When I turned 30 I had something of a existential crisis. I wasn’t cool anymore. I wasn’t young anymore. My glory days were behind me. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. At 40, nobody has time for that kind of stuff.

I think I was prepared for life to change a lot when I turned 30, but I don’t know that I anticipated how much it would keep changing. I also don’t think I realized how isolated I would feel when all my friends moved away and parenthood and jobs prevented any of us from meeting up anyways. I wish I had a mentor for my 30’s. I had mentors in college and after college, but I’m not sure anyone warned me how hard the 30’s would be.

Football has finally wrapped up and our weeks are starting to relax a little. We were starting to buckle a little under the grind of practices and early mornings, but now that’s in the rear-view mirror and we can start looking forward to the holidays. Our kids are normally fun, but they are a special kind of fun at Christmas.

Today, a tow truck came and took away my Acura Integra. I donated it, and I don’t say this to make you think I am some great philanthropist, I did it for the tax write-off. I was a little sad to see it go, but it hasn’t operated well for almost a year now, so it was time to go. It is however, a tangible reminder that my 30’s are over. I bought the car when I was 25, but it has been my ride all through the 30’s, taking me to a Cornerstone Festival, all over the Southeast, and back and forth to work when I used to commute. I hope someone takes the car and gives it some love (and maybe a loud muffler, neon lights, and a big spoiler.) Just like other parts of my life, everything is changing again.

The Choir in Music City


When The Choir released their newest CD Shadow Weaver they also promised to record “the definitive live album” in front of a small audience. The tickets were affordable and when I found out some other friends were going to the show, I decided I should do a weekend in Nashville. It was a whirlwind trip but I circled all around the city, visiting famous landmarks and eating some pretty good food.

I arrived in town early on Saturday morning, so I decided to walk around Bicentennial Mall near the Capitol for a while before the day got too warm. As luck turned out, there was a car show in the park so I got to see some Ferraris, Lambourghinis, Porsches, and even a Tesla up close. After a little while, I drove down to Franklin to meet up with Jerry Ray and Julie for lunch. We ate a Music City Dog House which co-owned by Choir bass player, Tim Chandler (though according to Steve Hindalong, maybe not anymore.) I had a giant Italian Beef sandwich which was pretty tasty. We walked off our big lunch at the battleground near Franklin and then drove up to Opryland Hotel. I’ve always been to Opryland during Christmas time when it is decorated up and very, very crowded. Things were a little low key this time around (so much so that I drove in a broken parking gate and pleaded my case to a security guy so that we didn’t get charged parking), but it was nice to walk around in the air conditioning and walk through the gardens.

For dinner, I finally ate at the much-recommended Baja Burrito. While we were there we watched the live stream of the early concert. We were definitely living in future by eating dinner and watching the show we were going to. We had some extra time afterwards so we walked around the Parthenon at Centennial Park for a bit before driving over to the show.

As for the show itself, the show was located at Studio Instrument Rentals, a warehouse surrounded by razor wire which was filled with instruments to the ceiling, but it also had a couple of studio rooms with room for about 100 people. The sound was as high quality as I’ve ever heard at any concert I’ve been to, thanks to some seriously high-end equipment and some very talented engineers behind the boards. The sound was loud, but not painful and every instrument could clearly be heard in the mix. The band was the four essential members, though Tim Chandler was under the weather and sat in a chair for much of the concert, though he did stand up to rock out some of the extended outros. They were joined by Marc and Christy Byrd as Marc provided his Hammock sounding noise layered on top of the songs and Christy provided beautiful harmony vocals and some additional percusion. The set list had some pleasant surprises with some of their recent songs and since they had been well rehearsed from their recent tour, a block of Chase The Kangaroo songs. Then they settled into some of the classics ending with a fantastic drawn out “Circle Slide” a punchy version of “About Love” and then “Beautiful Scandalous Night” to wrap things up.

The band had a table of memorabilia laid out on the table from all eras of the band, including awards, original master tapes, Dan’s version 2 lyricon, and even some hand-written original lyrics. The crowd was also a who’s who of Nashville residents and visitors. We enjoyed talking to Bruce Brown and members of the band milled about. (Steve approved of our dinner choice at Baja Burrito.)

The next morning, Jerry, Julie, and I met up with the LaFianza’s for a mini-Cornerstone reunion at Copper Kettle. I also had a quick opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane on the David Lipscomb University campus before brunch which was right across the street. We had some great food and great conversation and then it was time to drive home.

