Day 3 Afternoon

The heat is easing off a little bit here at the Cornerstone Festival grounds, but the damage has already been done. I’ve been much slower and lethargic today so I’ve been less inclined to jump from tent to tent as much as the days before. Today I’ve been hanging out at the Gallery Stage and seeing a whole lot of artists that I didn’t know about before today.

I had heard of Timbre, but I didn’t realize just how popular she was here at the festival. She brought a cavalcade of musicians on stage with her with a string section and lots of intricate music. River James played afterwards. The band is conglomeration of members of MAE and Army of Me and I really enjoyed their show. I had never heard of Lauren Mann and she was another pleasant suprise in the early part of the day. Her Sara Bareilles-inspired music included banjos, melodica, and keyboards.

Lots of great stuff to come tonight, but the surprises early in the day got things off to a pretty good start.

The Changing of the Guard

Deas Vail closed out Friday night at the Gallery, and it seemed a little like a passing-of-the-torch moment.  The late night slot on the Gallery has traditionally been filled with “old guard” Cornerstone bands like the Lost Dogs, Over the Rhine, and the Choir, but tonight an up-and-coming band got that coveted slot, following the Lost Dogs.  I’m closer to the core Lost Dogs demographic than the core Deas Vail demographic but I’m a fan of both bands, so it was kind of funny watching the older Lost Dogs crowd vacate the tent to be replaced with the younger Deas Vail crowd between sets.  I’m closer to the core Lost Dogs demographic than the core Deas Vail demographic.  It’s clear to me that the older folks don’t know what they’re missing.

Cornerstone has watched Deas Vail grow up as a band over the last 3 or 4 years, as they moved from a midday slot to a packed evening slot to a daytime Main Stage slot, and finally to a headlining slot on the Gallery.  Their songs and performances have gotten better each year, and that trend continued last night as they debuted a ton of new material from a new album coming in September.  As hard as it is to believe, it sounds like their sound has gotten even more expansive on the new material, and I can’t wait to hear the album.  They took full advantage of the Gallery’s excellent PA, filling the (finally) cool night air with beautiful melodies and harmonies.  They’re just a joy to listen to, and the energy and fun that they display while they’re playing is infectious.  The next generation is in good hands.

Good Times, Bad Times

If you look around the coverage here on the Cornerstone site, I think we’ve pretty well established that Cornerstone is awesome.  But when you’ve got this many moving parts (hundreds of bands coming and going, thousands of people spending the day out on a ridiculously hot farm), it’s inevitable that things are going to go wrong.  Yesterday was a good example.

Quiet Science, a band that first came onto my radar a couple of years ago at the fest, was setting up to play on the Anchor Stage.  They’d been promoting the set hard all week, walking around in the 95 degree heat in masks and long, red robes with a big sign, and putting up a ton of nice posters advertising the show.  A nice crowd was gathering for the set, but about 10 minutes before they were about to start, another power outage hit.  The power was out for over two hours this time, eventually forcing them to reschedule, and kind of wiping out all the hard work they put in during the week.  I wasn’t able to see the rescheduled show, but hopefully word got out and they still had a good crowd.

The power outage also impacted the Gallery stage, but a bit of ingenuity saved the day.  Kerosene Halo, a collaboration between Mike Roe and Derri Daugherty of the Lost Dogs, was scheduled to play.  Luckily, the owner of an RV parked near the stage offered up some power to set up a minimal PA for the stage, enough to support a minimal show.  Their set, consisting mostly of songs written by other people (including Steve Hindalong of the Choir, Terry Taylor of Daniel Amos, and Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman) performed acoustically, was a perfect fit for the makeshift sound system and was a soothing sound on a hot afternoon.  Thank goodness for long extension cords.

Even an established band like the Lost Dogs weren’t exempt from problems.  “Lead dog” (to the extent that there’s a leader of the band) Terry Taylor had to leave the fest early, leaving the band a man down.  Luckily, Paul Averitt, currently playing bass on tour for Daniel Amos, was able to step in to sing Terry’s parts.  He did a nice job, and even put on a credible impersonation of Terry’s voice.  The set was focused on the more serious side of the band’s catalog rather than their tongue-in-cheek material.  I assume Averitt had to learn his parts in a hurry, and they quickly ran through all the material that he knew, so they covered Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” for their encore.  The Lost Dogs probably get overlooked a little because they’ve been around, steadily releasing new material, for so long, but they’re still worth a listen.

