Nolan’s Concert Reviews: July 6, 2001

Luxury

I saw Lee Bozeman in Atlanta during a smaller festival about four years ago, but I’d never seen Luxury before.  When I heard they were back together and even playing Cornerstone, I was pretty pumped.  Honestly, I have to say that the live music didn’t do too much for me.  It was pretty plain rock, but with the gorgeous voice of Bozeman.  I really believe I’ll enjoy his solo material better.  The slower songs were incredible, but like I said, the rock was somewhat monotonous.  They did put on an energetic show as Bozeman stumbled around stage similar to Morrissey.  With Bozeman’s hollow body six string, there were a total of three guitars.  If you like indie-rock, this was the place to be.

Joy Electric

The show wasn’t so much about what Joy Electric did, but what their dedicated fan, Juan, did.  A clothing designer from Los Angeles, Juan probably loves Joy Electric more than any other human on Earth.  In past years, his costume for the show has ranged from a gigantic paper cup dome on his head to this year’s vinyl suit with blue shag attached.  The vinyl had to be brutal on a July day.  Every year he brings candy for the audience, glitter, and bubble makers.  This year he brought a tent full of balloons and released them when the band came out to play “Sugar Rush”.  He adds to the show.  In terms of the set, the guys played some of their hits and a few off the awaited album The White Songbook.  I was delighted when they played “Burgundy Years”, which I haven’t heard in quite a while.  The crowd was pretty energetic, blowing bubbles and dancing.

Over The Rhine

The set was a short half-hour one under the acoustic music tent.  The band was broken down to piano, guitar, and Karen’s captivating voice.  The audience was treated to a few new tracks and a few off of Good Dog Bad Dog, which I’ve already raved about.  I believe the biggest treat came when a steel guitar was played behind Karen’s vocals.  Never has a song sounded more beautiful than with that combination.  With the accompanying piano, the set was one of the more sensuous I have experienced in a while (besides the Ester Drang show).  Karen even had a friend from a Cincinnati band to come up and join her.  I knew that if this was any indication of Saturday’s midnight show, I would be ecstatic.

SS Bountyhunter

By the end of the show I had glass from a lamp shattered in my face and fake blood strewn across my mustache and shirt.  I know I need not speak another word, but I will continue anyway.  If one were to ask every band at Cornerstone if they had ever killed or tortured a man on stage, only one band could stake that claim.

The Bountyhunters came off of last year’s appearance in which they bashed bottles across a man’s face and later brought him out in a body bag, throwing him into the crowd.  The question was, how would they top such a feat?

This year’s show started with an announcement from a “representative” of the festival.  He read an article about the band from HM magazine and then proceeded to tell the crowd that the festival would not allow such violence during any show.

As he walked off the stage, the guitarist grabbed his shoulder, turned him around, and bashed a beer bottle across his cranium.  The rest of the band joined in and beat him for a good 30 seconds.  The highlight had to be when John (singer) screamed into the mic, “Tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya!”.  I couldn’t control my body from that moment on as I screamed, flailed, and randomly punched Jason in the back (Editor’s Note: I still have the bruises).  The man was then brought back out, taped to a chair, and given several variations of torture and experimentation by some mad scientist.

To be honest, the torture act was almost too intense to watch for a while.  Any conservatives in the house would have needed to walk out, or call the police.  The show ended as he escaped with the help of a man in a black suit, who choked the crazed scientist to death, and then he seeked revenge.  The keyboards were right above me, and when John took a lamp to the back of the head, it shattered in my face.  Luckily, I wore my glasses, and I think Jason’s afro caught most of the glass.  By show’s end, the stage was a mixture of glass, blood, guitars, and broken chairs.

The only way to really know what I’m describing is to actually experience an SS Bountyhunter show.  One will not be disappointed, but frightened.  Oh yeah, the music was just as brutal.  The set mainly consisted of tracks from the new “Serpents For Eggs”, as well as their first album.  As I sit and write this review, the hypodermic they stuck into the unlucky fellow’s neck sits beside of my computer.  Oh the Cornerstone memories.

Jai Agnish

I was still recovering from the SS Bountyhunter show, but I was able to catch a few songs from Jai Agnish’s set.  I truly regret not seeing more, however.  The few songs I heard reminded me a bit of Sean Lennon’s “Into The Sun”.  They had a definitely unique sound of acoustic guitars and electronics.  Like I said, I wish I would’ve seen more.  They performed on the same stage that all the torment took place upon.  I wonder if they had to sweep off all of the glass and watch out for bloodstains.

