I know these notes are ridiculously long, but I primarily do it for my own recording. And if people actually want to read it all, hey, I won’t stop you
The Fun Continues
By Wednesday morning it was time for a shower in the shower halls that everyone agrees smell like eggs. Don’t ask me why. Then Stephen and I caught some early worship at the Anchor Stage with Sean Michel. There was a funny little kid rocking out to his ukulele.
John and I made our final Wal-mart run, which included some more excellent eggs and bacon and some extra bedsheets for the upcoming Flatfoot 56 toga party. As we got back to camp, time was running out before Wavorly’s show at one, and I hurried to get to the tent on time.
But it was all for no avail. Before Wavorly started, a guy from The Wedding (who was scheduled to play after Wavorly) was like, “Hey, so since we’re playing like 3 times this year we decided to have some fun with this set and do a little Wavorly vs. Wedding battle where they play a few songs, we play a few songs, we cover each other’s songs, etc, etc, etc…”
I interpreted this as, “Since we’re playing more times than Wavorly, we’re gonna screw over their set because we think we’re awesome.” This didn’t help my already-strained image of them as wanna-be “we’re-so-hardcore” kind of rockers. See, we wanted to see Children 18:3 again during the time The Wedding was supposed to play, not stick around for two hours to see Wavorly play some disconnected, scattered songs. John and I watched Wavorly play two songs and left. Mike, Jacob, and Stephen came along later and stayed for five songs – four by The Wedding and one by Wavorly which was only a Wedding cover. (I think it was at this point that John cracked that it’d be funny to go to a show by The Wedding and hold up a sign that said “Up next.. The Divorce”)
But you don’t care about my complicated relationships with bands, right? At any rate, the next hour more than made up for it.
We saw Children 18:3 again, where they put on another amazing show. My favorite part, though, was when David told everybody to turn around and stretch their hands to the front gate, and say to those protestors, “We bless you in Jesus’ name.” He explained that they didn’t agree with what they were saying, but that they’re probably still our brothers and sisters, and he wanted to show them forgiveness and love instead of condemnation and hatred. I wish I could see the look on the leaders’ faces if they learned that this surely-heathen goth-dressing punk rocker was, in fact, blessing them.
On our way back to camp, I saw someone wearing a familiar baby blue T-shirt with the catch phrase, “I could talk about this stuff for hours,” and I met an Apple Store employee all the way from Maryland. As we neared the campsite, we heard the familiar strings intro of Skillet’s “Comatose” coming from Main Stage.
One advantage of camping close to Main Stage is you can hear in the afternoon when the bigger bands are sound-checking for their night shows. The field will be filled with thousands of adoring fans in a few hours, but almost no one knows they’re down there for those few moments, giving you an unparalleled chance, with a little luck and timing, to say hello.
Anyway, for years John has insisted that he knew the guitarist from Skillet, as Ben Kasica’s family has a history with New Covenant. So John and Mike headed down to Main Stage, and even though Skillet was done sound-checking before they got there, Ben – and new drummer Jen – took a few minutes to talk to the few fans who were waiting. Ben recognized John and also promised a Tiki picture later.
We’d promised our neighbors that we would check out their band More In Sorrow on one of the generator stages that afternoon, but first we had to get our togas ready. Flatfoot 56, in typical awesome random fashion, had been advertising that everyone should bring (modest) togas to their Wednesday midnight show, so we broke out the bedsheets and safety pins and prepared our costumes. As we headed out to visit our neighbors, our togas drew much attention, for while news of the toga party had infiltrated most of the camp, few people had put theirs on this early. A golf cart rushed past us as Bethany – I think – called out, “Hey, Tent Boy!”
We went back to camp to eat and prepare for the evening, as Wednesday was the kick-off night for Main Stage festivities. We helped our generous North Carolina youth group neighbors take care of some “excess” chili, then headed down to catch some Family Force 5.
There are a few disadvantages to Main Stage with all of its majestic size and sound, extravagant video screen, and luxurious lights and pyrotechnics. There is a loss of the intimate atmosphere of the shows in smaller tents, as it’s much harder to get as close to the bands. And the impressive video screen shows an unending and repetitive cascade of advertisements and promotions between the bands.
