The premiere Christian music festival for many had been The Cornerstone Festival – which ran from 1984 till 2012. The final 2012 gathering was mourned by many and there were some who were not willing to let their community, their family slip away that easily.
The rumblings on social media began and then, boom! AudioFeed was born. A web site was up, bands were signing on and social media was abuzz that there was once again a place where the “family” could gather. The excitement was infectious and I knew we had to go! I grabbed my wife, my partner in crime Eddie Parrino, our instruments, and off we went.
I’ve been in the music business for many years involved in almost every aspect. The most gut wrenching, stressful side of it is without a doubt, concert promotion. I was nervous for the sponsors of this event all the way there. This first year was of utmost importance.
We were greeted at the gate by some happy, friendly faces, parked the car and into the festivities. We brought our instruments, so of course the first thing we did was to find out where we could play. “The Front Porch” was the ticket, we signed up and Eddie and I played for about 20 minutes, good times.
I was also able to catch up with some old friends and meet some people for the first time that I’ve only had connections with online. We had a great time and are looking forward to going back next year. I thought it would be great for me and for our readers to find out more about AudioFeed. Who is behind it and what can we expect for next year?
I sent a message via facebook about doing this interview and was told the 3 principals in charge are Luke Welchel, Jim Eisenmenger, and Jay Newman. I have never met these gentlemen so this will be an introduction for all of us. Jim and Luke responded with the answers below.
I heard at the Festival that it seemed like Cornerstone had a baby. Are you comfortable with that comparison?
Jim: Very much so. Audiofeed is not Cornerstone for many reasons, but much of our DNA is Cornerstone DNA… so the analogy seems like a good one to me.
Luke: If the shoe fits…
I mentioned in my intro that for me that concert promotion seems to be the most stressful of all musical endeavors. Do any of you have experience in concert promotion?
Luke: All of us have at least some experience. Jim runs a house venue that’s relatively new on the scene but it is one of the coolest places in the world called “the Front Porch,” which the impromptu stage area is named after. Jay has done concert promotions for years, and has worked every side of that part of the music scene. Jay also ran a little generator stage at Cornerstone called “The Arkansas Stage,” he decided to upgrade that this year. I ran an indie house venue for about a year but have put on shows at numerous venues and churches for the last 5 years. The Screaming Hog Pig Roast that, which was coined this year by some as “AudioFeed Day Zero,” is something I booked and coordinated for years at “Mama” Linda Olson’s house. She always took care of feeding and housing the bands and I always took care of lining up the PA and booking etc… it was kind of a family reunion/mini fest that we had annually before Cornerstone. Jay and I also manage bands, and work in other sides of the music industry.
How did you approach the bands with this new idea for a festival?
Luke: Well I had a good personal friendship with a lot of the bands that played this year and so did Jay. So with us both pitching it, and being straightforward with what it was about, it seemed like most of our friends were happy to be on board and take part. Some of the bands we didn’t know well were kind of tricky, and it took us a while to get some of the bigger ones on board. We had a team for booking so some of the bigger ones like Maylene, came through the team and then I would talk them the rest of the way in. It was pretty tough to convince them at first. It’s hard to pitch. People knew that we were trying to pick up the Cornerstone legacy and a lot of booking agents and bands flat out told me that they thought it was just going to be a couple dozen people in a field. By God’s grace it was quite a bit better than that.
Our booking team was amazing though, and there was a lot of people that stepped up and nudged some of the artist our direction by putting in a good word for us and believing it was going to come together. The power of community is in no way underrated.
I’ve heard some great stories about things that happened at the Fest. Do you have a favorite?
Jim: Saturday evening, a 9 year old boy got separated from his mother. In those frantic five minutes (he was actually back at their camp), I saw what seemed like half of the grounds mobilized and was working to find him. Not, oh, OK… we’ll keep an eye out. People running, fanning out, grabbing others to spread the word. You (we) acted like a family who lost one of their own. Or, in someone else’s words, like a shepherd who knew where his 99 were and lost one. How we’re supposed to act. Family. Love. Action. That moved me to my core like nothing has in years. I got the call that we’d found him and stopped to tell a group who was just fanning out to search… and broke down. I was drained, exhausted, and just past a huge adrenaline dump – and overwhelmed with love and gratitude for the response. One of the group yelled, “hey, stop – we need to pray for this brother.” I have never been prayed for like that in my life. Possibly the high point of my spiritual walk, and the time I felt closest to God and His family – my family. Ever.
Luke: For me it was a toss-up. My mentor Shane Pippin preached a sermon Sunday to close out the fest and if it wasn’t for his support as a pastor and best friend, I would have never even have believed this sort of thing could happen. Seeing all the people that stayed and came up to pray, just blew me away. So much support. Plus Noah James and Christiana Benton leading worship, it really was just an amazing moment for me.
The other was Friday night when I had decided to take my first real break of the fest at that point and sit on stage and watch Mike Roe backed by Steve and Tim of the Choir. Mike played all the songs I loved and rocked it, and that whole magic music thing happened. I looked out in the crowd and I could see that they all felt it too. It seemed like at that moment, all the people at the Arkansas stage were experiencing that hope that Cornerstone gave us every summer. I was just sitting there in awe and humbled that we could ever be involved in something like this. Mike was playing “Do it For Love,” I think. It’s on the 77s self-titled album and everyone should check it out.
Those two moments made all the work and hours’ worth it for me.
I know you are starting to get things moving for next year and you put a honest appeal online. You are asking people to donate now to offset next year’s expenses. Why is this important and how can folks help?
Jim: Our 2013 costs landed at around $45,000 and our ticket sales were just over $20,000. One donor covered most of that gap for 2013, but that is clearly not a long term solution. We also operate with a small volunteer staff that put in a lot of time and effort. As this grows, we will need to move some of that time to compensated time or the workload of “day jobs”, the festival, and family will become too much to maintain. Having said that, we have many, many reasons to be optimistic about growth in attendance and sponsorship. In the long term, our hope is that donations are not necessary. But as we grow, it is a form of help that we do need. audiofeedfestival.com/new-page/
Camping onsite last year was free with ticket purchase. This is a great way for folks to keep costs down. Will camping be free next year? What amenities do you have for folks/groups who want to camp?
Jim: We’re talking to the owners of the grounds now about fees for 2014. They typically collect camping fees from users of the grounds but gave us an exception for 2013 to get us on our feet. Our intent is to offer free camping again in 2014 – it’s just a part of being the community that the heart of this festival.
Camping is close to the stages and other activities, flushing toilets and showers, and A/C in the main stage for a break from the heat.
I know specific plans for next year are still in the works but for those who may be interested in attending next year what would you tell them now to get them excited about it?
Jim: We have many ideas for things to add and potential expansion, but the biggest thing to be excited about is that our family will gather again.
Luke: I’m excited about some of the bands we’ve been lining up in our heads, and maybe a few we’ve already talked to. I guess you will have to wait and see.
Thanks for your time and your dedication to this much needed endeavor. Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Luke: I just really appreciate the support that people have brought and offered. God has really brought this together, and I believe if we keep praying and trusting Him with it, it will continue to grow in the right ways and be something that we can all look forward to. There’s a lot of potential for a lot of great things, just looking forward to the adventure. Hope to see a lot of new faces and meet a lot of new people at AudioFeed 2014 July 4-6th.
Visit AudioFeedFestival.com to find out what exciting things will be happening in 2014 and of course we’ll keep you updated here at Down The Line as well.