June 30, 2010
It’s 7 a.m. local time. After driving 6 and a half hours watching the moon go down and the sun come up, we finally arrive at the festival gates. It’s always a warm welcoming site … the dust covered vehicles, gravel roads, and a city of tents. This is sort of a home away from home for me now. After 6 years of Cornerstone experience, this year is a first in some aspects. This is the first year I am attending the festival married to Eric, my husband of two months. Also this is a first for the festival--a new layout. To be honest, I was skeptical when I heard that Main Stage would now be centered by the food court.
Just past the fest gates we see a familiar face, a neighbor from last year. We decide to set up camp next to the tee pee he has built. Now that camp is set up it’s time to explore the grounds and the new setup. My verdict is an optimistic view. At first I feel backwards walking around and trying to find things, but my conclusion is this: the layout does not change the festival. It feels the same as it ever did, minus the fact that the generator stages are now all under tents and all along the main road. That does feel a bit different, but I think it’s a good change. The Main Stage being central seems weird at first but it really seems to tie the fest together.
mewithoutYou Interview at Come Live/ Anchor Stage
The first must-see event on my schedule this year is mewithoutYou’s interview at the Come Live/Anchor Stage. In the past the Anchor Stage has been host to a slew of bands and sandwiched by worship to start and finish the day. This year they have been joined by Come & Live (a non-profit record label) and their joint efforts include worship services, seminars and faith-based interviews with bands of interest.
The set up is a few tables pushed together long-ways on stage. On the left side sit four members of mewithoutYou (the interviewee’s) and on the right the interviewers members from Come & Live band So Long Forgotten. The questions begin with trivial but seemingly hilarious topics such as baseball and where you can find a good cheesesteak in their hometown of Philadelphia. We all have a few good laughs. It’s not long before the conversation switches to matters of faith. MeWithoutYou always has a lot to say on the topic of faith. Mike Weiss, guitarist and brother to front-man Aaron Weiss, discusses the spiritual and egotistical struggles of being in a band from things like bitterness towards his brother for previously wanting the band to quit and strains on his own marriage. It’s a very insightful view of a band I have enjoyed every year of my Cornerstone experience.
7 p.m.: I have seen other bands throughout the day at generator stages, eaten, and visited the merch tent, but now it’s 7 p.m. and time for the much anticipated mewithoutYou. While I maintain that mewithoutYou is prime playing in a small venue with fans packed together all singing along, they are always entertaining even if the venue is a large open field with a variety of listeners who may or may not even enjoy the band. After mewithoutYou I make an attempt to hold out for more music later in the evening, but I find myself half asleep in my tent at 10:30 p.m. with no hope of completely waking up. Sorry to The Wiitala Brothers, The Chariot, Sleeping Giant, and War of Ages, I must call it a night.
It’s Day Two of Cornerstone for me and I decide to start it off at the Anchor tent for morning service. 10 a.m. every morning at Cornerstone the Anchor Ministry leads worship and Pastor Joshua Stump speaks. When I arrive the group gathered beneath the tent is already enjoying the presence of God in worship led by “We Are Creation.“ I join in. There is something so breathtaking about worship sets at Cornerstone. I think it’s the fact that in front of me a woman in her 50’s is enjoying Gods presence in this circus tent standing next to a 20-something tattooed and pierce punk kid who is worshiping next to a bearded fellow in his twenties and his adorable floral dress clad wife, all strangers. But it doesn’t feel like it. We all sit on the grass floor and listen intently as Josh speaks on a passage from Luke. Following the message the prayer tent is suggested for those who desire prayer. It is open 24 hours during the fest. The band returns to finish up in more worship. There are times when they stop playing and the tent it silent, you only hear the distant sounds cape of the fest. The presence of God is so thick it’s undeniable in these moments without distraction. The entire time I think to myself how beautiful this all is… like a taste of heaven … but heaven would be cleaner I would think.
I stop for lunch in the food court area. This one vendor sells gigantic burritos. I decided that Mexican would be the flavor of my lunch. This burrito is so big it’s exploding all over my plate and I have to eat it with a fork, but it is definitely satisfying.
