cornerstone, music


Sometime Thursday morning before the sun rose, a car alarm went off. It went like, “BWENT! BWENT! BWENT! BWENT! BWENT! BWENT! BWENT! BWENT! BWENT! BWENT!” My sense of time may have been manipulated by my tiredness and the sound’s audacity, but I am fairly confident that it bwented for a good five minutes. It kept going and going for what was a ridiculous amount of time. Finally, it stopped, but not before I was awake enough to notice every little sound that chirped and croaked in the night.

Finally, morning came, and with it, pancakes from the pancake mix. It was pretty tasty stuff. Then Emily and I checked out one of the seminar tents, where Chris Huertz was talking about “Simple Spirituality.” A lot of the Cornerstone seminars seem to revolve around shunning materialism and serving and helping the poor around the world (sometimes almost to the point that you feel like they want to make you feel bad for spending all this money to come to Cornerstone), and this one was along those lines.

This guy told a lot of stories about brokenness and suffering, and presented a genius reverse analogy. One of the stories involved a young girl whose arm was cut off by ruthless militants, and how she couldn’t tie her shoes or something with only one arm, and he said that sometimes he feels like the Body of Christ is ineffective like that when we’re not all serving in our functions, and implying that our ineffectiveness as a metaphorical body is what leads to tragedies like this girl’s physical body.

Usually we think of the “body of Christ” as a metaphor based on the “real thing” of our bodies. But it’s more interesting to think of our physical bodies as a metaphor for the true real thing, the kingdom of God. (In the same way, I think we often have the “bride of Christ” metaphor reversed too – it’s not a metaphor of our earthly actions, but really, our love and marriage as husbands and wives on earth are a physical metaphor for the true love and redemption of Jesus and his Bride.)

As we pondered these stories about the faraway impoverished who literally have nothing, we headed back to the Merch tent to spend some more money. I stepped into the Gallery for a bit while the Alive Band played. They probably had more posters around the grounds than any other band (it was ridiculous), and they were pretty much just a worship band churning out Hillsongs and David Crowders and the like… but my heart longs and loves to worship.

John, Tim, and I took a quick drive to the grocery store to pick up some extra food to get us through the last couple days. Even though we were eating better main courses than in past Cornerstones where all we had was sandwich material and packaged snacks, I felt like I was pretty much only eating main course type stuff. And I’m used to eating more for a meal than just a couple hot dogs or chicken strips. So I personally splurged on some more yogurt and Sun Chips (the amazing harvest cheddar kind) to have some more snacky type food.

Even after lunch, we still had some time before the must-see shows started, so Emily used this as an opportunity to show off her strength. Nick Lovins had somehow acquired from the trees a long log which various members of our campsite were slowly hacking away, using someone’s hatchet, to produce lengths usable for firewood. There was still plenty of log left on this Thursday afternoon, and Emily decided that if they could chop, she could chop off a piece too. So a-hacking she went.

DSC02453It took some time, but she chipped away enough of it that Jacob could jump on the end and snap it off (I tried to snap it off a little too soon, and got a scar in my nether regions for my efforts). All by herself too – although not without acquiring a few nasty-looking blisters from the hatchet.

But finally it was time to return to the music. At 3:00, Deas Vail played a fuller set in one of the Encore tents, to what I think was a bigger crowd than they had the year before. Just like Tuesday night, I thought they sounded very solid, making me fall more in love with their old songs while making me more excited about their (eventual) upcoming release (I realized that I knew the melody already to one of their new songs, which means I’ve heard it live more than once. Release the CD already!)

They were followed by The Wedding, a band I once tried to like but just couldn’t get into past their first single, especially when their Main Stage show last year felt like they were trying too hard to be cool rockers. (And for whatever reason, they didn’t get to play Main Stage again this year…) We stayed for one or two songs and left to see Sean Michel play on a generator stage. The incredibly bearded man seems to have traded his indie worship style for a bluesy rock, and while he’s talented enough, I miss the stuff off his earlier EP that I bought at my first Cornerstone (’07).

DSC02468We caught Timbre‘s second show, another beautiful half-hour that featured those delightful new tracks again along with the lovely, melodic seven-minute opening track off Winter Comes To Wake You.

But the show started late and ended late, and we had to scarf down dinner back at the campsite to get to Main Stage in time for one of Tim’s all-time favorites, Project 86.

The hard rockers aren’t a particular favorite for Emily, who graciously endured the show with me and John, but they’ve been a Christian rock staple for over a dozen years – and are one of the favorites of a couple of my friends who mock other more generic rockers. Their Main Stage show this year didn’t quite capture Andrew Schwab’s intense presence and the intimate feel of their packed midnight show two years ago, but I used the opportunity to pick up their classic 2004 album Songs To Burn Your Bridges By, which I affectionately decided to grammarize as “Songs By Which To Burn Your Bridges.” (Their new album Picket Fence Cartel released by the time I got this written, and it’s a solid hard rock album with some solid, courageous lyrics.)


Next, Emily and I rushed back from Main Stage to catch Josh Garrels again, and we saw enough of his show this time to convince us each to buy an album (She purchased his newest, which is better than mine, his first). Then we rushed back to Main Stage to catch some Emery. On the way we passed a cool plastic-bottle-cap collage that Emily wanted to take a picture of, and she discovered that she had left her camera at the Josh Garrels show. We hadn’t gone too far and easily recovered it (Thanks, God).

We didn’t miss any Emery, who, in a repeat of 2007, sounded like they had just gotten off the plane without having or taking the time to sound check (The bass was way too overpowering, and the vocals were too weak). I still need to borrow their new album and see if it’s not depressing enough that I can enjoy listening to it. (Besides the stunning opener, I can only take The Question in small doses.)

I rushed back from Main Stage to distribute the remaining balloons at the last Children 18:3 show while Emily stayed with Jess for a little more Emery. This time Children played “All My Balloons” first, and the energy was much more palpable inside this smaller tent at night.

DSC02480 Emily found me as I took pictures, and we pressed into the front to join John, Jacob, Stephen, and other friends as we fed off each other’s energy and made this show a Cornerstone highlight. I can’t explain the thrill of singing, cheering, jumping, and dancing alongside other dedicated fans, but it’s an invigorating community experience, and even though it was our third time seeing them this week, it was hands-down the best show.

As the last band to play the Fat Calf tent that night, Children 18:3 kept playing and playing, and even encored with the old “Cowboy Song.” You could tell the siblings were really enjoying it; Dave’s voice sounded fully recovered and all three played with finesse (Seth’s crazy drum solo was just as exciting the third time).


We went back to camp to relax a bit (I introduced Emily to those amazing harvest cheddar Sun Chips) before heading to the Underground tent for the annual Cornerstone community highlight: the midnight show of Flatfoot 56. The encouraging Celtic punk band followed last year’s toga party with a Mexican-themed fiesta, complete with sombreros, piñatas, and a re-enactment of The Alamo that actually dislodged some of the primary tent poles. I didn’t feel quite the rush of enjoyment that I did from last year’s show (maybe because it wasn’t my first time, or maybe because I had forgotten that the generally friendly circle pit is still kinda rough and super super crowded, or maybe because the last Children show had been so outstanding), but it was still a great show, and I still always love the friendly atmosphere of the energetic fans and the encouraging words on love and discipleship from the band.


And it’s time for another Good Night.


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