Liz’s Diary: July 1, 2003

Tooth & Nail day is now a mainstay of the festival I suppose.  There’s usually only one or two bands I want to see on this day of the festival.  In the morning, I took the Newfies for a long walk around the grounds… they were pretty overwhelmed, to say the least.  Not much of significance happened during the day Tuesday, mostly just a lot of sitting around the campsite until the stuff we wanted to see started.

T&N Day Shows

The Blamed - I don’t own a single Blamed album, but for whatever reason, I always see them at Cornerstone.  I don’t even know if I like their music or not, but I think they put on a fun show, so I went.

Mae - I guess if I had a T&N guilty pleasure band, this one is it.  A friend of mine put some of their songs on a CD for me, and I kind of took a liking to it.  I’m basically the worst person ever at describing music.  So, I’ll just say that the vocals are really melodic and soft, and they use a lot of keyboard stuff, and it’s just generally catchy pop music I guess.

Joy Electric - I think they only played about four songs, due to the time limitations.  However, they were awesome, and the infamous Juan, along with Orlando from Havalina Rail Co., danced on stage during the set.  Juan was dressed up in some shiny red thing, throwing out candy and large pixie stix, and Orlando did crazy robotic dance stuff.

MeWithoutYou - I’d never seen them before, or heard them before, but Melissa is good friends with them, and had told me about them as people as well as their music, so it made me really interested in seeing them.  They put on a very unique show.  Aaron, the lead singer is one of the most intriguing and passionate people I’ve seen on stage.  They brought tons of flowers with them, tied them around the mic stands, as well as threw a lot of them out into the crowd.

After that, some of us went over to the food court area for awhile to just chill out, when some people, including Michael Pritzl of the Violet Burning, stopped to do “random alcohol checks”.  It was of course, all in good fun, and nobody was actually doing any alcohol checks.  So we chatted with those guys for awhile.  Back to the campsite for some sleep…

I decided that night I’d be sleeping in my car for the remainder of the week where the dampness of the air wouldn’t get in.  It was a good decision, as I was able to sleep in until at least 9 a.m. every day for the rest of the week, which is basically unheard of for me at Cornerstone.

Liz’s Diary: June 30, 2003

Woke up at 7:30 a.m., due to sleeping in a tent on pretty hard ground.  It’s basically impossible to sleep in at Cornerstone.  Just kind of sat in my folding chair for awhile while everyone else woke up one by one.  Some guy camping next to us was playing his acoustic guitar, emo-style, so Kevin decided to make up lyrics.  Except you couldn’t see Kevin, you could only hear him from inside the tent.  For some reason, everything is funnier when people talk from inside their tent.

Kevin’s impromptu lyrics ranged from mock-praise and worship cheesiness, to singing about the urinals in the “Johnny On The Spot” porta-potties.  I also realized I’d forgotten my toothpaste, so it was off to the Hy-Vee grocery store tent, to pay probably a dollar more than I generally would for the forgotten item. 

To occupy ourselves on the non-day of Cornerstone, Kevin, Bubba (Mark), Anji, Melissa, Shane, Charisse, and I drove to Galesburg for some lunch and bowling.  We got some Fazoli’s in Galesburg (the cashier lady sounded like Miss Cleo), and it was off to the bowling alley.  The bowling alley was closed, so we headed back toward Bushnell, and stopped in a small town called Avon.  Kevin talked to the “neat” people at the Main Street Café, and they found us a bowling alley in the area that would be open.  So, we headed to Canton, Illinois, about 30 miles away.  Perhaps a lot of driving just for some bowling, but I mean, what else are you going to do to fill the time before the festival starts?

So, we found ourselves at the Four Seasons bowling alley, where we were the only bowlers.  We were all pretty awful bowlers, which makes it more fun I think.  The highlight of the games was when on the last frame of the last game, I bowled three strikes in a row, which apparently is called a “Turkey” in bowling language.  I have no idea how it happened… pure luck I guess.  Then it was back to Cornerstone.

Later on that evening, I went on a long walk around Cornerstone grounds, and ran into a couple people I knew.  A little after midnight, I met up with the “Newfies” outside of the Subway in the food court, to lead them to our campsite.  They also stayed in the Mansion Tent.  They have an interesting accent.  It’s not your typical Canadian accent; it’s the Newfoundland accent, which sounds pretty Irish, actually.  And when they all get together and talk only to each other, you can’t understand a darned thing they say.

