Audiofeed Music Festival

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Mum Jones

12249731_10153326378984053_6258699912709864565_nDebra Jones was known to many as “Mum Jones,” a mentor and Mom in the tribe where no one is left out. She was a voice in the wilderness, brave, kind, soft yet fierce, and she stayed the course, diving deeper and deeper into her faith, giving up more and more of herself. In June of this year, Debbie passed on through to the other side and although she may never be canonized by a religious institution, I dare say that the tribe she’s impacted along the way would deem her a Saint through and through.

I met Debbie’s husband, Andrew Jones, in 1998 at Cornerstone Music Festival. He was speaking to a group of raver kids called FoundKids that my cousin and I happened upon. We were taken in by the whole scene but I was specifically inspired to hear about Andrew and his families nomadic lifestyle. His stories of wandering around the globe with the intent of just showing up, to be available, encouraging the marginalized. His stories stirred something deep inside of me and a seed was planted that I believe has had a significant influence in our journey.

417872_10151463524703121_2043070706_nAt the time, I was a single mom and longed to hear from a mother’s heart. So, I asked if I could visit with his family.  My hope was to sit with his wife Debbie and ask her questions about her journey into this radical surrender to Abba, trusting Him with her five children and with all of her needs. Back then, they were living out of an old RV and were temporally parked in a suburb of Chicago. They invited me over for an afternoon and as we sat outside of the RV talking, the kids all running in and out, I felt a sense of peace come over me and knew that whatever may come, I had found an example of a life well lived. I had found one of my mentors.

We would only have that one meeting face to face but I followed the family over the years and as my life intersected with Craig’s and we married, I told him all about these kindred spirits. We kept tabs on them and when the time came for us to take our leap of faith, they were the first family we looked to for encouragement.

Over the years, we kept up with them at www.tallskinnykiwi.com and via Facebook. In 2014, we had a few lovely interactions with Andrew and a few of the children, now adults while we were parked in Austin, TX. Each visit bringing with it a deeper sense of camaraderie. Then, in our most recent inter web exchange Debbie reached out to coordinate a meet up but in the end we found ourselves on different continents and hoped to look toward 2016 to unite. However, she did mention that if we made our way to Bulgaria, they’d be happy for us to borrow “Maggie,” their current rig, which was quite tempting. 🙂

Recently, we watched on as Debbie and Andrew split, like a cell, to cover more ground. It would be the first extended period of time that they would move on different continents. Debbie had a missional impulse towards developmental aid in Africa and Andrew felt a pull towards refugee relief in Europe. We were absolutely amazed as we witnessed their courage and discipline and were blown away by their supernatural trust!

11390519_1619216628316768_3253796670653706618_nThen, just two months ago, as they were making their way back towards one another, an urgent prayer request came in. Both Debbie and Andrew were in hospital, one in Ghana and one in Ethiopia, both in critical condition. The prayers poured in, but not even twenty-four hours later we learned that Debbie had passed, her final words, “I am here.” Andrew, who is slowly recovering, writes about it in his memorial blog called ‘Debbie’s Final Words, Angels and More. Andrew states that the words are actually quite moving, as the “phrase points to the strategic impact of actually turning up and being fully present with people in their context.” It was a phrase that she learned while loving alongside the Ethiopian tribe called “Ashanti.” He says that Debbie “felt that nomads, like herself, offered a special gift in turning up to the hidden places and evaluating the real needs and formulating a holistic and sustainable result.” As a fellow nomad this resonates wholly!

12234975_10207502130131979_4625256212437588854_nDebbie surrendered her own body, with its particular itinerary, desires, and even needs, to become one with the breath and message of God. And, this is why she will forever be a Saint in my mind.

Our hearts are heavy and yet, rejoicing, longing for that day that we will meet again.

Blessing to the Jones family and all of the many kinfolk around the world who have their own beautiful stories to tell about this precious woman. May the stories continue flow, to inspire and bear much lush fruit.

