Fiddy Love


I’ve used a couple different lenses in my day, but I keep finding myself coming back to my beloved 50mm f/1.8 lens. It’s the lens I used to take pictures of my girls when they were infants so that I could eschew the flash. It’s the lens I use at concerts if I can get close enough to the stage. It’s the lens I use for nice blurry backgrounds. I’m amazed that it’s such a versatile and powerful lens for such a cheap pricetag. I’m of the opinion that everyone with an SLR should own one of these, especially if you don’t have a full-frame sensor, be it Nikon or Canon. At some point, I may break down and get the 35mm f/1.8 DX which seems like it would be easier to use in crowded indoor situations where I can’t back up enough, but for now, this little guy goes with me just about everywhere I go with my camera, even if I have another lens mounted.

Flickrites call the obsession with this lens “Fiddy Love.” Love my Fiddy.

Five artists I hope you know more about soon

Sorry for all the music related posts, but there’s not really much else to talk about right now. Working and keeping an eye on two almost-two-year-olds doesn’t really leave me much time to feed the creative muse.

I was pretty excited when Anberlin hit #1 on 99X earlier this year with “Feel Good Drag” (which, by the way, is a rocking awesome song) because I felt a little bit validated. A lot of days I feel like nobody listens to the music I listen to, but that was a small victory for faith-based music that’s not CCM (much like previous bands like P.O.D., Sixpence None the Richer, Chevelle and others that made a blip on popular radio). Now, here are five more artists that I hope will eventually make it onto radio or at least play to some larger audiences sometime soon. If you’ve been around me, you’ve probably heard me talk about these artists, but I thought I’d put out some little summaries on each of them:

Paper Route
Thus far this year, Absence is running away with title of “favorite album of the year.” It’s not even close. There’s a lot of electronic gadgetry in the songs, but the melodies underneath are memorable and make the songs great even without all the techno beeps and boings. The sound is lush and I catch myself humming the tunes all the time. The lyrics are so earnest, it’s teenage longing and musing about greater things like eternity. There’s a lot of updated technology in the sound of these songs, but this is 80’s music revived. Some of the songs on this album could easily fit into a John Hughes movie soundtrack.

All The Day Holiday
The vocals are similar to Chris Carraba’s crooning, but the songs are not nearly so emo-ish. The Things We’ve Grown To Love is the first full-length album by this band. There’s more of a feel of a brisk march to many of the songs. It’s an album filled with joy as tight drum patterns propel the songs along. It’s hard to not to listen to this one without a smile on your face.

Deas Vail
Do you remember the hair-metal bands that had the singer who could hit those ridiculously high notes that no one had any business singing? That would be Wes Blaylock, but instead of fretboard runs backing up his high-pitched singing, it’s bright melodies on keyboards by his wife Laura and strong guitar, drums, and bass forming a sound that rocks just a little bit, but is more pop music. Much like All The Day Holiday, this band exudes joy and it makes them a pleasure to watch live.

This band has signed on to Word Records, which I found interesting because they don’t really sound like a band I would expect to hear on CCM radio. Classically-informed piano with haunting vocals power along this band. They hail from Fairbanks, Alaska and you can almost feel the cold expanse fill in between the lyrics and music. Theatres is their indie release, and I’m curious to see what happens when they produce an album on a label.

Brooke Waggoner
I’m just starting to get into this artist, but so far I’m loving what I hear. Heal For the Honey is her latest album. It’s piano backed by an ensemble of her friends on strings and it’s beautiful, light, and different. Best of all, it’s music produced by women who do more than shake their hips and wear as little clothing as possible. Pop music needs more intelligent music written and performed by women.

Day 4: Rain, Rain On My Face


Rain fell hard last night so many tents were flooded and washed out. The rain slowed down a little bit, but it didn’t dampen spirits too much. By the end of the day, the infamous “mud children” i.e., kids who couldn’t resist sliding through the mud and walking around covered head to toe in it, were making their appearances on the grounds.

The big news of the afternoon was that the Main Stage acts of the day were moved to covered tents for the evening. War Of Ages and Living Sacrifice played at the Encore 1 stage while The Devil Wears Prada and Underoath played at the Gallery Stage. This had happened before about 14 years ago when the Main Stage was too wet to be safe and those shows are still talked about years later. I suspect that it will be the same case this year.

