It’s the End of the World As We Know It. . . (A Tribute to Cornerstone Festival)
Our firm has the distinct privilege of representing a number of artists, producers and others in the Christian music industry. I don’t mind telling you that this is kind of a dream come true for me.
Most people my age that are into music (and I guess that includes everyone) were raised on the likes of Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi and Hootie and the Blowfish. I, however, was raised on such contemporary Christian music greats as Geoff Moore and the Distance, Rich Mullins, Whiteheart, and of course, Amy and Michael. As my musical tastes “matured” in my college years, I became a fan of “alternative” Christian music artists (or artists that just happen to be Christians, as they would much prefer to be called), such as Over the Rhine, the Prayer Chain and the Vigilantes of Love.
In 1993, me and some friends rented a couple vans and hit the road on a pilgrimage to a farm just outside of Bushnell, Illinois, population 3,221. Since 1984, each summer, thousands descended upon rural Illinois to take part in what became the epicenter of artful Christian music, Cornerstone Festival.
Cornerstone was one of the few things that Christian music got right. It was a celebration of art, music, faith and community. You did not come to Cornerstone for the “attractions.” There was no theme park – no nearby hotels. Not even a Walmart close by. You did not attend Cornerstone casually. It was intentional. Everybody there, wanted to be there. As a result, there was a magic to it. You could feel it in the air. You could see it on everyone’s face. And most importantly, you could hear it in the music. I remember seeing Rich Mullins stage dive at Cornerstone. Yes. Rich Mullins. I remember seeing Michael Knott pour a large can of corn over his head. Yes. Corn. (See below video at 4:05)
Sadly, it was just announced that this summer will be the Swan Song for Cornerstone Festival.
Truthfully, this should come as no surprise in light of the evolution of the Christian music industry, and even the music industry as a whole. It represents necessary, albeit sometimes painful, changes that those of us “in the business” have come to predict and accept. While this is beyond the scope of this article, suffice it to say that the reality is, music is better than it ever has been. The net effect of the digitization of music will be positive – both to listeners and creators. Great artists that are committed to their craft will be able to find their audience where they might not have been able to before. Nonetheless, occasionally, these industry changes hit close to home when they remind you of something you really loved that just doesn’t fit within the economy or culture of today’s age.
R.I.P. Cornerstone Festival. 1984-2012.