I’m very much looking forward to the live album. The songs sounded great and the house sound was so great that I think the album will sound incredible. The whole weekend was kind of a quick blur, but I’m so glad I went and hopefully soon we’ll have an album to remember the trip by.

Cornerstone Memories (Again)


It’s the week of Cornerstone Festival again and there is no Cornerstone. I am looking forward to a weekend in Savannah with my family and think we will have a good time, it’s a different fourth of July celebration that what I’ve been used to, but we will enjoy it.

In the meantime before we leave, I need to get my mind off everything else on the Internet today. So, since I’m feeling the ache of an empty cornfield in Illinois, I thought it would be fun to write up a quick take about every year I went to Cornerstone Festival.

1998 – My first year at the festival! My friend Joel and his friend Elaine were my guides to aid me as a newbie. My biggest memory, other than just taking it all in for the first time was the Rich Mullins Tribute as his friends played his songs for three hours.

2000 – David and I drove up together in my little car for this one. Of all the years I went, I think this year might have had the best lineup. There was a great mix of old bands and new bands. I remember having to make the agonizing choice between Over the Rhine and The Choir on the final night and I’m glad that I now have full recordings of each show.

2001 – This is the first year that I rode up with Jerry and I rode with him every year after this one. I remember Stryper on the last day was the big topic of discussion. I’m not a huge Stryper fan and I actually ended up skipping the show to see The Violet Burning (who were freaking amazing.) I was really into Over the Rhine at this time and this was the third festival in a row that they were the final show of the festival for me.

2002 – Adriene went with me this year, the only year she went with me to the festival. It was a total sauna. My favorite memory from this year was on the last night at the Sixpence None the Richer show. Adriene and I relaxed on a blanket on the hill and looked at the stars while they played and there was not a care in the world for one evening.

2004 – There was a lot of rain this year, so much that the rain leaked between the seams of the tent during Over the Rhine’s show. I remember the pyro-technics from the P.O.D. show. I also the remember the last day at the Gallery stage had a fantastic lineup of Denison Witmer, Unwed Sailor, and Ester Drang. The tent was full and buzzing with teens and I remember thinking this must be what it’s like to be with the cool kids.

2006 – This was the year where Mute Math broke Chuck’s brain. This was also the first year I started to blog for the festival and I really enjoyed getting to know the organizers of the festival and learning how the festival worked from the inside.

2007 – The sunsets this year were the most of amazing of any year I went to Cornerstone. In between shows I couldn’t resist standing outside and taking picture after picture. One of my favorite memories was between shows. The sound crew played Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and kids that weren’t even born when the sound was popular were singing right along, even taking over when he cut the volume.

2009 – I skipped 2008 due to the birth of my girls, but in 2009 Adriene and her mother held down the fort so I could go. This year was weird because it was so cold and windy. This was also the year the generator stages started to take over. I saw a lot of bands I didn’t recognize at all. The deluge of rain on the final day sealed the fate of the location of mainstage down by the lake, but it also gave us a surreal final day of hardcore music on the normally mild-mannered Gallery Stage.

2010 – Switchfoot kicked off the new mainstage location and did a fantastic job starting off a new era at Cornerstone. I also remember Paper Route having the best show at the festival, leaving everyone speechless and amazed. I was also sick for a majority of the festival so now I guess this is what it’s like to go to a music festival under the influence because I was pretty incoherent for most of the festival.

2011 – The Jesus Music day was pretty special this year. I got to see a lot of artists that I had never seen before and might never see again. I also remember getting a call from home on the last day that my grandmother’s death was imminent. Michael Gungor’s worship music was a healing for me as I prepared for a week of grieving.

2012 – The last festival was a particularly poignant one. Even with only two main stages and a bunch of generator stages, there was still a lot of good music to remember. The heat this year was oppressive and it was hard to think about anything other than the heat. When the festival was over, it was hard to process the mourning of the end of Cornerstone because I was just so glad not to be subjected to the weather. The Viking Funeral was a strange, but totally Cornerstone way of having closure and The Choir, the first band at the very first Cornerstone, gave a nice bookend as the last band at the last festival.

Those were my memories in short takes. Please, share your memories of your years at Cornerstone!

Spring (Online) Cleaning

It’s the first day of spring and winter is thankfully, mercifully over. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, in fact you can probably find this opinion echoed a million times across social media, but I hated this past winter. This winter was awful. Good riddance winter. I was hit hard with a sinus infection between two snow storms in the middle of February and it took me weeks (weeks!) to recover to full strength. I felt rotten for several days and operated at about 80% for a couple weeks, it was the longest-lasting illness I’ve ever fought. I also had several days of caring for children (which, honestly just meant re-filling their drinks while they watched TV now that they are six) who were stuck home because school was cancelled while I tried to work at the same time. This is not a prescription for getting back to health.

