The first night’s sleep wasn’t too bad but it wasn’t that great, either. I doubt the ground underneath our tent was entirely flat. Nevertheless, the bright and beautiful sunlight dragged me out of bed around 8:00 AM. Soon Tim and John were cooking bacon and eggs, a delightful breakfast to start off the day.
One of the best things about this year’s trip was that this year we knew probably twice as many people from St. Louis as we did last year, and we camped with most of them. It enhanced the community aspect of Cornerstone that I relish, and when you have more people sharing chairs, food, and random accessories (stay tuned for wagons and super-soakers and more), you have more opportunities for memorable moments.
This morning, as we gathered around the Curry’s fire-pit before the festival shifted into gear, Adrienne treated us to a reading from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which John is borrowing from his library. Then a comment from Mike about Aaron Weiss’s view of salvation led to a drawn-out debate around the classic question of whether or not those who never hear about Jesus Christ have a chance to receive salvation.
I was looking forward to Children 18:3’s second show at 1 PM, but Stephen informed me that Rodent Emporium was kicking off the Blue Lagoon stage (new, and outdoors) at noon. They’re a really crazy and funny punk band from Scotland, and they were our favorite randomly-discovered-band from last year. True to form, the frontman entertained with his stage presence and facial expressions as the band cranked out “hits” from their first album (including “Snake Patrol,” “I’m A Man,” and “Model Airplanes”) along with samples from their new album releasing that very day (including “Sports!” and “Hunt For the Rhode Island Sasquatch”). Funny stuff, although I didn’t end up buying that one.
They were followed by a forgotten band of youngsters, and then it was time for the second Children 18:3 show. This time I brought half of the balloons I purchased from Wal-Mart on Sunday. (Children’s favorite song is “All My Balloons,” and I thought it would be a great way to make the show more fun for the band.) I handed them out to eager fans.
At every Children show I had seen thus far – including Monday night’s – they had begun the set with “All My Balloons.” But this time they didn’t. I convinced myself they were saving it for later as most of the balloon-wielding fans kept their balloons hidden (a few tried to toss them around, but the wind had its own idea). They treated us to a new song that Dave said was about standing your ground. (“She said run! But I ain’t running, I ain’t running…”)
Finally, they started the last song with the familiar guitar chord and drumming intro. In the chorus, they got to the important line, “All my balloons are popping!” We shouted with gusto and, without direction or leadership or any preconceived strategy, maybe two dozen fans held the balloons up with their fists, some of them popping. It was pretty much exactly how I had imagined it in my head, and I only wished that I had thought to capture the moment on camera. But, hey, we still had 30 more balloons back at camp, and Children wasn’t done for the week.
We went to check out their merchandise, still set up at the Anchor, and I purchased the new T-shirt with brightly colored balloons. John and I had a chance to tell Dave about our epiphany earlier this year that one of their songs is about a scene from The Bourne Identity.
Even though the full festival – including seminars and film showings and Main Stage acts – didn’t kick off until Wednesday, more and more activities and vendors were setting up. In the middle of an open area by the food vendors, a gentleman was selling circus toys, and he demonstrated tricks with a sphere (he also liked my brightly-colored balloons shirt).
I forget what it’s officially called, but it’s almost like a distant cousin of juggling. Mere words cannot give you a good explanation, but I shall attempt: the spheres are generally perfectly clear and reflective so that when you rotate the sphere you can’t easily tell that the surface is spinning. This means there are ways you can move the sphere around and roll it without it looking like it’s rolling, and the illusion is entertaining – if you’re good at it. Adrienne and John each purchased a sphere, and by the end of the week John could do a couple of mildly entertaining things (sorry, I don’t have pictures).
We followed some of our campsite friends to see Destroy Nate Allen, which is basically Nate Allen and his wife singing mildly silly songs on guitar and tambourine. Their affection for each other was touching, their tales of God’s provision in their lives was uplifting, and their songs were unconventional but entertaining (“Jesus, keep us safe from the cops” and “We’re gonna start a family, but not… not quite yet.”)
