After an amazing Friday afternoon and evening, I don’t think I can come up with a suitable review or summary. Let’s just sum it up by saying that Deas Vail, Over the Rhine, Quiet Science, Paper Route and Eisley all brought incredible energy and some of the best sets that I’ve seen by any of them before. Over the Rhine had missed a year at Cornerstone and their absence was felt last year. It’s been a couple years since Paper Route has been here and almost a decade since Eisley played at the festival. I hope all of them return sooner than later!
It does feel a little like the festival hit it’s peak last night, but there’s still more to go. As usual, I’m finally hitting my stride and adjusting to “Cornerstone Time” on the last day, but that’s the way it goes with this festival. Some great bands will finish up the festival, I’m looking forward to All The Day Holiday, Future of Forestry, and Seabird today. While it’s not my thing, I know the kids are excited about August Burns Red and The Devil Wears Prada. Cornerstone is wrapping up, make sure to get everything you can out of the fun today!
It’s hard to imagine a better night than we had Friday at Cornerstone, after an already solid day. I enjoyed bands like Deas Vail, Quiet Science and Campbell the Band, but an evening at the Gallery took it to another level. Paper Route was awesome! It’s a band I’d heard about, but hadn’t actually heard. Now I can’t wait to buy their CDs and listen again and again. I knew they were a special band when I looked around and saw the guy next to me grooving out, only to realize it was David Crowder himself checking out this band.
Next up was Eisley, a band that hasn’t been here since 2002. Please don’t wait until 2018 to come back! Eisley, you need to be here every year! I’ve seen these guys (er, gals) a couple of times, but this was the best I’ve heard them sound.
All of which led up to the highlight of the evening. Over the Rhine owns that midnight slot on Friday at the Gallery. I can’t imagine seeing any other band there. As one of my friends said last night, everything left at Cornerstone is the denouement, the wrap-up after reaching the climax of the event.
I don’t know that I really need to say anything beyond the title of this blog post. I left my 100% natural, whole grain Sunrise Energy Bars with Omega-3 at my little tuning station behind the Gallery Stage today. I left briefly to do some techy things under the front-of-house mixing console, and then went to the Exhibition tent to settle up for the Ping shows. When I came back, Dignan was onstage. My cookie container had been relocated to a table, and about 1/2 of the cookies had been consumed. I noted that the Dignan folks were rocking with much energy, and seemed to faintly glow in the light of the setting sun (comparable to sunrise). They seemed to be very satisfied, so I must sadly conclude that they stole(d) my cookies, and now I cannot hog an entire box of them all by myself.
p.s. Dignan was rad and had a big Gallery crowd going bananas. Much love to them.
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. (Psalm 33:3)
Tonight, on the Gallery Stage, in the battle of sit vs. stand, well, singing along somehow won.
Stacy DuPree of Eisley, photo by Matt Laswell
Cornerstone veterans (especially the fiercely loyal Gallery Stage dwellers) know that the Gallery is a different kind of stage. Chairs are provided. People bring lawnchairs. Patrons display long and complicated efforts to get the very best seat before the midnight shows. But, at times, when the Gallery shines bright and the crowd swells, the questions come: is this a sitting or standing show?
Tonight, as Eisely prepared to take the stage, the shouts went back & forth: “This isn’t a sitting band.” Then the reply: “Down in Front!”
Somehow, it just didn’t matter. Whether sitting or standing, everyone was clearly awed over Eisely returning to Cornerstone after 8 years away. In those 8 years, the band members have grown up: they’re no longer 12 or 13 years old, but instead are about to be married. In those 8 years, the band has also clearly garnered a large and loyal fan-base. As I looked around me, it was beautiful to see so many people (mostly girls, but some guys, too) singing along with huge smiles on their faces. And, I’m happy to report that I joined in. I even saw many people, who I’m quite certain were there mostly to get good seats for Over the Rhine, chair-dancing and smiling broadly.
The debate didn’t matter. All we needed was the simple joy of singing along to a great show.
Bands play a variety of stops in a tour. I’m sure after a blur of shows, venues start to seem the same for bands. But Cornerstone is always different. Something about the festival brings out the excitement and action of the band.
Paper Route played at the Gallery tent earlier tonight. I’ve seen the band a couple of times now, even at the first appearance here at the festival a couple years ago. The band has energy and stage presence sure, but this year’s show at Cornerstone was something else. The band was all smiles, leaping across the stage and playing with gusto I’ve never seen in their previous shows.
Girls in the crowd were so overwhelmed they were crying. Guys were nodding along with their eyes closed. These kind of shows are what make Cornerstone so special and different from other concerts.
Every year, there is at least one moment of the festival that stands out in my mind as one that defines the entire experience. Previous defining moments included meeting MxPx (my teen idols) for the first time, hearing Josh McDowell speak on Main Stage, seeing Stavesacre reunite, watching All The Day Holiday perform, and this year’s defining moment: a performance by Paper Route.
