Buck Buck


I’ll be posting my own summary and concluding thoughts about the festival soon, but first I wanted to let things ruminate a little bit and think about the festival as a whole before posting anything yet.

So, I’ll share some fun from the last day of the festival.

Cornerstone Festival has some “official” sports competitions (soccer, volleyball, basketball) on the grounds but sometimes the most fun ones are the spontaneous ones that spring up from the ground. This particular sport that seems to happen every year cracks me up. The game is called “Buck Buck” and if you’ve ever heard the Bill Cosby sketch about Fat Albert, then you know the rules. Essentially one team of kids lines up and the other team of kids jumps on top of the first team until they collapse. There are more nuances to the rules than that, but that’s the gist of it. I don’t know how much fun it would be to have all those people jumping on you, but from an observer’s standpoint, it’s pretty funny to watch. I love taking photos of kids flying through the air.

I’ve included one photo from my collection at the top of this post, but there’s more on my photostream on Flickr.

Have you ever played Buck Buck? Did you play this year? Ever gotten hurt playing Buck Buck? Seems like something that would leave some bruises!


The Post-Cornerstone Depression

Main Stage setup. Photo by Matt Laswell

The fest was fantastic. You made new friends and enjoyed old ones. God’s presence was obvious to you. You heard awesome music.

But now… you’re home again.

Home where there are commitments, stress, and the stuff of the other 51 weeks of the year.

I know that the Post-Cornerstone Depression is not listed in the DSM IV, but I’m confident it’s a real phenomenon for many people returning home after Cornerstone. It’s usually mild, but very real for those who get it. I’ve experienced it myself after many festivals, and am already feeling some of the symptoms.

So, what can we do about it? Based on my own experience, what works is to allow myself to relive the happy memories, then force myself to get back to “real” life with new passion. Here are some other tips (based on my own experiences at Cornerstone and years as a church staff member helping people with the stuff of real life):

  • Find the bands you loved on facebook & twitter. Download their songs.  Chat about the bands with other fans.
  • Look for the next concerts in your area.
  • Take time for silence & solitude, two spiritual practices you don’t get much of at Cornerstone. Be quiet and just listen.
  • Share music with friends. Make playlists. Link to the exclusive videos posted here on cornerstonefestival.com or to band MySpace pages (give a description more than “this band is awesome” so people have a reason to click the links you share).
  • If you’re feeling some “holy discontent,” (maybe an idea to make a change in your life) don’t squash it. Talk to God about what’s up. Keep going with life-as-normal for now, but also be praying for direction on what’s next.
  • Plan a night to hang out again with the friends from your youth group who also attended. Trade tips about your favorite bands. Pass around your photos. Sing the worship songs you shared at the festival.
  • Learn to play the guitar. Or, at least get all the downloadable content from Rock Band for bands that have played Cornerstone.
  • Wear all your new shirts.
  • Hang your wristband on your bulletin board.
  • Find a photo (one you took, or one from the fantastic fest photo coverage) and make it the desktop background on your computer.
  • Watch all the videos on the website, then watch them again.
  • Buy a ticket to come back next year. You really will be part of making Cornerstone 2011 great.
  • Look for new spiritual habits (like prayer, Bible reading, simplicity, celebration, etc.) that can help you stay connected to what God is up to around you.
  • Listen to seminar podcasts and think about the topics discussed. (I think podcasts will be coming to the blog in a few weeks – or you could always catch up on the 2009 seminars.)
  • Remember the reality: Driving back to the festival grounds would do no good. You’d just get recruited for cleanup. haha. 🙂 Seriously, though, I know the immense feelings of just wanting to turn the car around. Yet, I also know, rationally, that it wouldn’t matter. The festival is not about the place.
  • Write a list of what you’re thankful for. I do this a lot throughout the year (in a series of posts on my personal blog called “Good Fridays”). Even if you feel crummy, there’s something to be thankful. Be thankful that you’re home again in the land of flushable toilets, comfy beds, and private showers. Be thankful for the laughs and smiles of last week. Be thankful for the talent God gave these musicians & artists.
  • Sing along, play air drums, and completely rock out while listening to these new tunes.
  • Talk about how you’re feeling. This is probably the most important factor. It’s OK to cry and admit you feel bad, hug a friend and get courage to go back to “real life.” Of course, though, if you’re feeling something that’s bigger than mild Post-Cornerstone Depression, talk to someone who can help (like a pastor, youth worker, counselor, etc.)

