above: Cool Hand Luke
Cornerstone is my favorite time of year. I like it better than Christmas because the weather is warmer outside, I like it better than my birthday because its cold in February too, and I like it better than all the other holidays because time with extended family is, for the most part, at best, awkward.
Overall, there were some great things about this year’s festival. First off, it was never hotter than 85 degrees, it was really cool at night for sleeping, and it never rained. Also, last year, I didn’t even go to main stage. This year, they tried sort of doing “theme” nights where they had all one style of music for each night. For instance, one night was all heavy stuff, another night they had college rock, then they had the pop punk type stuff and then the last night was all radio rock. I think it worked, except some of the bands folded under the pressure.
They also seemed to start the music later in the afternoon, allowing for more of a focus on the seminars and Bible studies. The Decapolis study was beneficial as always as Conrad led studies on finding your calling, how to get married, and encouraged everyone to dig deeper and tackle the tough issues of God’s character. Basically, you want to do whatever God’s called you to in EVERY season of your life, you should marry your best friend, and you should read your Bible.
Mark from Cool Hand Luke led a discussion on knowledge vs. zeal, and encouraged everyone to be not only whole hearted for God, but also correct in our perceptions of Him. He shared some things he’d learned in his year away from the band, and he also had some words of encouragement for festival attendees to take the focus away from idolatry of music and bands and put focus back on God.
Aaron from mewithoutYou had a well attended talk where he took questions regarding his stance on pacifism (and other personal matters). It was refreshing to see someone actually base their arguments on scripture and the words and actions of Christ. Of all of the poignant observations he made, the crowd cheered and clapped only when he explained the merits of dumpster diving. Overall, the talks seemed kind of how I pictured stuff to happen in the Bible where John the Baptist would go out in the wilderness and people would come and just listen and ask questions.
Finally of course, there was the music.
LOVEDRUG played late on Wednesday night. This was my first time seeing them, and I was glad I stayed up late to catch their set. The songs were delivered with precision and passion as the band played all the favorites including “Spiders”, “Down Towards the Healing”, and “Blackout” (encore). Down Towards the Healing is one of the most inspiring songs I’ve heard in the spiritual sense, which is remarkable considering Lovedrug isn’t really Christian at all. Hooray for universally inspiring art. They were one of the tightest bands at the fest.
Mutemath is a band formed by Paul Meany (formerly Earthsuit) and some of his cronies. They have an electronic-influenced pop rock sound. They were definitely one of the most buzzed about bands at the fest, and deservedly so. The band was all over the stage, standing on keyboards and speakers and gathering around the drum set for some ritual pounding. This band has been on Warped Tour, so I guess they pretty well had their act together. They played lots of favorites, including “Chaos”. The song is especially meaningful considering the band is from New Orleans and amidst the chaos of the hurricane and flooding and such, they still sing about the consistencies of God in our lives and the universe. Towards the end of the set, Meany brought out what looked like the newest weapon in the war on terror. Meany pulled of some pretty hot licks before handing it off to the crowd. They played crowd favorite “Control” as an encore.
left: new anti-terrorist weapon
I saw Anathallo once before so I knew what to expect, but it was still good to see a packed tent appreciating such a creative and talented band. The 7 members played songs mostly from Floating World complete with claps, stomping, xylophone, harp, horns, shakers, and old garbage-can-reject drums. The best thing about this band is the joy they share on stage. They ended with one of my favorites, Holiday at the Sea.
COOL HAND LUKE
Last year when I came to Cornerstone, I was pretty bummed to hear that Cool Hand Luke wouldn’t be playing because they had broken up. A year later, they’re back together with the same focus I’ve always loved about this band. The festival gave them over an hour and a half to work with, so Mark took a few opportunities to share his heart on things he’d learned during the break as well as some encouraging/convicting words for festival attendees to keep the focus on Christ. Mark’s voice rang loud and clear both in song and word. They played their full 1.5 hour long set, including some new songs and even the old favorite “Sideways” with a friend joining the band on piano.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what underOATH is up to these days, I’m just not the biggest fan. Still, I was blown away by how well they handled the mainstage. Their songs came across loud and clear as they played through favorites old and new that kept the crowd going. Seeing them flash around on mainstage with a full blown light show and the energy of the crowd was a powerful statement of how far this band (and hard music) has come. Like them or not, they have gotten to where they are because of times like these where they truly connect with [sic. Destroy] their audience. Their 2 song encore included the closing track to their previous album, “Some Seek Forgiveness While Others Escape.”
