There is a cool Facebook group that readers of this blog may want to check out. It’s called, “The 90s Christian Music Recovery Group” and it’s a group/online Facebook forum with a bunch of fans of 90s Christian bands. I highly recommend it since some of the other message boards have either gone offline or are no longer relevant. Just so you know you may need an invite, but maybe they will let you in if you e-mail them.

http://www.facebook.com/groups/155554721250734/

I’m afraid I’ve neglected this blog for quite some time now. I thought maybe it would be interesting to get some feedback from readers like yourself. So please leave a comment on this post and let me know how you found the blog and which bands you’re interested in that are mentioned on this blog along with any other useful thoughts or suggestions for this blog.

I saw Steve Taylor this evening speak at a small gathering at a college in the western suburbs of Chicago. He signed an LP copy of “I Predict 1990″ for me. The last time I received autograph from him was in 1995.

Steve’s talk was about Christianity and the Arts. He said that the Church has lost its saltiness in terms of the Arts. He stressed the need for Christians to do art honestly and originally. He also mentioned a Robert Duvall movie I need to see.

Since stepping away from music he has made two Christian films. He told the story about how Kickstarter helped him raise money for his second film “Blue Like Jazz” and then he had to call 3,000 people because he promised to call everyone who donated $10 or more.

In my view Steve’s best talent as a musician was always his incredible wit in penning lyrics and his flare for the dramatic in his music videos and live shows. Apparently he’s one of the nice former youth pastors too. I think making movies is the logical progression from his musical career. I’m hoping there will be more movies and that something of this album recorded with Peter Furler will surface. Until then I’ll just have to enjoy some Chagall Guevera and think about Lifeboat.

They announced it a few weeks ago and I think everyone who has gone there is a little sad, myself included. Cornerstone was such a heart of the Christian music scene and in a lot of ways for me was a symbol of what it meant to be a Christian in junior high, high school and college. It was also a great place for Christian music that wasn’t part of the CCM mainstream, whether that was the older bands such as LSU, the Choir, Daniel Amos, etc. or the newer Tooth and Nail bands. I think it will be truly missed because it was such a great part of the summer and there were so many good times there. So thank you JPUSA, the bands, the chaperones in the church vans and all the other people that made it a memorable experience. The festival may be ending, but the memories will live on.

I heard the story years ago that Saviour Machine had played at the New Union in Minneapolis and was kicked off the stage. The story I heard was that they burned a United Nations flag. As I was browsing the band’s wikipedia page I found an interview with a link to the singer’s version of the story.

Saviour Machine, the Christian goth/opera band, was touring with Deliverance and playing at the New Union in Minneapolis, a well known Christian rock club. According to the band’s singer Eric Clayton, The band was unpluggged and kicked off the stage after the 4th song. Supposedly, the owners of the club stated that they did not care for the visual imagery of the group or they disapproved of the candles on the stage. In any event the band was removed from the stage by bouncers and locked up in a back room of the club until things quieted down with the raucous crowd. It was apparently quite a spectacle that ended Saviour Machine’s tour and lives on in infamy for those who attended and visited the band afterwards at White Castle on that freezing Minnesota winter night in 1993.

DeGarmo & Key had its cheesier moments, but as far as being sincere and being about the Gospel message there aren’t bands like D&K anymore. The video was one of the first Christian music videos to be on MTV. Ironically, it was censored because of violence. Dana Key, the singer of DeGarmo and Key died last year, but like the frontman the music lives on.

Recently I saw The Imposter, which is a Christian film featuring Kevin Max, formerly of DC Talk. It tells the story of a singer of a Christian band who is not a Christian and is addicted to drugs. He has a wife who wants nothing to do with him and a brother-in-law who hates him, who is ironically a worship leader.

The movie did have a made-for-TV type feel to it. The acting and production were about the same as a lot of the other Christian movies with a little bit of cheesy musical interlude during dramatic scenes. I think where it went wrong was the script. Kevin Max’s character is so absolutely unlikeable I couldn’t find it in myself to cheer for the guy. I also feel like this movie and Steve Taylor’s “The Second Chance” are really like the Nashville people trying to tell a certain story to have some sort of commentary about their industry. Personally, I also don’t like movies where the actors lip sync to music or the actors are musicians.

With Christian movies there is always that urge to resolve the problems by the film’s end when in reality some problems never wrap up that neatly and progress comes very slowly. While the Imposter resists that temptation for Kevin Max’s wife to take him back in the end, it doesn’t leave the audience with a good sense of closure.

I think the goal of Christian movies is pretty noble, but if the script is not rock solid it’s going to be really hard to get that message across properly. In my opinion, in some cases the Christian music on the soundtrack seems to be more important than the actual story. While I do feel like a properly placed song can really benefit a movie, I think there is a danger if the music is overshadowing the film.

In the end it all gets back to writing because a typical Christian movie is not going to emphasize sex, drugs, gore, violence or in many cases special effects. Christians are often portrayed as a stereotype in movie such as Saved! As much praise as Hollywood gets for making movies it has rarely ever portrayed Christians as real people with real problems. I think Christian movies will be better received when they portray faith in a way that mirrors reality.

If there was one place where the Underground Christian Rock scene called home it was Cornerstone. On a large farm near Macomb, IL I spent a few 4th of July weeks of my youth listening to hundreds of bands. The last time I went to the festival was nearly 9 years ago.