To read the full article by Andrew visit ‘Debbie’s Final Words, Angels and More.

Read it, you’ll be inspired too.

The Last Ever Cornerstone Festival

“Burn down the building and let free the body.” Lyrics by Tyler Hentschel.

Our hearts mourn as we say good-bye to Cornerstone Music Festival one last time.

I am at a loss for words and struggle to convey the intense feelings of love that we hold towards this community of creative and precious Saints, sinners and all of those in between. Cornerstone festival is unlike any festival we’ve ever attended. It is liberating and life-giving. It really is otherworldly, as John Joseph Thompson quotes in his article, “Goodnight, Cornerstone.”

We are thankful for all those who have worked so hard these past 29 years to provide a beautiful and relevant place to share sacred space, to struggle, to commune and to create.

This was our week in review:

Day one: We pulled into the Cornerstone Farm and set up shop on a central corner. Windows open and sweat on our brow, we found ourselves barring down mentally for a long, humid, dusty, hot week without the refuge of air conditioning. Very quickly our attention shifted as we began to see familiar and kind faces. We were excited to see friends, Connie and Dereck arrive in their custom made gypsy wagon, Philip and Sari with their suitcase sideshow, the Baumgartners, Helle’s and all of the rest of our kinfolk. All of our darling muso friends from all across the country and more!  Home, we’re home!

Day two: Our children really enjoyed the freedom of connecting with friends and running around the grounds like they owned the place. Swimming, staying up late, skatepark, seeing new bands but most of all, the loosening of our parental strings.

Craig and Seth Martin hatched a plan to set up a generator stage outside of our bus, Celu’haven, on Thurs. (A generator stage is one that is unofficial, meaning permission from the fest isn’t necessarily granted, although, security at C-stone has always been very gracious. It’s impromptu, and underground)

That night we settled into the Chelsea House/Gallery Stage and watched our favorite musical kinfolk including an early evening performance by Lauren Peacock. Her gentle spirit and melodic sound was the perfect start to our evening. Later, we enjoyed The Illalogical Spoon. The beauty of the “Spoon” is their unassuming innocence and sheer delight in sharing their music, which is extremely well made.

We ended the night with Soil and the Sun. These darlings are genuinely creative. They produce the most deliciously, organic, soulful sound I’ve ever heard.

Day Three: Tonight is our performance at the Chelsea House/Gallery stage. In the morning we held rehearsal in the Village. Joy began to brew as Scott Knies, Joby Morey, Colleen Davick, Darren Davick, David Baumgartner and Pilgrim Metts joined in to create a sound the angels could dance to.

Knowing this was the last Cornerstone, we decided to add in a little treat for our finally, a Ballydowse cover, “The Yiddish Song,” a traditional Jewish instrumental. There is a gleam in everyone’s eyes as the song comes together, specially Craig’s. There is a strong sense of camaraderie and knowing that this might be the last time Craig and his former band mates might play this song.  Although the heat is beating down on us, there is an excitement brewing and we’re ready to celebrate!

We all took refuge from the heat and met up at the stage at 5:15. Show starts at 6pm. We played a 50 min set. I’m not even sure how to sum it up except for joy joy and more joy. I couldn’t stop smiling. Craig broke two strings, I tossed instruments to the crowd and beamed a lady on the head with one of the little purple shakers, Grace and I jumped off stage and danced in the pit, ha! The sound was amazing as the 700 or so folks in the crowd sang along to “Old Man’s Town” and we became one big band!

Arriving the grounds with our last $50 in our pockets we had anticipated there would need to be some financial miracle for us to leave. The generosity of the crowd totally took us by surprise as they blessed us with enough to fill our bus and fridge and keep us on our way! If you know how much it costs to fill our bus, you know this is huge! Plus, they offered encouragement and affirmation by taking us home via CD. That is priceless.

When we laid our head at the end of the night it was 98 degree’s in our bus but we slept well.