THE GOOD, but not without flaws
I considered them unusual candidates for the mainstage, and although they drew a large crowd, they seemed uncomfortable with the setting at first. Aaron nervously muttered into the microphone between songs as the rest of the band worked out technical issues. As the set went on, however, the band took on their usual form as guests joined them onstage including a bird-man, a drum circle, and a harpist. A few songs from A>B life made their way into the set, as well as favorites from Catch for Us the Foxes. Interspersed throughout were 4 brand new songs from their upcoming September release. Aaron played acoustic guitar to open 2 of the songs with his usual poetic delivery before the usual buildup and entry by the other musicians. All 4 new songs seemed like they possessed a harder edge than Foxes and each song was simply splendid. You can hear one of the new songs here…http://www.cornerstonefestival.com/coverage2006.cfm?page=clips&ClipID=67
HUNDRED YEAR STORM
I only managed to catch a few songs of this bands set, but I definitely stuck around once I heard their moody melodic rock. They sounded a lot like the band Moments in Grace, and fans of Mineral or Sunny Day would likely appreciate the direction of the songs. The band brooded around intently on some simple progressions that led to epic endings, while the singer occasionally chimed in with spiritually significant musings. Their first release was on Northern Records, and another release comes out on Floodgate in the fall.
Another band with a lot of buzz, I only caught a few songs, but I appreciated their electronic elements combined with a UK style ambient rock. Fans of Muse and Radiohead might appreciate these guys. I did.
AS CITIES BURN
Another band that seemed uncomfortable on main stage, but once the band got over the jitters, they played along with energy and passion. This band is unfortunately breaking up, but I could still sense the beauty in the closure of the moment as the band finished on a worshipful note with hands raised with improvisational instrumentation under the words “We will wear compassion, and the gates of hell will not stand against it.”
LAKES (formerly Watshi Wa/Eager Seas)
Seth Roberts has had a rough time finding a consistent sound or name, but with Lakes and a new label home on Militia Group, it seems like he’s perhaps settling down. That happens I guess when you started releasing music in your upper teens. He seems to have found his place with songs that breathe fresh air into the sometimes morose musical atmosphere. His songs of love and life are simple and sincere and his smile is all the stage presence he needs.
Showbread was a great choice to help finish the festival. Their set was well attended and well received as the band stuck to the favorites. A dinosaur appeared on stage and threatened the audience, but his head was chopped off in gory detail (you could see a bone sticking out). Also, a squirt gun shot water out of the hole in the neck and with the read lighting it looked pretty sweet, like blood shooting on the crowd. It made me miss the Deadlines. They spat real fake blood on the crowd.
Again, the funniest band at the festival with not one, but TWO Creed covers. The first was kind of an accident and it happened after Michael broke a string. Instead of fixing it himself, he passed his guitar off to Conrad while he subtly drew the crowd into a tender moment with Arms Wide Open. What’s sad is that he actually played the right chords. Actually, he told me he leads worship and he can just kind of hear it out. Anyways, their music isn’t very good but they remind me of the good old days of ska and punk and sloppy musicianship with smiles.
ESTER DRANG, ROSIE THOMAS
The Gallery stage had a dynamite lineup for Friday night. Ester Drang was joined by legendary bassist Jonathan Ford (Roadside Monument, Unwed Sailor). They played their usual ambient indie rock with a video playing in the background. Their newer songs are a little more poppy, even catchy. Jonathan Ford helped Rosie with his bass playing as well. Rosie’s talking voice made me laugh, her singing voice made me cry (in a good way). Apparently she had some glue or markers before the show.