Thankfully, we are done with all that, at least until next year and it is now spring. That means it’s time to do some spring cleaning. We will likely been sending the children to the grandparents for a couple of days and doing some actual deep cleaning of the house soon, but here in Internet-world I’m going to be doing some spring cleaning of thedirtroad.net over the next month or so. I’ve got a little more free time than normal, so I’d like to work on the following projects:

  • Re-architect the NIT Pick-em web site. FOR REAL. I’m using the same architecture designed and written around 2005. Every year I think I ought to redo the NIT site, but I always forget about it when the tournament is over and then by the time I think about it again I realize the tournament is upon us again and I have to go with what I have. This year I’ve got access to a couple more resources and I’d like to redo the site with a real back-end database using MySQL and rewrite the site code with something like PHP or Ruby on Rails. Then I’ll use some new front-end Javascript to make a nicer looking bracket that’s better than current ugly model. I’ll start on this soon as this tournament finishes.
  • Relaunch The Instant Family. Now that the girls are six years old, I don’t feel as comfortable sharing as much about them as when they were young. On the other hand, we do have fun events and pictures to share about them, but I’d like to do it in more of a “gated community” style, so we’ll be looking at restricting access to the blog and maybe tying it in with Flickr authentication. I’ve been using Facebook to share photos of the girls and that’s fine I guess, but I want more control over the content.
  • This blog. What should I do with it? It’s always been a hodge-podge of topics and I feel like I waste my best material on Facebook or on pithy comments on Twitter. What should I be doing here? More video links to old Cornerstone concerts? More sports commentary? I don’t go to concerts as much anymore, but I’d like to keep doing concert reviews here. Photography discussion? I’m not sure. Of the three topics here, this is the most undefined goal, but I’m thinking about how I want to improve this site.
  • So, let’s move on into spring and see how much of this actually gets done!

My Favorite Music in 2013

Adriene’s parents were here for the entire week of Christmas so I wasn’t on the computer at all and my inner introvert nearly died. Then they took the girls to Savannah with them and let us home along for a week. A week, y’all. This much freedom is crazy. It feels so weird not having my daily schedule determined by my children. Most days I have to cram anything that I want to do into the hour between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM before I pass out from exhaustion, but yesterday I lounged around and went to bed at 11:00 PM and woke up relaxed. Crazy. Hopefully this means I’ll have a little time to add some year-in-review posts to this here site.

So, before I leave tomorrow to head off to the Music City Bowl, I’m going to look back on the year in the music. This was the first year in a while that I didn’t come home with a bunch of CD’s from Cornerstone so I wondered if I’d have anything interesting to listen to. Thank goodness, there was still some really good music that arrived at my house. These CD’s weren’t necessarily released in 2013, but I “discovered” them in 2013. I’ll break it down into the Top 5 and the next 5.

The Lone Bellow – self-titled
It seems like a really long time ago that this album was released, doesn’t it? It’s withstood a lot of claims to the throne, but it might be the album of the year for me. Produced by Charlie Peacock, this is what I like more than The Civil Wars and I enjoyed Zac Williams solo release so I knew I was going to love this album as well. It’s a vocal tour-de-force with some beautiful harmonies.

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
This is the competitor to the Lone Bellow album for album of the year. (This album also feels like it was released ages ago.) I love that Daft Punk zigged when everyone expected them to zag. Fun danceable disco songs with some clever electronic pieces in between and lots of guest vocals.

Anberlin – Devotion
The original Vital made my top albums list for 2012. Is it possible for a re-release to top the original album? In this case, absolutely. Normally, I don’t go for “deluxe re-releases” or whatever that also seems like money grabs to me, but in this case the additional songs are great and the remixes and great, too. This album was totally worth buying twice.

The Oh Hellos – Through the Deep, Dark Valley
Some friends of mine introduced me to this band this year and I am so glad they did. There’s a simplicity about the sound, it’s kinda like Mumford and Sons, but with a little more pop sensibility. Their Christmas EP was my favorite new Christmas music this year as well.

Derek Webb – I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry, and I Love You
I’ve already written a review of this album, so I’ll just link it here.

THE NEXT FIVE (in no particular order)
Sandra McCracken – Desire Like Dynamite
Leagues – You Belong Here
Beautiful Eulogy – Satellite Kite
Sleeping At Last – The Atlas EP’s
Over the Rhine – Meet Me At the Edge of the World