What about you? Do you get the Post-Cornerstone Depression too? What helps you through it?


(p.s. our festival photo album is here)

I Found Myself at Cornerstone

The question God was asking me as I went to Cornerstone was “Who are you?” Over and over this kept playing in my head. To be honest I headed to Cornerstone yes, to participate in the ministry of Sanctuary and be a blogger…the bigger thing I went there for was to hear from God about 2010 and how it is a year of change for me. There are some things in particular that I needed firm peace on.

Before I became a pastor I really dug deep into outreach and working with people that were definitely the outcast type of people. It is funny but I even liked to dress a certain way (hippie meets metalhead) and really went into being a youth pastor as a bit of a rebel…I guess some things never change. I had no other family go before me as a pastor, I joke around that I am a PK (a polisher’s kid) but immediately saw things that began to change me. I was not a suit wearing person and the first church I went into was a fashion show in which I was required to wear a suit. From that point on I began to morph into someone that was being tamed by the institution. When I did get away to camps, outings, etc. I would wear shirts and things that made some Christians wonder. They were Godly t-shirts but some refused to see it. I remember a directors wife at a camp scolding me in front of my teens for wearing such an “ugly/ungodly” shirt. The funny thing is it said, “Dead to the World, Alive in Christ” on it in a big skull. I kindly responded…”I feel the same way about your shirt” (probably from Dress Barn or something). I have always had a rebel streak in me though I never want it to get out of control.

When I moved to Waupaca I continued to become a people pleaser for all the wrong reasons the first year or two. After I began to see the ugly side of religious politics I decided to throw it all out the window. The biggest eye-opener for me was the minute I became the youth pastor to a district official. At big meetings people would come up to me and be buddy buddy that were never that close to me before. It appeared to me that because I am now in this position working with that particular person, I am now someone that others will hang out with so they can get in with the pastor I served under. It was then that this persons silo came crashing down and I lost 90% of those “close” people as friends because of a fall-out that happened. I still get random pot-shots taken at me via email, facebook, or face to face conversation. This made me all the wiser for what was ahead as a lead pastor (senior pastor).

So here I am now in the desert and what an exciting place it is! There is a negative connotation that the desert can be a bad thing, however in the bible the word “desert” means “without inhabitants”, not “without vegetation or water”. I love how one author describes the desert vs. forests. “When a man walks or rides into a forest, he is lost among the trees, can’t see ahead, doesn’t know what might be lurking there. The forest surrounds him, obscures him with shadows, confuses itself with him by its vertical composition and competitive detail. But when a horseman appears on the desert plain, he dominates it instantly, his view extends as far as the eye can see, and enemies are exposed to his gaze. The desert flatters the human figure by making it seem dominant and unique, dark against the light, vertical against horizontal, solid against plane, detail against blankness.”
The openess of desert space also symbolizes infinite access. As Tomkins notes, “There is nothing to stop the horseman’s free movement across the terrain…Distance, made palpable through exposure and infinitely prolonged by the absence of obstacles, offers unlimited room to move. The man can go, in any direction, as far as he can go. The possibilities are infinite.”
It is time to run free after a refreshing time of re-finding who I am while at Cornerstone Festival where I truly feel at home among the wierdos, goths, metalheads, preps, jocks (though few), hippies and free-thinkers. Fact of the matter is two tents down was a lesbian couple that felt at home at Cornerstone. I am not downplaying the fact we all need Jesus and some things are not okay. What I am saying is God created us uniquely and we should not stray from that to fit some kind of mold or to appease some person/people/institution. God spoke to me in such awesome ways this past week through song, teachings, and one on one conversations with people I look up to.
Who am I? I am a unique free-thinking pastor that won’t be bound down by ideals that don’t line-up with scripture. I am a black t-shirt wearing person that loves everyone and hates no-one. I am a pastor that has little to no tolerance for religious crap (politics) that bogs a church down so it cannot be free to find God unless it goes through a filter. I am person that is a Christ follower first, husband and father second and pastor third. I am a pastor that welcomes questioning and skepticism in a church so that it leads to a deeper understanding of who the one true God is. I am a person that invites you to journey with me on through life understanding I am not better than you and you are not better than me. Rather we are following the one true God together which will tighten our bond to each other and to God.

