Wednesday morning I had the bright idea to put in my contacts outside at the sinks where there were mirrors, even though I had successfully applied them without a mirror the previous day. The pleasant breeze, however, quickly chastised me for this idea, and I resigned to wearing my glasses the rest of the week. At least Emily claimed I looked good in them.
We had sausage and eggs for breakfast, and then Emily and I headed over to the barn to watch part of the morning short film showcase, which included a humorous reenactment regarding a foot blister, an interesting futuristic short regarding a man trying to read a message from his wife in spite of the Big-Brother-like implanted chips that, among other things, make words blurry, and a hilarious documentary regarding a decade-long prank with a stolen can of SPAM. The other short films were artsy and/or pointless and/or forgettable. We were there for probably forty minutes.
The first item on our itinerary was another Photoside Cafe show at one, but through some miscommunication we thought we had missed their show and went to see The Rocketboys instead. Some of our campsite friends enjoy them; I found their mellow rock generally nice but quite unmemorable.
Emily went back to the campsite to get some lunch while I followed the guys to the Underground tent for some more Rodent Emporium (I believe I had eaten lunch already). They were just as fun the second time. Emily came back in time for And Then There Were None, a new Tooth & Nail band that allegedly transformed from metal to dance to be more creative. The potpourri of club-like electronic loops along with a full band was a little too much for me to seriously enjoy (I could hardly hear the guitars, which were mostly unnecessary anyway), but in the context of a dance party it was pretty fun, especially with Jeremy, Josh, and Chuck making up random dance moves and such.
One of our more anticipated shows, House of Heroes, came at four. After purchasing their album at the Relient K/Ludo show last October and absolutely loving it, I was disappointed to discover that at Cornerstone they were playing at the same time as Children 18:3. (Fortunately, Children played three other times – two of which I have already detailed – and saved us from an impossible choice.) Although I enjoyed the HOH show there’s not much to write about and it wasn’t necessarily a highlight of the week; they just played their solid songs with their solid harmonies and that was that.
I headed to the other side of the campgrounds to wait for Capital Lights to kick things off at the Main Stage, while Emily went back to the campsite again. This year on the big jumbotron thing they were letting you text a number to put a message on the screen, although since AT&T’s coverage didn’t seem to extend into that massive valley, it wasn’t very useful for me. Capital Lights was my light summer fun album of last year – it’s nice and catchy if I haven’t listened to it for awhile but it gets boring pretty quickly. My stomach was growling and I didn’t even stay for the full first song.
I endured the long trek back to our campsite (that 15-minute walk across the grounds was the only downside to camping on the end away from Main Stage) and made some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But Emily was gone.
I didn’t feel like walking all the way back to Main Stage to watch Capital Lights and/or Red, so I went to the Gallery where an assortment of singer/songwriters were sharing the stage. I really like one of Andrew Peterson’s songs from about 10 years ago, although I never really followed his career, but when I saw his name along with several others (a couple of whom I had at least heard of) playing at the same time, I thought it might be fun to check out if I wasn’t busy at Main Stage – and it ended up that I wasn’t.
There were eight of them taking turns, and I only stayed long enough to hear them each play a song (although many of them played on each other’s songs… they’re all long-time friends). It was a nice, relaxing, acoustic atmosphere, and it was nice to hear the artists sing personal songs as well as tell some of the stories behind them. I found myself wishing Emily was there to share in that experience, and then I wanted to find her more than I wanted to stay and listen to the beautiful acoustic music.
I trekked back to Main Stage, where Red was finishing up their set. Emily saw me and I found her and her mom sitting near the foot of the hill. We got closer to the stage for Family Force 5, who I think is the only Main Stage band to have attended Cornerstone all three years I’ve gone. (Thanks for breaking your streak this year, David Crowder. Not.) This was at least my sixth time seeing them, but it was still fun, and the songs from their second album sounded fine live (I thought that album was weaker and less energetic than their first, although I’m slowly and begrudgingly admitting that it’s a good dance album). However, I’m starting to get tired of Soul Glow’s “let’s get crazy for Jeezus” routine, which sounds less pious every year.
