CHICAGO (RNS) — Demon Hunter. Vengeance Rising. Payable on Death.
Since 1984, these and other Christian heavy metal bands have been congregating every summer in a field near Chicago for the Cornerstone Festival.
For several years, as many as 20,000 fans helped these bands gain traction in a faith community more often associated with pop praise music.
Financial troubles will make this summer’s July 2–7 gathering the last for the venerable festival, the oldest Christian music and arts festival in the U.S.
Yet as Cornerstone says goodbye, a young upstart festival is doubling its size in only its second year. The Wild Goose Festival ethos and theology are radically different than Cornerstone’s. The first Wild Goose met at Shakori Hills, N.C.
This year, Wild Goose East will meet June 21–24 in North Carolina, while Wild Goose West will meet at the Benton County Fairgrounds near Portland, Ore., Aug. 31–Sept. 2.
Both Cornerstone and Wild Goose attempted to be a meeting place for music, art, conversation, and theological exploration. Whereas Cornerstone participants’ heavy metal regalia could look a bit off-putting to parents dropping off their young children, the theology behind the event remained solidly conservative evangelical.
Both festivals strongly emphasize justice and aesthetics, and while Wild Goose is clearly more to the left than Cornerstone, both have attempted to promote an understanding of Christianity that is big-tent, honest and conversational.
“We want to build friendships with everyone who comes,” said Wild Goose’s executive director, Gareth Higgins.
Both festivals have a feeling of intentional chaos. Hierarchies are dissolved and speakers answer questions face to face. Like the speakers at Wild Goose, the music at Cornerstone can also feel a bit unhinged.
“It’s a free-for-all of music in a huge complex,” Eddie Jones said, former bass player for Radial Angel.
“[Cornerstone] was kind of a mecca for a whole generation of Christian sub-culture,” he said. “Kids who loved good music and didn’t quite fit into the church found a place they could meet others like them. It helped launch bands like P.O.D., and others who were able to find a devoted fan base that would follow them … and propel them to the mainstream success they had.”