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Rock around the block: a short history of Rock the Garden

Inspired by outdoor events covering the Twin Cities summer calendar, in 1998 the Walker put together a concert that brought the Garden and the Center together for a day of drinking and snacking and mingling and, of course, rocking out.   That first Rock the Garden, featuring the Jayhawks, was a relatively small-scale endeavor: Put up a […]

Inspired by outdoor events covering the Twin Cities summer calendar, in 1998 the Walker put together a concert that brought the Garden and the Center together for a day of drinking and snacking and mingling and, of course, rocking out.  

Rock the Garden, 1998, on Vineland Place

That first Rock the Garden, featuring the Jayhawks, was a relatively small-scale endeavor: Put up a stage on Vineland Place, bring in a band, show some Garden visitors and music fans a new side of our contemporary arts center. It was an immediate sucess, and in fact drew larger crowds than expected, thus inspiring another outdoor show in 2000.  

Jayhawks in 1998

For Rock the Garden 2000, Sonic Youth came around and were joined by Stereolab, and the Walker had another success on its hands as masses of concert-goers flooded Vineland Place.  

Sonic Youth in 2000

Sterolab in 2000

 

 During Rock the Garden 2002, Martin Medeski & Wood brought their funky jazz jams to the Walker, inspiring yet another summer of awesome music & incredible scenery.  

Medeski Martin & Wood in 2002

 

The next year, Rock the Garden 2003 became a full-on, multiple-band festival.  Still rocking Vineland Place as a sweetly oversized block party, the Walker hosted FogThe Bad Plus, and Wilco as guests crammed together in sweaty celebration of indie music.  

  Wilco in 2003 

In 2004, Barbara Cohen, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, and David Byrne gave their own interpretations of what it means to rock the garden.  

 David Byrne in 2004 

 

RTG, as it’s known to Walker staff, was on hiatus for 2005, 2006, and 2007, as Vineland Place transformed. The Walker’s expansion went up, along with an underground parking ramp, and the ’60s-era Guthrie came down. In 2008, the festival was revived in a new partnership with a public radio station that had gone on the air in 2005 —  89.3 The Current – and welcomed not three but four bands: Bon Iver, Cloud Cult, The New Pornographers, and Andrew Bird.

Andrew Bird in 2008

Last year, Rock the Garden’s stage was turned 90 degrees to face the rolling green hill along on the west side of the Walker. This seemingly minor adjustment made for a whole new kind of experience as fans got off the street and spread out on the lawn — and the festival escalated to grande proportions in a fantastic show put on by Solid Gold, Yeasayer, Calexico, and The Decemberists.  

The masses at Rock the Garden ’09

I hope you’re excited for Retribution Gospel Choir, OK Go, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and MGMT because they’ll be here before you know it to Rock the Garden with you.