MERCURY RADIO THEATER
The sci-fi horror surf rock band brought a full brass ensemble to the stage this year. It made for some nice additions to the songs. They played straight through their new album, “Blue Eyed Model” including interlude clips voiced by Otto Bot from Blaster the Rocketman. The crowd was in full apparel with snorkels, squirtguns, creepy masks, and even creepier dance moves. Still, I've seen all of this before and perhaps the novelty has worn a bit.
I don’t know why they had this band play mainstage, maybe it was to make up for some bad sound issues they had last year. In any case, their show was a train wreck. You know when something really tragic happens and you walk by and feel bad, but you can’t help but stare? It was like that. I couldn’t tell which sounds coming out of the speakers were intentional and which were technical difficulties. They got 2 new members or something, and it seems like they struggled for the 2 songs I sat through.
This band just didn’t seem to fit the mainstage. Copeland is the kind of band you should see in a small club with lots of other people who know all of their songs and sing along. They seemed awkward on-stage and Aaron’s voice was just off. He missed notes and even whimped out by skipping of the more challenging vocal lines in the songs. I love this band, but this was not their day.
I looked forward to the late night set with SF59, hoping they would actually use the 1.5 hours allotted to them. The beauty of Starflyer is that the songs are transcendent of time. Jason writes great pop songs that he modifies and molds as time progresses, and the results are always favorable, even when the songs are over a decade old. On the downside, the band was sparse (bass and synth were tracked) and they only used about 35 minutes, playing mostly songs from “Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice.” Martin looked bored and quickly wrapped things up. They finished with an oldie, and I think he meant it when he sang “honestly, I’d rather sleep.”
FAMILY FORCE 5
I walked by and I peeked my head in just to see if anyone would actually go to see this band who I had encountered in my days at a Christian rock radio station. They were playing their usual 80’s hip hop disco breakbeat whatever. I just..I don’t…I mean…the place was packed. What
NASTY TRACK SHORTS (picture censored for obvious reasons)
I don’t know where this fashion started, but its absolutely disgusting. Guys (or girls) were wearing track shorts that showed more than 50% of the flesh above the thigh. It was not only tasteless, its likely to cause brothers and sisters to stumble. I mean, they cover less than like a pair of boxers and the white leg meat is really shiny. I saw hardcore kids going from show to show wearing only shoes and nasty shorts. They probably just got sick of getting their clothes sweaty and gross so they decided to wear nothing.
BUG EYE GLASSES
Lots of people, especially girls were wearing those big glasses like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Ladies, your green eyes are definitely prettier than those glasses.
The Residents Set Up New Online Download Site|
The Residents have long been respected for more than their avant garde music. They have done groundbreaking work in the music video field and the joining of music and computer games into one interactive experience. And that barely scratches the surface. Now they've launched an honor system download service. Now, it appears to be set up so that you can download the music and run-- they won't send the coppers after you. However, I suspect that if people do that the site will disappear. The "suggested download donation" is $1 each. You download then use the supplied button to Paypal the $$$.
This is an interesting move for the collective to take, considering their rather uncompromising stance on music sharing. It'll be interesting to see how well it works out and whether it spawns various clones from other bands/labels/projects.
Even if you're not a Residents fan, check out the link below and see what may be the future of music.
Anathallo's Floating World gets national distro...|
Anathallo's latest album, which is currently only available through their website (www.anathallo.com) or at their live shows, will be available in June nationwide thanks to a distribution deal with Sony/BMG. The band still owns all of their songs, but will supply Sony/BMG with their music as demand calls for it. So basically, Sony/BMG will be ordering the music from Anathallo's existing webstore and then will resell it across the nation. Check out their site for a more complete description.
At first, I didn't know if I liked the album, but after giving it a few more listens I really can't get the melodies and movements out of my head. I really hope this deal helps them to get the attention they deserve.
Ok, so I headed up to Chicago last night to see Brandtson open for The Rocket Summer at the Park West. I hadn't been to the Park West in about 10 years, so it was nice to be back. Great venue and the sound was killer all night. But that's not what this is about.
