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Cornerstone 2004
By Trae Cadenhead
Photos by Steve White

Saturday, July 3

I didn't so much wake up as get tired of being uncomfortable in the crowded front seat of a car (the only dry place I found during the previous restless night). After a warm breakfast I was feeling a little better about things, though. I stopped by the phones and actually found one that wasn't in use so I called home to confirm that I'm still alive and will arrive home Monday morning, probably quite dirty and exhausted.

That taken care of, I was off to catch part two of the "See Hear Now" seminar. This time we looked at some print advertisements, a commercial directed by Michel Gondry, and a music video from director Spike Jonze. With each ad, we discussed what the connotative message was in the images that we saw. The language of the image is an important thing to learn to decipher because it can be used so powerfully.

Directly following, I watched the Canadian film Jesus of Montreal as part of the Flickerings program. The unique story followed a group of actors who put on a passion play and found that the very things they were acting out were happening in their own lives. The metaphors were obvious, but nonetheless surprising. I can't say that the theology was totally correct, but nonetheless this was a thought provoking and quite often funny film.

I hurried to the New Band Showcase to catch Loved By Sigurd after the film. They definitely showed some strong influences from Radiohead and Coldplay, but unfortunately lacked either the energy or the atmosphere (perhaps both) to make their music truly compelling. They have potential, though.

Aireline followed with their tight, unique sound which is difficult to draw comparisons to. The music is melodic with keyboard and guitars, but with a strong emphasis on somewhat intricate rhythms as well. The set was certainly a solid one and no doubt won over some new fans.

Interestingly, my first time to see Mississippi band Fletcher was all the way in Illinois. They opened with a very nice piano ballad and then went right into their heavier brand of rock (think Further Seems Forever with more screaming). They were certainly on for this show, even though their style didn't particularly appeal to my taste.

I went to the Gallery Stage to see Annie Quick (formerly of Stickman Jones) with her band. The new Annie Quick is girl fronted rock and roll, plain and simple. The songs were enjoyable enough, but they all sounded the same. Still, it wasn't a bad way to spend 45 minutes.

Sticking around at the Gallery, I had the opportunity to see The Brindley Brothers, a newly formed outfit signed by Paste Records and featuring Luke Brindley who previously released some solo albums. From the beginning the band was very together and showed that they have some great songs. Some guitar tuning issues became distracting during a couple of songs, but otherwise The Brindley Brothers were highly enjoyable. Their rootsy pop / rock sound reminds me of Vigilantes of Love, except more accessible. I think we'll be seeing some good things from these guys.

Next on my agenda was Copeland, who I anticipated to be one of the festival highlights. They met and exceeded my expectations with a tight, inspired set of honest life and love songs. I was impressed by the large crowd who came to see them as well. Looks like good music can really get around sometimes. Most of the set consisted of songs from Beneath Medicine Tree, but there was also a brand new song that sounded really good. The set closers "When Paula Sparks" and "California" were an awesome way for the band to end their time on stage. I love seeing this band succeed and their future certainly looks to be bright.

As I walked out of the Encore 1 tent where Copeland played, I saw the sun shining once again. After nearly a full day of off and on rain and mud everywhere, the sun was a welcome sight. As I walked back to the campsite, I saw blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags laying out to dry. Things were starting to look a lot better.

It seems like every year Cornerstone Festival brings about the death of a popular band. In the three years I have attended, it has been Ghoti Hook, Five Iron Frenzy, and now Further Seems Forever. The difference this time is that the Further show at Main Stage was not meant to be their last. It certainly did not bode well for the band's future, though. With Jon Bunch, a brand new lead singer formerly of Sense Field, I knew that Further Seems Forever wouldn't be the same. But I certainly didn't expect something this bad. It's not that Jon Bunch is necessarily a bad singer, he's just a horrible fit with Further's music. With no energy and little vocal range, the audience lost patience song by song. The band struggled to provide some kind of excitement and crowd interaction, an element that former vocalist Jason Gleason helped to make the band famous for. All efforts failed, however, and it quickly became an incredibly boring, disappointing set. It's sad that such a thing happened, but especially sad that it happened in the band's first (and certainly last) Main Stage appearance. The only good thing I can say of the show was that the long walk to Main Stage and back was good exercise.

Interestingly, after seeing the worst show of the festival, I subsequently saw one of the best. Sleeping at Last finally got to play an evening show that they have long been deserving of. I was thrilled to see a large crowd show up to check out the band. From the first moment, it was obvious that this would be an amazing show. The crowd for the most part just stood back in awe at these beautiful songs that Ryan O'Neal has crafted and the convincing way in which they are delivered. It can't be said that Sleeping at Last is the most entertaining or audience involving band, but that really doesn't matter at all because the music stands so strongly on its own. It's amazing to me to watch only three band members pull off a gorgeous sound that most bands would take five guys to execute-- and still not be as successful. The set list was the very best that could be hoped for with one incredible song after another. If forced to choose a favorite, it would be "Trees" which soared in an epic way that few artists ever can manage. My anticipation of the interview with the band increased even more.

My late night activities occurred at the Encore 1 stage. First was Rocky Votolato, a gutsy singer / songwriter from Seattle. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and his angst over life, Rocky proceeded to amaze the crowd who had gathered. The honesty and depth of the songwriting compared with the inspired vocals made for a great set. Songs like "Suicide Medicine" and "Mix Tapes / Cellmates" were almost painfully open and heartfelt. Rocky's songs feel like a volcano boiling inside of him. Once they're out in the open, the relief and healing begins. It was a very special show.

Pedro the Lion followed Rocky in what turned out to be a great one-two punch. David Bazan (singer / songwriter / guitarist) explained early on that the band would be playing a very long set so if anyone got tired they could just leave. The set was indeed long and covered all of the bases from early favorites to new songs from Achilles Heel. At several junctures Bazan fielded questions on topics ranging from faith to politics to parents to Lando Calrissian's role in defeating the evil Empire. When speaking, Bazan gave the audience a lot to think about, but in the process drifted off into political beliefs and alienated much of the audience. Of course, David Bazan doesn't care what people think about his beliefs. He reinforced his goal of unseating Bush at all costs, but admitted that, "Our country's still gonna be screwed up not matter what." I can say that Bazan inspired some strong feelings in me about the issue, even if those feelings don't necessarily agree with his. A definite surprise from the show was an uncensored version of "Foregone Conclusions." It will be interesting to see if there are any repercussions from this decision. The long, 19 song set was ended by the stage manager who informed the band that they didn't have all the time they wanted because the sound guys would like to get some sleep that night. Pedro the Lion closed a very strong set with "Secret of the Easy Yoke" and then left a stirred up audience.

The tent was now dry even though my sleeping bag smelled like mildew. I went to sleep and slept better than I had the rest of the festival.

Thursday Friday   Sunday 

Trae Cadenhead is a student at Union University. He is pursuing a Digital Media Studies major with a Film Studies minor and plans to become involved in film making following school. Trae also has an enormous interest in music. Along with writing for the Tollbooth, Trae maintains Loconotion (, a digital archive of his
thoughts on music and movies as well as a gallery of the art and video work he has done.



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