The next morning, after my usual shower and mocha mint frappucino from the coffee tent, I caught some of the Flickerings short films, and then I wandered over to the Prairie School of Writing tent. Author Brenda Vantrease, who wrote a historical novel called The Illuminator that I listened to on tape while driving out to New Mexico last month, led this year's seminar. I normally am not a big fan of fiction set during the 13th century. However the conflicts between church and the nobility, the love of a father for his daughter, and the romance between a simple artisan and a noble Lady, were vividly drawn through excellent characterization, and I was fully engaged in the book throughout Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and I think I was into Utah by the time I finished all 16 cassettes. Brenda was quite intelligent and personable. After that, I saw the film Sophie Scholl, the Final Days at Flickerings. It's the second time I've seen the film about a German college student who stood up to the Nazis during World War II and was martyred. The film was a striking portrayal of true heroism and didn't shy away from displaying Sophie's Christianity. It's one of my favorite films of the year so far. A striking moment after the film was when the festival director hung up copies of the leaflets the German students were arrested for. After the film, I met Ann Dyson, a friend from the Arts and Faith board who drove up from Oklahoma, and a fellow Cardinals fan. We set up her tent, and I took a nap in my own sweltering tent, which lasted for a full five minutes.
That afternoon, I caught the afternoon Flickerings screening of Rosetta. I was struck by how the title character was always striving to make a life for herself, a dervish trying to overcome her mother's cycle of self-destruction. Along the way, she makes choices, mostly well intentioned but not always helpful to herself or to others in her path. In the film's climax, she comes to the end of her own efforts at self-improvement, and at the moment when she has nothing left, she surrenders to allow herself to accept a helping hand. It's a striking parallel between me and God. I try to improve myself in many ways, but get frustrated when I fall short. That's when I need to realize that I need help from God and from other people too. It's for good reason that this film is rated #1 in the Arts and Faith list of Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films.
That evening, I caught a show by The Crossing, the JPUSA Irish band who plays every year. I declined to join the impromptu Irish jig to break out in the field behind the row of golf carts lined up at the side of the tent. Instead, I wandered over the Flickerings barn to see the second Dardennes feature of the day, La Promesse. Once again they crafted a superior tale of moral choices, this time by a father and son involved in the smuggling of illegal immigrants in their native Belgium. When one of the immigrants dies and the son promises to take care of the man's wife and child, the son must make choices on how to deal with the widow while not imperiling his and his father's illegal activities. The final scene was a striking and simple, drawing the moral choices and crises of conscience into focus.
After the film and a productive discussion, I caught Infradig, a jazzy instrument band, at the Gallery Stage. This tent is my refuge every year where I can hear bands that sing instead of scream, and the audience is generally spandex and piercing-free. After that, I walked to the Encore One tent. Back in the '90s this tent hosted some of the most memorable midnight shows I have ever seen at the festival: Adam Again, Over the Rhine, The Choir, and the Prayer Chain. Now they were hosting one of my most anticipated shows of the fest, Mute Math. I heard one of their songs on a Paste Magazine sampler CD, and was very impressed with their unusual melodies and their rhythmic complexity. They were late going on, but they were worth the wait. Their on-stage configuration was unusual in that the drummer was placed in the front corner of the stage, but I soon saw why. Their drummer propelled the rest of the band with his energy, and the other guys followed his lead in putting on an energetic performance. At one point of the show, the drummer hopped on top of the keyboard, and when the keyboardist lifted the piano stool he had already knocked over, the drummer played a solo on the legs of the stool and the top of the piano! Then the keyboardist brought out a portable keyboard with a handle allowing him to play it like a guitar. That brought back memories of watching Eddie Degarmo or John Lawry of Petra back in the 1980s, except without the cheese or the hair. After the show was over, the electricity continued to buzz among the crowd. That show ranked up with the great Cornerstone shows I've seen: The Alarm in 2004, Robert Randolph in 2003, Daniel Amos in 2000, the '77s in 1992, Adam Again in 1991, I could go on and on. But getting back to 2006. Walking away from the tent, I looked across a line of tents toward the Underground Stage where the raucous Celtic punk sounds of Flatfoot 56 were in full roar. They've been one of my favorite bands at Cornerstone the last couple of years, with their sound evoking images of ancient British battles. Deciding I was not in the mood to strap on my broadsword and relive the Battle of Hastings again, I walked on to the Gallery Stage to the always-anticipated Over the Rhine show. Once again, they delivered a jazzy playful and wonderful set. The guy playing upright bass really complemented Karin's voice and Linford's piano playing and quirky musings perfectly. All in all, it was a wonderful way to end another Cornerstone day.