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Rock the Garden 2015 Lineup: Modest Mouse, Belle and Sebastian, Babes in Toyland, and More

Today, the Walker and 89.3 The Current announced the lineup of Rock the Garden 2015. For the second year, the festival will span two days: Saturday and Sunday, June 20 and 21. On Tuesday, March 10 we celebrated the announcement by revealing one artist every hour live on 89.3 The Current. We liveblogged the announcement all […]

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Today, the Walker and 89.3 The Current announced the lineup of Rock the Garden 2015. For the second year, the festival will span two days: Saturday and Sunday, June 20 and 21.

On Tuesday, March 10 we celebrated the announcement by revealing one artist every hour live on 89.3 The Current. We liveblogged the announcement all day, and you can see the entire list of bands below, along with a few fun facts about them.

For more updates, follow the action on Twitter at @walkerartcenter@RockTheGarden, and @TheCurrent.

Modest Mouse, Issaquah, WA (Sunday, June 21)

Modest Mouse. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

Modest Mouse. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

  • Modest Mouse hasn’t played in the Twin Cities since 2010, and their upcoming release, Strangers to Ourselves, is their first full-length album in eight years. The album features “The Best Room,” a single based on frontman Isaac Brock’s experience of the famous Phoenix Lights UFO sighting of 1997.
  • Speaking of Modest Mouse and celestial weirdness, a meteor appeared in the sky as the band was on stage during November’s Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin. The song they were playing: “Dark Center of the Universe.”
  • Last fall, Glacial Pace Records re-released the band’s early albumsThis Is a Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About and The Lonesome Crowded West on vinyl. Along with those reissues came a handful of previously unreleased early songs. Check out Lonesome Crowded West outtake “White Lies, Yellow Teeth.”

Babes in Toyland, Minneapolis, MN (Sunday, June 21)

Babes in Toyland. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

Babes in Toyland. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, Lagos, Nigeria (Sunday, June 21)

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80. Photo: Johann Sauty

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80. Photo: Johann Sauty

  • The son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, saxophonist, singer, and bandleader Seun Kuti has been carrying on his father’s legacy with a style of West African dance music all his own. First playing with the band at the age of eight, Seun leads Egypt 80, the group of musicians who once backed up his father.
  • Kuti’s most recent album, A Long Way to the Beginning, was produced by jazz pianist Robert Glasper, who will perform at the Walker in May with pianist Jason Moran. The album also features guest rappers M1 (of Dead Prez) and Blitz the Ambassador.
  • Seun was offered the lead role in Fela!, Bill T. Jones’s hit Broadway musical about his father’s life and music, but turned it down. “It would just give ammunition to those who say I am copying my father,” he told the Guardian.

JD McPherson, Broken Arrow, OK (Sunday, June 21)

JD McPherson. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

JD McPherson. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

  • Broken Arrow, Oklahoma’s own JD McPherson makes roots music with simultaneous originality and shameless nostalgia, drawing influence from both Little Richard and Wu-Tang Clan. McPherson’s music is part Motown and part rockabilly with a little bit of the fuzzed-out blues of the Black Keys thrown in for good measure. On February 10, McPherson released his second full-length LP, Let The Good Times Roll.
  • Even though he’s not a son of the Midwest, McPherson has a huge fan base in Minnesota. When asked about this by Mary Lucia during a recent in-studio session at The Current, McPherson said, “We all know that Minnesotans are very intelligent and sensitive, artistic people, with the highest level of taste.” You flatter us, JD.
  • Before deciding to play music full time, McPherson was trained as a visual artist. He received an MFA from the University of Tulsa in Open Media. You can sense the influence of an art-school background on the literary style of his songwriting.

