I Was Told There’d Be Ninjas. Thanks, AudioFeed.

Growing up in rural Southern Illinois in the late 90s and early 2000s discovering music was sometimes hard to do. Sure, there was MTV, but in the small town I grew up in I relied a lot on recommendations from other people. It was especially hard to find many artists that were faith based outside of the typical CCM fare. I was fortunate enough to have people in my youth group though that knew about bands like MxPx, Living Sacrifice and several others found on Tooth & Nail and/or Solid State Records.

For those familiar with these bands Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, Illinois was considered the end all be all festival where all of these bands and more were likely to play over the course of several days. Sadly, Cornerstone came to a close in 2012 and I never got the opportunity to attend and be a part of the larger community as a whole. However, out of the ashes of Cornerstone Festival AudioFeed was birthed in 2013. It was a continuation on a bit of a smaller scale, but the community aspect lived on and people continued to come together year after year prior to the pandemic.

This year was the rebuilding year, the return to greatness after a two year hiatus. Fortunately, things fell in to place and I was able to attend and experience it all for the first time time. I had no idea what to really expect, but somehow all my expectations were exceeded exponentially. Music truly is a remarkable tool that can really bring people together.

I arrived in Champaign/Urbana on Thursday afternoon, but chose not to catch any of the early access acts as I was not familiar with the city and wanted to explore a bit plus I was waiting on a buddy to get in to town as well. After he got in town and we got some dinner we just took it easy for the night.

Friday morning I arrived on the grounds and was greeted quite nicely by the festival staff. I got checked in and then met up (and met for the first time) with the rest of the Tuned Up crew that was attending. From that point everything just seemed to melt together in the IL summer heat. I had made a list from the schedule of the bands I wanted to catch but made sure to keep some wiggle room to check out some bands that I’d never heard of before. I only took in four bands on Friday as most of the day was spent getting acclimated to the grounds and trying to network a bit.

The bands were set up across five stages, but they were all close enough together as to not have to be much of a walk from one to the next if set times were close together or overlapped any. I was able to catch pop punk band, Even Tides early in the day on a whim and was glad I did. It was a fun set from a band that had just recently reformed. I was also able to catch Revisionist and idle threat on the Black Sheep Stage. Both were bands I was familiar with, but was looking forward to catching. Revisionist just finished up things on a new album that they are hoping to release this fall while idle threat released the best album I heard all year for 2021. I capped my day by catching American Arson on the Sanctuary Stage and they were easily the most energetic set I caught that day. The crowd was in to it and the material transcended very well in the live setting.

Saturday was far more packed and started early by catching Dreaded Dale before lunch. I had left a sizeable gap in my schedule between Dreaded Dale and SPACESHIPS. During that time I was able to catch Propaganda do a book reading, the first part of All Hallowed‘s set and attend a writing workshop being conducted by Dan Smith (Dance Myth) of Listener. None of those had initially been on my radar, but I was glad that I took the opportunity to catch each of them. SPACESHIPS put on a killer set and it was cool to meet Nat for the first time afterward. Meadows played on Sanctuary in the early evening and put on a good set. I capped my night by catching Convictions on Sanctuary, but had to miss Pedro the Lion as they were playing at the same time. I did get to hear a bit of Bazan’s vocal as he was wrapping up and I was walking back from Sanctuary. Not watching PTL is one of only a couple regrets from the weeked.

Sunday was the final day and after not sleeping in my own bed for three nights and being in the heat and on my feet more than usual I was starting to feel the fatigue of it all (totally worth it though). I pretty much stayed at the Black Sheep Stage all day with the exception of a small stint in the Radon Lounge. I added Adjy to my schedule to watch despite knowing nothing about them, but discovered the day before that I knew the guitarist as our old bands had played some shows together several years ago. Afterward was able to catch Rusty Shipp and then Levi the Poet before prepping for my last run. I ended the night by catching Ravenhill followed by Side Walk Slam. Catching Side Walk Slam was the highlight of the weekend for me as I remember watching them play in random church halls in Southern Illinois before they were ever signed to Tooth & Nail. After their set I called it a night and made the journey home.

Being somewhat of an outsider going in to the weekend I left with a since of community and bigger purpose. It was nice to make new friends, finally meet some friends from the past couple of years and then run in to some old friends that I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years. It was a surreal experience that I am glad I finally got to be a part of and I am looking forward to what AudioFeed 2023 will have to offer.

Closing Note: I was told there would be ninjas. I saw no ninjas. So, either I was lied to or the ninjas were super efficient at their job.

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