Our chef(s) heated up some chicken strips and hot dogs for dinner (I forget whether John and/or Tim did the specific cooking for each meal), after which we checked out the big merch tent. I snagged the first mewithoutYou album from the Tooth & Nail tent ($10) and Showbread’s Age of Reptiles from a vendor ($6).
Some of our friends went to see a band called Ember Days, and John, Emily, and I followed awhile later. But the Indie Community Stage had moved from last year, and by the time we found its new spot the band was playing the last couple minutes of their last song. It was a pretty neat instrumental groove (think Explosions In The Sky with more energy) and the crowd was worshipping, and I wished we had caught more of it.
We headed over to the Gallery and caught part of Josh Garrels, who was recommended to Josh Hedlund (me) by my friend Josh Ehrmann. He was an acoustic songwriter who mixed guitar and percussive loops with a lyrical, almost hip-hop-like style. It was instant love for both Emily and me; his acoustic rapping filled the void that Mat Kearney’s new all-singing CD had left in my soul, and his rhythmic lyrics were delightfully uplifting words of praise. I thought it was beautiful how many of us had been disagreeing about theology around the campsite earlier that day, but here we were all worshipping the same God and praising him for his love and grace.
We browsed the big merch tent some more – John coaxed a hat from Emily as a late birthday present.
This was Nick Lovins’s first Cornerstone and he was having a blast. I didn’t know how much music he was into, but he actually liked many of the bands there and he was enjoying all the new bands we were introducing him to (pardon the dangling participle). In addition, he was relishing the community aspect of the festival; he said he was afraid he would meet a lot of lofty hypocrites, but instead he was making all sorts of friends and having great conversations about God and social justice and I don’t know what else. I love all of the coincidental meetings that God orchestrates throughout Cornerstone.
We all headed back to the Indie Community tent to see Deas Vail. I told Nick that we were about to see a really talented band with two keyboardists, and whose vocalist was the only man that I unashamedly proclaim as having a pretty voice (Wes Blaylock). Stephen and I shouted to Justin and Andy, who still seemed to recognize us, even though we’d only seen them twice since I helped set up a local show and let them sleep at our house last May (’08).
After the first song, I looked back at Nick, and his response was something like, “Good call.” Deas Vail had a few sound and feedback issues, but aside from that I thought they sounded really good. I’ve heard their songs a million times, but hearing them again live made me appreciate the intricacies of the songs and made me want to listen to them all over again. The six songs were a short set, but it was nice to hear a couple new songs, and also a good sign for their longevity that it was a great show even though they only played two songs off their original album. They used to play only songs from that excellent release, and while it’s sad to see some of them fade away, it’s encouraging that they’re not limited to that, but sound just as strong, if not stronger, with their new stuff.
Timbre the mellifluous harpist was scheduled to begin her set at the Jesus Village as soon as Deas Vail ended, but I stayed behind to say a quick hi to Andy. I didn’t miss anything, though, because Timbre got started late. She had several friends accompanying her with a toy piano, accordion, trumpet, flute, and more. She played some newer songs, which I liked even more than her older ones. Her most recent album is very beautiful, but the harp, her voice, and often sad lyrics combine to make a sound that’s too depressing to listen to very often. Many of her newer songs had a happier feel without compromising the beautiful sound. I can’t wait for recordings of “The Wind May Be Beautiful” and “I Will Go Plant Little Flowers.” (I forget the story behind the latter one, but it had something to with fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.)
Emily and I were both pretty tired by now but we decided to check out the dance barn because neither of us had before (Nick was going to join us before checking out the 24-hour prayer tent, but his leg was being painful). It was pretty much exactly as I had imagined it – low lights, various techno and electronic elements wafting over the non-stop pounding bass, and a crowd of people jumping up and down or occasionally breaking out some moves. We ran into my brothers and friends, burned calories for about twenty minutes, and left. Fairly worn out, we skipped the prayer tent and went to bed (does that make us bad Christians? I still totally need to spend some time there some year… but since it’s 24-hour, it’s like, why go there in the middle of the day? Go there in the middle of the night! But at night you’re really tired…. sigh).
Two days of awesomeness down, four to go.