It’s not uncommon to hear of bands enduring hardship on the road to Cornerstone – long, late night drives, flat tires, van breakdowns, and so forth.  Yesterday I talked to a band called Someone Like Tommy that actually made it to the fest before their problems started.  They drove up from Florida for their first Cornerstone to play some generator stage slots, only to find out when they arrived that the stage they were supposed to play had some issues and had to shut down, leaving them with no place to play.  When I talked to them, they were going around trying to secure an open slot somewhere so their trip wasn’t a total loss.  They describe themselves as a folk/bluegrass band that likes bands like Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons, and The Civil Wars, so if that sounds like your thing, go check them out.


Friday brought me back to the fests of my childhood with the return of high-temp days at Cornerstone. The past few years haven’t been as hot as a stereotypical week at the fest, but Friday kept us hiding in the shade and nursing our water bottles. Even I, an advocate of long pants and dark t shirts, could be seen in shorts and a white tank top.

By mid-afternoon, I’d come to terms with the heat and sweat and took to the roads to capture one of the beautiful sights of Cornerstone: Tattoos. The artwork and skill of the ink around the fest varies from the raw, diy stick and poke tattoos

to the professional and colorful.


But even better than the tattoo itself is the story that inspires it and makes it worth permanently inking onto someone’s body. As I snapped shots of people’s ink, I asked them, “What does your tattoo mean?”  

The man with this piece told me about how he is now a single parent, and his tattoo reminds him that it’s never too late to step up and be a good father. I respected that man’s drive and desire to improve himself  as a parent.

So far, though, I think this may be my favorite.

As I walked through the merch tent, I stopped by the My Broken Palace table( and talked to the people there. The young lady saw my sign inquiring about tattoos and showed me hers. She told me about how she used to cut herself, but how she now wanted to use her scars to show the grace she had found in the love of God.  Seeing as I have a similar story and desire for a similar tattoo, I really loved the opportunity to talk to her.

Here at the fest,  when you see someone with a tattoo that piques your curiosity, take the time to ask. You may learn something new, make a new friend, and it might teach you something more about yourself.


Day 2 Evening


In my last post I wondered whether I had the strength and drive to hit Quiet Science, Campbell The Band, and The Choir and in a roundabout circuit around the festival grounds. Fear not, blog reader! Achievement unlocked!

I felt really bad for Quiet Science since their show was cancelled at 1 PM due to the power issues, but it all turned out ok anyways. They played at the rescheduled time of 7 PM and introduced new material from their upcoming album. I really like the lead singer’s story about redemption in his life and his stories about working in the suicide wing of the hospital is compelling. (and I’m a sucker for music influenced by science fiction and writers like C.S. Lewis.)

The power outage knocked everything else out of schedule so I was able to swing by the Gallery Stage and catch an acoustic version of The Choir. Derri Daugherty, Steve Hindalong, and Dan Michaels translated their “swirly, scary music” into a pleasant night running through the history of their band through their songs. After that, it was over to see Campbell The Band at the Underground Stage. This band totally has the crowd interaction part figured out. At one point, a band member gave the bass drum to the crowd to hold while he hammered on it with his mallet. During the middle of the show, they handed paper out to the crowd and told them to rip it up and then during the climatic moment of the song throw it up in the air in a blast of confetti. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty awesome. Mike Mains and The Branches was a real pleasant surprise afterwards. I had never heard of them, but I really enjoyed the show and I’ll have to check out their music.

I made a quick drop by the After Hours Dance Club to check up on my friend David and see how things were going over there. They were still coming down to the ground after opening up the festival on Main Stage with Andy Hunter. From there, I settled down for the night at the Gallery for Lost Dogs and Deas Vail. The Lost Dogs were “a three legged dog” as Terry Taylor had to return home for a family emergency. The bass player for Daniel Amos filled in for Taylor extremely well and the band carried on with a solid show. The final show of the evening was Deal Vail which pulled in a very large and much younger crowd than the normal Gallery Stage patrons. Deas Vail played almost all new material and even though it was unfamiliar, it was well received by the crowd. I’m looking forward to their new album.

So here we are done, done with Day 2 and about to begin Day 3. (The days all blur together when the final show ends after midnight.) I hope the heat breaks today, my spidey senses (and weather websites) tell me that rain is on the way today so we may get our wish. Stay cool and stay dry today!