There was a lot of fun to be had early in the day, though. Seabird started out the day on the Indoor Stage. This piano-based band sounds great and they will be performing later in the day, so I made sure to plan to see them again. Afterwards, a large crowd was present for The Classic Crime as they delivered a high energy show. The last band we saw on the Indoor Stage was The Fold who actually delivered the first full Micheal Jackson cover of the day, playing Billie Jean, complete with a kid brought onto the stage to do MJ’s moondance. The band threw beach balls into the crowd, which after hitting the muddy floor, managed to spray every one with mud as they flew around. Good times.

After dinner, I dropped by the Label Showcase Stage one last time to see a little of the Everything Burns Showcase put on by the band Shirock. I stayed long enough to see The Fold play a couple of covers before heading back to see the last shows of the festival. The Gallery tent was overflowing with throngs of people at the The Devil Wears Prada and Underoath. I haven’t seen many shows that full and I’m sure inside it was chaos. Strobe lights blasted the night sky and the ground thudded from the bass. I caught a little bit of it, but there was some other music I’d rather see. I finished the night with Nitengale and Seabird at the P12/Grrrr tent, just a short slide through the mud from Gallery Stage. Nitengale comes all the way from Fairbanks, Alaska via Nashville. Seabird took the stage next and played everything they knew. It looks like the venue was willing to give them a little more time, but they were out of songs!

So, now I’m home from the long drive back from Cornerstone and just starting to sort through my photos and CD’s from the week. It’s been a great week and the organizers of the festival should be saluted for once again giving us a music and arts festival that just barely kisses the edge of chaos, but at the same time gives us the freedom to enjoy music in whatever manner we like. Whether it’s moshing in a pit of crazy kids, sitting in chairs in the back, taking photographs, journaling, or hanging out with our friends before they turn up the amps and crank it to 11 on a stage powered by a generator on the side of the road, I think everyone enjoyed Cornerstone in their own way. Yet, through all of it, things go mostly on schedule and everyone stays safe and has a great time. There really isn’t any other event like Cornerstone Festival, it’s a surreal week. Every year I don’t know if it will be my last, but I hope that it is not.

Day 3: So Many Choices


There was so much going on at the festival on Day 3 that I was whirling around the festival grounds like one of those kids around the poles at the Flatfoot 56 show the night before. First in the day, however, I camped out at the New Band Stage. At least once every festival I like to spend an afternoon there to see what is coming around in the corner in music at the festival. I was not disappointed as I saw three good bands in a row on the stage. First in the day Everfound performed. The band was a family of kids, immigrants from Russia, that delivered a well-polished set of piano-driven rock music. The kids at the show seemed to love it because their merchandise table was mobbed after the concert was over.

Next, Quiet Science played and they sounded great. The band had great stage presence with the bass player bounding around the stage as they played a show sounding like U2, Mew, and Death Cab For Cutie. This band has worked hard this week, playing generator stages all over the place for the entire festival and I was glad that I finally got a chance to catch them. The last band I caught on the New Band Stage was Poema, two sisters backed up by their younger brother on percussion. The sisters performed a set of music on guitar and piano that was whimsical and lilting. Being a father of two girls myself, I hope someday that my little girls develop an appreciation and talent for music, even if they are never in a band. I found myself enjoying the songs and hoping one day that I’ll get to hear them try out their own creativity.

I was running around fast after that, dropping by the Indoor Stage to see Remedy Drive. This band has recently started to get attention, earning a nomination for a Dove Award earlier in the year and they were well attended. The band took audience participation seriously as the lead singer pulled three kids onto the stage to play keyboards and hit drums and guitars for them as they jammed at the end of a song. From there, I ran quickly down to the Gallery Stage to catch the end of Brooke Waggoner’s show. I managed to catch the last two songs of the show which were jaunty and musical with keys and strings accompanying Waggoner’s voice.

I started the afternoon off seeing Terry Taylor at the Gallery Stage. The front man of so many famous bands, Daniel Amos, Swirling Eddies, Lost Dogs, etc. brought some of his friends, such as Mike Roe and Steve Hindalong on the stage and also his own son to play bass guitar. The group reinterpreted many old classic songs to the delight of the crowd, many who have been fans for decades.

