Most of the time when we were at Cornerstone, we were actually not playing Pocket Vinyl shows. Of course, it was super awesome getting to opportunity to play a couple shows and to have booth space to sell our merch and mini paintings, but we also took some time to enjoy what the 29th and final Cornerstone festival had to offer…
Also, as you can see from that last photo there (where Adam & Eve showed up in 4,000 BC) there were a lot of different and conflicting views displayed at this festival. Eric and I had come to this thing preparing ourselves to at least encounter some conservative radicals (since we knew it was a Christian festival happening in the mid-west) but we were surprised and intrigued by the wide rang from the most serve conservative to the most sever libral, and all, for the most part, calling on the same God that Eric and I follow. Also, people for some reason seemed to very quickly open up to Eric and I. We’re not sure if it was just the atmosphere of the festival or because we just seemed like safe people, but often within minutes of meeting someone (and we met a ton of people) they were often opening up with life stories you’d think would only be told to close friends and family. It was fascinating and pretty awesome.
Besides just talking with people in general, we did make a point to visit a few of the events that were going on…
-We watched Listener play, and during the gig they invited a guy on stage so he could propose to his girlfriend.
-We became friends with the couple who head up the Suitcase Sideshow and watched their final presentation of a shadow puppet workshop they did with people at the festival.
-We caught Timbre‘s amazingly beautiful set, and grabbed their cd and talked with her afterwards a bit. (She’s played harp with mewithoutYou, which actually inspired the harp we feature on Pocket Vinyl’s song Quiet Epiphany, so it was cool to say thank you in person.)
-We sat in on a screening on the recent film, Blue Like Jazz, and listened to a Q&A with the director (and yes, former Christian singer/songwriter) Stephen Taylor. (By the way, I highly recommend seeing this film. It is amazing and for Eric & I, it hits pretty close to home with how we’ve been dissecting and attempting to understand our beliefs and the whys. Also, I won’t get into it here, but the controversy over their film fascinated me, and definitely made me think.)
-And of course, we stopped by to see Norma Jean. Really, I kind of wanted a photo of my mom (named Norma Jean. My parents came to visit on the last day) with Norma Jean (the band). But, it was late, she went to bed early, and I was exhausted myself. But I did get a photo of this incredibly appropriate t-shirt.
Did I mention the entire time we were at Cornerstone, it was in the worst part of the worst heat wave in the hottest part of the country? Yeah. Oh, and, we were sleeping outside. Without air conditioning. And everything at the festival was outside. So there was no air conditioning. Anywhere. Typically, I can go for a half hour run and not even sweat. I was constantly drenched here, and it was too hot to even move. To be honest, we probably only ever hit up events that we already knew would be good, because taking a chance on a band or an event was too exhausting in this horrid weather.
By the morning after our second night (Thursday, July 5th), I was shaking, dizzy, and dry heaving from the heat. We were suppose to perform a kids’ show that morning, but I couldn’t even stand. Debbie directed us to the one air conditioned spot on the entire festival grounds: an empty trailer meant to be a heat relief for the festival lecturers. I spent most of Thursday here:
I felt bad for letting the kids down. Sometime in the afternoon Eric brought me a huge stack of papers, and told me that all the kids had made me get-well cards. It was the sweetest and most uplifting thing I could have received!! I felt so incredibly loved:
By the evening I was feeling much better, and walking around kids everywhere would call to me and ask if I was doing ok. It was adorable. We did a show for them the next day (the elephant drawing).
On the very last night of the very last Cornerstone, there was a boat burning.
Cornerstone was more than just a Christian music festival; it was an arts festival too, and the arts are a big part of who they were. One of their exhibitions at this final festival was unique forms of shelter. There were three crosses propped together with fabric around them to create a tent; there was a chuppah set up to create shade; and there was this mini hand-crafted white viking ship, up in the air on poles and upside-down, to create a kind of shelter from the blistering sun. On Friday I was talking with one of the guys who’s part of Jesus People USA (the group that runs Cornerstone) and he told me about how the boat creators had offered up their shelter as an end-of-Cornerstone burnt sacrifice.
So, on Saturday night, before Norma Jean was scheduled to start and as the sky began to grow dark, Eric and I marched along with Jaiden, our new friend David, a handful of motorcycles and a couple thousand others on foot, chanting and carrying the massive viking boat along the dusty roads down to the lake, where it blazed out into the still waters and signified the end of 3 decades of tradition…
I’d never been to something like Cornerstone before. It was so much more than a place people would come year after year to see a few bands play or to hear some lecturers or to make some art. In talking with the hundreds of different people we encountered over these 5 days Eric and I realized that it’s a reunion. Many people had been coming to Cornerstone every summer for 9, 11, 15, 21 years! Most of the teenagers we talked to had been coming every summer since they were born, some even in their mothers’ tummys! Deep friendships had been created on these grounds, people had even died on these grounds, thousands, perhaps millions of lives had been changed on these grounds. The Christian music festival was defined by Cornerstone and many great bands that have come and even gone got their very first starts on these grounds.
And now it’s all over. Twenty-nine years, and Cornerstone is finally closing down. We decided to stay until Sunday morning. We got up early, on the first slightly cool day of the entire week (it’s amazing how 88 degrees can feel “cool”), and watched the first few clouds we’d seen since we arrived greet the pink sky. After saying goodbye to my parents and Jaiden we packed up the rest of our stuff and climbed into the car.
We put on the album we’d just bought the day before from Timbre. With the windows rolled up to keep the air conditioning in, all we could hear as we creeped slowly over the dusty roads of the festival grounds was the sweet haunting melodies of Timbre’s harp. All around us in the golden dawn light other people were slowly waking up, rolling up their tents. Festival volunteers were racing each other in the golf carts and laughing and shrieking, but all we could hear was the harp.
My heart couldn’t help but to ache a little for the ones who’ve been coming here year after year, and for the end of an era.