I am telling you…God is at Cornerstone and he always reveals himself to me among what some might call, “THOSE PEOPLE!”

Day 4 – The Final Countdown

Well, I’m back at home in suburban Atlanta (with a post-fest day off for the first time I can remember, thankfully – the first day back is always rough), and like most of my fellow bloggers, some post-fest wrapup posts are forthcoming, but I wanted to go through the final day of the fest for the sake of completeness.

Unfortunately, the Godfathers Pizza in Macomb has closed.  It’s a bit of a tradition among my circle of friends to hit up the pizza buffet at least one day of the trip, so without it, we were left a bit adrift, trying to fill a Godfathers-shaped hole.  There’s probably a tortured metaphor to be had there, but I’m not the guy to write it, so everybody fill in your own.  Anyway, we ended up at Jimmy John’s, which was probably marginally more healthy and significantly less satisfying.

Several of the bands I wanted to watch on Saturday were daytime Main Stage bands, which points out one deficiency in the new Main Stage location – it’s hot and sunny in the daytime, and there’s almost no shade to be had around Main Stage.  People were crowding into the wake of the sound tower and under the spotlight platform to get out of the sun, and this was a very mild weather year.  When another of those 100+ degree days hits in the future, I don’t think you’ll find me watching any bands at Main Stage.

The first band I saw was the Glorious Unseen (who gave us a very “Cornerstone” moment – a guitarist playing worship music in an Anthrax t-shirt – just a funny visual).  They were good, but by that point, my attention span for unfamiliar stuff was pretty short, so I didn’t get as much out of it as I might have.  After a brief diversion to see Tonight Tonight on the Encore stage (a set marred by sound problems and a struggling vocalist early, but both got better by the end), it was back to Main Stage to see House of Heroes (better than I remembered, and good fun to watch) and All the Day Holiday (not very well suited for Main Stage – they’d have gone down better on Gallery or Encore – but they did a good set, nonetheless).

My friends and I headed out to the generator stages to try to catch some hip hop acts, but as is the generator stage custom, the schedule was completely destroyed, and none of the acts we wanted to see were actually there.  Instead, we caught another set from Oh! The Humanity! (a synthpop-and-guitar duo that I saw earlier in the week).  They had a better crowd this time, people that were actually up and dancing, and they seemed to feed off the energy and put on a very good show.  They were one of very few new bands that I saw and enjoyed this year.

I hitched a golf cart ride down to the old Main Stage bowl area, just to see what it looks like.  It looks kind of sad without a stage down there – it’s all grown up with weeds and  a JPUSA vegetable garden, and the buildings (the t-shirt shed and what I assume is the artist hospitality trailer) look pretty decrepit.  I’ve heard that the artist hospitality area (now located in the former dance barn building, a bigger, better space) was improved this year, so I imagine that was one change that the bands playing on Main Stage appreciated.  Still, it was kind of sad to see the old place in that condition.

Running low on energy, I parked myself at the Gallery for the rest of the night.  The first band I saw was O’Brother, playing music that’s dramatic but hard to really find a hook into (stuff my friends and I have dubbed “projector band” music, after bands like Ester Drang that used to play similarly hookless music).  I didn’t mind them, but I don’t particularly get the style – I tend to like stuff you can dance to or sing along with.  I’d love to hear a fan of that style describe to me what they hear in it, though – I’m genuinely curious.

Future of Forestry were next.  I was marvelling at how full their sound was with only three people in the band (they were multitasking, but still…), and the singer mentioned that they normally play with 5 or 6 people on the stage.  I was quite taken with their set, enough to spend most of the rest of my cash on their three Travel EPs.  I kind of get the feeling that their music is the sort of stuff that I’ll find less interesting on my iPod in the car than I did live, but their live set was good enough to convince me to take a shot on it.

I was looking forward to seeing Ivoryline, who I’d missed a couple of times in years past.  They’re a little heavy for some of the Gallery crowd, but I don’t mind seeing rock bands.  I didn’t love their set, though – it was a little rawer than the studio stuff I’d heard before.  It’s also possible that I was just tired enough that I wasn’t going to particularly enjoy anything at that point.