Day four;  This morning we hosted a generator stage, showcasing our friends Insomniac Folklore, Jonni Greth, Ellen Morey, Lauren Peacock, Erin Eichenberger, The Illalogical Spoon, Seth Martin and The Suitcase Sideshow.

A handful of kinfolk came through out the morning to have a listen and a sing. We served fruit and veggies with hummas, H2O and shade from the hot sun. It was a magical morning with Celu’haven as our backdrop.

Later that afternoon, my cousins arrived and we enjoyed a night of reminiscing with  a performance by our favorite from 1998, Squad Five-0. The fella’s pulled out all the stops! Although, they still had their quick sense of humor and cheeky grins there was a maturity about them that was encouraging and hopeful. Jeff offered words of wisdom and humility as we all cried out, “We are the Youth.” Once again, although the heat was an intense 94 at 2am, the relief in the spirit was penetrating and we slept well.

Day five: We moved slowly as the heat, humidity and dust started to take its toll. Most of our day was spent in the lake or 20 min away in the town of Macomb, cooling off at the local Walmart. We played a short but fun set for the kids at Creation Station and later enjoyed the bright and invigorating music of our friends Destroy Nate Allen. Once the sun went down the air thickened and we started to feel a little delirious. Flatfoot 56‘s Pool Party concert was the perfect solution and a great way to end our day. Those fella’s are so creative and high energy. They had sprinklers going, a pool slide on stage with a line of kids waiting to go down and landing in the mosh pit; don’t worry there was a life guard on duty. At one point, they sent buoy’s out and made pool lanes. Then they hosted a little crowd surfing relay. They ended the set with rollicking version of Amazing Grace and some words of wisdom. We left blessed and encouraged!

Day six: Only 1 1/2 days left. There is a tenderness in the air. We all know it’s about to end. Exhausted and dirty, we want relief but we don’t want it to end. The kids are becoming more and more emotional as they realize the end is almost here. In the past, these emotions would rise up but we could just say, “it’s ok, because we always have next year.” But this is it. The last time all of us riff raff will be able to gather under these circumstances. Starting that morning we set out to find kinfolk and say goodbye, not until next time but until we meet again, “here, there or in the air.” I had tears in my eyes as I sang, Insomniac Folklores, “Burn down the building…” and, “Farther Along” with Josh Garrels.

As the sun set, a parade of bikes, golf carts and the masses marched the viking ship filled with Cornerstone memories down to the lake. The procession was dramatic and tearful as the crowd passed the Gallery stage, then the Underground, skate park, generator stages and camp sites. All the while, folks bellowed out “I’ll fly away.” Once we reached the lake, the boat was set sail and we watched silently as arrows of fire were launched into the floating vessel. Finally, the boat was set on fire and we said waved goodbye.

The last band we heard at Cornerstone 2012 was epic hardcore band, Norma Jean, one of Craig’s favorites. Moments after they finished the crowd rush out of the tent to the skate park where a rumor had been brewing about the Chariot showing up to do an impromptu generator show. It was a con and the crowd was left in a quandary, a bon fire was set in the middle of the skatepark and a controlled chaos ensued.

The irony of that moment was intense. Last show of the night and instead of soaking it in, there was a mad rush to the next thing. I guess folks just wanted to keep that Cornerstone high going as long as they could.

Day Seven: A sad departure and end of an era.

“Heaven come to earth and there won’t be no church, we’ll meet down by the riverside. There we’ll swim with all creation, never get tired, never bored. Don’t worry one day there will be no dam between us and our Lord.” ~the Illalogical Spoon

There are 6000 weary travelers out there, somewhere. And, we look forward to the day we can all meet again… down by the riverside.

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Faith For Real

Tour is in full swing. We just finished 10 fantastic days with our dear friend, Sammy Horner. We had seven hours to pack and now find ourselves in Bushnell, IL at Cornerstone Music Festival.

