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Friday, December 26, 2014

Cornerstone 2002, Day Five: Carry Me, My Brothers. No, Seriously, You Have to Carry Me, I Can't Walk

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I woke up to the sound of a didgeridoo. It's been really difficult to make funny, fake, outrageous statements like I do in most of my travelogues in this one because one of the least weird things that happened every morning at Cornerstone was that I woke up to the sound of a didgeridoo.
A group of campers a few tents down had brought a didgeridoo to Bushnell, and they all worked out their lungs with it in the morning. Thankfully, the time where the heat of the day made staying in the tent unbearable generally coincided with the time that it sounded like Crocodile Dundee was chasing a kangaroo with his boomerang while eating a Vegemite sandwich through the campgrounds with a jolly Koala on his back. Sorry, Australians, I didn't mean to be racist. Now put that boomerang down, okay?
Somehow, though Adrian, Jon, and I were crammed together in a small tent, the exhaustion of the day always ensured that the three of us fell asleep immediately, and slept smoothly (and for me, dreamlessly) through the night. But back to this day.
I slept so well the night before, I couldn't immediately remember the last thing I did before falling asleep, but when I attempted to stand, I found that my ankles could not only not support my weight, but were also the size of cantaloupes. CANTALOUPES!
I hate cantaloupes, so I had to get Adrian and Jon to carry me around everywhere. The first thing I wanted to do that day was check out some of Cornerstone's speakers. You know, I'm really into audio technology.
What I really mean is Cornerstone's lecture series seminars. On audio technology.
What I really mean is Cornerstone's Imaginarium series, a series of lectures on art and film.
No, not really, that's actually what I really mean.
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Again, this is only a partial list of the seminars at the festival. The seminars fell under the banner of Cornerstone U, which featured around 100 different speakers on topics as wide-ranging as social issues, church ministry, buttoning your jeans, and Iranian Cinema. But they still can't bring your dead dog back.
I wanted to go to the lecture on Dante's Inferno, but I was literally reading it that very summer, and I didn't want to spoil any of it (SPOILER ALERT: Dante finds he is actually The Toad King, master of the swamps beneath the land we call land. He dies at the end in a valiant battle against the devilish Water Beetle Prince, who wants to pave over the swamp and build a Quiznos because water beetles can't get enough of that oven toasted goodness).  Instead, the three of us went to "What If God Was One of Us? An Adventure in Pop Typology," which mainly focused on the religious connotations of the Japanese anime film, Ghost In the Shell. Jon and I are anime fans, and Adrian is a good sport, and good at sports. I love Ghost In the Shell, and anime in general, and as the people who told me just before Cornerstone that I was demon-possessed absolutely loathed anime with the fire of a thousand loathes, I made sure that was the lecture we attended.
"What If God Was One of Us?..." was informative and entertaining. Rod Bennett did an excellent job breaking down Ghost In the Shell's themes and Christ metaphors. That lecture meant a lot to me. It helped reinforce the notion that Christians can be awesome like me, as opposed to not-awesome, like the people who told me that Beelzebub had just gotten home somewhere inside my stomach with all the new stuff he bought from Demon Ikea. Demon Ikea used to have huge sales in the summer because of all the Christian kids heading out to Cornerstone. I know they miss the festival as much as I do.
After the lecture, I suddenly realized the great advantage of having other people carry me around everywhere, and told my loyal slaves that the next stop was the Joy Electric show at the Decapolis Label Showcase stage.