Danielson Famile

It still amazes me that these kids went on tour with Low.  What a strange, almost scary mixture.  The show was the typical, humorous set that the band always puts on.  Dressed in nurse and doctor uniforms, Danielson Famile sings about life situations in a very lighthearted way.  The unfortunate 45-minute delay before the first song kind of put a wrinkle in my schedule, though.  I had to leave (not until after “Rubbernecker”) a bit early in order to catch the beginning of Pedro The Lion’s show.  It was great to see the Famile return after last year’s absence. 

Pedro The Lion

Two hours and 20 songs later, I was nearing exhaustion from a marathon Pedro show that may very well be their last at the festival for a few years.  It amazes me the crowd this band draws every year.  The tent seems to become more packed with each passing fest.  Are hardcore kids converting?  The only negative thing I have to speak of about the show was the lighting.  I believe David Bazan was even embarrassed a bit by the rockstar lighting he was being given.  At one point, he had to ask for the spotlight to be turned off.  David is a completely humble “star”, which is almost too much when he stumbles over words and portrays his shyness in too cute of a way.

The set contained 20 songs in which David sang two by himself and featured songs from each album. Of course, the crowd sang each and every song along with the band.  The direction Pedro now seems to be taking off in is a bit heavier one.  The newer stuff they played contained a lot more distortion and driving beats, a far cry from the softer, melancholy tunes we’re used to hearing.  I think everyone was satisfied with show.  Any longer, and it would have compared with a Springsteen concert.

Nolan’s Concert Reviews: July 5, 2001

The Singing Mechanic

A guy at a piano playing silly songs… not my forte.  However, Jonathan Ford joined in on the bass, as did the drummer from Living Sacrifice.  I wasn’t to impressed, so I took off after a few songs.  It was basically funny folk songs on piano. 

Half-Handed Cloud

He was funny at first, but by the end I wanted to kill myself.  One guy stood on stage with a little fishing hat playing what seemed like hundreds of minute-long childrens’ songs.  A few of his instruments included an acoustic guitar, a toy lamb that made “baaa” sounds as you tipped it over, and some children’s toy that you push buttons to make music with.  Like I said, it was quite humorous and even enjoyable at first, but then I started to wonder why he was up there.  It would have been perfect to play at a nursery, but probably not for a Cornerstone crowd.  Either way, this guy would have made you cry.

Lasso

July 5th was the day of the dark horses.  I found a few bands that I had not heard of before but simply blew me away.  Lasso’s humble midwestern country songs were like that.  I’d never seen a country band at the festival before, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Sporting a John Deere hat, a farmer’s shirt and tan, and acoustic guitar, the singer looked as if he had just pulled up in his tractor or pick-up.  His soft voice with a Tulsa accent flowed as beautifully as the steel guitar found on the album.

The music didn’t pack the tent, but it was a breath of fresh air for those that watched.  The bass player also wore a vintage cowboy shirt with roses printed above the breast pockets.  The whole set was a treat to this classic country music fan.  Much of it consisted of slow country ballads about love (what else?).  Unfortunately, they didn’t bring the steel guitar with them, but the CD I picked up provided sounds for the drive home.  A perfect CD for a ride across midwestern
farmland.

Urban Hillbilly Quartet

How could you be bad with a name like this?  The set was a blend of good ol’ cowboy songs and Appalachian porch tunes.  The female singer had an incredibly gorgeous voice reminiscent of the female jazz singers of the 20’s and 30’s.  Dressed in an attire much too fancy for hillbillies, the men wore suits while she wore the fanciest of dresses.  I believe the bass player actually wore a Styrofoam lobster on his head.  The southeastern country songs had people on their feet and dancing under the acoustic music tent.  There was even some ragtime thrown into the mix at certain points.  It was a good day for country shows.

Denison Witmer

This was the first time I had seen Witmer live.  He is one of the few musicians who can get away with playing only an acoustic guitar and singing for a large crowd.  He wasn’t lonely for too long, since Christian from Scientific joined him on the keyboard and so did the drummer for Scientific (whose set I had to miss to see the incredible Soviet).  The songs were heartfelt and he had the voice to back up such lyrics.  Unfortunately, Witmer had to compete with the brutal sounds of the metal floating over from nearby tents.  Sometimes, that’s the tragedy of the festival.

Soviet

Soviet was definitely the dark horse of the festival, and I was just crazy enough to leave before the Scientific set to check them out.  After all, Ronnie Martin had signed them to Plastiq Musiq, so they must be good.