The final band of 2010 for me was Seabird.  I really like Seabird, though I kind of overdosed myself on their music after the 2008 fest and haven’t really fully recovered.  They sounded great, though, and were a nice fit at the Gallery, with a very respectable crowd (many of whom were probably there to avoid The Devil Wears Prada on Main Stage, but you play the hand you’re dealt).  They probably won over some new fans.

Aaron Morgan of Seabird

Speaking of Seabird fans, though, there was one small irritation.  Last year, my friend and fellow Blogger Becky wrote about a group of kids that were “living the dream” at the Seabird show, standing down front to see their favorite band.  That bunch was back again this year, but it really wasn’t quite as cute this time around.  The Gallery tends to be a sitdown sort of venue (with rare exceptions – I was part of the bunch standing up for Paper Route this year, for example), which inevitably leads to come conflict when “younger” bands play the stage (hence the dueling cries of “stand up!” and “sit down!” during Eisley – I was in the front row, so I merrily stayed in my seat and enjoyed the show).  I understand the appeal of standing up, but I also understand the appeal of sitting down, and my general philosophy on the matter is to either follow what the majority are doing, or find a spot where I can do whatever I want without bothering anybody else.  It’s all about empathy and consideration for your fellow concert-goers.  So when you’re the only people standing in front of a stage that’s about 18″ tall, with a few hundred people sitting behind you to watch the show, that’s kind of a jerk move.  (To be fair, a few people eventually joined the standing crowd- mostly kids that were sitting directly behind the standers and couldn’t see anything otherwise, plus photographers.)  When 2 or 3 people ask you (not yell at you, but come up and ask you personally) if you’d please sit down or move so people can see, and you continue to stand, that’s kind of a jerk move.  And if you’re just going to stand there and not dance or jump around, there’s really no reason TO stand other than to stand for the sake of standing.  It kind of does a disservice to the band, too – people that can’t see the band are more likely to just say “forget it” and leave, or get ticked off about the situation and not really be in the right frame of mind for the  show.  So I guess what I’m saying is “don’t be a jerk” and “have some empathy with other people.”  Next year, I’m throwing bottles. 🙂

So that’s it for Cornerstone 2010 for me.  I’ll take a bit of time to digest everything I experienced and put it all together into some wrapup posts in the next few days, so keep reading!


Back from Bushnell…

As I sit here writing this from my house in Arkansas, I can’t help but feel a little “Cornersick” for the festival that means so much to me. True,  I just left about 12 hours ago, but the desire to go back has been overwhelming at times.The weather could not have been better, and the overall atmosphere at the festival this year was one of the best I can remember.

Each day of the fest started for me with Catholic Mass at the Imaginarium. I am not Catholic, but have an interest in liturgical, ancient forms of prayer and worship. This was ideal for me as Father Tom Holloway from the Bushnell Catholic church taught us throughout the services what each action and prayer meant. Contemporary liturgical music led by Sal Solo was great as well and led us each morning to the throne of God. While I couldn’t participate in communion in the Mass being United Methodist, I did go down each day for a blessing from Father Tom; I figure I can use as many blessings as I can get. It was also good to see the small, but dedicated group of Catholic Christians who attend Cornerstone.

On the music front, my favorite shows were Paper Route (see my other blog specifically about them), Switchfoot, All The Day Holiday, and Over The Rhine. I didn’t see as much music this year; I focused on quality rather than quantity.

I spent most of my nights at Movie Zombies, a new program this year for fans of the horror and action genres. Each night we watched movies together and discussed how these applied to our faith. Some of the titles were controversial to say the least, but it is refreshing to see a group of people who aren’t afraid to confront and talk about the darkness and evil in the world. As an urban legend fan, I really enjoyed the night we discussed the “satanic panic” rumors of the 1980s and the part the church had in spreading those rumors. My favorite movie had to be Fido, a heartwarming zombie movie set in the 1950s. (It really was heartwarming; If you don’t believe me, get it on dvd from Netflix and watch it.)