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, New York, NY (Sunday, June 21)

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

  • The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger features singer-songwriter Sean Lennon along with his girlfriend and collaborator Charlotte Kemp Muhl. Their music merges the classic ’60s psych sounds of a certain world-renowned four-piece with the surrealism of more modern acts like the Flaming Lips and Ariel Pink.
  • While the two have been recording music together since 2008, they just released their debut album, Midnight Sun, last year. PopMatters called it “a near perfect album,” while Mojo praised the record’s “out-of-body transmissions that channel Bends-era Radiohead, Syd Barrett whimsy and woozy melodic weirdness.”
  • Ever wonder what Sean Lennon’s favorite flavor of ice cream is? Or what he would do if he found $46 on the ground in a parking lot? Find the answers to these and other questions in this interview with Lennon, conducted by a grade-schooler named Olivia for the website Kids Interview Bands.

Belle and Sebastian, Glasgow, Scotland (Saturday, June 20)

Belle and Sebastian. Photo: Soren Solkar

Belle and Sebastian. Photo: Soren Solkar

  • In January 2015, Belle and Sebastian dropped Girls in Peacetime Want To Dance, their first album since 2010. Nineteen years and nine albums into their career, the band is still finding new nooks and crannies of pop history to plum for inspiration. On this album, they’ve injected the danceability of ’80s synth pop without losing any of their revolutionary edge.
  • Last year frontman Stuart Murdoch made his debut as a film director and writer with the musical God Help The Girl. The film garnered a Special Jury Award at Sundance, and the soundtrack featured original songs by Murdoch and Belle and Sebastian.
  • Belle and Sebastian might not be the first band you’d expected to cover Journey, but when you’re playing a children’s hospital, you have to break out the hits. Here they are playing “Don’t Stop Believing” at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for the Songs For Kids Foundation.

Conor Oberst, Omaha, NE (Saturday, June 20)

Conor Oberst. Photo: Courtesy the Artist

Conor Oberst. Photo: Courtesy the Artist

  • The last time Omaha native Conor Oberst swung by the Twin Cities to play to a packed crowd at First Avenue, he also stopped by The Current to perform a stunning in-studio session with his tour mates Dawes.
  • In a recent interview with Noisey, Oberst revealed the existence of an unreleased collaborative album he recorded with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and the Postal Service’s Jimmy Tamborello in 2003 called Blood on the 4-Tracks. Unfortunately, it seems the only way they’d be interested in releasing it is as a novelty edible seven-inch on Third Man Records. Your move, Jack White!
  • Speaking of long-lost Oberst projects, he will be touring all of April with his recently reunited punk project Desaparecidos. The group will be releasing the follow-up to its 2002 record Read Music/Speak Spanish on Epitaph sometime in 2015.

Courtney Barnett, Melbourne, Australia (Saturday, June 20)

Courtney Barnett. Photo: Courtesy the Artist

Courtney Barnett

  • Singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett is a slacker-rock stream-of-consciousness poet. Her music has the dreamy languidness of a sunny June afternoon, but her lyrics employ the cutting storytelling of a master satirist. Rolling Stone has referred to her as “Jerry Seinfeld with a fuzz pedal.”
  • The music video for “Pedestrian at Best,” a single from her upcoming record Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit(due out March 23), features Barnett playing a depressed clown who just can’t seem to catch a break. Hilarity ensues.
  • Want to watch Courtney Barnett cover the entirety of INXS’s seminal 1987 album Kick? Sure you do!

Lucius, Brooklyn, NY (Saturday, June 20)

Lucius. Photo: Peter Larson

Lucius. Photo: Peter Larson

  • Described by the Guardian as “exuberant” and “relentlessly melodic,” the Brooklyn indie-rock quintet Lucius makes millennial girl-group pop with anthemic ambitions. Their live act is somewhere between a fashion show and a rock opera, featuring dual vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig singing in unison dressed in identical outfits.
  • Respected economist, New York Times columnist, and self-proclaimed “60-year-old wannabe hipster” Paul Krugman is an avowed fan.
  • The cover of Lucius’s latest album, Wildewoman, features art with a timely Walker connection: Belgian artist Evelyne Axell’s 1964 painting Ice Cream will be featured in the Walker-organized exhibition International Pop, on view from April 11 to August 29, 2015.