There has already been a BUNCH of talk about Brandtson's 'new sound'. The general consensus has been everything from accusations of them riding a fad, to it being likeable, to just downright danceable. There's also been alot of talk about the band not staying true to their roots (whatever that means), and that they are only trying to cash in on the latest MTV trends in music that seem to prevail. I too was a bit skeptical, honestly, when I heard the new direction of the album. Blanket judgments have been tossed around based on 30 second sound bites on vh1.com, which I don't really get, since it's all but impossible to get a REAL idea of what a song sounds like in a 30 second clip, but I digress. Even Myk Porter himself said those clips sounded terrible. So take those with a grain of salt.
So last night I met up with the guys to check out their set while they tour with The Rocket Summer. Playing second, they were only allowed a 25 minute set, but they made the most of it. I pretty much knew coming in that the majority of their set was going to consist of material from the new album, and I was correct. The band ripped through 4-5 of the new tracks, including the songs currently being featured on their myspace page, like "Earthquakes & Sharks", and "Here We Go". They opened with the cd's opening track, "A Thousand Years", a slow, low key song that led perfectly live, as well as on the cd, into "Nobody Dances Anymore". Inbetween new songs, they also threw in "The Escapist" and "Mexico" from "Send Us a Signal". The band has always, in my opinion, had good energy live. Their energy is even higher now and more animated as well, which compliments the new material well.
Another big change that fans are getting their first glimpse of is the addition of new bassist Adam Boose. John Sayre enjoyed a long tenure with Brandtson, and admittedly, it was hard to imagine Brandtson without John in the lineup. The direction the band has taken compliments the addition of Adam perfectly, however. Manning not only his bass, but also keys, programming via his Mac, and additional vocals, Adam is a busy guy on stage, but still finds time to rock the songs out while juggling duties. Adam is definitely the perfect fit for the new direction Brandtson has taken.
Here's the bottom line about the 'new' Brandtson everyone seems so mixed on....give them a chance. If you haven't liked them for the last few years, chances are you won't start now. If you liked them with the release of "Send Us a Signal", then this is something of a natural progression for them. But if you think they've departed from their indie roots and traded in their sound for the latest Franz Ferdinand wave, you're wrong. I would compare it to the change U2 made some years ago with the transition years between “The Joshua Tree” and “Pop”. Many fans now find the latter as one of their favorite U2 albums. Brandtson live is still Brandtson. Do they use keys and programming now? Yeah, so what. All the indie elitists who are crying about it now will be all about it in a year when it's the latest indie craze. Go to their live show, or listen to their new cd with an open mind, and you won't be disappointed.
It’s been hard for a while to determine exactly how good or bad Something for Kate actually are.
They write pop music with loud guitars – for most it’s a cataclysm but it’s rarely been disastrous for the Melbourne, Australia trio.
Listening to their new single Cigarettes and Alcohol the first time around I got that impending sense of doom that this was a blowout but I’ve studied the chorus – I mean really studied it – it’s in Dempsey’s vocals. He’s following the guitars and it sounds like he means it.
Their last two albums have largely been dismal shadows of what the band is capable of but this as yet untitled LP due to be released around the end of the financial year. I say the end of the financial year because this band have too often been economical – I want loud clanging and ruckusness – its what guitars were made for.
Sufjan, Brandtson and Augie March|
It was always hard to see anyone beating out Sufjan Stevens for the $5000 New Pantheon award – Illinois is the sort of hard to handle but clearly artsy album that those behind the award were looking for.
Illinois will help define the award.
A mate reckons there are cracks in the sonic façade of Illinois, I don’t know that I agree but I’m not so sure it will stand the test of decade lists in 2010. It’s a brilliant and beautiful album and lyrically timeless but there is something that nags about the songs. Are they really as brilliant as the dressing suggests?
On a far less artsy tangent, Brandtson have done like a crazy flip 180 ollie transition to stalefish – like off the side of a cliff and down the other side. Who knows if they’re going to land.
