Photo credit: Steadfast Media
I’m a hardcore kid and I’m a Christian. If those two words show up in a sentence, there’s a good chance the following sentence will contain the word “Cornerstone”. Whether you were a band, a brand or just another hardcore kid – there was nothing quite like that experience every summer. Getting to hang out somewhere where you really felt like you belonged, seeing a bunch of crazy shows with your friends, the flyers everywhere, the protesters – It was always something special.
I’ll be honest, I don’t like labels and I definitely don’t buy into everything so-called “hardcore” or “Christianity” (I’m talking about the broad definitions here) spit out all the time. But when you find yourself under the umbrella of being a “Christian Hardcore kid” – you’re really in the lowest common denominator of misunderstood. I mean think about it, you start with mainstream society and music, take it down a level to heavy music, take it down another level to hardcore, and then take it down another level – now your a Christian too. You’re part of a lifestyle and a music scene that does everything it can to be inaccessible by society – AND you believe in God.
On the other side of that coin, you had Cornerstone Fest. Every July 4th week in the summer, you could count on a bunch of kids showing up to the middle of Illinois to sleep in cars and tents, eat overpriced carnival food – and in my case – run around and sling merch inside a bunch of canopies (except the year that we actually got a real table in the merch tent – I didn’t mind that at all). What for? Community. Our tribe was so small, that idea of community mattered all the more.
We were that fraction of the crowd that knew Cornerstone wasn’t really about the main stage or the other tens of thousands of people that showed up to see whoever was playing up there. It was about seeing those friends that you only got to see once a year (and everyone else who’s faces you recognize from every other cornerstone.) It was about the generator tents, secret shows and long, hot days that you looked forward to all year-long.
I’m not really sure why I’m thinking about all of this now – maybe because if Cornerstone was still around, this would be around the time we’d be figuring out our merch spread and how we would get there. (If you have know clue what I’m talking about, go here). I’ve also been thinking a lot about community lately. The term has become so clichè, especially in church culture, and I think we confuse the concept of community for friendship a lot of the time.
Hardcore really shaped my idea of community. Cornerstone even moreso. It’s impacted the way I see church, friendships – even business. It taught me that even if everyone knows what I’m about, it’s okay if they don’t understand it and it’s even okay if they don’t like it. It taught me that even if everyone is heading in the same direction, they can have very different reasons – and that can make all the difference. It taught me, that in the end, no matter how much we resist it, having a tribe to belong to is actually important; and people really do need each other.
I don’t think that anything can really replace the feeling or nostalgia of Cornerstone for me, and I know a lot of people don’t even like or believe the same things anymore. One thing is for sure though, this community is something that’s really important to me and it’s something I always want to be a part of in some way.
Here’s a sampling of cornerstone videos throughout history for us to geek out over- and for the rest of you to try to figure out what the heck I’m talking about. (I threw old mxpx in there for good measure.)
If Cornerstone was still around, we all know what we’d be waiting for: the TORN set.