It should come as no surprise to me that a crisis arises right as I prepared to leave for Cornerstone Festival. I started feeling ill on Saturday and went to see the doctor yesterday on Sunday and sure enough, I had strep throat. Ugh. Fortunately, the antibiotics started to kick in as I left for the festival, but it definitely had a negative effect on me during the whole week as I found myself dragging many afternoons and sleeplessly tossing around in my bed at night.
This isn’t the first year that something has come up right as I’m about to leave for Cornerstone Festival. Just a few years ago, someone decided to run up a couple thousand dollars using my credit card number right as I was about to leave, so I had to frantically call and cancel the card and find alternate ways to get money for the festival. Such is the way of my trips to Cornerstone.
Nonetheless, we boarded the car and made our way up to Illinois. Jerry Ray, our faithful driver rented an SUV and we were fortunate to have no car problems despite the dire message “REPLACE OIL NOW” that kept appearing in the dashboard. We picked up Glenn in Nashville and made pretty good time on the way up, closing the day with an amazing sunset and then thousands of fireflies lighting up the sides of the road as we approached Western Illinois University.
The dorms at WIU are, to put it best, spartan, but up to this year we at least had internet connections. For whatever reason, we couldn’t connect through the ethernet (at least midway into the week) and the wireless connection was apparently at the base of the building and we were out of luck sixteen floors up. Nonetheless, the dorm was at least clean, quiet, and very, very cold, which I’m sure did no help to my suffering sinuses.
On to the actual festival. In the old days, I always called the first day “Day 0″ because it wasn’t an actual festival day, but rather a day sponsored by Tooth N’ Nail Day. So, I don’t know what day it is (generator bands had already been playing on Monday), so I’ll just call it Tuesday. Early in the festival, especially with the generator stages, flexibility is the key word at Cornerstone. Things invariably go off schedule. Bands fail to show up. Stages lose power. Things happen. So, sometimes the band you intended to see end up playing at a different time. That means I’ve been on the move a lot, trying to see what I’m intending to see. Early in the day, I caught Karina Mia, who played a Jason Mraz cover for us on ukelele. The Rendition played probably the best set of he early afternoon with a nice rock show with keyboards and guitars and nice, strong vocals from the female lead singer. I’m trying to find their music to download, but haven’t had any success yet.
Over on the Anchor Stage, Allen Aguirre exorted the crowd “who can approach the throne of God? You can!” with his band Men As Trees Walking. The band is truly a family as one of the singers, Aquirre’s daughter and one of the guitarists, his son-in-law, are expecting a child very, very soon. The worship music they play is a relaxed tone that goes against just about every rule in the book for “worship music” in church, but it’s relaxing and comforting in another way. The Anchor stage was in an odd location, located behind Main Stage and far from everything else, so I found myself less inclined to walk to it.
Continuing along the lines of flexibilty, I wandered by the old Main Stage grounds heading out to the new Main Stage. I have to say I really like how the Main Stage towers above the rest of the grounds. You can see it from almost anywhere at the festival. When the Main Stage was over by the lake, it was special because it was separate from the rest of the action. Now, however, its the center of the action.
During the afternoon, I saw Sleep For Sleepers where perhaps by fate, fell asleep myself. That’s no indictment on the band. They were actually pretty good, it’s just that I was seriously tired and still recovering from illness. We then walked over to the generator tent where the bizarre and entertaining Scottish punk band, Rodent Emporium was set to play. They were still setting up, so I stepped over to the next tent where Oh Sister, Oh Brother were playing. They were playing a pleasant piano-led trio. I don’t remember a whole lot about it (blame it on the sleeplessness and sickness) so I’ll have to check out their music again. Then, Rodent Emporium was on and the crowd was dancing and the band was playing their strange songs. It’s entertaining, I’ll give it that much.
Switchfoot was one of the ideal bands to start off the new Main Stage at the new location as they drew a nice big crowd on a cooling evening. One of the great things about Cornerstone is that many of the performers are also fans. While I was down front for the Switchfoot show (which by the way, thumbs up for the new Main Stage. Loved seeing everyone all gathered in the middle of the grounds and the views of the stage were perfect even if you weren’t down front), the lead signer for Nitengale was standing right in front of me. Only 40 minutes later I was watching him performing on the Chelsea Cafe stage. Seems like everyone is here to see someone perform.
Speaking of Nitengale, we were in for a surprise when the lead singer appeared on stage alone and announced he was the only member in the band left. I was a little apprehensive that the songs would sound a little flat without the backing band, but instead the solo performance on guitar and piano reminded me just what an incredible voice Josh Baumgartner has. At the end of the show, he was selling a burned CD which ended up being the latest Nitengale CD, Oh My Heart plus a couple demos presumably for his next project. He said he had a new agent and was putting together a new band and I hope it all comes to fruition, because there is serious potential there.
We wrapped the night up early with everyone still dragging a little bit from travel and me still a little sick, doing the rare thing and going back to the dorms from Cornerstone before midnight.