Cornerstone 2001: Nolan’s Concert Reviews, July 5

Today’s concerts included Half-Handed Cloud, Soviet, and Damien Jurado.

The Singing Mechanic

A guy at a piano playing silly songs… not my forte. However, Jonathan Ford joined in on the bass, as did the drummer from Living Sacrifice. I wasn’t to impressed, so I took off after a few songs. It was basically funny folk songs on piano.

Half-Handed Cloud

He was funny at first, but by the end I wanted to kill myself. One guy stood on stage with a little fishing hat playing what seemed like hundreds of minute-long childrens’ songs. A few of his instruments included an acoustic guitar, a toy lamb that made “baaa” sounds as you tipped it over, and some children’s toy that you push buttons to make music with. Like I said, it was quite humorous and even enjoyable at first, but then I started to wonder why he was up there. It would have been perfect to play at a nursery, but probably not for a Cornerstone crowd. Either way, this guy would have made you cry.


July 5th was the day of the dark horses. I found a few bands that I had not heard of before but simply blew me away. Lasso’s humble midwestern country songs were like that. I’d never seen a country band at the festival before, but I was pleasantly surprised. Sporting a John Deere hat, a farmer’s shirt and tan, and acoustic guitar, the singer looked as if he had just pulled up in his tractor or pick-up. His soft voice with a Tulsa accent flowed as beautifully as the steel guitar found on the album.

The music didn’t pack the tent, but it was a breath of fresh air for those that watched. The bass player also wore a vintage cowboy shirt with roses printed above the breast pockets. The whole set was a treat to this classic country music fan. Much of it consisted of slow country ballads about love (what else?). Unfortunately, they didn’t bring the steel guitar with them, but the CD I picked up provided sounds for the drive home. A perfect CD for a ride across midwestern farmland.

Urban Hillbilly Quartet

How could you be bad with a name like this? The set was a blend of good ol’ cowboy songs and Appalachian porch tunes. The female singer had an incredibly gorgeous voice reminiscent of the female jazz singers of the 20’s and 30’s. Dressed in an attire much too fancy for hillbillies, the men wore suits while she wore the fanciest of dresses. I believe the bass player actually wore a Styrofoam lobster on his head. The southeastern country songs had people on their feet and dancing under the acoustic music tent. There was even some ragtime thrown into the mix at certain points. It was a good day for country shows.

Denison Witmer

This was the first time I had seen Witmer live. He is one of the few musicians who can get away with playing only an acoustic guitar and singing for a large crowd. He wasn’t lonely for too long, since Christian from Scientific joined him on the keyboard and so did the drummer for Scientific (whose set I had to miss to see the incredible Soviet). The songs were heartfelt and he had the voice to back up such lyrics. Unfortunately, Witmer had to compete with the brutal sounds of the metal floating over from nearby tents. Sometimes, that’s the tragedy of the festival.


Soviet was definitely the dark horse of the festival, and I was just crazy enough to leave before the Scientific set to check them out. After all, Ronnie Martin had signed them to Plastiq Musiq, so they must be good.

Shiloh and I arrived to the Decapolis stage and noticed nothing had been set up. There were just three guys standing there, two with keyboard guitars. We soon realized that that was all to the band. Wearing red dress shirts, skinny white ties, and belts to match, Soviet looked the part. A Flock of Seagulls haircut on one side and a Devo do on the other. In the middle stood the man who would prance around like Prince while singing like Alan Wilder (Depeche Mode).

The show saw a small, cozy crowd turn into a tent packed full of rowdy sprockets. The songs were catchy electronic pop songs that found kids dancing in every which way. At one point, I left to fetch a few more friends from the Scientific show (sorry Christian). None were disappointed. Ronnie sat behind the band offstage, probably observing the crowd’s response. The set was by far one of the best of Cornerstone, and thus ended a day of dark horses.

Damien Jurado

Quite a 180 from the Soviet show I had just seen; my adrenaline made it difficult for me to calm down and watch Jurado’s melancholy set. I wasn’t too impressed with the songs he did with a full band, but those he did by himself wore the true feelings of a Jurado song.

Damien is one of those musicians I’d much rather see in a smaller venue playing with only a guitar, or at least not rocking out with a full band. The Sub Pop artist wooed the crowd with sad ballads and his humble voice. His Black Flag T-shirt was quite a contrast to the music he was playing, but added more character to Damien. The set helped ease my nerves and readied me for a night of sleeping on the Illinois ground.

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