Ending out the festival, I caught the last two songs of Grave Robber’s Underground Stage set. If you don’t know these guys, they are a thrash/punk type of band who wear skeleton masks and use some kind of voice changer thing. It had to be the scariest thing I have ever seen. I know about the spiritual reasons behind the masks they wear (dying to sin), but just don’t know if I fully get it. Part of this has to be related to the way I initially discovered them. Last year I went to bed early one night and about one in the morning got up to walk to the porta pottie. In my half awake stupor, I stumbled past the Sanctuary tent and saw Grave Robber performing. I honestly thought I was having a nightmare it was so scary looking, and since I was half asleep, my brain wasn’t exactly able to fully process what I was seeing. The kids at the show seemed to be having a good time, probably one of the most outspoken  bands for Christ at the festival as well, if you can get used to the creepy voice the guy talks in.

Overall, I saw some great music, heard some wonderful teaching, engaged in some heartfelt and passionate discussion with other movie fans, ate a lot of greasy food, and had the greatest week of my year. See you in 358 days…

Cornerstone Purchases

Back home in Nebraska for less than an hour, I’m already keeping my internet connection busy (yay for high speed access)! With my wife getting cleaned up, I’m passing time waiting for the shower by downloading soon to be new favorites from Amazon and iTunes.

Among the CDs I picked up at the fest were albums by Future of Forestry and Seabird. Now downloading are works by Paper Route, Campbell the Band, and Quiet Science.

What did you pick up at the fest (or will you be downloading in the coming days)?

51 weeks to go

Safe travel to everyone still on the road (or soon to be) following Cornerstone 20ten. What a beautiful week we had, full of musical and other highlights. I had a fantastic week and will look forward to doing it again.  I’ll bring more cookies for sharing.

My favorite sets:

Iona, Over the Rhine, Shel, Timbre, the Choir, Lost Dogs. I was working at Gallery while Photoside Cafe were on Main Stage, but I heard they knocked it out. Way to go, guys!

It was a joy and privilege to play with my friends in the Maron band and Ping. Thanks to so many friends for sharing the moment(s) with us.

Quick Saturday Summary

Saturday is over and Cornerstone 20ten is in the books! If you are like me, you are packing up and heading home. Drive safely! The last day of Cornerstone Festival had plenty for everyone. I saw The Glorious Unseen, House of Heroes, All The Day Holiday, Oh! The Humanity, Future of Forestry, Ivoryline, and Seabird. Not a bad way to finish up the week.

We’ll all be posting our summaries and thoughts about the whole week in the next few days. My battery is about to die and the car is about to be cranked, so it’s time for me to go. Until then, check out my pictures of Cornerstone 2010 on Flickr. See you on the flip side.

What a Run

As I am writing this blog I am looking at the beautiful view from my screen tent looking down the road at the lake here on the Cornerstone grounds. Looking around and reflecting back on the week, I cannot help but to say “Thank you God for letting me be here and using me in new ways.”
The events that transpired at the Sanctuary tent were great. Every day there was a great line-up of bands that loved Jesus. The Bombworks record day was definitely a highlight. That evening wrapped up with Rex Carroll (lead axeman of Whitecross) playing. When he began to play Nagasaki…IT WAS AWESOME!
For me personally to sit in the trailer and talk to band members, give some counsel and just minister to people was an experience I will never forget. I will admit that the Sanctuary tent was not the same without Pastor Bob Beeman or Jim LaVerde in attendance but God still did some awesome things at this tent.
I hope you plan on being a part of this great ministry again next year when Pastor Bob and Jim LaVerde will be back. Sanctuary is a ministry that has blessed me since I was a teenager and still does to this day. You can visit Sanctuary online at www.sanctuaryinternational.com or visit my ministry online as well www.thatsnotmygod.com.
Have a safe trip home!

Day 3 – Just What I Needed

At this point in the festival, I really needed a day like Friday – lots of good bands (including some of my favorites) and not a lot of running around.  Checking out unfamiliar stuff is great, but it’s also great to settle back and listen to a bunch of songs that you know by heart.

I started the day with a few unfamiliar bands that sounded promising.  Oh! The Humanity, a duo playing autotuned synthpop with live guitars, were playing on a generator stage.  I’m kind of a sucker for that kind of stuff, so my friends and I wandered in.  Initially, the crowd was kind of small.  It must be disheartening as a young band to start your set in front of nothing but a few dudes old enough to be your dad, but the band gave it their all, and eventually a pretty decent crowd wandered in.  Their cover of “Check Yes Juliet” from We The Kings was especially fun.

