The Juice Bar

My muses, thoughts, ideas, and whatever

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My trip to Cornerstone 2007 - Day 2: June 28, 2007

First, some links of cool stuff I participate at Cornerstone when I go:
Flickerings Film Festival
The Imaginarium

It must have been a late night the previous night. I slept all the way
until 8:00, which is a full couple of hours after the sun rose. I poked
my head out of the tent and I looked toward the shower trucks perched
over the lip of the hill and beyond the pizza truck. Would the showers
be fixed that morning? I grabbed by bag and my towel, and to my relief,
they were open. I scrubbed away two whole days of my own sweat and
washed off with the most welcome dribble of water I've ever experienced.
Then I headed off for my morning frappucino, the twenty ounce of course.
It would be a long day, as they always are at Cornerstone.

My first stop was the Flickerings tent, where I wandered into the middle
of the program of short films they have each year. I only caught a couple, but one was a strange revenge film about a man who tries to track down the killer of his stuffed bunny, while imagining himself both as a WW2 soldier and as a Ninja. Pretty weird, just the way I like my films.

After taking a break to catch part of the writing seminar taught by Vinita Hampton Wright, I caught the Flickerings morning screening. The movie was called Kamikaze Girls, and it was a wild ride. One of the girls of the title dresses and cavorts like she is a member of Marie Antoinette’s court in 18th century France. The other girl is a tough-as-nails biker chick. The two form an unlikely bond in a film that has the punkish energy of Run Lola Run and the surreal visual style of Amalie or the Thai films of Wisit Sasanatieng (Tears of the Black Tiger, Citizen Dog). Just the energy of this film alone woke me more than a thirty-ounce frappucino would, or some Old School Metal.

After a lunch of veggie stir fry from the same booth I visited yesterday, I caught the next screening at Flickerings. The film was a documentary on a game called Darkon, which appears to be a real-life version of Dungeons and Dragons. Imagine grown men and women putting on full body armor like they were extras in the Lord of the Rings movies. Then they go out into parks and soccer fields in suburban Baltimore to act out their campaigns. Teams of opposing armies whacked each other with padded swords, maces, axes, tridents, and they also catapulted padded balls at cardboard forts. This may seem like a therapy session gone awry or the outgrowth of a group of teenaged boys who watched Braveheart one too many times. But these are normal folks: office workers, construction workers, mothers, and fathers. The film does a good job illuminating this unusual hobby and portrays these people not as freaks but as folks with the same day jobs, quirks, and hang-ups as anyone else. Some of the portrayals were touching, like the shy overweight guy for whom the game gave him an opportunity to develop the self-confidence that he had been lacking, and the single mother for whom the game gave her a sense of purpose. The camera shot fight scenes like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie, with sweeping overhead camera shots. It’s quite a fun documentary to watch, and one of my favorites.

That evening, I was faced with a schedule conflict. The Violet Burning was scheduled to play at 6:00 at the Gallery Stage, the same time that the next three episode of Haibane Renmei were scheduled at Flickerings. I decided on a compromise of sorts. I skipped the first episode to see the first few songs of the Violet Burning’s set. After all, I saw them twice in St. Louis last year. The band sounded great and loud. Their guitar sound spilled out of the tent and reached all the way over to the food tents, and even to the large merchandise tent. I don’t know if they interrupted anyone buying Amberlin and Switchfoot T-shirts or not, but Michael Pritzl was singing his heart out. I peeled myself away to the Flickerings Tent to catch some Haibane Renmei, and I wasn’t disappointed. The series began to develop some interesting storylines, and I have to admit, I was hooked like when someone convinced me to start watching Lost.

After Haibane Renmei, I stuck around to watch the evening screening, a Japanese film called Bright Future. This film explores the culture of young twenty-something men who have gotten left behind in Japan’s relentless pursuit of progress that started in the ‘80s, and became adrift as Japan’s economy hit the skids after that. Unable to find suitable employment, these guys drift as purposeless slackers. This film is a haunting look at the choices two such guys make. One rebels in a criminal act, while the other tries to deal with his own failures while trying to take care of his friend’s jellyfish. The jellyfish escapes, multiplies, and invades the municipal water system throughout the film, symbolizing both eerie beauty as well as the rebellion of Japan’s lost youth. This was a thought-provoking film that doesn’t lend itself to easy interpretation.

After the film, I headed back to the Gallery tent to try to clear my addled brain with some music. I saw Rosie Thomas sing some achingly beautiful songs and then watched her “alter ego” Sheila seem to campaign for a TV talk show with a hilarious act of self-confession. Then I hiked up to the Encore 1 set to see a band I had for some reason in fifteen years of Christian music festivals, had never seen live, Starflyer 59. I’ve never really gotten into their music or bought their dozens of CDs and EPs. But after missing his midnight show last year due to them performing a brief set recalling the brevity of Chevy Chase’s career as a late-night talk-show host, I wanted to see these guys, even if lead singer Jason Martin stared down at this feet the entire show (as I have heard he is apt to do). No, he didn’t shoegaze this time. It was just Jason on guitar and a drummer playing some decent alt-pop tunes. However, the other member of their band, a laptop, kept going on the fritz, so we were surely missing all manner of Pro-Tools fused symphonic accompaniment. But it was a pretty cool experience, and now I can move on with my life.

Then I moved on and checked in some of the smaller music tents while waiting for the Over The Rhine show to start. In the Sanctuary church tent, I saw Rex Carroll, guitarist extraordinaire for ‘80s Christian metal band Whitecross, play some smoking blues with his band. That was very cool, even better than listening to one of his five-minute solos on the old Whitecross albums. Then in the next tent I saw an energetic old-school rock band called Jonezetta, and they were fun. I was relieved to hear a singer do some actual singing instead of growling, which is the trend I have seen at Cornerstone over the last few years, which is why I have been eschewing bands in favor of films lately. However, this year I decided to try to see more bands, and have been pleasantly surprised at the number of melodic rock and keyboard-oriented bands I have seen this year, with names like Deas Vail, Paper Route, and Redflecks. There’s so many bands here I can’t keep track of them all. But it’s fun trying. I even picked up a book of prayers commemorating the “hours” method of scheduled prayers practiced by monks the world over. The booth I purchased the book from advertised itself as “monk rock.” Do monks rock? Is there anywhere at a monastery to plug in an electric guitar. Do they jam on John Michael Talbot (an early 70s Jesus music singer who become a monk)? If not, then they should.

Now it was nearly midnight and time to see a band I have been familiar with at Cornerstone since 1992, Over the Rhine. Their midnight shows are things of legend around here, and tonight was another terrific evening of jazzy kind of ethereal songs, led by Karin’s wonderful voice. Their drummer Mickey in particular was a standout. In the middle of the show he did a drum solo that would have impressed Neal Peart, with a kit approximately 1/8th the size. Then the entire stage went dark. The band had rocked so hard they flipped a circuit breaker. Now that’s high praise at a festival with a number of bands trying to generate the sound equivalent of a freight train colliding with a herd of rumbling buffalo. Fortunately, after half a minute, the power came back on, and Mickey continued with his solo! That’s what rock and roll’s all about. Over the Rhine excelled with some softer numbers as well, such as a cover of Gillian Welch’s "Orphan Girl", and the late night torch-song sounding “Fool”. A lovely note to send the crowd out to their tents. I had an air mattress set up, thank God, so I didn’t have to sleep on the ground. Well, I was so tired I could have slept on the ground, as I fell asleep as soon as I hit the mattress.


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