artist development, so I guess having some rather raw bands is to be expected, but from a fan perspective, it just wasn’t as much fun to watch as it might have been.  The crowds seemed to reflect that, too – all day long (at least until the evening shows started), the Encore crowds were miniscule, with just a couple dozen people watching each of the bands from a respectful distance.

There were also a lot more bands playing in places other than the Encore stages compared to years past.  Most of the action was on the generator stages.  A bit of background as I understand it: generator stages started when young upstart bands would literally bring a small PA and a gas-powered generator and set up along the road and start playing.  I guess that got kind of out of hand a few years ago, so Cornerstone started licensing the generator band to keep things a little less chaotic.  I think the success of that move is debatable, though.  What you have now are a few “real” stages (with tents, fancy lighting, and good PA systems) that are technically labeled generator stages even though they’re as good or better than some of the “real” stages, a larger number of mid-level stages that may have a decent PA and some form of stage, and then some of the old-style do-it-yourself “stages.”  Most of them are all piled together alongside the roads between the Encore stages and the midway area, and they all play at the same time, competing with each other.  At one point yesterday, I walked by a row of three stages where an acoustic worship band was playing on one, a screamy metal band was playing on another, and the third had no band but had a hardcore CD cranked up to the limits of the PA.  Nobody wins in that situation – the bands have to compete with each other to be heard, and if you’re just trying to walk by, it’s pretty miserable.  From a fan perspective, it seems like it may be time for the fest to scale back the generator stages.

There’s also a trend toward “real” bands (bands playing actual scheduled festival slots) also playing on much smaller generator stages, and I’m not sure that really does the bands any favors.  For example, I saw the band Astellaway playing on one of the stages.  Their songs on MySpace sound pretty good, kind of a pop rock sound not unlike Paramore.  But on a PA on the side of the road, with speakers that were a lot smaller than the guitar and bass amps, and one small monitor, it was nearly impossible for them to sound good.  They did the best they could under the circumstances, and they sounded promising enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing them play their actual fest-scheduled set, but I’m not sure there’s a lot of benefits for some of the bands playing those low-end stages.

I only really made it to see one of the three bands that I said I was looking forward to yesterday.  Both times Quiet Science played, I was watching another show, but they’ve still got a bunch of sets left (admittedly, one of the benefits of the generator stages), so I’ll catch them eventually.  By the time Los Lonely Boys went on, I was pretty exhausted, so I only listened to a bit of their set.  They sounded good, but I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind or body to appreciate it.  But I did see Stephen Petree, and he was one of the better sets I saw all day.  As it turns out, he’s the brother of one of the founders of Shiny Toy Guns, and co-wrote some stuff on their first album.  His band was tight and the songs sounded good, so I wouldn’t mind hearing more from him when his album comes out in August.  One interesting thing about the set was the instrument he played, which he called a “Telekeyster” – a Fender Telecaster with a keyboard grafted onto the top half of the body.  Kind of a unique take (invented by his guitarist, apparently) on the keytar.

Stephen Petree's Telekeyster

In addition to the aforementioned set from Stephen Petree, the other musical highlights of the day for me were the following:

  • Darcy, a hooky, poppy band from Texas with a pretty good stage presence.  “Catchy Melody” was the highlight of their set.
  • Carolina Story, a married acoustic duo from Tennessee.  They were playing a generator stage crammed in between a couple of hardcore bands, but still managed to sound good and drew a surprisingly big crowd.
  • Down From Up, a melodic metal band from Tennessee, with one of the shreddiest guitarists I’ve seen in a new band at the fest in a long time.  The band was pretty good as a whole, but watching that guy play was a whole lot of fun.
  • Deas Vail, an indie pop band from Arkansas that I’ve watched grow over the last couple of festivals.  I first saw them a couple of years ago, and they had a nice sound and a decent crowd.  Last year their popularity had grown and the played a couple of well-attended sets.  This year, their first set was on the Indie Community stage (one of the largest and nicest generator stages), and the tent was almost packed with fans that were singing along to every word.  It’s fun to watch a band get bigger and bigger from year to year.

Cover Watch!