I hadn’t gotten a chance to get down to Main Stage at all this week, so I knew if I didn’t go tonight I wouldn’t get to. I’ve gotten spoiled by having all my shows a short trek away. So, I made the long walk down the hill and around the lake. Just as I reached the lake I heard mewithoutyou finishing up “In A Sweater Poorly Knit” and crested the top of the hill above the stage to see a massive crowd at the show. The band was obviously a crowd favorite for many this year. Following them was Shiny Toy Guns which brought a unique mix of dance and rock music to Main Stage. After a couple songs, though, the rain began to fall and I, having expensive gadgetry and stuff to cover them back up the hill decided I should probably head back.

Fortunately, this gave me enough time to get back for Lost Dogs at the Gallery Stage. Mike Roe, Terry Taylor, Steve Hindalong, and Derri Daugherty took a trip on Route 66 last summer, documenting the journey on video. The show featured some nice rope twirling that Steve learned on the trip. I had leave after a couple of songs, though, because there was one show at Cornerstone that I couldn’t miss. When the best man in your wedding plays a show at Cornerstone, that trumps everything else. Dave Richards was pumping out beats at the After Hours dance club. I’ve said before that you can only go to Cornerstone so many times before you are driven to create also while you are there, whether it be playing music, painting, photography, or writing. Indeed, there we were, Dave behind the turntables and me photographing him.

The rain started to fall a little harder, but it didn’t slow things down. Cool Hand Luke played what many believe to be their last show at Cornerstone. Mark Nicks played alone on keyboards while his wife joined him on a couple of songs and shared his heart about his many past years at Cornerstone and how much it meant to him as he played a setlist of both old and new songs.

I did a loop around the grounds to catch as much as I could at midnight. The Gallery Stage featured music sponsored by To Write Love On Her Arms. Zac Williams played a smoky set of soulful rock and blues. Stephen Christian, fresh off of what I hear was an epic set by Anberlin (sad I missed it, but there’s only so much you can see) played some new music from his new project, Anchor and Braille. Following them, Jamie Tworkowski came on stage and shared about TWLOHA. He made an interesting comparison about the life of the recently departed Micheal Jackson and how his life was a stark contrast of childlike wonder and deep, darkness from being wounded and wounding others and that many of us are the same. His organization is doing a lot of good for people suffering from depression and self-mutilation, I would encourage you to check it out.

Meanwhile, The Crucified played a reunion show at Cornerstone for what must be the first time in many, many years. This was a special moment for long-time veterans of the festival and the band delivered a hot set of punk/thrash music contrast with Mark Solomon’s sense of humor. Nearly twenty years ago, people would be stage diving off of the stage left and right and crowd surfing and moshing all around, but as he laughed, everyone her is too old for that.

On the way back, I passed White Collar Sideshow, a drum and bass theatrical act at the Underground Stage. The frontman and his wife were speaking a powerful message about pornography, fidelity, and living life for God instead of getting trapped in the American Dream. I couldn’t stay for long, but I reflected on their words compared to the speaking going on at the same time for TWLOHA. I hope Cornerstone is doing at least a small part to help beat back the hurts of the world in many of the people here and gives them hope and renewed faith in God, because once the festival ends, the reality of life hits back hard.

Day 2: Easing Into “Cornerstone Time”


On Day 2, everyone was still dragging a little bit. It’s a lot tougher adjustment to “Cornerstone hours” from the real world when you’re in your 30’s. Poor Becky took some “non-drowsy” cough medicine to combat the dust at Cornerstone and was in a zombie-like state for most of the day. She did not, however, do a tribute to MJ and break into the Thriller dance.

I didn’t do a very good job of taking notes this day, so this might require a little digging into my brain to remember what went on. The day started off with the band Army of Me on the Indoor Stage. Only the lead singer could make the festival and so he made the drive from Washington DC in his car with his acoustic guitar and arrived shortly before his show. His set was pretty good though and I would be interested to hear how he sounds with a full band behind him. Next on the schedule was 77’s frontman Mike Roe at the Gallery Stage. Roe also played on acoustic guitar, but has many more years of technical experience and it shows in his deft playing. Roe played a couple songs from the latest 77’s album which features many old gospel tunes and he’s digging deeper into the stash to record some more old gospel songs on a solo album. He entertained us with a story about the song “Jonah and the Village” which was so theologically incorrect but entertaining that he couldn’t resist recording it. The audience gave Roe standing ovations when he started and when he ended appreciating his status as a long-standing veteran of the festival.

