Six years ago, the last ever Cornerstone festival took place. This underground faith festival was a big family reunion for many of us wayfaring travelers. A place where we were able to come together, create and commune, even if just for a moment.
In 2012, when it was announced that the 29-year-old festival was going to come to an end, many of us mourned. Some responded with anger, some sadness but there was a remnant of kinfolk who got together, plotted and prayed and the next year gathered together for what has come to be known as Audiofeed Music Festival. Now, this little festival does not claim to have replaced Cornerstone but it does claim to have carried on the communal spirit, with bands and fans all mingling, camping, creating and fellowshipping with one another.
It was raining when we arrived at our first ever Audiofeed in Urbana Illinois, on Thursday evening. Even so, there was excitement in the air as we anticipated seeing so many kinfolk. We had already picked up our friends, Renee and Di, who had flown from Australia into O’hare that day. We knew a handful of members and former alumni from JPUSA were going to be there as well as a contingency of kinfolk from our Louisiana community. Then there were all of the bands we’d played with out on the road. And finally, we were excited to see some of our bus rider alumni, including Chaz, Lindy, and Colleen. We were excited for all of them to join us for our performance slot Sunday morning as our “OnCall Orchestra.” (that’s the name we’ve given to all of our kinfolk around the globe who have played music with us).
We had put the word out that we were going to be hosting morning Chai tea at our bus all weekend long and were delighted to find many friends new and old stop by for tea and conversations.
On Friday afternoon, a handful of us led a time of sacred space, which offered us a much-needed upward soaking after months of hard travel.
We spent quite a bit of time in the complementary kitchen set up and run by the infamous “Mama Linda.” We learned about her history, inviting bands to come to her property for a hearty meal as they toured through her little town in Illinois and how she set up this hospitality space at the festival to continue to offer that blessing to all of us road warriors. It was a comfortable and open space, holding none of the insecure or prideful vibes that are often times found in a “green room” experience. There was a place for folks to unwind and play games and even a little area set up with toys for all of the children.
During a meal, we sat down with one of the core organizer, Jim Eisenmenger and had a conversation about the story of Audiofeed and the place he hopes it holds in the greater story. There was a humility and gentleness when he spoke and let us know a bit of history about this little “all volunteer” run, art and music festival. He made it clear that Audiofeed is not trying to become the next big thing but rather hopes to keep its communal focus offering a safe space for exploration, questioning, doubts, fears, hopes, joys. He expressed that ultimately, “we are people who want to support each other and experience great music and art with others who feel the same way.” And, that is exactly what we sensed as our weekend unfolded.
We spent the rest of Saturday catching up with many dear friends. We especially loved discovering one of Craig’s old Ballydowse band mates, Darren Davick’s band, The October Bird of Death. The band, Comrades, was another fun discovery! Of course, we loved hearing our mates, Nate Allen and Insomniac Folklore, who both came out with new albums. We were blessed to give our friend T and Veronica a big squeeze after their White Collar Sideshow. And besides sitting in with us, Brother ReD Squirrel offered us an opportunity to hear some of our old favorite “Seeds” songs and John Ruben took us back to our Cornerstone days and then launched us forward by sharing how life has unfolded for him over the past five-year through some of his new songs.
On Sunday afternoon, on the Arkansas stage, we found our way, with our On-call Orchestra, all nine of them, and played a rollicking thirty minute set of music. It was so special to hear our songs played with such gusto and to hear each member listening and working together best they could to create a unified sound. It was one of the most refreshing and joyful performances we’ve had in a long time and gave us a thirst for more opportunities to include and join together with large ensembles.
After our afternoon performance we noticed that people were buzzing about and preparing video gamed themed costumes for the evening festivities. Banjo and his crew ended up making a combined costume, each playing a part in the game “Pong.”
That evening we connected with our mate, Tobin and found that his band, Flatfoot 56 held a sort of “cool” fatherly presence at the festival as they brought everyone into the fold during their Sunday night performance. As the crowd gathered in anticipation, classic video game music was playing over the PA. The show started with a fun little Mario skit featuring Tessa and Nate Allen. The crowd began to close in towards the front of the room and when the first guitar chords were strummed the crowd erupted in exuberance movement that continued throughout the night. As the band played, there were dance lines, circle pits, crowd surfing, and stage diving.
Now, I’m more of a granola girl but I married a punk rocker and I’ve always wanted to stage dive. I had been contemplating it all night but felt like I was too old. But, then I saw my friend Tessa do it and I thought, that’s it, I’m doing it! Tobin was singing a punk version of “I’ll Fly Away” and as I approached the edge of the stage, I looked out over the crowd I bowed and offered a sort of prayer sign with my hands begging them to not drop me. Those looking at me, held their arms out strong and wide and yelled JUMP! And, I did! It was so freaking fun! Really it was the highlight of the festival for me; to be in a place of total trust, surrender and to just jump, to be caught and held high, then lowered ever so gently. For me, it was a beautiful picture of community and I will never forget it!
Look, if you ever find yourself longing for a little family reunion, keep Audiofeed on your radar. It is not just a music and arts festival. It’s exactly what Jim said, “it’s community.”