Dyeing to be different

You’ve got to dye daily….

I’m not afraid of dyeing…

Who knew there were puns about fabric dyeing?

I try to come into each Cornerstone looking for a new experience, not just a list of new bands to see. I never can predict what it will be before I arrive, but it always finds me. This year, I stumbled onto a fabric dyeing workshop as part of Burning Brush. I noticed it in the program and (as a quilter and fabric lover) I decided it would be a good choice. Turns out that it was an even better choice than I expected, since it meant that I weathered Friday’s power outage doing something that definitely didn’t require electricity!

I’m a little ashamed to admit that in all my years here, I’d never before done a single activity with the arts programs, short of walking by the art pilgrimage while on the way somewhere else. I now realize that I’d been missing out. Just like there’s a crowd that favors the Imaginarium, and there’s a crowd that knows all the ins-and-outs of the generator stages, and crowds who love to sip refined coffee and hear refined music at the Gallery, I’m realizing that there’s a crowd who eagerly anticipates the art programs. There are people who mark their fest schedules with not only the workshops they want to attend, but the first moment they can get on the sign-up sheets.

I shared a worktable with a few of these people yesterday, as JPUSA artist Sara van Alkermade showed us the basics of low-water immersion dyeing while another table of eager students learned about needle felting. My fellow students were artists & crafters eager to talk about our hobbies, our hometowns, the bands we’ve seen, swap stories of past festivals, and even talk about our faith a little bit.

Burning Brush 2011 also offered workshops on mosaic, block printing, and spinning – in addition to a guided walk of the art pilgrimage. For just a $5 fee, we all walked away with inspiration, confidence, and little pieces of hand-made joy.

This was a different experience for me, but one that I definitely want to come back to!

An Evening With Doug Jones- Actor, Gentleman, Christ Follower

Are there Christians working in Hollywood? Of course, and I’m not just talking about Kirk Cameron. The Imaginarium, a unique component of the Cornerstone experience that focuses on film and pop culture, hosted actor Doug Jones tonight.

Most moviegoers will be familiar with Doug’s work from his role as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies and as The Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. He is also known as Pan in Pan’s Labryinth as well as for playing characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the zombie in Hocus Pocus with Bette Midler. Most of his characters have a common element of requiring heavy makeup.

In addition to being a talented actor, Doug is also known and respected in Hollywood for his Christian faith, a faith that is evident guides his actions and career as a Hollywood actor. Some may find it odd that he plays so many monsters. Wouldn’t that conflict with his faith? According to Doug, we are all monsters at times due to the problem of sin in our lives. If the entire movie takes us to a positive place in the end, that is a good thing.

I  found it interesting when Doug discussed what guides his decision in choosing to work on a film. He first decides if he likes the script; does it make him laugh or cry? What is the director’s purpose? He has passed on some projects that do conflict with his faith (for instance he won’t do any horror film that follows the formula of half naked teenagers having sex and doing drugs and then they get killed; Doug finds that boring and offensive.) He has also had an influence on directors and their vision for a film. He was offered one film that portrayed Christians in a bad light. When he expressed to the director that this film was going to alienate the Christian audience as well as being something that creatively had been done to death, the director rewrote the film. Another film, Legion, showed God as the enemy destroying the world. When Doug realized that this was essentially a modern retelling of the flood story from the Bible, this gave him a unique opportunity to share his faith and Christian worldview on a national level.

Doug and his wife put their faith into action by intentionally  mentoring young, up and coming actors helping them, giving them a home to spend Christmas in, and generally being there for them.

To say that all of us at The Imaginarium were impressed by Doug would be an understatement. Doug took time to sign anything we had: dvds, pictures, collectibles. I think everyone there received one of his famous Dougie hugs and the encouragment to show BIG LOVE to those around us. Following this, we were able to watch two short films Doug starred in; the most striking of the two was Butterfly Circus, a film with the message of redemption and hope for the hopeless. Butterfly Circus will soon be made into a full length feature starring Doug. Look for it in your local theater.

The sillery (yes, sillery, you have to have been there) is continuing on into the night with a screening of Hellboy 2. Cornerstone has always been about more than the music. If you haven’t made it past the stages, venture out into the outskirts of the festival. You may just find something you had no idea existed here.

Electricity! You Fickle Friend!

