Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cornerstone Music Festival 2009

I just got back yesterday from Cornerstone. For those that don't know, Cornerstone is one of the largest Christian music and arts festivals in the US. It's a five day festival that caters to all musical styles except for mainstream pop. In other words you won't find Mercy Me or Michael W. Smith there. But you will find folk, hard rock, alternative, hardcore, punk, metal, and a lot of great independent musicians. In addition to the music there are tons of great seminars and visual art. With over 500 bands there are concerts going on all day and well into the early morning hours.

I've been going since 1990 and this year was another great festival. I was especially excited that this is the first time my entire family has gone. I took my older two children last year for the first time and they were instantly hooked, but this year my wife and youngest daughter were able to join us. I think my youngest (7 years old) was a little overwhelmed at first with all the people who look a little different than what she is used to in her suburban life (lots of tattoos, piercings, and hippies). But by the end of the week, she had settled in and hopefully was starting to understand that not all Christians have to look and think alike to be Christians.

To me this is one of the greatest things about Cornerstone. It challenges us to step outside of our usual surroundings and enter what is essentially a different culture. It reminds us that God is a lot bigger and more interesting than the box we so often put Him in. It's a great reminder that we as Christians are part of a larger community of believers that extends around the world and is comprised of people from all different backgrounds and experiences. Cornerstone is a great celebration of the unity we have as believers. It's refreshing to listen to other perspectives on Christianity and the bible. We need to step out of our comfort zone more often and allow ourselves to be challenged by God.

I was especially challenged this year by the phrase, "don't go to church, be the church." Where you see suffering, be the church. Where you see injustice, be the church. Where you see your neighbor in need, be the church. It's so easy to be a cultural Christian, but it's much more difficult to be a biblical Christian. But that is what we are called to be.

So what about the music? Well, it was tremendous. Those that know me know that I have a very eclectic taste in music. I might listen to folk one minute and punk the next. We were able to see some of our favorite bands like Family Force 5, Reliant K, Anberlin, Josh Garrels, Michael Roe, and Los Lonely Boys while also discovering some new artists like Mewithoutyou, Copeland, Photoside Cafe, Shiny Toy Guns, and Flatfoot 56. It was also fun to see the Crucified reunite after 15 years. They are one of the grandfathers of Christian thrash/punk and played a great show.

Flatfoot 56 may have been the most entertaining show. They are a punk band that incorporates a mandolin and bagpipes into their music and actually had the crowd recreate the battle of the Alamo in the mosh pit (hard to really explain, let's just say it was entertaining). And by the way I came very close to reliving my youth and actually entering the mosh pit. Then I remembered that I'm 37 and wanted to be able to walk back to my campsite afterward so I decided not to. I think my 13 year old son was disappointed I didn't, just so he could've made fun of me.

After discovering and being amazed by Josh Garrels last year (a folk singer that incorporates urban and hip-hop into his music), I was truly blown away again this year by Mewithoutyou. Not sure how to describe their music other than to say it is some of the most creative music and songwriting I've heard in a long, long time. A very special band indeed.

Well those are some of the highlights. If you ever get a chance to go, I would highly recommend it. It's a wonderful festival and if you go with an open mind, I believe God will speak to you. Can't wait till next year.

God Bless.