[This being the 4th of July, I am reminded of the six to seven Fourths that I spent at the Cornerstone Christian Music Festival, first as a mere observer, then as a record label person, and then as the sponsor and organizer of the Acoustic Stage (all of which you can read about and see pictures of here). It's cool, it's hip. . . and it's one big sweaty, dirty stinking mess too! When I first went with a friend back in 1993,we camped, and it rained, and rained, and rained. Never again did I camp. As a way of summarizing the experience, I wrote a couple of fictional "letters" home to my wife -- true in what they say, not true in that I did not really write them but used it as a rhetorical device. Funny for me to read them now, but they do give you a sense of what it was like. It hasn't changed much! By the way, experience a bit of Cornerstone yourself by buying a copy of Silent Planet's 2001 release Live From Acoustic Stage here.]
July 2, 1993
Well, we're here. . . the 10th Annual Cornerstone Christian Arts Festival. Craig and I arrived yesterday at this cornfield near the metropolis of Bushnell, Illinois (population 700), looking forward to developing an appreciation for art from a Christian perspective. Our neighbors at our campsite are long-haired Concordia Seminary students as well as a busload of assorted Chicago inner-city urbanites from the Jesus People, USA community, the sponsor of this "alternative" Christian arts gala. We were "pleased" to discover that our immediate neighbors (one tent over) were devotees of Christian heavy metal. It plays all day, so there is a continuous soundtrack for Craig has dubbed "Craig and Steve's Grand Adventure" or what I call our "Cultural Odyssey." Either way, this isn't like home.
We arrived on a beautiful sunny day and set up tent in a large grassy area near two of the large concert tents. However, it rained all night and with morning, it was mud. We've been sloshing around ever since. Some people take delight in tackling newcomers and rolling them in the mud. We keep a wide berth of such folk. In our khaki shorts, polo shirts, and topsiders, we stand out a bit as aliens to this culture.
A bit about the attire and habits of these folk. The basic outfit I've heard described as grunge -- basically, old and dirty. Hey, tie dye is still big though! The hair: mohawks, long hair, no hair, purple hair, green hair, spikes. Communication occurs on t-shirts. Everyone has something on a shirt to testify that they belong to Jesus, just like we have a fish symbol on the car. They listen to music by bands called Veil, Circle of Dust, Ragman, Prayer Chain, Farewell to Juliet, Vector, Deitophobia, and Grace and Glory (like that one). Oops, I forgot to mention Fear Not, and how could I forget them? This metal band took the mainstage at 1:00 a.m. last night and played a great set that wrapped up about 2:30 a.m. I know, because I heard it clearly, a half mile away, in my tent, on my back, wide awake. . . while Craig slept through it.
They have a refreshing new vocabulary here: words like theoagressive, hypospasmatic, deitofrenetic, clangorous, bellicostic -- all used to describe the music (don't bother to reach for the dictionary). And there's widespread use of word I do know like "hip" and "cool." I've mastered these two words and found that the language barrier can be scaled if you simply make liberal use of them, like "Hey man, that's a really hip band, really cool guitar licks, really hip testimony too." Yep, Cornerstone has got to be the coolest, hippest Christian festival of the Summer. Yet I can't quite get used to how these folks dress and appreciate all the music they listen to. How can this be good "art?"