Back in the day, the entire year here at Opus HQ revolved around one event: the annual Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, Illinois. Put on by Jesus People USA (JPUSA), the festival is a week-long event in late June/early July that features concerts, seminars, art galleries, outdoor activities, extreme sports, and much more — all of which are intended to create a spirit of community, creativity, and diversity.
For many years — 7 years, to be exact — the festival was nothing short of a pilgrimage for my friends and I. We’d pack ourselves into a couple of cars, make the perilous trek across Iowa, and spend the next week or so in a place that was truly like no other — hanging out with old and new friends that we never saw anywhere else, getting challenged by a multitude of speakers and seminars, and of course, seeing a ton of great bands.
Every year, my friends and I would post a mass of content to Opus as soon as we’d recovered the festival — festival diaries, concert reviews, interviews, videos, and tons of photos. Unfortunately, much of that content had gone missing from Opus in the last year or two.
One reason was that I never really got around to reformatting it for the new system that I was using. However, the primary reason was that, for a variety of reasons, Cornerstone no longer meant what it used to. My last year of attendance was 2002, an experience that left me incredibly drained physically, mentally, and spiritually. To put it bluntly, I had become burned out.
But that was four years ago, and I’ve come to realize the incredible position that the festival holds in my life. So much so, that it seemed like a real shame that all of the diaries, reviews, and whatnot were just languishing somewhere in the database. A lot of that material still holds value, if only for me.
And so, with a little reformatting and re-editing, I’ve reposted almost all of Opus’ Cornerstone coverage from those halcyon days. I’ve resisted the urge to go back and do massive edits, to try and “clean up” my rants and raves. To be honest, some of them are almost painful to read in their naivete and enthusiasm. But to try and polish them seemed rather dishonest and petty to me.
I know some people who, once they’ve stopped attending the festival, seem to have become rather bitter and cynical about the whole deal, willing to dismiss the whole affair like a bad memory. That’s not how I want to become. I don’t know if I’ll ever return to the festival, but it was a tremendous and influential time, and I’m proud of the coverage that we did.
For awhile there, I think Opus was one the premier places on-line for Cornerstone coverage, and I think a big reason for it was that we honestly loved the festival. It was Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter all rolled into one, the highlight of our year. And it feels to good to have it back on-line after all of this time.
Reading through all the concert coverage, it’s fun to note which bands are still around and kicking out the hot jams (e.g., Starflyer 59, Joy Electric, Ester Drang, Pedro The Lion) but also sad to see which bands have passed on (e.g., SS Bountyhunter, The Elevator Division, Velour 100, Havalina). Ah well, the memories still live on, and what great memories they are. I doubt anyone who ever saw them will forget one of Havalina’s legendary late night jams, or one of the Bountyhunter’s infamous sets (where nunchucks were as important as guitars).
Of course, all of those articles are only the tip of the iceberg. I had a video camera with me for a few of those years. As such, I’ve got a number of Mini DV tapes full of concert footage that I hope to be going through and posting on-line in the coming months.
One final thing, reading through all of the coverage and whatnot reminds me of the many wonderful folks who were part of those experiences, regardless of whether they contributed or not. I haven’t been contact with many of them for years now — life has a habit of doing that — but hopefully we’ll all meet up on the other side, living it up in the sort of community that Cornerstone attempted to foreshadow.