Cornerstone 2001: Jason’s Diary, July 5

Today’s concerts included Unwed Sailor, Scientific, Damien Jurado, and Sanctum.

It was now official… our campsite was in full effect. All of my friends were there, for the most part (we had a few stragglers later on in the week), and the festival was in high gear. After last night’s incredible experiences, however, I was a little skeptical as to how the rest of the fest would shape up, but there were still a few surprises in store for me.

First up was The Singing Mechanic. I’d seen this guy open up for Unwed Sailor and Ester Drang a few months back, and wasn’t too impressed then. However, I wanted to give him a second chance. Unfortunately, he still didn’t do anything for me. This time, he was backed up by a band (which included Jonathon Ford on bass, as well as a few others), but I still couldn’t get into the music at all. I tried to appreciate it a la Danielson Famile, but the lyrics never transcended their silliness, and the music was way too Elton John-esque for my tastes.

I then headed over to catch another episode of the Decalogue. It was Episode #4, I believe, on the subject of adultery. Unfortunately, I walked in halfway through, so I was fairly lost in terms of the story. However, I’ll say this again… Kieslowki had an uncanny knack for capturing some incredibly haunting images with his camera. I can’t wait to see the series in its entirety.

It back to the New Band Stage. I got there about halfway through Lewis’ set. I’d caught these guys at the aforementioned Unwed Sailor/Ester Drang set, and was really impressed by them. Their set was more of the same, melodic, atmospheric pop music in the vein of Coldplay or Radiohead. Their vocalist had that Thom Yorke thing down pat. Look out for these guys, because they should be going places soon.

Up next was Lasso, and I was really eager to see these guys. All I knew was that a few members of Ester Drang were involved, and that it was more country-oriented. If you remember, Nolan and I ingested quite a bit of country music on our way to Cornerstone, so I was primed for some good honky-tonk, and Lasso didn’t disappoint.

Led by a vocalist who looked like he just stepped out of his big rig, Lasso played some lovely country ballads in the vein of Merle Haggard. Nolan looked like he was in heaven, and I’ll gladly admit that Lasso’s brand of laidback balladry was a welcome relief from the deluge of hardcore and punk.

On the way back to my campsite, I found out that Unwed Sailor was playing another show, this time at a stage set up by the side of the road. They played the same set from last night, but there’s no such thing as too much Unwed Sailor. The crowd was great, the atmosphere was great, and I thought the idea of Unwed Sailor agreeing to play such an intimate show was great.

On a sidenote… I’m glad that there were so many little stages that seemed to pop up at people’s campsites. I’d heard that Cornerstone had cracked down on them in previous years, but this year they seemed to flourish. I think it’s a good thing, and I hope that we’ll see more of these little venues next year. Not every band can make it on one of the big stages, and anything that lets bands get heard is alright in my book. I hope that more bands will take advantage of them. And I also think it was great that “big” bands like Unwed Sailor and Luxury were willing to play for a roadside crowd.

A few hours later, I was in the Cornerstone Magazine Tent, eagerly awaiting another triad of great bands. First up was Denison Witmer. Again, another welcome respite from all of the loud music. Witmer’s gentle folk music was the perfect start for a laidback evening. And it was perfectly suited for the coffeehouse atmosphere of the Cornerstone Magazine Tent.

However, it felt a little odd that Scientific was up next. Their brand of dark, edgy new wave-influenced pop might’ve been better suited to the previous night, but oh well. I don’t make the schedule. This wasn’t one of Scientific’s better sets. The mix wasn’t that great, and the sound seemed a little off.

After Scientific’s set, Nolan and Clint raved to me about a band they’d just seen called Soviet. I wished I would’ve been there, but I wasn’t about to lose my spot for the Damien Jurado show. The show got off to an uneven start. I was expecting a solo, stripped down affair. But Jurado launched into a couple full-blown rock songs with a complete band.

At first, I thought I was at the wrong show. But then the rest of the band left the stage, and the magic began. It started when Jurado went into “Tonight I Will Retire,” which may be one of the saddest songs I’ve heard. And then he played “Ohio,” and then “Medication.” I’m surprised that I held up as well as I did, since those songs always seem to reduce me to tears when I hear them.

Heather, Becky, Joe, and I then headed over the where the Omaha kids were camped at, ready for a night of doughboys. If you’ve never had doughboys, you are missing out. I think they blow the pants off of smores. On the way to the site, however, we stopped to check out some of Sanctum’s set.

I’d really wanted to see these guys, since you don’t always get a chance to check out a Swedish industrial band everyday. Sanctum delivered a brutal, beautiful set. Musically, it was a combination of harsh, Mental Destruction-esque industrial sounds and soaring orchestral arrangements. But the kicker were the vocals, delivered by Lena. Easily the best vocalist I saw at the fest, her powerful, operatic vocals had us enthralled the whole time.

We made it over to the campsite, and you could still hear Sanctum’s music. In fact, several people around us got up and went to the show shortly after we arrived, because they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. The rest of the night was spent in good company, devouring burnt doughboys and flaming marshmallows.

Good times people… that’s what Cornerstone is all about.

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