Cornerstone 1998: Jason’s Diary, July 1

Today’s concerts included Thee Spivies, Bon Voyage, globalWAVEsystem, and Mental Destruction.

On July 1, the festival began in earnest. Nolan and Steph showed up at the campsite, and we caught up on what was going on with them. We then met a couple of our neighbors, including a poor unfortunate named David. Turns out David flew to Chicago and was going to meet up with a few of his friends. Due to some cancelled flight, he was unable to due so. Fortunately, he met someone else who was going to Cornerstone and hitched a ride with them. Without any food or friends, he ended up sleeping at our campsite.

Well, we couldn’t just leave him, so David became our adopted member. Since Shawn had gone up to Chicago for 2 days, David moved into his tent for the time being. It was a win-win situation. David got a place to stay, and we got a cool new friend.

Nolan and I walked around for a little while, and heard a sound check for a band called The W’s. It was very swing-ish sounding, so we made it a point to check out their show.

While walking around, I got my first taste of an Ostrich burger and ran into Joe and Jamie Beard, a couple I knew from Omaha. I talked with them and hung out at their campsite. When I saw them last year, Jamie was pregnant and they had moved to Alabama. This year, they had a cute baby daughter (they had plenty of baby pictures) and had moved back up to Omaha. After hanging out with them for awhile, I went back to my campsite and met Liz, a friend of Stephanie’s from Florida. Did I ever mention that Cornerstone is a great place to meet people?

Now that the festival had started, it was mad rush to see as many shows as I could.

The first band up was Thee Spivies, a 50s-ish pop group. I say this out of love: the band members lookd like dweebs straight out of a 50’s movie beach movie. They all wore outfits straight out of Sears, cracked silly jokes between themselves, and just had a very bright and personable nature on stage. Their music was straight out of movies like “Rock Around The Clock” with upbeat melodies, great vocal harmonies, and catchy hooks. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the kids in the audience that this wasn’t a ska band, because there was skanking left and right, as well as a little too much moshing and crowd surfing. But maybe I’m a little old-fashioned.

After Thee Spivies, GRITS played. GRITS is a rap group, and one that didn’t really impress me. I’ll admit I’m not the biggest afficianado of rap music, but nothing really leapt out at me from their performance. After catching a little of their show, I headed over to the HM Stage to catch the Halo Friendlies, an all-girl punk band. Stephanie said they reminded her of Hole, but I was more reminded of bands like Babes in Toyland. They were plagued with a few sound difficulties and their playing was a little rough. However, this was the first day of the tour, so they wre probably just ironing out the bugs. I’m not a big punk fan, but it’s nice to see the girls can hold their own against the boys.

Earlier in the day, we had caught a little of The W’s soundcheck. What we had heard was a great swing tune. What we got at the show was mostly ska. I don’t like ska. Where did all of these ska bands come from?!? They interspersed a few swing songs throughout their set, and I thought their swing stuff was much better and stronger than their ska stuff, and I’m not saying that just because I don’t like ska.

One of the bands I really wanted to see was Bon Voyage, and I did so at 5:00 that afternoon. Bon Voyage is actually Jason Martin (Starflyer 59 — who didn’t perform this year) and his wife Julie, along with a few friends. What I’ve heard kind of reminded me of a somewhat noisier, poppier Ivy. All in all, it was an okay set, but I think it could’ve been better. Unfortunately, Mrs. Martin’s voice was drowned out too much and their set was too short.

After these shows, there was nothing else of interest until 9:00 that night. That marked the beginning of the “Industrial Night” in the dance tent. It was kind of funny watching all of these rave and house kids come in and find nothing of the sort. Instead, they got some of the most bone-shaking, teeth-rattling sounds of the fest. All in all, 6 bands played.

First up was Autovoice. Two guys (keyboardist and a duct-tape wearing vocalist) set about playing some very dark/euro-sounding industrial that was reminiscent of globalWAVEsystem. However, the music didn’t really seem to match up to the vocalist’s intensity. Next up was The Way Sect Bloom, whom I had heard on various compilations. With a few minor technical difficulties, they played just a handful of songs. Overall, it was a little too generic for my tastes, with the 1st song being the strongest.

The third band was one I was really looking forward too. I had been listening to globalWAVEsystem ever since their CD Life Equals Death came out in 1993. A very intense performance, with a full band. The vocalist was quite intense, prowling around on stage and urging on the audience. They played several songs off their new release, as well as several off of Life Equals Death (they played “Yukionna,” one of my favorite tracks on the album — I even knew the words). There were a few difficulties, but overall, it was a very tight and impressive set.

After globalWAVEsystem, Rackets and Drapes came on. Now I don’t mean to write these guys off as Christian copycats or derivatives, but two words came to mind immediately when seeing them: Marilyn Manson. Yep, these guys had the whole thing down, from the wierd industrial/metal hybrid sound to the pancake-thick makeup to the tophat and cane to the voice. They were very upfront about their beliefs, though, and explained several of their songs. I’ll admit I’ve been somewhat interested by Manson’s musical stylings, and these guys seemed to fill the bill.

After Rackets and Drapes came Massivivid, and these guys seemed to be the most “professional-looking” of the group. Of all the bands, they seemed the most glamorous and slick-sounding. Musically, I was just reminded of Aliexa, but not as danceable or engaging.

Finally came the most anticipated band of the night, maybe even of the fest. At least for me. Mental Destruction came all the way from Sweden this year, to the play this, their only US date. Mental Destruction doesn’t play any of this wimpy Nine Inch Nails, watered-down-with-guitars industrial. They’re from the old school, when industrial music was a revolt of sorts against all musical (and social) ideologies.

This was nothing short of structured noise, sonic chaos writhing about under a thin veneer of rhythmic order. Not only was this set ear-piercingly loud (a band on the neighboring stage complained that Mental Destruction drowned out their set), but also visually assaulting, playing the whole set illuminated by a strobe. The only way I can describe the massive array of sound and brutally distorted vocals was like having tectonic plates shift in my chest. They were by far the best band of the night, with a set that lived up to their reputation as the most brutal live band in Sweden.

After hanging out for a bit after the Mental Destruction show, and shaking my head in disbelief with others who had survived the performance, I headed over to the Havalina Rail Co. set at the Gallery tent. Unfortunately, I had missed the opening of their set, but since I missed it due to Mental Destruction, I didn’t mind. Havalina is a swing/lounge/zydeco/jazz/folk band, which may seem like the oddest thing to listen to after Mental Destruction. Like Mental Destruction, though, Havalina is an incredible live band (in fact, I think they should release a live CD). I only caught the last song of their set, as well as the 2 encores they played.

Havalina is incredibly tight, playing off eachother with such ease that you would swear it wasn’t natural. Talent only accounts for a little of it, the rest is chemistry, and this band has it coming out of their pores. They ended with the whole band just going nuts, especially their bassist Orlando, who proceeded to pick up his upright bass and go to town on it. This band is something truly special and unique, and it is always a pleasure and a privilege to see them live. I think they’re the only band I’ve seen all 3 times I’ve been to Cornerstone.

After the Havaline set, I made a beeline to the Asylum, where I hung out for 45 minutes or so. There, I saw Juan and Daniel again, which is always a treat. I also got to meet the ever-cool DjDedd, one of the few people I know with musical tastes as cool as mine.

All in all, the first “official” day of the festival was a smash.

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