RIP Chris Squire

One of my favorite bass guitar players passed away. If you want to see some over-the-top, goofy and amazing bass guitar playing for ten minutes, watch this:

The video doesn’t convey it accurately, live in concert, the bass would rattle your teeth, it was a sight to behold and hear.

Chris was always a man of excess, both on stage and in his personal life. One of my favorite instruments that he would bring on stage was a TRIPLE-NECKED guitar (4 string bass, 6 string standard electric, 4 string fretless) for “Awaken” It was a gigantic monster that only he could tame.

One of the songs that Chris would play during his solo was “Amazing Grace” inspired by his youth as a choir boy in England. I don’t know what his relationship with the Lord was, like I said he was a man of excess, though it wasn’t his hard living that killed him, it was cancer, but I hope he has found peace at the end. And thanks for all the music, I can’t wait to see Yes in August and see what they do to honor his life.

The 10th Anniversary of The Everglow

MAE in concert

In 2006, I posted about how a concert reenergized me when I was weary. I wrote that before I had children and truly learned the meaning of tired. The band was MAE and the album they were performing was The Everglow, my favorite album from the year 2005 and maybe one of my all-time favorite albums. Only a few years later, the band lost momentum and faded away. I had good memories from the concert, but I didn’t think I would ever hear those songs in concert again.

Surprise, surprise, the band reunited, all 5 members from the album, and announced they would tour and play the entire album from beginning to end. As it turned out, our own group reunited for the show. Jerry and I were no-brainers for the show, but to our delight Chuck even traveled from Tennessee and it was the same as the 2006 show even if we are a little longer in the tooth.

We used to eat a Jaqbo’s over by Georgia Tech when I was in school, but that is long-gone. In it’s place is a “little Italy” section with a pizzeria, gelato store, bar, and open seafood grill. We enjoyed Antico, where the room is as bare-bones as possible, we sat on a large metal bench and ate pizza right off the pan. On the other side of the large room were the large ovens and kitchen staff that cheered loudly when Pachuca scored a goal.

After the delicious dinner, we made the short dash over to The Masquerade. If anything hasn’t changed in the last ten years, it is The Masquerade. It is still as dark and terrifying as ever with it’s random mill equipment still hanging from the ceiling and mysterious dark corners that I don’t want to know what is hiding there. The concert was in the top floor, the “heaven” part of the venue, the exact same location as the 2006 show. It’s not uncommon for The Masquerade to have more than one show at the same time and I joked that there is probably a death-metal band in the “Hell” part of the venue and the fans there would be waiting to beat us up before or after the show, but there was only one show that night.

Mike Mains and the Branches opened the show and while they lacked a little bit of the “anything could happen here” vibe they had at Cornerstone, they were still really fun. They played a couple songs from each of their two albums and I was familiar with just about everything they played and sang along. The second band was All Get Out and they really weren’t my thing and I didn’t know any of their songs so I kinda checked out while they played. I would have greatly preferred that they were the first band and Mike Mains and the Branches got the second longer set.

Finally, MAE took the stage. I really liked their stage setup with posts and Christmas lights strung up between the posts. The light gave the appearance of tiny stars behind them and changed a couple of different colors for a couple different moods. They started with a couple more recent songs, but it wasn’t until they started the intro to The Everglow that the room figuratively and literally lit up. The crowd was in it from the start, singing loudly as the band went into “Someone Else’s Arms.” Dave Elkins declared “MAE is for lovers!” and perhaps he was right as there were plenty of couples arm-in-arm in crowd. The girl next to me wiped away tears at the end of “The Ocean” as she pressed into her beau’s side and who could blame her? It was beautiful. “Breakdown” had a great moment where the girls and guys in the crowd each sang a different part and it made a great 3 part melody. After the band wound down “The Sun and the Moon” they exited the stage to the “The Epilogue.” They came back for a short encore before the night was done.