Liz’s Diary: June 29, 2003

Melissa and I left Omaha around 7:45 a.m.  It was a bit of a late start, as we were hoping to be on the road by 7:00.  We both wanted to get a clean shower, the last one we’d have for a week.  Once on the road, it was smooth sailing.  Melissa had never seen Iowa, so she got a full dose of it, considering most of the trip to Cornerstone involves driving across the entire state on I-80.  We got to Bushnell around 2:45, and met up with our friends at the Hardees in town.

We caravanned to the Cornerstone grounds together, and I led the way to a campsite in the shade.  I led us around the entire grounds, only to end up back where we started, in a nice little shady spot by the front gate, about five steps away from where I camped last year.  We got all the tents set up pretty quickly, even the Mansion Tent I borrowed from Jill.  Seriously, the thing is huge.

A list of everyone who camped together:  Me (Omaha), Melissa (Columbia, SC), Kevin (St. Louis), Mark and Anji (Cleveland), Shane, Charisse, and Jamie (Dallas), and Nick, Kirk, and Danny (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada… go look on a map, you’ll freak out.  They live on the edge of the earth.)

Shane, Charisse, Melissa and I went to Macomb to go to Walmart, and then for some food at Subway, got back to the campsite, where we all just hung out for awhile.  As always, about 10 different crappy hardcore screamo bands had set up their own generator stages, so we got to listen to those all night.  They were definitely good material to make fun of.  Anyway… I think we all went to bed before midnight that night.

Jason’s Concert Reviews: July 6, 2002

The last day of the festival, and unlike previous years, I was actually relieved to see it come.  A week of excessive heat and humidity was enough to batter the senses and resolve of any festgoer, regardless of how ardent a music fan they were.  But I was also feeling battered in another way.

I was tired of seeing (or hearing) countless bands that all sounded just alike.  Much of the diversity that I had loved in previous festivals was either absent, or hidden behind a heat-induced haze.  Nevertheless, today promised to be one of the redeeming moments of the week.

As always, the day kicked off at the New Band Stage, this time to catch The Elevator Division.  Given that they’re friends of mine, I feel less than objective when I say their set knocked me on my butt.  This was the first time I had seen them with their new guitarist (Jeremiah), who did a great deal to adding more depth and intensity to their music (despite being out of tune for part of the first song).

Their set featured material from their new Whatever Makes You Happy EP (the one with the crazy cardboard packaging).  Building on the sound of their Movement album, the new songs got downright anthemic at times, and Jeremiah’s solo in “Whatever Makes You Happy” was one of the coolest things I heard all week.

Great band, great guys… why aren’t they signed yet?

I had not planned to catch Unwed Sailor‘s set today (their second of the festival), due to a film screening at that time.  And besides, I’ve seen Unwed Sailor so many times… but when I found out they’d be joined by members of Ester Drang… well, I’d be stupid to pass that up.  What I got was an unexpected treat, as the band played music from their upcoming The Marionette And The Musicbox album.

It was very sparse and subtle, with a great deal of samples, keyboards, and sound collages.  At times I was even reminded of Lucid and After The Flood, and I’m really looking forward to the new album to see how they develop this sound.  If nothing else, it made for a very welcome change of pace, and seemed at odds with much of what had assaulted my ears this week.

Back to the New Band stage to catch a bit of Antifany, an acoustic/folk act out of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The singer’s voice really hit me, with its waifish quality and beauty.  Although not completely my cup of tea, it would be fine music for a more indoors setting, such as a coffeehouse or bookstore.

Before heading down to the Main Stage to catch Pedro The Lion, we all decided to head over to the Silent Planet stage to catch some of the Over The Rhine’s acoustic set.  We caught the last 1/3 or so of Riki Michele, which became one of the fest’s hidden gems for me.  Michele’s blend of trip-hop, electronica, and downtempo music completely caught me off guard, and after only a couple songs, I had to get the CD.  What I was hearing felt like it belonged in some trendy club in SoHo or San Francisco, not the middle of Illinois… but I wasn’t about to complain.

