OK, first things first. It’s hot. Like, circus hot. Having daytime shows out in the open at Main Stage really hammers the point home, and today’s going to be worse, so remember to get out of the sun when you can, and drink more water than you think you need. Cornerstone’s no fun if you’re passed out in the first aid trailer.
Day 2 of the festival, the first “official” day with all of the stages fully up and running, was eventful. An hour-long power outage took down just about everything on the grounds (and, from what I hear, some stuff out in Bushnell, as well) except for the generator stages and Main Stage (which also runs off of some industrial strength generators). That ensured that the schedules were in complete disarray on most of the stages. Some artists soldiered on, like Mike Roe playing his set unplugged (literally). Others, like Vinacious (whose sound is mostly keyboards and electric guitar), just had to call it a day when the power went out. Even the giant inflatable water slide went flat. But everybody took it in stride, the generator stages got a good boost, and eventually things got back to normal (or as close as it gets out here).
The big event for the day was the Jesus Rally on Main Stage, with a full day of classic Christian Rock pioneers (some of whom hadn’t played a show together in 20 years or more). It, too, was on “Cornerstone Time,” running about an hour late all day due to some late arrivals and extra-long sound checks. The older folks were out in force, braving the heat to see the bands of their youth, and there were a lot of younger fans there too, which was nice to see. I fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, so for me, it was a mix of artists that I’m a big fan of but have rarely seen (Resurrection Band, Petra with Greg Volz, Daniel Amos) and artists that I’m aware of but had never really listened to (Barry McGuire, Phil Keaggy, Servant, and others).
Barry McGuire was my favorite out of the artists that I wasn’t that familiar with. He was obviously enjoying himself, and his enthusiasm was infectious as he told the stories behind songs like “Bullfrogs and Butterflies” and “Eve of Destruction,” led the crowd in sing-alongs, and shared his testimony (which involved marijuana, the Mamas and the Papas, and Good News for Modern Man). And I’m pretty sure he’ll win the award for the most unexpected cover of the week with his version of Madonna’s “Frozen.”
Daniel Amos, who have actually been out on the road for the last few weeks on their first tour in a decade or so, played a fun, tight, hit-laden 45 minute set that spanned their career, from the first song they ever recorded (“Ain’t Gonna Fight It”), to the last song on their latest album (“And So It Goes”). In between, they hit a lot of favorites, like “Mall (All Over the World),” “Walls of Doubt,” “Sanctuary,” and “I Love You #19.” It was fantastic seeing Terry, Jerry, Greg, and Ed playing together again, and bassist Tim Chandler (who couldn’t join the tour due to other commitments) was missed, but touring bassist Paul Averitt was incredibly fun to watch. He played with authority, sang most of the background parts, and stomped around the stage like he was playing with Anberlin instead of DA. My only complaint is that there wasn’t more of the set to love.
As John Thompson pointed out in his introduction, without Resurrection Band, there wouldn’t be a Cornerstone Festival. Glenn and Wendi Kaiser and their cohorts were one of the first Christian hard rock bands, tackling issues in their lyrics that a lot of other bands wouldn’t touch. The music and the message both still resonate today. The band sounded great, and played with a lot of fire. Wendi, in particular, gave it everything she had – at rehearsal the day before, she was using a cane to move around the stage, but during the Main Stage set, she had the crew bring her a wireless microphone so she could get out on the catwalk to speak and sing and get closer to the fans. I’m thankful for every opportunity I get to see REZ play a show.
I literally ran from the Resurrection Band set to the Gallery to see Paper Route, who delivered my favorite set of last year’s festival. After the departure of one member, they added a couple more, so they’re playing as a six-piece now. Lead singer J.T. spoke about how hard the last year had been for him, and his gratitude for the support of the fans who packed the front of the stage was evident. The set drew primarily from Absence, along with a sneak peek at a song from their forthcoming album. The set was great, and I can’t wait to hear the new album.
Back at Main Stage, a reunited “classic” Petra lineup (singer Greg Volz, drummer Louie Weaver, bassist Mark Kelley, keyboardist John Lawry, and guitar stalwart Bob Hartman) closed out the Jesus Rally. If I’m honest, things didn’t go too well for them – Greg stumbled on a few lyrics, and not even Guitar Hero “Star Power” could keep them from failing out after they started “Clean” in about 3 different keys and had to have a band huddle to sort things out. But I was a teenage Petra fanboy who never got to see the band with Volz, even though I always liked that era of the band the best, so even though the performance wasn’t great, it was still fun to have the chance (which I never thought I’d have) to sing along with the band on songs like “Bema Seat,” “Angel of Light,” “It Is Finished,” and “All Over Me.” I wish they’d been a little tighter, but it was still really cool to see them play.
So I made it through the day without bursting into flames, I saw some of my favorite bands from back in the day, and I saw one of my favorite current bands. That’s a win all around.