By now you’ve heard about the heat. The oppressive, sizzling, sweltering heat. It’s draining everyone, including the power for the entire county apparently. The electricity vaporized from the grounds again today leaving everywhere except the Main Stage and generator stages, each with their own power, down to a stand-still. This made me very sad because it happened right as Quiet Science was about to take the stage. It looks like their show is going to be rescheduled for tonight at 7 PM which gives me a massive conundrum as they are playing at the same time as The Choir and also Campbell The Band. Tough choices.

I was sad to have no music, but it did afford a chance to have some conversations with friends, including people as far away as Scotland. That’s one of the coolest things about Cornerstone. I’ve met people from all over the country, indeed all over the world, and we all share common musical interests that make discussions seem perfectly natural.

Some artists made the best of the lack of electricity. Mike Roe and Derri Daugherty performed through a single amp powered by an RV. Total professionals, they played a great show featuring their new project Kerosene Halo with their humor and sentiment.

The power finally returned for Jeff Elbel and his band Ping. Jeff brought new music to the festival this year and even invited me up on stage to take a group photo. I’m glad I didn’t trip over any cords and knock instruments all over the stage, so it’s a big win for me.

The sun is finally starting to set and hopefully the heat will start to break. There is a whole bunch of music going on tonight, including Deas Vail which should be great. There’s also the conflict of Quiet Science/The Choir/Campbell the Band. Were I a younger person on a cooler day, I would try to make my rounds and hit all three shows. We’ll see if I have any energy left to do that or if I just collapse in a chair at one of the tents.


I figured it would be to typical of me to write about the AMAZING Flatfoot 56 show last night, so I’m not going to.

Coleman camping gear once released a commercial calling the camp site the “original social networking site.” The same is true of the camping here at Cornerstone Festival.

Cornerstone gives people an amazing opportunity to meet like-minded people in their fields, whether it be art, politics, music, sci-fi, etc. As a newbie photographer, I was very excited to spend some time following around my favorite fest photographer. Watching her shoot and asking her questions gave me a lot of insight into ways to further myself as an artist.

After shooting, I spent some time at her camp with another photographer talking about different post-processing methods and dark room photo manipulation. We discussed topics that affect us as Christian photographers; questions I’d been asking and wresting with for months were finally being talked through with like-minded people.

I spent some time walking around holding a sign asking people if I could photograph their tattoos. Most times, they were more than willing to share the stories behind their ink. For many of them, I found ways that my life and interests connected to their ink, even though I don’t have any “real” tattoos.

A friend of mine and I were talking about how we wished the real world was as friendly as people at Cornerstone. If you get out of your comfort zone and talk to someone, chances are great that you’ll make a new friend and your Cornerstone experience will be truly enriched.


Cornerstone… Community In Action

Cornerstone is often referred to as a community. You hear that word mentioned a lot on these campgrounds. What does it mean? If you’ve been coming to Cornerstone for several years, then you probably know about JPUSA, the organization that sponsors the festival. JPUSA is an intentional community in Chicago, IL made up of Christians who live together, minister together, work together, and worship together. It is a radical approach to Christianity that most would not be up to. These principles of working and living together that make up JPUSA’s way of life translate to life on the festival grounds every summer. Here are just a few examples of community in action that I have witnessed over the years coming to Cornerstone:

Four years ago, I brought a big group of people in a church van. Just after arriving, our van got stuck in the mud. A group of people camping around there sprang into action summoning help, rope, and an ATV to pull us out. All they asked in return was if we saw someone in need during the week, to help them.

There is a lady here on the grounds who for the last several years has been offering free ramen noodles to anyone who wants them. She’ll even provide the stove and propane to cook them. All she asks is that you clean up after yourself.

Just today, I had lunch at a restaurant in town with two guys who are here playing in a band on generator stages. This means they are not getting paid and are playing because they love music and want to share it with others. On the second day of the festival, they hit a deer with their van and really messed it up. They spoke of the outpouring of love and support from people at the fest who had come to their aid helping them with the van and helping them with food.

No telling how many countless teenagers over the years have made it home due to donations from strangers who helped them out when they ran out of money.

This year, I am camping in approximately the same spot I did last year. My neighbors are the same people I camped with last year. Being alone at the fest, it is nice to have familiar faces to speak with when I am at the campsite.

This list could go on and on. What instances of community in action have you experienced at Cornerstone over the years?