Shiloh and I arrived to the Decapolis stage and noticed nothing had been set up.  There were just three guys standing there, two with keyboard guitars.  We soon realized that that was all to the band.  Wearing red dress shirts, skinny white ties, and belts to match, Soviet looked the part.  A Flock of Seagulls haircut on one side and a Devo do on the other.  In the middle stood the man who would prance around like Prince while singing like Alan Wilder (Depeche Mode).

The show saw a small, cozy crowd turn into a tent packed full of rowdy sprockets.  The songs were catchy electronic pop songs that found kids dancing in every which way.  At one point, I left to fetch a few more friends from the Scientific show (sorry Christian).  None were disappointed.  Ronnie sat behind the band offstage, probably observing the crowd’s response.  The set was by far one of the best of Cornerstone, and thus ended a day of dark horses.

Damien Jurado

Quite a 180 from the Soviet show I had just seen; my adrenaline made it difficult for me to calm down and watch Jurado’s melancholy set.  I wasn’t too impressed with the songs he did with a full band, but those he did by himself wore the true feelings of a Jurado song.

Damien is one of those musicians I’d much rather see in a smaller venue playing with only a guitar, or at least not rocking out with a full band.  The SubPop artist wooed the crowd with sad ballads and his humble voice.  His Black Flag T-shirt was quite a contrast to the music he was playing, but added more character to Damien.  The set helped ease my nerves and readied me for a night of sleeping on the Illinois ground.

Nolan’s Concert Reviews: July 4, 2001

Denison Marrs

I honestly wasn’t too impressed by this band that many compare to the Smashing Pumpkins.  I probably shouldn’t have heard that comparison before I went to the show, because it kind of ruined it for me.  There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of creativity or any factor that grabbed me.  I think I left a little early from the show.  However, they did play pretty intensely, which I was impressed with.

Fi

When I first glanced at the day’s schedule, I didn’t see anything that caught my eye.  Boy, am I glad I went to the Fi show.  I knew the singer (KJ) was an ex-member of The People, whom I saw last year and loved.  This year, he was the frontman for a band that was quite a pleasant surprise.  The sound was comparable to Ziggy Stardust and Queen, so it was definitely unique to the festival.

Unfortunately, the sound was once again poor, especially on the vocals.  The poor sound was a pity, since KJ has an incredible voice.  The songs were a bit rough if I recall, but interesting.  The final song found him singing about how hot it was and the coolness of playing at Cornerstone. The music had the late 70’s glam feel, with Brian May riffs and Bowie-ish vocals.  It was truly another great rock n’ roll show with a twist. I can’t wait to rave about the demo KJ gave me, which was even better

Unwed Sailor

There is a reason Johnathon Ford has been in so many bands (including Roadside Monument and Pedro The Lion); He writes incredible basslines.  After hours of no electricity, it finally arrived and allowed Unwed Sailor to take the stage.  Their set was cut a bit short, but it was gorgeous at any rate.  For most people, instrumental music is a required taste.  Some can only get into music with words.  Unwed Sailor puts this notion to shame.

A packed tent listened to the beautiful melodies created by a bass and one guitar.  There aren’t too many bands out there in which the bass is the lead instrument.  A pretty intense set led to Ford becoming so involved that the strap flew from the bass along with the chord.  Ford and guitarist Nick Tse seemed to have endless riffs on which to build on, as it was a melodic feast. 

Ester Drang

Audibly, Ester Drang put on one of the best shows I may have ever experienced.  I emphasize the word “experience”, because that is what it was and nothing else.  I knew going into the show what an incredible album they had just released, but I had no idea how intensely beautiful it would sound live.

I don’t recall ever feeling the way I did that night after the show, having to regroup afterwards before speaking to others or seeing anything else that evening.  What I heard as I kept my eyes closed nearly the entire time cannot be described.  I can tell you that they played songs off of the new album, but I can’t begin to discuss the emotion that was delivered with the music.

The set ended with a wall of sound that was immensely intense as ambient sounds from the keys filled the tent even after they were done playing.  It’s becoming more and more difficult to find music that gives me gooseflesh, but Ester Drang’s set did that to me during and afterwards.

Havalina

The midnight show was nothing but crazy.  I stood backstage next to Orlando, and was almost kicked in the head on numerous occasions as he flailed across stage throwing his body and dancing robotically.  He is definitely one of the gratest bass players I have seen.