As a kid whose parents were saved as part of the Jesus Movement, I went to Cornerstone in Grayslake, IL at the fairgrounds sometime around 1990. I was too young to have enjoyed any of the bands though. Before I went to Cornerstone I went to Jesus Midwest a few times. It was another festival with Jesus Movement era CCM artists such as Matthew Ward.

Around 1995 I started to get into bands like The Prayer Chain, Steve Taylor, MxPx and Poor Old Lu. In 1996 in the summer before high school I got a youth leader and three friends together and organized a trip to Cornerstone. Our youth leader had drummed for a few different Christian alternative bands, so he was happy to take us back to his old stomping grounds.

It was a blast seeing a ton of bands you would never see anywhere else like Saviour Machine. I bought a Crux T-shirt that I ended up losing. I also saw Joy Electric have a terrible time with their live show. I also got autographs from Value Pac, whose singer wrote about not having a girlfriend, when he didn’t seem to have any problem having girl fans. Around that time Christian ska or skacore was also starting to take off. It was a very different time because they had moshpits and stage diving and a girl I knew broke her ankle in the MxPx moshpit on the main stage.

Every year since my last visit I have the habit of looking at the Cornerstone lineup and guessing how many bands I know of. Usually I only know maybe a third of the bands and a lot of them are hardcore. What is different now is they didn’t used to allow heavy bands on the main stage. It was more for CCM mainstream acts such as Jars of Clay, Sixpence None the Richer, PFR, DC Talk, etc. What you find know is Underoath on the main stage with a band not considered to be a Christian act such as Shiny Toy Guns. So somewhere in the last 10 to 15 years there’s been a shift in which type of bands they allow.

The best thing about Cornerstone in those days was the community. You could go there with a group of friends and it was such a blast to hang out. What separates Cornerstone from a Warped Tour or Woodstock is that I wouldn’t want to camp out with those people. Could I even trust my stuff would be there if I walked away from my tent? Most of the Cornerstone people are church kids and so there is a sense of family with other Christians. A lot of the people there can be really polite. And what a lot of the punk and hardcore kids would find there is a place to belong if only for one week out of the year. It was also great to meet the musicians who seem more like regular people sitting at the tables in the merch tents.

The festival has always been about high school kids. In fact so much so that they sent out surveys asking about when the high schools went on summer break in my area. The date has remained around the 4th of July for some time despite the heat every year. Although the ticket prices have jumped up significantly in that time. I think it was around $60 or $70 the first time I went and it’s at least $130 at the gate. Unfortunately, it seems like no matter how high they raise the prices they say they never make any money. With bands charging a fortune for their appearance I can believe that.

I avoided going back to the festival because I don’t want to feel sad about leaving all those memories behind. Honestly, the thought of camping out in the heat to see bands I’m not crazy about doesn’t get me motivated to drive down there. If you think about gas being $4.50 a gallon this summer the cost of the trip with admission for someone from my area is $250 and that does not include any food. With the increase in gas and ticket prices it makes me wonder how long the festival can go on.

I’m sure there will always be some form of a Christian Rock scene as long as there are Christians. Cornerstone and the friends from those days have gone and passed me by. But the one thing I still hold dear is the memories of praying for a guy who got hurt in a Living Sacrifice most pit or taking a dry shower at the Macomb Wal-Mart. Warped Tour or any other secular music festival can never compare to the glory days of Cornerstone Festival because those festivals don’t have any sense of Christian community.

This is from Dec. 6, 2008 at the University of Illinois.

Set list:
A Good Living
I Win
EP Nights
Minor Keys
The Big Idea
I Drive A Lot
Easy Street
The Frontman
No New Kinda Story

Something funny that Rich Mullins once said was that he didn’t listen to Christian radio because there was an absence of good breakup songs. It is a little unfortunate that Christian singers sometimes have those songs where it’s unclear if the “you” is God or the singer’s girlfriend. Christians have a tough time with love songs too sometimes. Seems ironic though when a Spin Magazine writer visited Cornerstone and referred to worship music as “Jesus is my girlfriend” music.

It is unfortunate that what is presented as Contemporary Christian Music doesn’t cover the full extent of who we are as people. It’s also true there is a time and place for everything. Of course singing Brown Eyed Girl at church is probably not going to go over real well.

The reason why Christians should write love songs for their girlfriends or spouses is because you have Song of Solomon in the Bible. Not to mention that God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Not only that but Christians are referred to as the Bride of Christ. Which could be misunderstood incredibly today, but really means that Christ’s love for us is so much greater than our love for our spouses.

I think the type of love song that a Christian artist might write is different from “Since You’ve Been Gone” or “Hot N Cold”. It’s probably best not to suggest anything that could be interpreted as immoral.

A song like “Kiss Me” by Sixpence is playful and innocent, but it was never going to be nominated for a Dove Award. The New Testament says repeatedly to greet one another with a holy kiss. Now obviously the context was different, but the lyrics were “Kiss me down by the broken tree house” and not anything overly sensual.

I don’t really know what the answer is in terms of getting Christians to write better breakup songs. But I do think that there should be less ambiguity about whether a song is about the Lord or your significant other. I think people should give up on the top 40 when they’re down because there is no true hope found in those songs. The Bible actually has better breakup songs, many of them written by God. Just read the book of Hosea. But the difference between God’s breakup songs and the world’s breakup songs is that God’s have the hope of a restored relationship.

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