A hot sun rose again on Thursday morning, and the only interesting thing that happened before noon was Jacob randomly getting a free, worn pair of shoes from folks in a band called Blessed Is He who were trying to advertise by any means possible – including painting an unreadable “BIH” on used footwear.
In the afternoon we saw an anticipated show by one of my favorite bands that deserves to be bigger than they are – Deas Vail still makes pretty music and I can’t wait for the new stuff in August (EP) and January (full-length).
There wasn’t anyone I had to see until the evening, and with the heat and excitement of the past three days wearing down on me, I relaxed at the campsite and listened to my mewithoutYou purchase. 2004’s Catch For Us The Foxes is just as incredible as their most recent Brother, Sister. Aaron Weiss is a lyricist I love listening to, especially under a first experience of following along with the words in the jacket, as the imagery he creates just makes me smile: Jonah, where’s that boat going / Your ship set with eager sails? / There’s a swirling storm soon blowing / And no use, fishermen, in rowing from a consecrated whale! It’s an enjoyable moment I haven’t had since… OK, since Thrice’s second-half EP set came out in April.
Food Like That
Then it was time for our generous North Carolina youth group friends’ famous annual Thursday night mega Spaghetti Dinner, where hundreds of (poor?) (freeloading?) (grateful?) campers line up to take part in seventy pounds of spaghetti. It took long enough that the Main Stage acts for the night went under way, and I bobbed my plate and fork to the beat of Jonezetta. Leeland followed, and we took a few pics before walking across the campsite to the P12 tent to check our volunteer friends’ promised dessert.
We found an empty basket by the sound system that said “Free Dessert.” We thought we had come too late. As if on cue, Bethany showed up with some brownies and rice krispies, placing them in the basket – we were actually right on time! She said they didn’t have as much as they usually did, and I sort of felt bad about mobbing their supply, but they were really good.
We got back to our campsite in time for Hawk Nelson to take the stage. Oh, Hawk Nelson. I admit I used to sort of like this poppy punky band. Smile, It’s The End of the World was 2006’s fun summer album. But I just can’t get into them anymore. Maybe it’s because when I went to see them with Falling Up the lead guy was dressed like a Backstreet Boys reject wooing giddy 12-year-olds in the front row. Or maybe it’s because they’ve turned into the Jonas Brothers for the Christian market. I was also kinda bothered by their cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” which didn’t exactly (in my eyes) mesh with the video screen promotion of Hawk Nelson’s inclusion in an all-girl conference meant to improve their self-respect and confidence. Oh, Josh, picky, picky.
As Mike, Jacob, and I headed down to the Main Stage to try to press in closer for The Almost during the post-Hawk exodus, I did have fun singing along to “One Thing I Have Left” and pretending I was getting into the show.
Maybe we, why don’t we just watch this show for half an hour…
The most entertaining part of The Almost happened before Aaron Gillespie took the stage. Since they flew in from Warped Tour, they didn’t have time to sound check earlier in the day, so their nerd-ish roadie strummed some guitars and did vocal checks with lullabies like “My mom’s the best mom / Better than your mom” (or something like that), and the crowd loved it so much they spontaneously chanted “One more song” – the only time I’ve ever heard an encore for a sound check.
The Almost’s set was OK, and I enjoyed the songs I knew, but I still can’t convince myself that I like it enough to get the album. I totally respect and admire Aaron for his incredible music abilities – masterful drumming and vocals for a demanding band like Underoath and still having enough time to record a side project and even keep touring as Underoath prepares for their new September release. His non-UO stuff just doesn’t grab me as much.
Anberlin was up next, and before Mike and I pressed in even closer Jacob asked for my camera to try to get a picture of Aaron and Tiki. We were able to get only a few feet from the stage, but I feared I would never get my camera back in time to take pictures of Anberlin.
There was a longer pause between sets as Jamie from To Write Love On Her Arms made an appearance. It was his pre-Anberlin talk at Main Stage last year that gave me a fuller introduction and admiration for this wonderful organization. I and many of those around me can easily downplay or remain ignorant of the massive destructive effects of depression, suicide, and self-injury. It breaks my heart to know that there are many thousands of young women who have trouble understanding love because their parents and peers only gave them hate and rejection. I have many thoughts about TWLOHA which could suffice for a note of its own, but here I’ll just say I’m glad somebody’s making a difference.
Just before Anberlin took the stage, the fan behind me called out, “Josh – your camera!” Jacob had pressed in two rows behind me, returning the camera and rushing off with an excited “Check out the first picture!”
Because of all the talking Anberlin got a late start, and they were dangerously threatening to cut into my much anticipated The Glorious Unseen’s set over at the Anchor Stage tent. It was an odd set – out of the nine songs we stayed for, only three came from Cities, their latest full-length. In fact I left almost wishing I had skipped Main Stage that night for DeGarmo & Key’s reunion set (I grew up on my dad’s old cassette of The Pledge.)
A Long (Optional) Dissertation on My History With Anberlin
I guess here is where I have to explain my complicated history with Anberlin. I’ve known of them ever since I got their first single “Change the World” off a good ol’ sampler CD (another staple that the Internet killed) and actually saw them open for Relient K on one of their first tours. Then came their second album, and its still-popular hit “Paperthin Hymn” felt to me so much like their first hit (try singing one chorus over the other) that I wrote them off as an uncreative and uninteresting. Even so, I streamed Cities on MySpace early last year – but still wasn’t hooked.
Then at last Cornerstone, Relient K’s bus infamously caught fire, preventing them from coming and spontaneously adjusting the night’s schedule, giving Anberlin the closing slot of the night (it also gave the energetic Jonezetta three shows in one day). This allowed them to do an encore, where they played “Fin,” the epic eight-minute closing track from Cities that wasn’t streamed on MySpace.
That was the beginning of my journey as a fan.
Cities grew on me to become an enjoyable album, and now that I truly know “Fin” I wish I could go back to that unplanned encore and hear how Stephen sang the vocals without the overlapping lyric lines and without the choir behind him. Anyway, I’ve come a long way from shrugging past Cities to eagerly anticipating the release of New Surrender on September 30.
But wait… the new song they played at Main Stage this Cornerstone reminded me of past melodies, and the lyrics seemed more a return to the relationship angst of Never Take Friendship Personal than the challenging thoughts hinted at by Stephen’s poetic blogging about the new record. Guess we’ll have to wait and see… I’ll be buying the album on release day either way.
A Chance To Say Goodbye
The Glorious Unseen got started a little late, but it was an incredible worship experience, especially since I already knew all their songs and was able to flow right with them. I know the well-meaning folks dislike the emotional junction of “worship experience,” but, with last night’s toga party still in my mind, I was struck by the notion that the emotional thrill of engaging in worship with other believers is not very different from the camaraderie of sweating in a circle pit, except that here the focus is even more directly on God and surrendering to his love and grace – something more real, not less.
Soon it was time to visit our volunteer friends, although Robbie Seay Band wasn’t quite done and they weren’t ready to close down yet. Mike and John went off to get some coffee and never came back; I helped Bethany and friends take care of the infernal flaps and said goodbye.
Though the festival had two full days remaining, my brothers and I had to leave the following evening to begin a trek to Oklahoma for a family reunion. Fortunately – as if the rest of the week hadn’t been enough already – the next few hours would contain enough fun for two days, if not the months to come.