Thoughts on Cornerstone 2009: Music

July 14, 2009

music / travel

I want to spend a little bit of time looking back at Cornerstone 2009, as I try to do each year on this blog. There are a number of things that were fairly unique about this year, as every year, and I want to give some thought to all of them.

For Kiera and I, this year was very seminar-driven. We always attend a lot of seminars, but this year seemed to have a little more seminars than normal, and fewer random generator stage shows than normal. But in spite of this, there was still a good deal of fantastic music, and I want to honor that.

Best shows at Cornerstone 2009

I’ve said before that recent Cornerstones have had a lot of metal. Metal is enjoying a bit of popularity within the underground, specifically metalcore and other things that try to mix metal with hardcore, or emo, or whatever. This is a good thing, as Kiera and I love metalcore. But it is also a bad thing, since there are also more bad or mediocre bands, even as there are also more good ones.

As this has happened, I have noticed that I have a larger appreciation for non-metal music that impacts me. This year, one of the most impactful shows for me was mewithoutYou. I’ve been familiar with them for several years, but had never been to one of their shows. It is an incredibly unique experience, and I found it to be amazing.

Along with this uncommon experience (for me), my favorite shows were those of Becoming the Archetype and Living Sacrifice. Both of these have greatly impacted me over the years. Both are incredibly talented, unique metal bands (incredible guitarists, drummers, vocalists, and lyricists) that truly do present a worship experience at their shows and do it with distinctiveness.

Both are also very missional bands. While I have seen both of them at Cornerstone in years past, I have also seen them hanging out and playing in bar/nightclubs like The Masquerade, and they seem equally at home in both settings.

Random thoughts on Christian music

Musically, Kiera and I seem to be fairly unique people among Emergent circles. We are both underground music people, which in itself is not common (Emergent people seem to feel an obligation to love U2, Radiohead, and Coldplay – none of which are particularly impressive to me when we look at musical talent or creativity), and also we both actually enjoy music that is made by Christians, with the intent of speaking to or about God.

The Christian music scene, as a whole, is a dump, and it deserves the criticism that it receives. We can all agree on this. It is a ghetto of talentless kitsch, spiritual shallowness, and it lags.

But really: the “secular” music scene, as a whole, is just as big a dump. The mainstream music world is a ghetto of bands that sound the same, talk about nothing in particular, and seek nothing beyond commercial success. I truly believe that the spirituality or lack thereof has nothing to do with the talent, creativity, and originality of a music scene. Certainly there is less beautiful, talented, and creative Christian music out there, but that is a factor of numbers. It’s okay.

This is among the reasons that I went further into underground music after I became acquainted with Jesus. The underground, as a whole, is more full of creativity and originality and talent than its mainstream counterpart. From a Christian perspective, Cornerstone truly is the best place in the United States to see this play itself out.