I saw Deas Vail for the second time during the week. The show earlier in the week at the Indie Community Stage may have had a more energetic crowd, but this was probably a better performance by the band. It’s too bad the two couldn’t be combined together, but nonetheless I really like this band. They sound different than anything else out there and they are getting better stage presence with every show they do. I’m hoping they continue to get bigger and bigger.

Jeff Elbel’s drummer, Andrew Oliver, played a solo set over the Jesus Village stage that re-told the story of The Prodigal Son. Following him, Jeff Elbel + Ping took the stage for a looser set with more covers. While the set the day before on the Gallery stage was probably more technically proficient, today’s show was probably more fun. The band started off with Badfinger’s “No Matter What” and just kept cranking along. The lineup was mixed up a little bit with Maron on vocals, who sounded great, and Harry Gore on electric guitar, who is something of a fixture at Cornerstone as he performs solo on electric guitar in the food court every day (almost every time I walk by he’s playing “All Along the Watchtower.”)

I take a flier on a band called The Rocketboys on the Indie Community Stage. The lead singer hurled ten times(!) into the port-a-potties the day before, but he was a professional and sang fantastic for the show. I really enjoyed their show and I’ll have to check out their CD. This is the fun part of Cornerstone, discovering new bands.

I was initially a little skeptical about going to see Rodent Emporium, a band that everyone gushed about last year, fearing that I wouldn’t get it. It’s bizzarre to say the least, Scottish punk music about nonsensical stuff like snakes, radiation, being a man, etc., but one thing for sure is that it’s lots of fun as it had the crowd there in a frenzy. Probably not my favorite kind of music, but I have to admit I had a lot of fun watching the spectacle.

I had seen Astellaway on a generator stage earlier in the week and was curious enough to check them out again. They have a sound not all the different from a band like Paramore. They had a whole lot of energy and I wish more people would’ve have been there to see them as they do have potential. Jerry joked that they were “stalking” us during the week as the band members kept turning up in the crowds at the same shows as us. I just chalked it up to the fact they have good taste in music.

The Record Kid played next on the Indie Community Stage and they were fun, melodic, and entertaining. They were a new band, but they definitely had the sound of a band that had toured more and had more experience than some of the bands I saw earlier in the week. Since they are from here in the Atlanta area, maybe I’ll get a chance to catch them again at some point.

Only at Cornerstone do you have to make the choice between seeing one of the most popular bands at the festival, Flatfoot 56, and one of the most legendary bands at the festival, Stavesacre, which is playing only a couple hundred of yards away. I did my best to try and catch a little of both.

I stopped in quickly at the After Hours Dance Barn to visit with my friend David who is one of the folks keeping things running there. The place was jumping and kids were dancing. Everybody looked like they were having a lot of fun. It must be a party if Link from Zelda is on the dance floor getting his groove on.

Flatfoot 56 had the Underground Stage decorated as a Mexican village and took the stage dressed in sombreros for a “Fiesta Night.” The crowd, which had arrived early and anxiously waited during a long soundcheck whirled into motion as soon the band began. The effect was a chaotic, but somehow orderly mass of kids that wheeled around the tent in a giant circle pit as bagpipes, guitars, and mandolin played from the stage. It’s really quite a visual that I don’t think I can describe accurately. I’m sure there were more flags, but I saw two flags for Scotland, an American flag, and a flag for the City of Chicago making its way around the crowd (and of course, a lawn ormanent Santa Claus making his rounds also.) I was totally surprised the tent was still standing the next, though I did hear stories about the tent poles swaying and bending during show… scary.

I managed to catch a couple of songs and then quickly made my way over to the Encore tent where Stavesacre had returned to the festival. I believe this is their first trip back to the festival in about five years. The crowd was composed of fans who all had fond memories of their shows in years past here at Cornerstone. The band, aware of the crowd’s sentimentalism, played mostly a set of old favorites, plus a couple new songs off of their EP. Many of the songs had special meaning to different people in the crowd and got strong reactions when they started them. It was a different, less rowdy kind of crowd (all of the excitable kids were at Flatfoot 56 or The Chariot, I guess), but still a very appreciative kind of crowd. Mark Solomon returns tonight with another one of his memorable bands, The Crucified. Maybe some of those kids at the Flatfoot 56 show will stop by and see where their roots come from.