The show was a little uneven, the Everglow material sounded a little more polished than the rest of the set, but that’s the part I wanted to hear so I left pleased. The best part is that the band is together and touring again and I’m hoping this means there will be new music in the future. There have been so many endings when it comes to my favorite music that I would welcome some beginnings and renewals.

SHEL at Decatur Court House


I haven’t figured out the right age or band for my daughters’ first concert. I heard about a free concert in downtown Decatur by the Colorado band named SHEL and I thought that would be perfect. However, we played pretty hard during the afternoon and by the time the evening came around they were already starting to wear down and I decided it would probably be smarter to leave them with the grandparents. It was probably the right decision, I think they would have enjoyed the show but I don’t think they would have had the patience for the whole thing.

That’s too bad, because SHEL probably would have been the ideal band to see. The band is composed of four sisters with bluegrass influenced pop. I compare them to a less technical, more whimsical version of Nickel Creek. That’s not an indictment on their talent. There’s not any Chris Thile-like fretboard runs, but they still make beautifully interwoven music on mandolin, piano, violin, and drums. The youngest of the sisters even adds a little bit of beat-boxing, which makes me laugh for some reason. Their songs range from light-hearted songs like “The Latest and Greatest Blueberry Rubber Band” to the more serious “Try To Scream.” There was a short intermission and while the sponsors raffled off some prizes, the ladies milled around the stage, even posing for pictures and letting little girls try on their custom designed hats.

Atlanta is not as quirky as a city like Austin or Portland, but if there is an unusual part of town, it’s Decatur. I enjoyed people-watching during the show. There was a guy with the Coors tall boy dancing around by himself and I was afraid there was going to be an incident when he approached the stage. He asked the mandolin player a question and I don’t know what her response was but he laughed and walked away. There was a bride and groom that emerged from the courthouse, going around the building and back in, presumably to their reception. In the middle of the concert he shouted out to everyone, “WE JUST GOT MARRIED!” I also like spotting the people who were on “date night.” There were the couples that were on that Date Night, the one you get every couple of months thanks to the babysitter. Then there were also the couples that clearly weren’t married yet and were still dressing to impress each other.

The only complaint I had was that the band wasn’t really visible in the gazebo (as seen in the picture above.) The fence around it made it difficult to see very much unless you walked right up to the stage, and I wasn’t going to be that one creepy guy standing at the front staring at four teen/20’s girls. That’s a small complaint though. The night seemed certain to be rained out but instead I enjoyed a pleasant night on my own on the square in Decatur.

Cornerstone Festival 2012 – Saturday


In the post-processing Cornerstone phase. Sorting out all of my media (pictures, videos, music, etc.) and my thoughts. I’m reposting my blog posts from the Cornerstone Festival blog for archival purposes.

Saturday was upon us and it was finally time to say our final goodbyes. Up until today I think many people had been putting it off, enjoying the festival and pretending nothing was going to change. Today however was time to confront reality and it made emotions heightened even more than the normal “last day of Cornerstone” state. We started off the morning going to the church service at the Chelsea Gallery stage. It takes something pretty monumental to get our group stirred and out to the grounds before noon and I’d say this counts. Glenn Kaiser led the crowd in worship and then John Herrin spoke briefly thanking everyone for the years and years of good memories and hard work by everyone at the festival. Current co-organizers Scott Stanhke and Genesis Winter also took a few brief moments to thank the staff and everyone for coming this year when the band list was slashed and the stages reduced. John Thompson shared a little of his many years at the festival and then opened the floor for people to tell their stories about Cornerstone. I’m sure it only scratched the surface of the myriad of stories but people who had been attending the festival for 20-25 years told their stories as well as people who had only come for a year or two. We heard many stories of misfits, people who didn’t feel they fit in feel a sense of belonging at the festival. We heard stories of people meeting their life partners, recovering from loss, and finding Jesus after rejection from mainstream churches. Finally, they closed down the afternoon with a communion service and we all joined together for the last time to break bread and drink together.