Soon after lunch I find myself frying in the sun by Main Stage. I am indulging in my musical past as Bleach returns to Cornerstone again for the first time in some five or six years. You would never know it had been so long since the Nashville based band had played together. It’s quite a treat and long time fans showed up to welcome them back.
Brooke Waggoner is another must see on my schedule for Thursday. At the Gallery Stage I find a seat in the grass sit back and enjoy. Watching Brooke is fascinating. She makes piano based music energetic and delightful in a way I have never known before. She is accompanied by a small band of drums, guitar, and a dabbling of harp by Cornerstone favorite Timbre.
One of my most anticipated events of the festival is watching Gasoline Heart at the Encore tent. Last year I saw Gasoline Heart solo, really just one guy, open before David Bazan and it was enjoyable. Since then I have enjoyed their newest album and was thrilled to watch again this year. The one man who is Gasoline Heart ( I am sorry I do not know his name. I would Google it, but I lack the internet availability to do so) takes stage with a group of friends who seem to have learned the music recently to accompany him. The tent is about a third full but the group is tight in the front and anxious to watch. The music begins and nearly the entire crowd is singing along loud enough to hear above the rock n roll. You can see a smile light up on the face of the man who is Gasoline Heart. He is so touched. He looks like a kid at Christmas. The rest of the set I feel like I am watching a great American rock artist, and he plays that way too. The set includes a Bruce Springsteen cover, and it ends with a song I could listen to on repeat all day, “We go all the way…we go all the way…we go all or we don’t go at all.” This show is surely going to be hard to beat on my list of favorite Cornerstone moments. What a great way to end another fantastic summer night at
Another Cornerstone morning.
I need coffee so I march up to the food court and pay a visit to the World
Alliance Coffee tent. I luck out because they just put out a fresh
carafe of Guatemalan blend. This year there are three coffee shops
set up that I am aware of. The Chelsea Café, which in the
evening serves up coffees, teas, and melodies. (Okay, I know that was cheesy
but I can’t help myself) The Blind Munchies which is set up in the
back of the Gallery Stage and the aforementioned World Alliance Coffee.
I have patronized them all
I enjoy my coffee as I watch the Glorious Unseen on Main Stage. They are kicking off the events of the day with worship and devotions. The sky is blue and bright and I know it’s going to be another great day. The weather has been pristine this year. I believe it’s been in the 80’s and I have not seen a cloud yet this week, just blue skies. Cool mornings and cool evenings sandwiched by hot afternoons with a sun that has burnt me.
Early afternoon I find myself
in the Phantom Tollbooth Press Tent. They are interviewing RYFO.
I have heard of the organization before but I am interested to learn more
so I stick around. RYFO which is not an acronym, just a name that
can only be explained by a long story, is an organization which provides
a network of service to touring bands. They provide host homes for
bands on the road, along with a book of the month, prayer, and spiritual
counseling. It is refreshing to see a group of people who are ready
to serve and be the
Timbre is next on my schedule for the day. The Gallery Stage is packed with eager ears. Accompanied this year by a group of fellow musicians, Timbre sits center stage next to her harp which stands about five foot tall by my estimation. I have probably seen Timbre perform with five or more other musical acts this week. Her solo performance is always an annual treat.
10 p.m. tonight is really the time I have been looking forward to all week. Eisley is playing at the Gallery Stage. About 6 years ago I was in a Christian book store and came across a cardboard sleeved EP, it was Eisley’s __Marvelous Things__ EP. Since that day I have counted the enchanting musical creations of Eisley as a favorite of mine. I had it in my mind to see them live since, and today that dream will come to pass.
Again the Gallery Stage is packed and I arrive too late for a chair so I stand to the side. The group of siblings take the stage and float through their whimsical set which is a mixture of new and old tunes. I am thrilled by their choice of songs. They play a range music from slower ballads which show off their vocal range and guitar and piano-driven songs that prove that girls can write creative music. This is the final night I will spend at Cornerstone this year and I can not think of a better way to end it--listening to Eisley beneath a stars-lit sky. Simply magical.
By Shannon Miller