Look, I’m glad Compassion International helps sponsor Cornerstone, and I support their ministry and integrity. And it’s true that we’re so spoiled that we could afford to help out more starving children across the world. It’s just a shame that they have to shove it down your throat so much at Cornerstone that you feel like they won’t be happy until everyone stops going to Cornerstone and sponsors children with the money. (As Mike started singing, “Everyone needs Compassion…”)
I was also slightly bothered by Relevant magazine’s use of the intro to “The Adventure” by Angels & Airwaves as the background music to their promo video. There’s nothing wrong with A&A, once you get past Tom Delonge’s, well, Tom-ness, and the intro (which does sound pretty cool) worked for the clip, but come on, this is a Christian magazine advertising at a Christian music festival, and there’s 500 songs that would have worked just as well and would have given somebody some appreciated exposure, but instead they went with an overhyped mainstream band. How much did they have to pay to use that clip?
Family Force 5 had a typical fun show, complete with Hulk gloves and the dancing bunny.
Skillet was also enjoyable, especially with the presence of a talented violinist who looked like he was plucked straight from an orchestra.
However, when Jacob told me about the Showbread show that occurred at the same time, I regretted not seeing them instead, especially since this was my third time seeing Skillet, who, while entertaining, was not much different from previous shows.
Showbread, on the other hand, did a very different show from their short set on Tuesday. They recently put out two albums at the same time that each tell a dark, redemptive story with the accompanying booklet, and the music serves as more of a soundtrack to the story, with minute and second markers in the text to help guide the reader. On Wednesday night, they played straight through one of the stories, complete with video clips on TV screens and dedicated fans singing and screaming along to the underlying lyrics that weren’t even included in the booklets. I’m sure it was an incredible experience, one that will probably never be duplicated at Cornerstone.
Flyleaf followed Skillet to close out the night on Main Stage. I saw them last year as well, and while I’m very glad for the huge mainstream exposure “All Around Me” has gotten them, my appreciation for their marketable rock sound has only continued to wane. Besides, it was starting to sprinkle, and it was getting cold at night wearing my toga.
So I found Stephen and headed over to the Underground Stage (which is an above-ground tent) an hour early for Flatfoot’s toga party. There was still a whole other band to play, but we found one of the Flatfoot guys and got a Tiki picture with Stephen. He found us a minute later with a surprising question: “Can our guitarist bring the Tiki cup on stage during the show? He was looking for a chalice to use…”
We were honored and delighted.
The tent continued to fill as The Last Hope played, and every four or five fans had donned a toga for the momentous occasion. While waiting for Flatfoot, we met Richard, a long-time fan who was at his first Cornerstone and first Flatfoot show. With the incredible experience of one Cornerstone and three Flatfoot shows behind us, we knew he was in for a treat.
Midnight struck, and the band came on the stage with several other togaed folks. Tiki saw it all from his spot on the guitar amp.
They staged an official announcement…
…sprayed some Pepsi, and kicked off the show. Despite the fullness of the tent, the fan density adjusted enough to clear a large circle pit and allow fans to run laps for pretty much the entire length of the show (with the exceptions, of course, of the Gears and the Braveheart charge). I cut in and out with competing levels of exhaustion and a desire to join the camaraderie, and it was a blast. If you’ve never been a part of it, it’s very difficult to describe the pleasure of the friendly unity that comes from running around with and running into people while listening to Celtic punk with bagpipes and mandolins. Everyone looks out for each other, and it’s very rare that someone gets hurt – although with the pressing of the crowd combined with toga malfunctions on big boys I know I felt sweat on my back that wasn’t mine.
In addition to the fun music and incredible fellowship, Flatfoot 56 shows are enhanced by the constant encouragement thrown out by the band members. They don’t stop with the obligatory “We do this for Jesus YAY!!” (which is all well and good and has its place). They challenge their fans to engage in discipleship, to love the unloved, and to never try to go it alone. All of these factors make Flatfoot 56 a perennial Cornerstone highlight.
They closed with “Amazing Grace,” followed by an encore, and then I took another trip to the P12 tent to see if my volunteer friends needed help closing down for the night. I’m sure I reeked something horrible, but Bethany and Mike, who had been able to join the party for a little while, graciously refrained from commenting. It only took a couple minutes to close the tent flaps, and I was able to hitch a golf cart ride back to our campsite.
Three days down, two to go.