Their second LP on The Militia Group comes out soon and is a massive departure from their indie/post-emo rock of the past. The departure of just one band member could not have turned them into Depeche Mode fans over night so the interest has obviously been there for a while even if the influence wasn’t.
I’m yet to give Hello Control a decent listen yet but it is available for streaming over at Brandtson’s myspace page and my mate Paul G. Maziar says the aforementioned Mode and The Violent Femmes are the key influences. I’d also take a slab of modern electro; see Soulwax and The Dissociatives.
So it’s clear, Brandtson will either break-out or implode with Hello Control – the album is out May 2.
Also: Augie March.
Moo You Bloody Choir is the band’s most cohesive album to date and should see them further grow in stature outside their Melbourne, Australia base. The album is subtler than Strange Bird and certainly less raucous. Glenn Richards delves further into his Australian history books and also takes a heaping of Bob Dylan along for the ride. Pitchfork will be on this in no time.
The Appleseed Cast - Peregrine|
(I wrote this before realizing someone else posted similar, more eloquent claims regarding the new AC release.)
I heard sometime last year that these guys broke up, so I was pretty stoked when I heard they were back together. Still, I was skeptical of what they could do on this new album coming off of that weird time in their history, not to mention the new members. I thought this would probably be not all that awesome.
Its pretty much the best thing I've heard so far this year. Its everything I loved about the Appleseed Cast, with some new angles. The drum/drum machine work is excellent and adds some darkness to alot of the songs. The lo-fi part on track 2 makes the build up that much more worthwhile. Chris's vocal angle is still whispery and breathtaking, but still stands above the mix when it needs to. I'm still working out the theme of this one, but I'm just happy they're back with such a challenging listen.
So I was out with my friend Sandye a new months back and she was all like "You need to hear this band called Latterman!" So I said okay and she put it in my car CD player. I instantly fell in love.
Latterman hails from Long Island, Ny and is a small part of an exploding music scene in that area. They play punk rock. It's not fast or aggressive like more crusty style and it's not lame watered down pop posing as punk. The music does have some pop appeal but it's all orginal and just good!
This band is so flipping positive it's amazing. You won't read any lyrics about a girlfriend breaking up with them or about how they want to cut their wrists or take lots of medication to get rid of their over whelming depression of living in a rich white neighborhood. You won't read any of that. You will read about how the world sometimes does suck but it can all be fixed.
I really can't express how great this band is and how it's such a great breathe of fresh air! I saw them last week in some small bar in Chicago...they were just amazing!
Here is a small sample of their lyrics...
"My bedroom is like for artist"
-streets gentrified like it's no problem.
boys in bands still singing about killing their girlfriends.
people leave communities while their still struggling.
come on everybody sing along we're to blame.
punks start dealing with their own white priviledge.
we tell all the boys to stop being so aggressive.
actually giving a **** about the place we live in.
come on everybody sing along let's fix this.
i see life alive in many peoples eyes-
Here is their myspace page...check out their 3 best songs here.
PLEASE CHECK THEM OUT!
It's been too long but now we have it.
If Peregrine is not one of the most acclaimed records of the year then I might have to cut my fingers off and never write about music again. Some nice chap declared they're America's anser to Radiohead, not true.
Radiohead always did art for the sake of art, The Appleseed Cast are doing cathartic rock which just happens to have that angular sound that allows critics to call them artistic. Listening to the open track, Ceremony might make you think they're intent on art for arts sake but let that tide fall back and listen to part one of Woodland Hunter. It's certainly more like The Appleseed Cast midwest America fell for and it's arguably the same Appleseed Cast midwest America will fall for again.
Arguable because I am not a mid-west American.
On a not completely dissimilar note - 'cause it's about music - the Sons of Korah just might change your life.
I caught them at a local church a few nights ago and their mixture of Latin, flamenco and eastern dirge is compelling. They are so named because they only play psalms, as the original Sons of Korah did.- given the lyrical conctent it's not hard to imagine the intensity of their performance. This is not the sort of mildly cringe worthy stuff a youth group band might engage in - it is artistically worthy and brilliantly carried out.