cornerstone, music

CORNERSTONE 2009 – FRIDAY (JULY 3)

Friday morning I had some of that yogurt as we finished off the bacon. I joined my friends for the next session of that seminar but soon left to get some more ice for the cooler. John and I followed Mike Faulkner to a vendor tent that had a fire hazard of power strips hooked together for the generous purpose of allowing festival-goers to charge their cell phones. (On the way, they bought Iced Tea; I bought a Sno-Cone.)

The table had some newspapers from the nearby Bushnell, and while we charged our phones I perused the local coverage of Cornerstone. They had interviewed Stuart of Rodent Emporium, who interestingly enough claimed that they were on a Christian label but not necessarily Christians, yet they respected the festival atmosphere while they were here. His quote was instantly branded in my brain: “You don’t have to be a Christian to live by a Christian ethic.”

While I could theologically criticize that, or even remark on the irony that you more often see “Christians” living by a decidedly non-Christian ethic, I instead chose to reflect on the power of the friendly Cornerstone community, where the love of Christ among believers creates such an encouraging atmosphere that non-Christians just want to be a part of it… and maybe they’ll want to figure out why we’re that way. It’s such a beautiful antithesis to the stereotypical non-believer’s perception of stereotypical Christians.

There weren’t any exciting Friday shows until Main Stage got into action in the evening, so once again we spent a lot of time at the campsite. Chuck led a round of singing on his guitar in which (nearly) everyone contributed with a spontaneous verse, and (nearly) everyone came up with a pretty fun verse too (Mine was something like: Well, Emily decided to cut some wood / And she was looking pretty good / But I tried to help her and you know what? / Now I’ve got a scar on my butt)

Emily asked me to go with her to fill up the Curry water jug at the main water station, and I felt very nostalgically like a carefree child pulling that wagon around (which is strange because I don’t think I actually did much wagon-pulling as a child). After we filled the jug, I decided to be Manly and impress Emily by pulling her and the full water jug back to camp. It was hard, but I pulled the wagon all the way back (and got an unsolicited high-five from Andy as approximately half of Deas Vail swerved past on a golf cart!), except as we came down the final hill I conveniently lost enough control to spill the contents of the wagon in front of everyone at the campsite (The water and Emily were fine).

DSC02507After this epic wagon wielding, Mike and Chuck were inspired to ride the wagon down the hill in various fashions, and I have some somewhat obscured footage of a fearless Mike crashing and burning.

Amanda had sadly been getting sicker as the week wore on, and her helpful father drove all the way up to Cornerstone to take her home a day and a half early. As the Curry family went to rendezvous, I went with our camping friends to the Anchor tent to see an allegedly ridiculous fun group known as Slam Dunk. But someone had their schedule mixed up because they weren’t playing. So I bought a Giant Freezie and went over to see what was happening at the Gallery.

Once again that tent (which I believe I never set foot in before this year) treated me to a surprise. Brooke Waggoner was a pleasant, poppy pianist reminiscent of A Fine Frenzy. The lyrics weren’t particularly memorable and I didn’t buy her album or anything, but it was a nice show. After reuniting with the Currys, Emily and I meandered over to Main Stage to relax before mewithoutYou.

This was probably the strangest and most eclectic Main Stage line-up of the week. It started with Bluetree, an Irish worship band who is only famous because Chris Tomlin, who doesn’t actually write half of his album-selling singles,¬†borrowed their song “God Of This City” and made it more popular than they ever could, and also because that song has such an epic backstory. But as a band they’re not really Cornerstone Main Stage material, and overall it was pretty much a generic worship set.

DSC02524My appetite was roused by a passing customer of the ice cream vendor, and soon we were sharing a bowl. Finally, it was time for mewithoutYou, one of my all-time favorite bands for their sharp instrumental grooves and Aaron Weiss’s incredible lyrical imagery (He’s unparalleled when he’s delineating Truth and Biblical stories, although I don’t necessarily get excited about his subtle hints at religious pluralism and Islamic jargon).

I was concerned that their open-aired Main Stage show wouldn’t equal their intense, packed midnight tent show of prior years (especially after Project 86’s mild disappointment the day before), but mewithoutYou delievered. They played a decent mix of fan favorites from their last three albums, and were at times accompanied by friends, including Timbre on the harp and a random kid on trumpet.

Aaron didn’t waste much time talking besides wishing peace upon us, and they had time to squeeze an extra song into their set. He said he couldn’t make out any of the requests coming from the fans but he could see the cardboard Fox being held up in the air, and they added “The Fox, The Crow, and the Cookie” before closing with the highlight “In A Sweater, Poorly Knit.” I wished they would have played “The Angel Of Death Came To David’s Room,” my favorite off the new album, but they still played “Torches Together,” one of my all-time favorite songs from anyone.

We had a little time to spare, and I was curious to see a little bit of Shiny Toy Guns, a generally secular band made up of alleged Christians (although neither their music nor their music videos are necessarily entirely family-friendly). I thought it odd to see them on the line-up, but, like that Rodent Emporium interview, I was glad that they, too, seemed drawn to the Christian atmosphere and community.

But the band said nothing particularly Christian or un-Christian, and we grew bored as the rain started to fall. Emily and I killed some time at the Goth-centric Asylum (a gentleman was raving about must-see horror films; I would have loved to pick his brain about the supernatural and theories about demonic influences and invitations with regards to such films). We then stopped by the Jesus Village, but I soon dragged Emily to an Encore tent for metal highlight Becoming the Archetype.

BTA is the latest metal band I’ve added to my slowly growing heavy roster; their points of interest for me are their keyboard-centric melodic interludes and their epic lyrical descriptions of God’s justice, power, wrath, and mercy. They played my highlights from their most recent album, Dichotomy, including “Ransom,” (My hands have taught me terrible things / His hands have SET ME FREE) “End of the Age,” (He is clothed in greatness / His voice resounds throughout the earth… / HE REACHED DOWN AND TOOK HOLD OF ME! / HALLELUJAH! / HALLELUJAH!) and their metal version of “How Great Thou Art.” It’s not Emily’s cup of tea, but the lovely woman did not complain.

The rain was still spattering. We filled our spare hour before Bradley Hathaway with Cool Hand Luke at the Jesus Village. I’d heard of them but wasn’t real familiar with them – or, I guess, him – as the remaining member explained the history of the band and their changes and where he is now. It was nice and relaxing.

I had never really listened to Bradley Hathaway, but Emily was a big fan and I didn’t have another metal show to drag her to. The emotional poet/songwriter was preceded by a number of miniature openers, including a poet named Dan, the deliberately over-the-top Future-Oh (“Cornerstone ’95! I hope you caught dc Talk over at the Main Stage!”), and that duo called Slam Dunk (“Pop that trunk! Slam that dunk!”) The latter two were something like hilarious, clean, and white parodies of the modern club/hip-hop scene, and an interesting preface to a guy like Bradley.

DSC02537Bradley’s mannerisms, lyricism, and vocal inflections create a charming package, although as Emily notes, he can be frustrating with his emotional roller coaster of super-happy relationship songs and super-depressed break-up songs. He took a minute to read Scripture passages about love and explain that he didn’t think some of the big Christian artists at the festival were acting very Christlike with the things they were saying from the stage. I appreciated his honesty but at the same time it was hard to evaluate his general criticisms, as no obvious artists came to mind. Overall, though, it was an enjoyable night.

By now the rain was getting steadier. Yet we had no idea what this weather was preparing to bring…

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