Over The Rhine began playing at the same time as a hardcore band on the Underground Stage, which just happened to be right next to the Silent Planet stage.  You have to love that sense of timing.  Since we were sitting just outside the tent, Over The Rhine’s music was effectively drowned out for us.

Now, I wasn’t sure if I was going to head over to the Main Stage.  I was tired, didn’t want to walk that far, and besides, I’ve seen Pedro The Lion so many times.  But after some cajoling from my friends (who threatened to disown me for life if I didn’t go), I walked down there.  And as soon as I got there, I was ready to leave, as a peppy missionary was trying to convince the crowd to get more active in world missions… just before proclaiming Pedro The Lion was one of her favorite bands and tossing out the beach ball.  I felt like I was back in Junior High, and as I looked at my friends, I sensed I wasn’t the only one.

But as soon as Pedro The Lion started playing, all of that was forgotten.  Yes, it seemed strange to see David Bazan playing the Main Stage, simple because his music is about as un-Main Stage as it gets.  But it was still one of the best shows of the year, sound-wise, crowd-wise, and Spirit-wise.

Thanks to some guitar problems, Bazan had time for his famous Q and A sessions.  Some questions were dumb (one crowdmember asked if he should shave his beard), but most were good, solid questions.  Someone asked about the rough language on the new album, another asked about Bazan’s (in)famous essay, and another asked why Bazan had changed his mind about playing Cornerstone this year.  I’d heard his answer a few months back in Kansas City, but I still loved hearing his response because it just revealed how solidly and seriously Bazan takes his art.

Then, perhaps one of the fest’s biggest miracles happened for me.  I was videotaping as much of the set as I could, right up until the moment my battery died during “Secret Of The Easy Yoke”.  Normally, I’d be a little pissed, but something happened right there… I experienced one of truest moments of worship I’d experienced in a long time.  The words of the song (“Could someone please tell me the story/Of sinners ransomed from the Fall/I still have never seen you/And sometimes I don’t love you at all”) seemed more relevant than they ever have.  I’d forgotten how amazing, how real, and how personal that song was.

And so I stood there, a dead camera hanging by my side, my head tilted back and tears streaming down my face as I sang words that I’d been meaning to say for a long time.

But the cold reality smacked me in the face as soon as the song was over, as a comedian came running out before the sound had died down, pumping up the crowd for the rest of the night.  It seemed like such a shame.  One minute, I was experiencing true worship for the first time in I don’t know how long, the next I was listening to gender and racial jokes.  But I still hold onto that fleeting moment.

I had some time to kill until the final show of the night, so I wondered around the grounds with Jesse, a guy from Idaho and one of the regulars on the Vagrant Cafe.  I caught the tail end of the Lost Dogs, and then made my way to the front for Woven Hand, only to find some friends waiting for me.  Together, we experienced the festival’s best show, one that closed the festival on a perfect note for me.

Woven Hand is a side-project of David Eugene Edwards, better known as the leader of Sixteen Horsepower, a band whose music I love.  Woven Hand delves into the same roots as Sixteen Horsepower—dark American folk music mixed with haunting lyrics of fire, brimstone, and redemption (like a Southern Gothic rendition of O Brother Where Art Thou?).  I honestly don’t think that many in the crowd knew what to expect that night, but I don’t think anyone who was there will soon forget it.

I’ve heard that Edwards was an intense performer, but what I experienced that night held me transfixed.  Edwards looked like a mad prophet, singing with a passion that was almost strange to look at and a gaze that could burn holes in the tent.  He’d stomp his feet, gaze off into space, and mumble things under his breath… as if he was hearing things that noone else could.  And the music… Oh my Lord.  It was beautiful, haunting, moving, frightening… all at once.

As I walked away from the tent that night, I felt like I had experienced something special.  This was what Cornerstone was about for me, seeing an artist truly on the edge of the Christian “culture” that permeates our lives so much share his unique and haunted view on matters of faith.  After dealing with one too many punk bands, after seeing all of the subcultures strut around attempting to be as “rebellious” as possible, Woven Hand delivered perhaps the most “rebellious” show of them all.  And, as always, 99% of the people at the fest didn’t even know it happened.