After a short break, it was back to the music one last time. Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk started off an incredibly strong lineup on the Chelsea Gallery Stage. After their debut last year the band came back this year with even more confidence and a fuller sound. They didn’t have as much success getting people up and dancing such as at the Mike Mains and The Branches show last night probably due to the stifling heat, but I would think this kind of music would also be fun to dance to. Following them, Timbre had flown out from Russia just to be at Cornerstone for her show. Traveling for 24 hours, she sounded a little slap happy but it didn’t affect her meticulous and beautiful harp playing. She remarked that we were one of the biggest crowds she plays for every year and I couldn’t help but wonder how many other artists would say the same exact thing.

Kye Kye started the evening off with some nice trippy music. Looking at the liner notes in their CD, I was impressed with how much thought they had given to their lyrics. I’ve seen bands have scriptural references for songs before, but they had scripture references for nearly every line of each song. Josh Garrels played next and he has become such a beloved institution at Cornerstone. His song “Ulysses” from his newest album gets me every time. “So tie me to the mast of this old ship and point me home/Before I lose the one I love, before my chance is gone.” I wish I could have stayed for his entire show because it was incredible, but I had to skip out to see the moment of the festival.

Word has started to spread around the festival that there would be a Viking Funeral performed at the beach for Cornerstone Festival. As in old Norse tradition, they would set a longboat out to water and then shoot a flaming arrow at it, lighting it on fire and letting it burn (hopefully, this one without an actual body in it.) Standing on the beach, I waited for a little bit before a procession of motorcycles roared over the hill and behind it a group of kids carrying the boat singing “Amazing Grace.” As they set it out on the lake two older ladies had a conversation behind me. “It doesn’t seem a very Christian thing to do.” “Well, neither are Christmas Trees but we do that, too.” Good point. Once the boat was lit on fire it was a nice, emotional moment. Well, at least until the kids started singing “Na na na na, na na na na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.” Like all things Cornerstone it was bizarre, only sort-of planned out, but most of all memorable.

I climbed back up the hill to the Gallery tent one last time. Thank goodness the heat was finally starting to break or I probably would have died. If there was the old Main Stage this year would we have made it through the week without heat exhaustion? Probably not. Anyways, I arrived in time to catch most of The Farewell Drifters set and they sounded great. I loved their cover of Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy In New York” and they even brought John and Michelle Thompson on the stage for a rollicking little song. After that, while Norma Jean was in the process of destroying the Underground Stage the band that played on the first slot of the first day of the first Cornerstone Festival closed out the last night. The Choir played their entire _Chase The Kangaroo_ album from beginning to end to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the album. There was even someone that was dressed up as a Kangaroo that jumped on stage and danced during the title song forcing the band to keep straight face and finish the song. The four-piece band sounded as good as they ever have debuting a couple new songs and treating us to one last growling, noisy, ambling version of “Circle Slide.”

When the Choir finished appropriately with “To Bid Farewell” that was that. Cornerstone Festival was officially finished (at least for now) for good. I probably speak for a lot of people, but I didn’t get very emotional at the end because I was so worn out. I was honestly numb when it all ended. I think the flood of emotions will start pouring out during the next week when I’m at home unpacking and starting to realize there will be no more need to pack again. I’ll be listening to new CD’s and realizing there will be no flood of new CD’s again. That’s when it’s going to hit hard that this era of life is over.

When one era ends, hopefully another springs up and none of us know what’s next but whatever it is I wish the best to Jesus People USA. They are one of the most astonishing groups of people I know with their skill of pulling everything off skillfully while it all somehow appears like it was planned on the back of a napkin. Most of all, they’ve done this festival with the right motives and the right heart towards the artists and those that attend the festival. They get art and faith and I hope that part of Cornerstone continues on even if the festival ends. Thanks to the web team for all of their hard work getting video and photos uploaded and even supporting an infrastructure for a website in the middle of nowhere. Thanks for allowing me to have a voice and a small part in this event that I hope people look back fondly for decades and say, “Man, do you remember at Cornerstone when…..”

