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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 was thinking about the Christian music scene that I grew up with and what exists today, and I came to the conclusion that most of my favorite music is in the past. I’m not saying there aren’t great bands out there now or new music that will be enjoyable, but most of my favorite music has been out for several years.  (Do a test yourself. Sit down with a pen and paper and try to think of how many of your favorite albums were released within the last year.)

The Christian scene I grew up with is mostly non-existent. True Tunes closed, the Heart and Soul Cafe doesn’t do shows that I know of and the ska scene is mostly dead. I went into a Family Bookstore the other day and asked if they had a “Christian Happenings” Magazine and they looked at me like I was from another planet. I also feel old every time I look at the Cornerstone lineup and I don’t know who most of the bands are. Thankfully the North Central College Union has saved a good part of the scene for me.

I get nostalgic thinking about bands like MxPx, Starflyer, the Huntingtons, Five Iron Frenzy and Poor Old Lu. It was a time where there were tons of cool bands and every band that Tooth and Nail signed was awesome, even the hardcore bands like Strongarm.

It seems to me that the Christian industry has become more polarized with bands either totally playing Christian venues or not playing Christian venues at all, which means it’s CCM or the bar. Sure I understand that a lot of Christian musicians are not youth pastors, but historically speaking bands in the Christian market have talked a lot during shows (i.e. Keith Green, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc…). The essence of their music was the message before the music.

I know that Christian stigma exists and that bands want to be taken seriously by non-Christians—probably mostly for their egos or record sales. But I just wonder why some bands have such a hard time talking about God. It seems like either Jesus is the product the band is selling or he has no place on the stage. I know that talking about God on a stage is awkward, but we shouldn’t ever have to feel like we’re ashamed of his name.

So I realize that I can’t go back in time, but I still like to listen to the old albums and reflect on a time when we weren’t looking at the death of the CD or the corporate ownership of human expression. Maybe there are bands that don’t tour any more, but I can still listen to their music and I can still watch them perform live thanks to YouTube and you can too.

Something I just noticed the other day was that you can stream the entire albums from current Tooth and Nail artists. For example go to www.myspace.com/joyelectric and click on “Choose a Playlist,” it’s beneath where it says, “Downloads” on the music player. You can make your own personal playlists for your myspace profile too. Also there are links to the Amazon music store, which has non-DRM tracks.

I run a YouTube page dedicated to Starflyer 59 and Joy Electric. Recently I received a video from someone on the Starflyer message board and I’ve posted a couple of the songs online. It’s funny to see Jason Martin on the acoustic taking requests from the audience and telling them they’re offbeat with their clapping. It’s nice to see since there is no official Starflyer DVD.

I was reminiscing over all my favorite ex-Tooth and Nail bands and I decided to come up with a playlist to remember the olden days.

Ace Troubleshooter – 2:00 Your Time
Bleach – Andy’s Doin’ Time
The Cootees – Jocks Don’t Like Us
Delta Haymax – Four Leaf Clover
Dogwood – 1983
Fine China – You Heart Was Made of Gold
Hangnail – The Sleeping Giant
Havalina – Space and Mexico
The Huntingtons – Allison’s the Bomb
Joe Christmas – Coupleskate
Ninety Pound Wuss – Responsibility
Plankeye – Open House
Squad Five-O – I Don’t Want to Change the World, I Just Want to Change Your Mind

I dug up an old tape that I recorded from a press conference with Starflyer. Below is a summary of what was said.

How do you view your records? Do you set out to do a concept record?
Jason Martin: It’s whatever 10 or 12 songs we come up with. We just want to make it different than the last one. We try not to put out the same record.

Which record is your favorite?
Jason: The Fashion Focus.

Does that mean you’re not happy with the latest one?
Jason: I don’t think any of them are perfect. I don’t think we’ve ever put out a perfect record by any means.

What comes first the music or the lyrics?
Jason: The music.

How do you come up with the music?
Jason: I play a guitar riff over the chords and that’s the melody. I try to find words that will fit into that. Sometimes the words mean something sometimes they don’t.

What are the songs about?
Jason: Songs are basically me having a conversation with myself like if struggling in this area of my life or my job is bumming me out. It means something to me like if I had a diary.

Will Starflyer put out an instrumental record?
Jason: No, Starflyer is bordering on instrumental. Nobody’s going to buy an instrumental record.

Was there anything to the hushed vocal sound of the early records?
Jason: That’s just how the guy mixed it. I sing kinda better now than I did then, but I’m not like a singer.

Is the reaction of the fans to the sadness of the songs accurate to how the songs were written?
Jason: I’m not trying to be like this bummed out artist… It’s cool people can relate to it.

Do you listen to music in the truck?
Jason: I don’t listen to anything. (He later admits to listening to Starflyer demos in the truck.)

Will there be a reunion with Ronnie?
Jason: He’s played on stuff before. (Jason doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen anytime soon.)

About the strings on Leave Here A Stranger?
Jason: I wanted to give it an old fashioned sound. I was sick of guitars.

Do you view your band as a ministry?
I view it as anything you do should be to the glory of God… No, we don’t give altar calls or anything like that. We’re at a Christian festival and we’re a Christian band–it’s entertainment.

Check out the Starflyer 59 message board at sf59fans.com.