I always enjoy seeing bands play covers, and yesterday was a good day for covers.  Divided By Friday covered the Temptations’ “My Girl.”  Astellaway covered Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round.”  Maron covered King’s X’s “We Are Finding Who We Are” (which totally rocked).  And Down From Up went all out, sound checking with Guns’n’Roses’ “Sweet Child O’Mine,” and then playing an instrumental version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and a lengthy medley of Led Zeppelin songs.  I’d never really thought of “Whole Lotta Love” in quite that context before, but I guess it kind of works with just a couple of minor edits.

Things coming up today that I’m looking forward to: Ping, a good night on Main Stage with Capital Lights, Family Force 5, and Relient K, a bunch of other bands I want to see that are all playing at exactly the same time, and a midnight set from Copeland.

Now It Feels Like Cornerstone

Up until the early evening, I’ve felt like I’m at bizarro Cornerstone.  The weather has been cold and windy.  The crowd has been scattered across the festival at generator stages so everything felt sparse.  REIGINITE Day introduced me to a lot of bands I had never heard before (Stephen Petree was great with his “Telekeyster” and Down From Up brought shredding goodness with covers of Micheal Jackson and Gn’R’s “Sweet Child Of Mine”), but I hadn’t seen anyone I knew all day.  I had yet to experience that “hot, crowded tent” show until I walked over to the Indie Community Stage.  Deas Vail had the small place packed out and when I walked in and the crowd was buzzing, I finally felt like I was at Cornerstone.  The band did not fail to deliver with ethereal high-pitched vocals, keyboards, guitars, and a bass player who took pictures of the crowd as he played.

After the show was over, I strolled over to the Gallery Stage where Los Lonely Boys were playing before an overflowing crowd.  I didn’t feel like trying to wade in and try to find an open spot to sit, so I enjoyed just hanging out in the courtyard and listening to the music.  With all the people milling about and the music blasting, now it feels like Cornerstone is underway.

Reigniting my search for good new music

It’s hard to say when Cornerstone really starts. Is it Monday when a lot of campers arrive? Is it Tuesday with “pre-fest” shows? Is it Wednesday with the first full day of music at all stages (including Main Stage)? However you decide, the music seemed to really get going on Tuesday, with bands playing for REIGNITE day (sponsored by Ryot Entertainment), generator stages, a solid evening line up at the Gallery, and more.

When I previwed Tuesday’s schedule, there were maybe 5 acts I’d heard of, so naturally I ran into a lot of new music yesterday. Almost every band I saw said that this was either their first time at Cornerstone at all, or their first time playing the fest.

  • Crimson Refuge, hailing from North Carolina, started the day for me with a light version of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” – before making the classic switch from acoustic to rock & roll.
  • As mentioned by Jeff in an earlier post, Darcy showed up in vests & ties. I think this was their first Cornerstone – and they should be thankful that yesterday was cool and not blast-furnace hot as we often see here! It looks like these guys come from the University of North Texas, a school with a good reputation for their music program – it wouldn’t surprise me if the guys in Darcy were trained that way; it was apparent they knew how to play & sing.
  • Twentyfour64 brought an interesting mix of rocking instrumentals and pop-ish lyrics (sorry I don’t know any better way to describe it – it was kind of a mash-up of two styles). These guys, originally from Oahu, Hawaii and now living in Los Angeles, advertised “Free Hawaiian Hugs.” Not sure how many people took them up on that offer, but at least it was cute.
  • Among all the REIGNITE bands, Stephen Petree impressed me most. Sporting what looked like a homemade instrument he called a “Telekeyster” (keyboard fused to electric guitar), Stephen and his colleagues had me bouncing in my chair. Stephen said he had some past connection to Shiny Toy Guns (playing main stage on Friday night). They’ve got a new album coming out in August, which can be pre-ordered at their myspace page.
  • Los Lonely Boys headlined a full lineup at the Gallery, bringing their energetic latin-infused blues-rock to Cornerstone for the first time. I, along with most of the crowd at the Gallery, was probably familiar with only one of their songs: “Heaven” (which actually is sung at worship services at my church – mixed together with the classic hymn “Soon and Very Soon”). I’m not sure this show will go down in history as one of the bests at the Gallery, but it was definitely a great end to my first full day of music.

I don’t know that I found any bands on Tuesday that will get heavy rotation on my iPod. But, a day of almost entirley new-to-me music inspired me for the future. So many bands had their first taste of Cornerstone yesterday; I wonder if any will look back on that show when they first play Main Stage in a few years.