Ten o’clock presented my only remaining impossible choice of the week, as neither band was playing other shows: Showbread vs. Relient K. I’d seen RK a million times, and Showbread’s epic second show last year was (and is) my most regretted missed Cornerstone event ever, but RK is possibly my favorite band ever, and their Cornerstone show (which they missed last time) is supposed to be top-notch. Plus, both would be playing new songs. Emily and I worked out a compromise: RK’s set was longer, and actually started a bit later anyway, so we would hustle over to the other side of the grounds for Showbread, and hustle back to Main Stage to catch the second half of Relient K.
Showbread is a band I much respect that is still growing on me (I used to be a hater). Their fans are intense and make their shows impressive to watch. Some of their songs have crazy analogies and seemingly random lyrics, but sometimes this pure worship flows out of their songs in a way that feels more real than a lot of bands that try really hard – and it’s incredible to be part of the crowd in those moments. I’ll be buying their new album next month. They didn’t play “The Beginning,” but they did play “Matthias Replaces Judas,” another stunning closer, off of their only remaining album I still don’t own. I wished I had known these lyrics to be able to sing along from my heart, like the rest of the fans:
this simply will not do, no alabaster jar, no diamond in the rough,
for your body that was broken, how can this be enough?
by me you were abandoned, by me you were betrayed,
yet in your arms and in your heart forever i have stayed
Your glory illuminates my life, and no darkness will descend,
for you have loved me forever, and your love will never end
According to the Internet, Matt Thiessen’s engagement was broken off between Five Score… and now, but he’s presenting an hopeful attitude of accepting the past and moving on. Matt didn’t say anything about that at the show, but that story explains the dopey love songs on the previous album as well as the new album title (Forget and Not Slow Down) and the new song title, “I Don’t Need A Soul (To Hold).” Thinking about that brought a new dimension of meaning to some of Matt’s previous songs that he played for us that night, such as the God-cry “I Need You” – I could almost feel the desperation pouring from Matt’s soul. OK, maybe I’m just being dramatic. On an unrelated note, ex-Supertones-member and new-RK-drummer Ethan Lucke sounded much less disappointing than he did at the Pageant last fall, proving that he’s picking up that instrument well enough.
It was a very enjoyable show even standing apart from the crowd pressed against the stage, and to our delight, they encored with “Deathbed.” It wasn’t quite as exhilarating for me as it was hearing that song live the first time with its epic story-line and instrumentation and blatant gospel presentation at the Pageant before a mixed crowd, but it was still quite glorious. I always forget how much I love that song.
Midnight presented more choices. The tired Currys opted for a soothing Copeland, but I was pumped for one of my most anticipated shows of the week, and I entered the testosterone-filled tent where Austrian Death Machine was about to play.
Austrian Death Machine is one of the greatest things ever for many reasons. A random stereotypical metal band that plays songs based on lyrics from Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, interspersed with Arnold impersonation quotes, would be hilarious enough on its own – but the fact that it’s a devoted side project of the frontman for serious-looking metal act As I Lay Dying makes it ten times the awesome.
The band members came out dressed as Arnold characters from different Arnold films, besides the guy wearing an actual Arnold mask. I don’t know what it is about a cheesy grinning celebrity mask, but it makes anything someone says while wearing it spellbindingly hilarious (for the record, this holds true for those creepy smiling Hillary Clinton masks, too). “Arnold” claimed that since his state ran out of money, he came here to take money from us, so we should go to the merch booth and buy some T-shirts.
The band played a collection of hilarious tunes, including “Get To The Choppa!” and “I Am A Cybernetic Organism, Living Tissue Over Metal Endoskeleton” and “It’s Not A Tumor!” A number of antics added to this deliberate celebration of manliness: the band invited some fans onstage for a push-up contest during one of the songs. Arnold personally asked some fans “Who Is Your Daddy, And What Does He Do?” Also, there was a brief square-off with another shorter Arnold impersonator wearing a less-brutal more-cheeky-Governator mask. The whole thing was just a hilarious, well-run show, and I consider the album a very good use of my $12 (although it won’t do much to stem the flood of IOUs now issuing from the black hole known as the California state government).
Tim Lambesis explained that they weren’t ready to play longer than about 45 minutes, because the members of this extensive side project live in different parts of the country and only practiced once (but he also said this was like their fourth show. Math fail?), and please stay for this metal band who are friends of ours… but most of us didn’t. Bed time.