Joy Electric:
Unfortunately, Ronnie Martin's synthesizer was in the same shape as my ankles. After a couple of songs, a bunch of raining confetti, and Martin throwing candy into the audience, his keyboard shorted out, and the rest of the show had to be cancelled.
"Bummer!" I said from my sitting place on the human chair made of Adrian and Jon's bodies. "Where do you guys want to carry me to next?"
"Guys? Guys?" I said as the two of them stood, leaving my helpless body to tumble onto the ground. They then walked away in grumpy silence, leaving me stuck in the grass.
Actually, upon standing, I found I could put some weight on my ankles again, thanked my pals for spending the morning lugging me around, and admonished them to go do whatever they wanted. I'd limp back to camp. They obliged. Fortunately for me, something magical was about to happen.
I started on the trek back to camp. Someone handed me a flyer. Cornerstone is kind of like college in that a bunch of people hand you flyers and crap to try to get you to come to their thing. Usually, that thing was a random hardcore show on a makeshift stage behind the port-o-potties, as opposed to back home at college, where it was usually a thing to trick freshmen girls to drink enough to sleep with guys that otherwise couldn't get any on looks or personality because they were lame. Here's the flyer that guy handed me.
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That paragraph actually doesn't have anything to do with anything. I just found that flyer and scanned it because it made it this far (Bushnell to Glynn, and 12 years in a box), so it might as well find its way to the semi-eternity of the Internet. Anyway, back to the good part.
Wait, before that, I also saw this dude who was wearing black eyeliner, black lipstick and a jet black cloak with a hood on. He wore this for the entire festival, and I know this because I ran into him at least once a day. I am pretty sure he was about the same age I was, and I am also pretty sure he eventually smothered to death in the Illinois heat, a pathetic example of suicide by fashion over function. Not punk rock at all, dude.
I continued on the trek back to camp along port-a-potty road. That particular road had an incline on one side (the side without all the port-o-potties). Usually, the incline held only woods. Today it held leaning instruments and a band getting ready to play.

This may be hard for kids today to understand, but between Adrian, Jon, and me, The Nicsperiment, we had approximately zero functioning cellphones. I had no way to inform my pals of what was about to happen. On the side of this very hill, mewithoutYou, sans turtleneck sweaters, ripped into yet another incredible set. This time, vocalist, Aaron Weiss, revealed even more of his eccentricities.
About halfway through mewithoutYou's set, Weiss muttered something into the microphone akin to, "Forget this, I suck," handed the microphone to the crowd, walked through the audience, sat on the hill with his head in his hands. Then, something even more strange happened: the drummer from Zao, who had literally just changed my life not 24-hours before, walked up to the crowd. He headed over to Weiss and essentially told him, "What you are doing means something to these kids. You have to get back up there." Weiss looked up with fire in his eyes, headed back to the stage, and the band then preceded to destroy that hill to the point that nothing will ever grow on it again. Take that, you stupid hill!

Slow Coming Day:
I finally made it back to camp, nudged Gary, the creepy, walkie-talkie eavesdropping kid, out of the way, and sat on a bucket. I took a moment to read the Jesus People USA Cornerstone Magazine (There's a picture of the cover at the top of the "Day One" entry.) Jesus People USA is the organization that put on Cornerstone. They are a sort of Evangelical commune based in Chicago, who does work for the community. 2002 was their 30th year of existence. They've had a bit of legal trouble lately, and I don't really know that much about them as an organization, but they put on a mean music festival, and that magazine was topical and cool.
After a little while, Jon and Adrian returned. I told them about the secret mewithoutYou show, and they were both like "DOH!" but then I told them that according to the Cornerstone schedule, the band was going to play again that very day, so we headed back to the music tents together, though at a slow pace, as my pregnant lady cankles were still at least the size of softballs. Before mewithoutYou played, though, the three of us caught Slow Coming Day's show. Slow Coming Day were rocking and emotive, and I bought their demo afterward, and can anyone tell me what happened to Slow Coming Day?

mewithoutYou (the third time): Hopefully, I've already gotten across the point that mewithoutYou's Cornerstone 2002 shows were really awesome...awesome enough to where I wanted to see them for a third time. The three of us enjoyed their third Cornerstone set immensely.
The show's best moment came when the crowd screamed along to the line "YOU BETTER BE ALONE!" from "Gentlemen." Weiss busted out laughing, stopped the song, and informed the crowd, "Don't sing along to that part! My point of view in this song is wrong! I'm a bad guy in it!" The band then roared through the rest of the song and set. mewithoutYou won Cornerstone 2002.

