I was scheduled to speak at the Cornerstone Music Festival again this summer, but a few days ago I received a message from the organizers that things were changing. Cornerstone is broke and can no longer put on the festival. So they're trying to organize some sort of farewell party this summer, but it will not be the regular festival, and it will be the last hurrah. They are closing their doors forever. Here is the official message from their website.
This is very sad. For whatever reason, the festival just hasn't drawn the number of paying customers that it needed to. The last few years they've gotten into a bad cycle of inviting fewer of the big time mainstream bands, because they couldn't afford the cost; that led to fewer people coming and so there was less money for the next year. Cornerstone has always been the coolest of the Christian music festivals, being run by Jesus People USA and catering to the underground, independent, edgier market. Evidently that sort of thing is not sustainable in the long run.
Cornerstone has been an important part of our family's experience. I started going during my college years when it was still held at the fairgrounds in Grayslake, IL. That's where I came to appreciate bands like Daniel Amos, the Choir, One Bad Pig, Adam Again, and similar. Then we started taking our family to the campground in Bushnell, IL in the year 2000 when our youngest was still in diapers. That year there were torrential rains and shoe-sucking mud. We ate something at our campsite that made us all vomit. But we were hooked. We've gone as a family almost every year since then, and I think it has been an important cultural experience for our kids growing up. And for most of those trips, we've brought other people along with us--cousins, friends, etc. And it was always nice to run into other people from the college at the festival. Much of our extended family thought we were a little crazy for doing this every year and making sure the rest of the summer schedule revolved around it. But it really has been a blast.
Then, it should probably be reckoned among the highlights of my academic career to be one of the seminar speakers there the last two years. I really enjoyed being part of the official program, and the people seemed to respond pretty well. And the kids loved that I could get them into the air conditioned speakers' trailer that had complimentary snacks and beverages.
Some of our favorite bands got their start or were nurtured at C-Stone: POD, Relient K, Over the Rhine, Flatfoot 56, The Lost Dogs. Some of the best concerts I've ever seen where there: the 77s when they were at the height of their powers; the Alarm; Mark Heard; MxPx; Zach Williams; and Paper Route come to mind. My kids would no doubt list others. It's hard for me to imagine what music our family would be listening to if it weren't for the festival.
Beyond the fun, JPUSA modeled Christ to many, many people who wouldn't go looking for him in the usual places. This was a little corner of the Kingdom of God. Man made institutions don't last forever, but I'm afraid the world is a poorer place for losing this one.