I’m not much of a camper. In fact, I’m probably a level -2 camper (if there is a scale). It’s hot and sticky. Long days of loud music, thousand’s of people and offering more that any one person can do in day. I have felt oppressed lately and uneasy about the future, so my surrounding aren’t helping. For so long we have been focused on the vision of our call. The vision of sharing family, song and encouraging community and connection through reconciliation. That is all still there but I find myself totally absorbed in my mind, trying to control the details and it’s not working out very well.

Yesterday, I was so overrun with weariness and desperate to leave the festival. My family was having a lovely time and didn’t want to leave. I knew I was being a downer and a bit selfish as my reasonings were all based on fear. “I need to get back to our home so we can have our garage sale, so I can book shows for our future, so I can bla bla bla.” It all sounded so responsible but what I really needed was to stay and be open. I talked myself into just taking a deep breath and seeing what comes. And it came!

I meet three families. All of them servant minded, “kinfolks” as I like to call them. All of them gifted in their craft and all of them focused and moving forward. They told me their stories about how they found themselves as travelers and faith and the mystical ways that God worked out the details. My skeptical mind listened but kept a distance.

Grace, a wife and mother of three darling little girls, is a leader along with her husband of the “Tribe of Judah,” a school out of Iron Mountain, MI. They weren’t planning on traveling except for a few times a year with the students from their school. But last year, just before Cornerstone Festival, a bus was provided and they have been on the road since. She told me a story of a time in New Orleans where they only had a bit of change left, (mind you there are more than a handful of students plus her family on the bus) It was one of those nick of time, testing of the faith stories. I listened but probably squirmed a little.

Later I meet Tony. He was standing by a wagon full of sweet little children in the back of the Chelsea Cafe’ Tent. He was watching his grandchildren while his wife, two beautiful daughters and son set up for their show. I’m not even sure how it happened but in the course of about 20 min. I learned about his 20 + years on the road, traveling with his children and now grandchildren. When I began to ask him questions about the logistics of finances and where they traveled. He just answered, “No, no we didn’t book ahead really. We just did the faith thing.” Hmmm. The Faith thing.

Then there’s Alan Aguirre and his band Men As Trees Walking. He has quite a presence at the festival. He rolls in on his big ol red bus with a fierce lion on both sides. I heard a bit of a buzz about who he is and what he has accomplished. The camp site is busy with movement and I don’t usually approach folks with this sort of presence because of pride, I’m sure. I fear they will think I’m needy… I’m laughing because I am needy. Anyway, I walk past several times and then my feet just start moving in and all of a sudden I’m by his side introducing myself. Craig is with me and we start asking questions about logistics, busses verses RV’s, traveling with family. (He also travels with wife, daughters/son-in-laws, a new baby grandson. About 11 total) He talks of obedience and working through trials. He shares a story about the bus. It’s a disheartening story about the cost of the journey with this bus. He is convinced that God wants him to be in this bus and I’m not going to argue with that but I do ask him if he ever get frustrated with God and question why God would have wanted him to by such a burdensome bus? To paraphrase, he answers, “No where in scripture do I read that if I obey God, he will…. I just read obey because I love God.” I start to tear up. I ask him how he and his family get through. He doesn’t answer in material terms talking of marketing and networking (although, he does that well) but he says two simple words, “prayer and fasting.” He encourages our family to stay in unity with one another spiritually. My defenses are down now and the tears rush out. He hit the nail on the head. We have been so focused on the material issues of selling our home and what we’ll live in next, booking and getting life organized that we’ve lost our vision. The ultimate vision of loving and obeying God. Really it doesn’t matter where we live, what we do or become. My deepest longing is to know God and be open.

Then this morning as I sat down to reflect this came to me…

“Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” Rom. 12:3

I rest in the encouragement and advice that comes from such wise souls. Allowing the waves of faith to wash over me and laying my pride down. Today I look forward to gleaning more of the goodness will come my way.