Mercy, the newly added member, sported a silver dress with go-go boots.  Besides her gorgeous appearance, she plays a mean guitar and sings heavenly.  She was more than a nice addition to the band.  Did I mention she dances the cucaracha during one of the more Latin-sounding songs?  The keys added an extra punch, also.  He kept playing the Doors between songs, which I had no problems with.  The band was dressed in black as usual, except for their South American drummer.  He was fittingly dressed in a soccer jersey.

Havalina played for about two hours and ended one of the best nights I’ve witnessed at Cornerstone.

Nolan’s Concert Reviews: July 3, 2001

Havalina

Havalina defines Cornerstone for me, since I have seen them all 5 years I’ve been to the fest.  However, they usually play at midnight.  They did 2 sets this year, one at midnight, and one on Tooth And Nail Dail they played at 10 a.m.  It was too early for them and I believe it was too early for the soundman.  Havalina was plagued with rather inferior sound during the show, but made up for it with incredible energy.  They played a few songs off of their new EP, A Bullfighters Guide to Space and Love.  The songs “Space and Mexico” (which he sings in Spanish) and “Worst Days” sound like old cowboy songs and are lushed with Mercy’s gorgeous back up vocals.

The set contained Matt Wignall’s usual humor, which helped ease the little tension caused by the sound.  Orlando, the bass player, put on an incredible show by himself, thrashing around with his bass while playing incredible riffs.  He didn’t break out the stand-up bass this morning, but he did for the midnight show.  Of course, they ended the set with “Twilight Time” and the crowd became just as energetic.  More on Havalina later in the review.

The Blamed

The festival literally began with a bang as lightning hit just outside of the Encore 1 tent during the Blamed’s set.  The power went off momentarily and then continued through the set.  I give credit to the Blamed, who tried playing through it, but the electricity was not cooperative.  I’m sure I wouldn’t stand up there with an electric guitar as lightning shot down.  Needless to say, the set was cut short.  It was a great rock n’ roll show.

Fine China

Dressed in Guess jeans and jean jackets with gorgeous hair, these guys challenge the Violet Burning as the most attractive band at the festival.  Supporting the incredible When The World Sings, a majority of the set was from the album.  “Labor Saving Device” was the ultimate singalong as I looked around and saw everyone’s lips moving.  Fine China’s songs are so catchy, you can’t help but sing.  They played a few new tracks, which are just as good as anything off of the current album.  The band ironically ended with a much “heavier” version of “We Rock Harder than You Ever Knew”.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear the keys as well as previous shows.  I really believe the keys are what give Fine China the finishing touch to their brilliant pop songs.  Again, the show was energetic and it seemed everyone knew the words (not just the band).

Embodyment

I had never seen Embodyment before, but I was incredibly blown away by their sound.  Brutal at times, but melodic at others.  The vocals gave them such a unique sound.  I’ve never heard such singing over hardcore, which led to another singalong.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know the words.  On a humorous note, Sean Corbray came out wearing a confederate flag bandanna.  I was actually backstage doing press stuff, so I was able to observe the band as well as the crowd.  It was intense to say the least.  As Wesley Willis might say, “the crowd roared like a lion.”

Mars Ill

There isn’t much hip-hop at the festival during any year, but this year saw a definite increase.  I was fortunate enough to check out Mars Ill, who never seemed to take a breath while dropping the dope linguistics.  The rhymes were clever, but shot out so fast you barely had time to comprehend them.  Some may say that rapping is not a talent, but this guy will make you double, then triple-check that statement.  The crowd wasn’t as large as your typical hardcore show, but those that were there were into it as if it were.  Ill Harmonics joined the crew on stage and added a more Beastie Boys feel.  It was a refreshing moment at the festival.

Busker Kibbutznik

If you think the name is unique, you should see the show.  No, they’re not on Tooth and Nail and definitely don’t fit the mold.  They were one of the few bands that played on the Cornerstone Magazine tent, away from the Encore tents.  A group of at least 15, doing everything from singing bowls to Tibetan throat singing, blew me away and sent the crowd into a spiritual dance.  An eerie tribal sound with spoken word populated with various percussion mesmerized those watching and did something inside of them.  The set was pretty lengthy and at one point a large caterpillar made of humans danced it’s way inside the tent.  There was also a five-year-old boy playing the didjeridoo.  The things you see at this festival are amazing.  The set was just as amazing and felt like a tribal worship.  It’s one of those shows that words do no justice for.

