by Evan Stanek
So to begin, I would like to explain some of my tendencies as a Cornerstone attendee. From my past experiences, I have this terrible fear that I am missing the big show. Too many times I have overheard people talking about this or that band that played the most amazing show you’ve ever seen while I saw some less cool band on some other stage that I’d just rather not talk about. A perfect example of this was in 2000, I saw P.O.D. at mainstage while my friend Erik went to see Pedro the Lion. I am one pathetic loser…but you probably would have seen P.O.D. back then too.
So the next year I went, I ran frantically from tent to tent making sure I didn’t miss a single thing. See, I was trying to avoid the simple truth of the economic principle known as “opportunity cost”, that by doing what I was doing, I was missing out on the next best thing in line.
This year, I chilled out a bit and just took in what I could take in, and yes, I actually relaxed. I enjoyed the Decapolis Bible Study times, got to talk to some bands and such, and as a result, I truly enjoyed this year’s experience. In light of my plans to write this, I did take in a number of bands, even some I wasn’t interested in, because I knew some others may like to hear about it. So without further ado…
Slow Coming Day played a toned down acoustic set. I fell asleep at this show, the reason being, I and 4 others packed into a Toyota Corolla and drove through Wednesday night, arriving at 5:00 am Thursday morning, and were woken up at 6:30 by neighbors playing…you guessed it…Kirk Franklin. Wow, you’re cool. So I only had 1.5 hours of sleep.
Far-Less was actually a pretty impressive band. Their sound is pretty technical, has some metal leanings, and they pull it off rather well live. Guitar effects abounded for the final song as the lead singer joined on the drums. Middle portions of their set lagged, but their show ended quite well.
Discover America was one of my favorite shows of the fest with walking bass-lines, catchy choruses, and intricate guitar lines. The drummer had some crazy facial expressions going, and the bass-lines were flawlessly executed. Staples played both monosynth and guitar on a few tracks, which didn’t come off as beautifully as on the cd, but still managed to convey the impressiveness of the songs Green eyes and Call It In The Air. Chris Staples sucks at writing bad music. See this band if you get the chance.
As Cities Burn put on an energetic display of whatever-core and finished with a flourish with their most well-known song 1:27. I like their sound.
The Chariot: this is what ADHD kids do when they grow up. Flailing guitars, 13/7 time or something like that, and of course the signature sounds of Josh Scogin. The show had some technical problems, but an encore performance and the final show of the festival later on the weekend allowed them to redeem themselves. Scogin’s comments from stage “We love you, Jesus loves you, what else matters” were poignant enough and made all of the skeptics in the crowd happy enough. If the amount of dust in the air above the mosh pit is any indication of how much a crowd likes a band, then this band was one of the festival favorites.
mewithoutYou’s much anticipated set began quietly with a young woman plucking on a harp. Flowers were strewn about the stage, and the microphones were actually hidden from view by bouquets. The harp was rolled off of the stage, and the band took the stage playing through the first half of their album “Catch for us the Foxes” uninterrupted. Aaron had a few comments from stage and then the band kicked into the second half of the album. Flowers flew from time to time, and the new bassist seemed to fit right in. It is not often that you find a band that has all good songs on their album such that they would play them all in a live setting, nor can most bands pull it off for various technical/talent reasons, but they did it and did it well. This show was pretty much perfect, they transitioned sweetly between songs, and chose not to spoil their perfect show by playing an encore.
Mercury Radio Theater was quite possibly the tightest band of the fest. Their garage horror surf punk sound got people dancing in ways never seen before. One observer commented “What is it that makes me move like this?”. Between songs, a slideshow with narration told the story of Victor the outcast vampire kid. Their music is actually really good, and seeing them live is an extra treat.
Third Day….just kidding
After listening incessantly to Foxhole’s debut the Wintering Tree, I was excited to check out these veteran indie rockers. The air was filled with a full array of trumpets, keys, drums, guitar, and bass intricately woven and layered together to produce music with maturity beyond the musicians’ years.
