The Juice Bar

My muses, thoughts, ideas, and whatever

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My trip to Cornerstone 2007 - Day 4: June 30, 2007

I must have been beat last night, because I slept later this morning than I’ve ever done at Cornerstone. It was nearly 9:00 by the time I emerged from my tent into the outside air. After a shower and coffee, I was late to the writing seminar, but I took a few notes and wound up learning something about tapping into my well of creativity. This is presumably the same well of creativity that I am tapping into to bring forth my wry commentary on my Cornerstone experience, so don’t expect it to be too deep.

I next caught the morning film at Flickerings, a Studio Ghibli film I was excited to see, Only Yesterday. Directed by Isao Takahata, a contemporary of Miyazaki, this was a beautiful coming of age story about a 27-year-old Japanese girl who tries to figure out what she is going to do with her life, when she visits a friend in the countryside. In a parallel storyline, she relives experiences from her fifth-grade year. She considers those experiences that have shaped her, as she learns to make peace with her past and move into new experiences. An excellent film.

After that I stopped by the Imaginarium tent and caught a lecture titled Monsters on Maple Street. It was interesting hearing about the culture of fear that gripped artistic expression in America during the 1950s, and its parallels to today. I also got some seeds for ideas that might take root in my own writing. I wish I was able to catch more Imaginarium seminars one year, but maybe one day I’ll figure out how to clone myself to catch all this cool stuff.

I caught some lunch with a friend of mine while listening to a band on Gallery Stage called Spoken Groove. The name sounds like some kind of hip-hop collective, but these guys were a pretty good indie rock band. I then walked back to Flickerings to catch a documentary called Czech Dream. This was a stunt set up by some filmmakers, advertising a new big-box department store to see how many people they could get to show up. This was an interesting exercise in the impact of advertising and tapping into people’s hidden greed and materialism. By putting out colorful ads and using reverse psychology in telling people not to come, many people wound up coming anyway to the premiere. Here a façade for the store was set up in the middle of a field. Nobody seemed to be clued into the fact that wasn’t any sidewalk leading to this place. When they reached the façade and realized the ruse, the predictable happened: complaining and threatening to sue. But in the end, everyone was too embarrassed at their naiveté to do anything that rash.

After the film, I walked back to the Gallery Stage to catch the annual gig by Jeff Elbel and Ping. Like they do every year, they get eight or nine musicians on stage and do some nifty pop rock tunes, as well as digging back for an oldie by Jeff’s former band, Farewell to Juliet. The highlight was a visit by Jeff’s assistant guitar tech, the one and only Mike Roe! Now that is how you’ve made it on the underground alt-Christian out-of-the-mainstream music scene, to be blessed by the king of the underground alt-Christian out-of-the-mainstream music scene.

After Ping, I took one last spin through the merchandise tent. I was nearly out of money, so I didn’t get anything. But I am fascinated by the annual final-day atmosphere as things start to wind down. T-shirts were being hawked at a discount, and a few booths emptied out as other bands hit the road early. Cornerstone was heading into its stretch run. It was hard to believe there was only one more evening left at Cornerstone.

I then caught the final episodes of Haibane Renmei at Flickerings, and wow, the series wrapped up in an emotional and poignant conclusion. The themes of redemption nearly brought tears to my eyes. Rent it on Netflix, it is well worth it. It made for a fitting end to another outstanding Flickerings program. There is one more evening film, but after catching the first few minutes of Fellini's "I Vitteloni", I decided I would have to Netflix that one. There are another couple bands I wanted to see.

I headed over to the Anchor Stage, where I saw a harp player performing under the name Timbre. The harp is one of the coolest instruments ever invented, and there is only one other harpist performing in the indie rock scene, Joanna Newsom. To her credit, unlike Joanna, Timbre has a lovely voice that doesn’t recall the bizarre falsetto of the Danielson Family’s Daniel Smith. She was accompanied by two of the other coolest instruments ever invented, accordion and oboe. This may have been the first ever oboist to ever grace a stage at Cornerstone. I played clarinet in high school and it was hard enough trying to find the right way to blow through the reed so as not to cause an ear-piercing squeak. The reed on an oboe is even tinier, so I deeply admire anyone who can produce melodious sounds from the instrument. And what lovely music it was. We need more oboists and harpists everywhere!

After the conclusion of the harp show, I wandered over to the next tent where the band for the Sanctuary church was singing for their evening service. The Sanctuary church is from Los Angeles and was started in the 1980s specifically oriented toward rock and heavy metal musicians and fans. The leader is Pastor Bob, a stocky man with long black hair who looks like he could step in as the bass player for Quiet Riot and nobody would know the difference. The church road trips to Cornerstone every year and sets up church services in their own tent. I listened to some livelier than usual church music for a couple of minutes, and then Pastor Bob stepped on stage. I remember how every time I purchased a cassette tape in the 1980s of a Christian metal band, the insert packaging contained a picture of Pastor Bob and an inspirational message. I actually listened to one of his sermons one night at Cornerstone in the early ‘90s, and was surprised at how intelligent and articulate he was.

After taking a trip down memory lane and listening to him speak for a few minutes, I checked the time and then scurried over to the next stage. Another very cool band called Photoside Café was just starting. They featured a guy on violin who also played with Ping, and the violin sound added an unique texture to an upbeat acoustic indie guitar-bass-drums collective. This band was my favorite discovery of the entire festival, and I’ll have to keep an eye out for them in the future.

I then caught up with friends I met at the fest while hanging outside Gallery Stage watching a band called Leland. They played worship-type music, and reverence permeated the air like the Holy Spirit hovered over the packed tent. It was a nice way to close out the festival.

There was one more thing to do, so I walked over to the Imaginarium for their traditional last night final film. This is always one of the highlights of the fest as they usually bring out a film that is a classic or a weird cult film or both. Tonight’s feature was the Korean monster movie, The Host. Not only is it a great monster movie with special effects that aren’t overdone like most Hollywood films, this film has a nice theme of the redemption of a family. It was the second time I’ve seen it and it was just as good the second time around. Afterward as everyone in the tent put up the chairs and tore down all the decorations, I got to hang out with another friend of mine who would be leaving in a couple hours time to drive 14 hours home to Maryland.

Then as I walked back to my tent after midnight, I saw Cornerstone had wound to a close. Clusters of people hung around the food court snacking on whatever was left. What memories did they have of the fesitival: friendships made, friendships renewed, shoes ruined in the mud, barbequed burgers, Elephant Ears left uneaten, and ears ringing? Throughout the campsites, people gathered around campfires talking and laughing. The music tents were silent: no more growling, drumming, crunching guitars, or oboe-playing. It was kind of a bittersweet feeling. But I’ve had a blast. Cornerstone is always a lot more fun than vacationing in Branson or New Jersey.


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