In terms of promoting their set, Campbell the Band had to have been one of the hardest working bands at the fest, and that’s saying something.  They played impromptu acoustic sets all around the grounds during the week, and their efforts seemed to have paid off – the New Band Showcase tent was packed out for their set on Friday.  Their set was cut a bit short due to an extra-long soundcheck (sometimes you just have to plug in your stuff and hope for the best…), but what I heard was pretty good.  They really engaged the crowd (including handing instruments to the crowd to hold while they played them) and gave a high energy performance, even though their music is a on the more mellow end of the spectrum.

Deas Vail (playing on Main Stage) was up next.  It’s been fun watching that band come up through the ranks from the smaller stages to the larger ones over the last 3 or 4 years.  In all fairness, they probably would have been on the Gallery or an Encore stage in years past, instead of in one of the newly-created daytime Main Stage slots, but regardless, there they were, up on the biggest of Cornerstone stages, with a respectable and enthusiastic crowd.  Playing on that giant stage has swallowed up a lot of bands over the years, and the Deas Vail I first saw a few years ago probably wouldn’t have fared very well up there.  But their music and performance has matured a lot over the years, and they really held their own with a set that drew from both of their albums and their White Lights EP.

Then it was time for an epic run of bands on the Gallery Stage (with a side trip to see Quiet Science on a generator stage, a set in which their live show finally lived up to the potential that I hear in their music) that are the reason I keep coming to Cornerstone after all these years: Over the Rhine (twice), Paper Route, and Eisley.  Three very different bands, but all great.

Over the Rhine’s first set was a relaxed, mostly-acoustic set that featured a number of songs from Good Dog Bad Dog, an album they recently performed in its entirety in a special concert, and a handful of new songs from an album they recently finished recording.  The performance was great as always, and it was a nice way to ease into the afternoon.

After an interesting set from Dignan and a long break to set up their ridiculously complicated equipment, Paper Route brought a bit of a clash of cultures to the Gallery.  There were a bunch of older, mellower folks sitting in lawn chairs (as is the norm at the Gallery), probably holding a place for the Over the Rhine show later in the evening, as a bunch of younger fest-goers crowded down front to stand and see the band.  I kind of bridge the gap between the “old people sitting down” crowd and the “standing up and rocking” crowd, so after the band’s first song, when it became clear that standing was the norm (at least down front), I gladly folded my chair and stood up to rock out with my younger fellow Paper Route fans.  The band sounded great, and their set tended toward the more energetic side of their music.  It was a top 5 show of the year for me – really great.

Eisley continued the culture clash, as competing shouts of “stand up!” and “sit down!” were heard between songs.  I love Eisley, but they weren’t rocking quite as hard as Paper Route and most of the people behind me were sitting, so I was happy to enjoy their set from my chair.  They played a nice, long set (about an hour), drawing from both of their albums and some of their EPs, as well as from their long-awaited, forthcoming album (no news yet on exactly when we should expect to see it released).  I was nervous that their set wouldn’t be good, since I was talking it up to anybody that would listen, but they didn’t disappoint, and it was great to see them playing Cornerstone for the first time in 8 years.  Hopefully now they’ll settle in and become regulars.

Over the Rhine closed the night with their traditional midnight (well, 11:30 this year) Gallery set.  The second set wasn’t greatly different in tone from their first in style, but was a completely different set of songs.  New songs again featured prominently in the set, and from what we’ve heard of their new material, it’s not a large departure from what they’ve been doing for the last couple of albums.  It sounds funny to say about a band that’s as low-key as Over the Rhine, but the set seemed a little subdued compared to their sets of the last few years.  There were some great moments throughout the set, though, including the opener “Born,” new song “The Laugh of Recognition,” and oldie “Professional Daydreamer.”  Unfortunately, the set ended kind of awkwardly – the band left the stage and the house lights and music came on, even though there was a 3-song encore listed on the set list.  Not sure what happened there, but more Over the Rhine is always a good thing.

Karin Bergquist of Over the Rhine

Today it’s mostly back to sampling new stuff, with the exception of Seabird and All the Day Holiday.  Tonight Tonight sounds promising, as do Highland Fall and At Cliffs End.  Plus, there seems to be a lot of hip hop on the schedule today, so I might check out some of that for something a little different.