That time of the year has come and gone again – the week where a bunch of crazy people from around the world all decide to go camping in Bushnell, Illinois: Cornerstone Festival. This was my 11th year at the festival and a pretty special year for several reasons:
- I was alive and my condition was recovered to the point that the doctors said I could go.
- Since we're getting “older” and friends get careers and families, fewer of us go each year. My friend Doug was able to go, though, which was cool because he missed last year. Also, without him I likely would not have ventured there on my own.
- Meeting people who had been praying and thinking about me during my whole ordeal – people who I had not met before. Humbling and encouraging; that's community.
- Excellent weather. Low 80s with a breeze most of the week, and chilly nights.
- Refreshment. This week of the year is always a refreshing one for me, but this year seemed even moreso. I love the diversity there, but still with a common sense of community.
Tuesday we drove out there and found a good camp spot next to some friendly Oklahomans. It had rained a fair bit during our drive there, but thankfully no rain had hit the festival yet, so we set up on dry ground. After settling in, we set out to meet up with my friend Isha, who hadn't seen me since before my “incident” (ok, so I still don't really know what term to use to refer to all that). She was excited to see me and gave me a hug; she's a sweetheart. She had cooking responsibilities for their group, so Doug and I wandered around and caught a really good band (Soular) playing on one of the generator stages. New, unexpected music like that is part of the fun of the festival.
It started raining, so we hung around under the stage tents for some Tooth & Nail bands, then went to the merch tents. Nicole, from the Eisley forum, had gotten in touch with me the week before and told me she was going to be there helping (wo)man the booth for her friend's company, Job Apparel Collective. Meeting people that you “know” online for the first time is always an interesting thing (a good interesting, thankfully – in most of my experiences). We had not really communicated outside the forum, but I guess that was enough because there was no awkwardness, it was more like seeing a friend you just have not talked to in a while. She and her church group had been praying for me, which is pretty awesome. Despite her claim of being “shy”, she gave me a hug, which was a nice surprise. Hugs are awesome by the way, and I had two that day.
Wednesday I don't remember a lot about the day. I think I mostly wandered since there was not much music I wanted to see. The weather started off nice, but by afternoon I believe it was raining again. I was excited to see Cool Hand Luke at midnight, so Doug and I went a bit early to get a decent spot. They were great, as usual. I was pretty tired and sometimes their melodic songs did not really help, but I stayed for the whole set.
Thursday was a rough morning. I was volunteering at the fest during the mornings and didn't have a full nights sleep due to the midnight concert (Cornerstone isn't really about “getting much sleep” anyway). During the afternoon I decided to get my first shower of the fest. Yeah, sometime on Tuesday there was a problem with the wells on the fest grounds, so there was no water in the shower houses until Wednesday evening (otherwise yes, I would have showered sooner). Thursday evening was pretty much a no-brainer for me, The Violet Burning, Rosie Thomas, Leigh Nash, and Over the Rhine all played at the same stage. The only conflict was Starflyer 59, which I split half and half with Leigh's set. I didn't make it through much of Over the Rhine, they were the midnight set and I was too tired to do that two nights in a row, so I went to bed after a few songs.
Rosie Thomas was the highlight of that evening. She has such an amazing voice, then when she talks she sounds like a little girl. It's not an act, she just has a totally different singing voice. She's quite an entertainer all-around, saying a lot of funny things between or during songs. Her brother played piano with her and she introduced him, “this is my brother on piano... we just played a love song together. If you think your life is pathetic... you're doing fine.” Of course this is in her little-girl speaking voice and she giggles a fair bit, so that makes it even funnier. She kept making mention of “after the show maybe Sheila will show up” and it turns out that Sheila is her alter-ego stand-up comedian character; she had us laughing so hard.
Friday afternoon I caught a screening of What Would Jesus Buy? which was quite a funny and thought-provoking documentary about Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. It will be in theaters this December, I recommend checking it out. I ran into Dana there, another Eisleyforumoid that I met a couple years ago at Cornerstone, so we talked for a bit. I went to Whitecross for a little bit with Doug, which was cool and funny at the same time. I left before they played their song I like most, “In the Kingdom”. (Teen Mania people who for some reason are unaware, that's the video that has Ron Luce and Dave Hasz in it.)
Saturday afternoon Nicole and I were hanging out and we decided to go by Dana's camp site to see if we could get an Eisley forum group picture, but unfortunately she had already left the day prior. Scott was there, though; he used to be in the (great) band General Sherman with Dana. It's a good thing we went by there, he was actually looking for a ride back to Minneapolis, which is where Nicole's group happened to be heading. He had a couple other options, but by the end of the night they had all fallen through, so he was able to catch a ride with them. If we had not gone over there, he very well might still be stuck at Cornerstone today. The three of us hung out that evening and saw some good music. My favorite was probably Timbre, an amazing harpist. She apparently plays with mewithoutYou and some other bands, but this was her own stuff and it was beautiful. “If Radiohead and Sigur Ros had a baby and it played a harp, it might sound a little like this when it grew up.”
Despite being really tired (long week), I had a lot of fun that night, probably because it's the “last blast” and I knew we all had to go our separate ways the next day. Leaving is always a bit sad as “real life” needs to resume, but there's always next year. I think I've talked Jamie (the male version) from the Eisley forum to go next year, and apparently we're going to have a “pun-off” since we're both pretty good/bad (perspective) with puns. Ok, this post is far too long now. Congratulations and thanks if you read through all of it.