Zao

I can sum the show up in one word, brutal.  A dark tent full of thundering hardcore and haunting screams sending kids into frenzies was almost too aggressive for a softy like me.  Circles opened up everywhere as kids got a bit too insane with roundhouse kicks and a healthy number of punches being thrown.  There was probably more energy at this show than the rest could surmount together.  I was somewhat disappointed to find out later that the only original member of the band was the drummer.  It kind of reminded me of Ratt when they showed up to Lincoln with only one remaining member.  How about a new name?

Squad Five-O

Sleeved in tattoos with huge hair, I felt as if I was watching a group made up of Nikki Sixx clones.  I was somewhat disappointed in the punk rock sound, which differs from the glam rock found on Bombs Over Broadway.  The hessian in me wanted the glam to come out, but instead the punk rock came out.  However, I liked that they played the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”, as well as Generation X and Clash covers.  They did contain the appearance of a metal band, as they spat water in the air and performed typical metal moves, but the roots of punk rock were prevalent.

Joy Electric

Always an incredible show, Joy E played their first show of the festival at 11:30pm, which fit perfectly with the new material they played.  Songs such as “We Are Rock” showed the evolution of Joy Electric moving into a much darker rhelm.  Of course, they played the hits like “Monosynth”, “Drum Machine Joy”, and “Sugar Rush”, but it was the future hits that struck a spark with me.  The songs no longer resemble the pop-filled albums of Robot Rock and Christiansongs, but bring an eerier feel that somewhat resembles We Are the Music Makers.

The songs also seem to have a more sober and serious feel.  Ronnie announced that the new album would be released August 29th.  I’ll mark my calendar.  He also announced that he’s “heard all of the Nintendo jokes, but look who’s up here.”  I found it more humorous than snotty.  Ronnie seems very sarcastic on stage as he tells us to sing because he doesn’t know if he can sing “Sugar Rush” much longer.  The attitude fits the music in an Oasis sense.  There will be more on Joy Electric when I review the daytime show.

Ultrabeat

This is what would happen if Up With People went electronic.  I tried to turn away, but the dancer dressed like Punky Brewster kept my attention like a horrifying car crash.  I felt like I was watching a Simpsons episode.  Pure stereotypical Christian pop.

Jason’s Diary: July 7, 2001

Up until today, the weather at Cornerstone had been pretty decent.  Although nowhere near as nice as that darned Weather Channel had claimed it would be, it was still pretty nice.  But I should’ve known we would have to pay for it sometime.  And on July 7, we paid for it in a big way.  I’m still not sure how I made it through this day, because I was certain I was going to pass out at least once.  Due to the heat, much of today was spent trying to stay cool and conserve energy.

At 2:00pm, I finally dragged my sorry butt over to the Indoor Stage (a misnomer if ever there was one) to catch Soul-Junk.  I was really jazzed to catch their show, since “1956” was one of my fave albums from last year.  I was totally ready for Soul-Junk’s unorthodox brand of hip-hop.  Unfortunately, those darn sound problems cropped up.  That, combined with the ungodly heat, seemed to sap much of the show’s energy, and the whole thing felt rather sloppy.

At 3:00, I made my way to the New Band Stage to catch The Elevator Division.  Although I was initially unimpressed with their new, more song-oriented sound, I’d really grown to love it over the past few weeks, and I was really excited to see them again.  And the fact that they’re some really swell guys sweetened the deal.  And they didn’t disappoint.

It was obvious the heat was getting to them (their drummer later confessed that he nearly passed out during the show), but from where I was standing, they nailed it.  There were some good bands on this year’s New Band Stage, and The Elevator Division’s brand of gloomy, Cure-inspired pop was a great way to top things off.

Another band that I was really looking forward to seeing was The People.  They blew me away on last year’s New Band Stage, and their CD “The Premise Of Sound” was another one of my faves from last year.  The band had undergone some lineup changes, and you could tell that from their set tonight.  It was far more rock-oriented, with very little of the spacey keys and atmospherics that attracted me to them in the first place.  I was little underwhelmed, simply because I was expecting a lot.  However, I’m still really looking forward to any future recordings from these guys, and so should you.

And then it was time for the last show of the fest, at least for me.  Starflyer 59 has been one of the mainstays of Cornerstone for me.  They’ve just released their latest, Leave Here A Stranger, and many are calling it their best ever.  Starflyer played a wide range of material, mainly focusing on the last few albums.

It didn’t quite match up to last year’s performance, which was just loaded with surf rock goodness, but I’ve never found Starflyer’s live shows to be anywhere close to their albums.  But I have a feeling the band was upstaged when a guy got on stage just before them and proposed to his girlfriend.  How are you going to top something like that?