Cornerstone Festival 2012 – Friday


In the post-processing Cornerstone phase. Sorting out all of my media (pictures, videos, music, etc.) and my thoughts. I’m reposting my blog posts from the Cornerstone Festival blog for archival purposes.

I’ve been doing a good job of being adventurous and checkng out all of the stages up to this point, but today I finally succumbed to the heat. Whatever was on the Chelsea Gallery stage was good enough and that’s not a terrible thing. The day started out at the Bushnell Locker for their infamous ribeye sammiches. These are the kind of traditions I will truly miss. There may be other festivals, and Lord willing there will be some festival like Cornerstone again some day, but I have my doubts I’ll ever have a ribeye sammich again. I almost assuredly will not enjoy it with friends in a butcher shop’s break room again, for sure.

Before we bury Cornerstone though there are still two days of music left and we started the day out with Relentless Flood at the Underground Stage which had some nice shreddy guitar and a drummer on vocals. After that I caught a second performance by Doug Mains and the City Folk. They seemed an odd fit on the normally metal Sancrosanct Stage, but they drew a nice crowd and delivered a nice set of folk music.

Maron Gaffron shared a scrapbook of pictures from her Cornerstone experiences all the way back to 1985. It was a lot of fun to see pictures of her as a child (weren’t we all?) at the early festivals all the way up to last year’s festival. The Maron of today played a nice soulful set and then joined Jeff Elbel for his show. Elbel pulled out all of the stops for his last show at Cornerstone even throwing in an enthusasitic cover of Adam Again’s “Deep.” Thanks for the bag of one hundred glow-in-the-dark bouncy balls, Jeff. My children will very likely set off some epic mischief with them. Of all the shows at Cornerstone, these are the ones I am saddest to see end. Many bands I will be able to catch on tour but it’s not likely I’ll see these bands again.

I tried to go over to see Don’t Wake Aislin on the Underground Stage, but after about two songs I reached the point where I was losing my will to live due to the heat. Nothing wrong with Don’t Wake Aislin, I had heard this would be their last show but was relieved to find out it’s because they are renaming and restyling themselves a little bit. Nonetheless, I couldn’t endure it and decided I would spend the rest of the evening under the shade of the Chelsea Gallery tent. Going to the Gallery stage proved fortuitous as I was able to see Trace Bundy on acoustic guitar. Bundy kept the crowd entertained with his multitude of capos even shifting them around the guitar in middle of songs. He also played “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder entirely using guitar and drum apps on his iPhone which was a lot of fun.

The highlight of the night next was Mike Mains and The Branches. The chairs at the front of the Gallery stage were pushed away as people danced in front of the stage. The show was straight up rock with some heartfelt lyrics. When the band beckoned the crowd to come up on stage I really felt like we had a genuine Cornerstone Moment. Neal Morse followed with progressive rock and it was overindulgent, ponderous, and complicated. I’m not gonna lie, the Yes fan in me loved every moment of it.

At the end of the night, The Violet Burning gave us what I like to call a “real Cornerstone Encore.” Years ago, the midnight encore shows used to run two or three hours late into the night, but the last few years the setlists have gotten shorter. Not so with The Violet Burning. After blazing straight through one-and-a-half of the three CD’s of The Story Of Our Lives. Micheal Pritzl took the band through an extended encore through some crowd favorites and even took a little time to call Mike Roe and leave a voicemail. I missed the Flatfoot 56 show where even our intrepid festival co-supervisor took a slide down the waterslide into the pool party, but I’m pretty it had it’s share of “Cornerstone moments” as well. For whatever reason, it always seems like the night before the last night has the big Cornerstone Moments and I’m glad that tradition continued to the end.