I walked into the Gallery tent this afternoon not knowing what to expect. All I knew was that Paper Route had a cool sounding name and it was the Gallery so it wouldn’t be hardcore. After finding a seat, I settled in expecting some mellow sit down music. I noticed everyone standing, strange for The Gallery. I stayed seated for the first song but quickly realized this was a band that deserved a closer look. After pushing my way through the crowd, I found a place to stand just a few feet away from the stage. What greeted my eyes and ears was one of the most creative bands I have ever seen perform at Cornerstone. Cornerstone vets will understand when I say they are on the creative level of Anathallo.
Describing their sound wouldn’t be a good thing for me to do here; everything I think of comes up short. They had the usual guitars as well as electronics, tambourines, various drums, and a xylophone. This was basically straight ahead rock with a more creative edge to both the lyrics and music. Once I realized my jaw was on the ground (and subsequently prying it back up), I began watching the crowd and their reactions. This is obviously a band that has made an emotional connection with their fans. Moments like this keep me coming back year after year.
The soundcheck took too long and by the time the show started a band curiously named Campbell The Band, had only three songs to win the crowd over. Of course, the band had already done their work, canvasing the Cornerstone grounds playing impromptu shows for crowds of people. So, the tent was completely full for Campbell The Band, and those three songs.
And how were those three songs? Not bad. The band got the crowd involved immediately by handing a drum into the crowd and playing it from the stage. It only took three songs to get the crowd rushing back to the merch table to buy the EP.
Cornerstone balances new and old during the fesitval. The Choir, a band that played at the first festival, played last night on the Gallery Stage. Today, Campbell The Band started a story at Cornerstone Festival of their own.
This year I got to bring my wife for the first time to Cornerstone. One of the misconceptions a newbie to Cornerstone may be that you will get a nice private campsite much like one you might have at a KOA or Jellystone campground. Upon arrival you find this to be the complete opposite of your traditional campground.
If you are an introvert, and plan on camping, you will be forced to break out of that mold. If you arrive early you may begin to think not too many people will show up and you will have much space for yourself. It is when you leave for your first concert that you are surprised with all of your new neighbors. Even after many people surround your campsite and you get used to them, you will still see late comers to the campground looking for a site. What seemed to be a full campground already is now their new place to camp. It is amazing how many people can pack into one campsite. What seems to be a full campsite gets fuller.
This is the great part. Unless you are camping next to a stage the chances are you will have great neighbors. This is the case for my wife and I. We met our new neighbors who drove 20 hours from Florida to be at Cornerstone…this made my 6 hour trek to Cornerstone child’s play. I guess you could say one of the pleasantries of being a camper is making new friends. I have yet to hear of someone having a bad experience and if everyone was fortunate to have campers next to them like the ones we have….you will have a very pleasant Cornerstone experience.
We have options when it comes to spending a week at Cornerstone. My first couple of years, we stayed in a hotel. While a hotel is nice, they aren’t exactly convenient to the grounds being in surrounding towns. Another option is the dorms at a nearby college. The most popular option (and the best in my opinion) is to camp on the grounds.
If you have been camping before, this is not like going to your local state park. Tents are everywhere. These grounds become a tent city for a week. A couple of days ago, two guys in a truck stopped me and asked, “Where are we supposed to camp?” I pointed and said, “Anywhere!’ And that is true with a few exceptions; obviously you can’t camp on the Main Stage or in a seminar tent.
Camping presents its challenges. With the exception of reserved RV spots, there is no water and electricity at the camp sites. Showers are available in the shower house in the middle camp, but most people seem to do without those. The weather often presents challenges. One year it was really hot; last year it rained; this year the nights are cool and perfect.
There are some huge advantages to camping. You save money, both on gas and on lodging, since when you bought your ticket you paid for a camp site. You are always close to everything. When we stayed in hotels, we didn’t make it out to the fest until late in the afternoon pretty much guaranteeing we would miss all the seminars and films as well as a huge portion of music.
As I have camped at Cornerstone the last three years, I have started to feel a connection with the place, the people. Cornerstone is often called a community, and you don’t get that feeling in the hotels. If you have never camped at Cornerstone before, consider it next year. The experience will be much more meaningful.
Everyone comes to Cornerstone Festival for a variety of reasons to see a variety of bands, but almost everyone looks at the schedule and singles out “The Day.” It’s that day when from afternoon to after midnight, there is a great show after great show happening all day long. Today is that day for me. On the Gallery Stage, Over the Rhine will be playing two sets, Paper Route will have a show and over on Main Stage Deas Vail will have a show. That’s an incredibly solid lineup for me. After the Deas Vail show, I may plant myself at the Gallery Stage and stay there all day.
There’s some exciting stuff before all that, though. I’m going to check out Centralia Mine Fire and I’m curious about Campell, The Band. I hope all of you have “The Day” sometime during the week here at Cornerstone, for me it’s today.