Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rock the Pavement

Just back from Rock the Garden. We ended up having a great time, but honestly, folks, the event was a mixed bag. The music was good all around but the setup and space configuration was dreadful. Upon arrival, we waited in line for 30 minutes, missing half of Bon Iver's set. Not a good start. I heard him play an especially rousing version of 'Skinny Love' but never saw it. Once through the pointless bottleneck of an entrance, you see the problem immediately. The single stage is setup on a two-lane city street running east-west and there's no shoulder to speak of, so it's narrow. The vendors are packed in on each side, further increasing congestion. The food and beverage lines were absurdly long and criss-crossed back and forth, essentially taking up half of the viewing area for the stage! Remember, we're on a street so it's all on blacktop. You can forget about any 'garden.' Actually, if anything, the sculpture garden and mini-golf course did nothing but awkwardly obstruct the space. To top things off, thanks to some brilliant foresight, when you're facing the stage you're also staring directly into the sun.

There is this alluring grassy knoll off to the side that acts as a natural amphitheater, if only the stage were facing that direction! Instead, once you are able to make your way along a circuitous path up to the hill (it was not easy), you find yourself far off to the side and even behind the stage. The sound from that perspective was muddy and echoed off of the Walker building. Still, it was comfortable and open so we headed up there for Cloud Cult's set. Could have been great, sounded like it had potential, but like I said, the sound from that vantage was iffy at best. This picture from my phone is the best I can do to illustrate the situation.

Next up was The New Pornographers. We ditched the hillside in frustration and made our way back down to the pavement. Now, I'll stop the complaining. From here on out, we started to coast. We ran into some friends, relaxed and took in some great music. Neko and Dan were absent, but AC Newman and company ran through a riveting set nonetheless, moving the crowd to dance as the sun lowered in the sky. The New Pornos saved the night for us. It was only then that it began to feel like a true rock festival. They closed the lively set with an all too fitting cover of E.L.O's 'Don't Bring Me Down.'

Up until that point, the weather had been picture perfect all afternoon, not a cloud in the sky; however, when Andrew Bird began his headlining set, a few ominous clouds rolled in, threatening enough for Bird to halt for 15 minutes mid-set and wait out a passing shower. After just a few cooling sprinkles, he soon came back to triumphantly finish up the night. We left just before the end of his set and strolled through Loring Park listening to his violin plucks, impeccable whistling and adoring words for Minneapolis. Loring Park, you say? Now doesn't that sound like a promising location for a rock festival. Nah, that'd be silly. Sarcasm aside, it turned into a perfect night despite my initial misgivings. Let's just hope they work out the logistical bugs before next time.

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