*Sigh*  Oh well… there’s always next year.  Thanks to the likes of Rosie Thomas, Pedro The Lion, and Woven Hand, I have hope again.

Jason’s Concert Reviews: July 5, 2002

The shadow of the Roadside Monument show sort of loomed over this day.  Earlier this year, message boards hinted at the possibility of Roadside Monument (quite possibly the most criminally underlooked band in Tooth & Nail’s history) getting back together.  And when it was announced they’d be playing at midnight at Cornerstone… well, if I’d had any doubts about whether or not I’d be attending the fest, they would’ve been squashed.  Not like I had any doubts…

But all good things must be built up to, and so I found myself at the Decapolis Stage (which was actually one of the Encore tents - why can’t they just have one name and call it good?) waiting for the boys of Goat Explosion to take it away.  And by “boys”, I mean just that… I don’t think any of them could’ve been older than 18.  And yet it made perfect sense that they were born in the 1980s, because their music was infused with the synth-pop of Erasure, the breathiness of Spandau Ballet, and the dance house appeal of Pet Shop Boys.

And topping it all off were the stage antics of Jon Pierce, who pouted and strut his stuff all over the stage.  At first, I was skeptical, but as soon as “You Go To Your Doctor, I’ll Go To My Disco” hit, I loved it.

Of course, we were there to see Joy Electric.  They had unexpectedly cancelled their set on Tooth & Nail Day, so Nolan and I were really looking forward to it.  Alas, the heat raised its ugly head, wreaking havoc with the gear.  After the sound cut out for the second time, Ronnie Martin decided to call it quits.  A real shame, especially considering how dressed up Juan got for the show.

The rest of the day was fairly lean, as far as shows went.  I made it over the New Band Stage and caught the final song of Bestiary, and it was exactly what you’d expect from a band called Bestiary.  Black leather, chains, and spiked bracelets galore.

A few years back, I saw an insane band called Farquar Muckenfuss.  Well, Mercury Radio Theatre rose from the ashes of that band, but the shtick is still the same.  Surf-tinged instrumental rock with a gimmick, this one being that the music is a soundtrack for an old 50s sci-fi radio broadcast.  Kind of silly, but still a lot of fun, as the bandmembers (literally) ran around in circles and goofed it up on stage.  And you have to give them bonus points for wearing bloodstained surgical garb and medical equipment.

Now, I was planning on heading down to the Main Stage for Tait and TobyMax, but I hung out at the usual spots; Bre and Melissa’s campsite, the Elevator Division’s merch table, the Cornerstone Magazine tent (I especially enjoyed the drumming workshop that highlighted Squarepusher).  And indeed, this was really what this year was about, just hanging out with homies that I only get to see once (maybe twice) a year.  The fact that I got to see some great bands just sweetened the deal.

And things got really sweet around midnight, when we tromped over to the Underground Stage for Roadside Monument.  This was one of the shows for me this year.  I’ve loved Roadside Monument’s music ever since “Before This Brief Hexagonal”, and “Eight Hours Away From Being A Man” can still knock me on my butt every time.  I’d seen Roadside a few years earlier, when Stavesacre allowed them to play for 15 minutes before Mark Salomon and Co. took the stage.  Those 15 minutes was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

Within moments of taking the stage, Roadside quickly took over, playing music so complex, so deep, and so beautiful that I wished all of those bands playing bar chords on campsite stages would’ve been there… just to see how it’s really done.  The band played mostly newer stuff, including a brand new song called “Zysics” (sp?), but for my money, it was songs like “My Hands Are The Thermometers” that made the night for me.  The set culminated in “Sperm Ridden Burden”, the “controversial” opening track from “Eight Hours Away…”.  Johnathon Ford went ballistic, throwing away his bass before screaming and diving into the surging crowd.

It was a rare, powerful moment, as odd as that sounds.  It wasn’t just some cheesy thing to do because, hey, it’s the Underground Stage.  If you looked at Ford’s face, it was almost disturbing how much emotion he had worked up.  During the whole set, Roadside played with such intensity, an intensity that can’t be forced.  It was in the way they play their instruments like their lives depended on it, the way they move onstage, the sheer volume that they forced that poor tent to contain.  It’s truly exciting to have them back together and making music again.