Bleach (again, for the first time):
Adrian was a longtime Bleach fan, and their first set had been great, so I went along with him to their second. Their second set rocked a little less than their first, as the band actually, and quite surprisingly, pulled out a few worship songs. Usually, I wouldn't be too down with that, but Bleach were extremely passionate, still rocked hard, and really drew me into the experience--not bad for a bunch of hill-country yokels. After the show, I noticed their guitar-player, Sam, was wearing a baseball camp imprinted with a picture of a pistol and the words "I Don't Dial 911." Awesome. He told me that a fan gave it to him, and if a fan gave me that I would have worn it, too, but my fans just send me kitty cat Christmas sweaters.

Kevin Max:
Somehow, in all the fray, I missed both John Reuben and The Benjamin Gate's sets, and I'm still pissed about that, as I am quite sure they were both probably awesome.
The three of us had some time to kill, though, so we went to Main Stage for a minute. We just missed Skillet, but the three of us had just seen them a few months earlier back in good old Lusiana.
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Also, Jon had blue hair.
Kevin Max, formerly the weird guy from DC Talk, took the stage as the sun began to set. You know, the one all the girls like (Toby), the one that can sing really well (Tait), and the weird one that all the girls who don't like the first one like (K Max). I'm doing an injustice to Kevin Max, as he is a really talented guy. Unfortunately, though, not much he has done post-DC Talk has stuck. The only thing I remember from his set is a comment that he was going to get a tattoo of Aslan crying for the world. Strangely enough, Max's set was immediately followed by Tait's, who was then followed by tobyMac, making for a strange DC Talk non-reunion, but we didn't stick around. We had less well-known, smaller, but much tastier fish to fry (Sorry, DC Talk dudes, but make some better music and maybe I'll eat you know what I mean! Metaphors are the worst!)

I don't know what happened to Narcissus, but they were really awesome. They did that whole scream/sing hard-rock thing, but they put a very unique touch on it. The vocalist had a very tough, non-stereotypical singing voice, and the instrumentation didn't really sound like anything anyone else was doing. Their set was awesome. But what happened to them? Who knows, and for that matter, where is my sandwich?!

Tourniquet does not have my sandwich, but Tourniquet's drummer, Ted Kirkpatrick, is generally considered one of the best in the world...drummer, not sandwich. That guy is incredible. Due to this and Tourniquet's rad, rock-metal hybrid music, Tourniquet has, while not huge, a devoted fan base with a rather rabid center. They played like emotive machines, and Adrian and I (Jon was no doubt dancing around a fire with the non-showerists, as this was the time of day the moon was lateral of Jupiter) vastly enjoyed their set. The standout moment, though, was a mistake by the guitar player. Tourniquet take a page from classical music, and during an insanely complicated opening solo (inspired by said classical music), the guitarist hit the wrong note. The entire crowd, which had been holding its breath, gasped collectively. I've never heard anything like it, but if anything, it made Tourniquet more endearing, as it proved they were not machines, but human. After the last song, Kirkpatrick threw pieces of his drum kit into the crowd.
A stick hit me right in the chest!
But horror of horrors!
With my engorged cankles, I could not crouch!
Instead, I could only bend slowly in horror, as the person behind me reached between my legs and snatched the stick away.
After the show came one of my favorite Cornerstone moments. Adrian, a longtime drummer (I had not begun to play by this point), wanted to take a picture with Kirkpatrick. The line for photographs was quite long. Adrian and I waited for more than thirty minutes. When there were only two folks ahead of us, Adrian's eyes suddenly stretched wide.
"I don't want to do this!" he said, and ran from the line into the depths of the Illinois night.
I didn't get it at the time, but I do now. I can't explain it to you, though, because it is the kind of emotion only the French have a word for, and I don't speak French because this is America, you godless foreign pagans. Now get out of my blog!
come back tomorrow though?

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