Decapolis favorites Divebomber indeed had a fun set with Julia Zulia screaming to a few originals, and some banter about peeing in sinks/showers between Julia, Conrad, and drummer Chris of former Calibretto fame. This show brought to mind a kinder gentler time when bands didn’t take themselves so seriously (Ghoti Hook, Five Iron Frenzy, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, the art of music should be taken seriously and crafted with the greatest skill given to us by God, but people shouldn’t take themselves so seriously. I mean, have some fun up on stage, you’re a freaking rock star! Oh yeah, they played “My Bike” by Ghoti Hook, there was a skank pit and they closed with Stryper. Nice.
Last Tuesday had a similar performance, just plain fun. Bass player Karl is the funniest person ever.
Flatfoot 56 got a great crowd response at the underground stage with a “3-pole circle pit”. The Chicago natives no doubt had some locals in the crowd to chant to their sing along celtic-influenced punk rock songs. They’re not very tight live, but the end of their set offered a touching moment with their rendition of “Amazing Grace”. It started slow, picked up for the pit again, then finished with single chords strummed on a guitar. I actually cried a little to see all of the punk rockers with tats, glue, Mohawks and black leather with hands raised praising God.
The Violet Burning’s atmospheric alternative rock filled the Gallery (aka “old people”) stage. Their soft to loud rock songs pick their moments and you enjoy the journey.
A similar experience was Ester Drang’s show, accompanied by a screen displaying some artsy imagery. They didn’t have a bass player, at least that I could see, yet bass tracks were laid throughout the set. Good show.
House of Heroes played an energetic set to a receptive crowd. Part indie, part punk, part power pop, I’m sure they picked up some new fans with their cleverly crafted melodies. Favorite songs were Buckets for Bullet Wounds, Friday Nights, and Serial Sleepers.
I thought more people would show up for Ballydowse, but then I remembered that Copeland and As I Lay Dying were playing at the same time. Its too bad, cause their show was really good, playing a bunch of old favorites and a couple of new ones as well. I’d consider them to be “ethnic punk” but their newer songs kind of took more and indie-rock direction, leaving behind the conventional punk sound and structure.
Copeland was well attended and rightfully so. I only got to hear a few songs, but their new stuff from In Motion translated well into the live setting. They played a number of favorites to close the set from their debut Beneath Medicine Tree. The crowd begged for one more, I wanted 5.
Yellow Second played on the Impromptu stage. Something was missing from their cd, and it was still missing during their show.
John Davis from Superdrag played a nice set, but I don’t think I really “get” what the big deal is. Superdrag was cool, his new stuff is a little more for older people I guess. Nevertheless, after releasing an album just 3 months ago, played some new stuff that will be on his NEXT record.
For a little culture I took in a late night set from the metal band Aletheian. No bass player in this band, just 2 guitar players, lead vocals, and a drummer. They are incredibly talented even if you don’t get into the whole screaming thing. Their dueling guitar solos were hard not to enjoy, and all of the metal kids held their “meedly-mee” fingers in the air. Sweet.
Roper had a fun show at Encore 1. He needs to talk more and play less music.
The Roosevelts had a low turnout due to Mute Math’s performance. Too bad, their set was flawless. They chose their more upbeat punk-style songs like Fall Asleep and It Can’t End This Way, but they did tone it down to play a request for me, “Your Song”. The best song of the set was “Struthio Camelus” with its sweet 9/8 weezer-esque guitar break.
One of the last bands I took in was The Myriad. In reference to this band, you might hear people saying things like “Christian rock needed one of these bands” and “I’m glad we have a Christian band that sounds like this” which translates to “Now we have a Christian band that sounds like Muse and old Radiohead”. They did pretty well, and did have their differences from those obvious influences. Still, by this time in the fest, I was musically tired and the songs kind of blended from one to the next.
The last show I saw this year was Brandtson playing on the gallery stage. I saw Brandtson 2 other times in the last 2 months and thought maybe their Cornerstone show would be a little different. They played very well, but their set list didn’t change at all from their recent tours. Still I chose to enjoy the “Dance Party”. They closed with You Do the Science, a pleasant detour from the Send Us a Signal laden set.
The turnout at this year’s festival was a little low, the main walkways that are normally packed were surprisingly loosely populated. This is probably due to a number of well-known acts’ absence including:
Mae, Showbread, underOATH, Norma Jean, Extol, Joy Electric, Demon Hunter, P.O.D., Blindside, etc. Maybe these bands have kind of outgrown the Cornerstone experience. It was nice to see a lot of new bands getting some deserved attention.