thestand4rd, St. Paul, MN (Saturday, June 20)

thestand4rd. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

thestand4rd

  • Made up of Twin Cities wunderkinds Allan Kingdom, Spooky Black, Bobby Raps, and Psymun, thestand4rd fuses cloudy hip-hop with R&B and ethereal electronic music. The New York Times describes their live show as an act that walks the line between “reverent church hymnal and intense backpack-rap show.”
  • Rapper Allan Kingdom recently found himself in the spotlight when Kanye West featured him on his new single “All Day” along with Theophilus London and Paul McCartney. The song debuted with an explosive live performance at last month’s Brit Awards.
  • At the tender age of fifteen, singer Spooky Black’s first single “Without You” scored mountains of Internet hype, with the song’s music video hitting the million-views mark while he was still in high school. Spooky graduates in 2016, by the way.

ROCK THE GARDEN 2015

The annual summer festival returns Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, 2015 from 2–10 pm each day, in the green space next to the Walker.

BUY TICKETS

Tickets go on sale to Walker and Current members on Thursday, March 12 at 11 am. Any remaining tickets go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, March 17, at 11 am.

Mark your calendar and make sure that your Walker membership is up to date. Walker/MPR membership ID numbers will be required for all pre-sale purchases.

Walker membership: 612.375.7655 or membership.walkerart.org.

MPR membership: 1.800.228.7123 or mpr.org/support.

Rock the Garden 8-Ball: Lizzo

After the announcement that Lizzo has joined Rock the Garden 2014, she told The Current that she felt like a “gift-wrapped package with glitter coming out of the top.” Originally from Detroit and raised in Houston, Lizzo and her music have been giving steadily to the Twin Cities over the last few years, and the […]

Lizzo photographed in Minneapolis on February 8th 2014

Photo: Cameron Wittig

After the announcement that Lizzo has joined Rock the Garden 2014, she told The Current that she felt like a “gift-wrapped package with glitter coming out of the top.” Originally from Detroit and raised in Houston, Lizzo and her music have been giving steadily to the Twin Cities over the last few years, and the Twin Cities have been giving right back. She told DazedDigital.com, “Coming to Minneapolis I felt the most comfortable I have ever been . . . We all want to create art. I’m not saying it’s higher or lower, or better or worse. It’s just everyone can see eye to eye there.” Much of this local love for Lizzo came from her 2013 release of Lizzobangers, an album she made with Lazerbeak (Doomtree) and Ryan Olson (Gayngs, Marijuana Deathsquads). Her brazen verses are equally comical and combative, harkening back to some of the industry’s first female MCs, and her sound encompasses an array of influences. She told The 405 that “Beyoncé is a constant inspiration,” and that her dream collaboration would be with Bach. Lizzo’s videos are similarly wide-ranging: “Batches & Cookies” celebrates marriage equality and baked goods, while her new “Faded” video features cameos from Har Mar Superstar, Caroline Smith, and Macaulay Culkin.

Lizzo provides us with the third edition of Rock the Garden 8-Ball (following Dessa and Jeremy Messersmith) as she ponders her past life, career options, and other not-so-pressing questions.

What’s your best kept Twin Cities secret you don’t mind sharing?

Vicki at Paula’s Nails in Uptown. She’s an amazing nail artist.

What are three of your tour necessities?

Shower, panties, FaceTime.

If you had to pick another career, what would it be and why?

I’ve always wanted to be a novelist, I loved writing epic fantasies when I was 6.

Do you have a favorite park/green space in the Twin Cities?

Theodore Wirth Park! Now I’m super close to it so I love walking around the quaking bog.

Write a haiku about your current location.

Soft billowing cloud

White noise rolling steadily

My bed (is the shit).

What is your favorite sound?

French horn fanfare.

Do you think you were anyone specific in a past life?

A male diplomat.

What’s the last (or favorite) book you read?

Just read Spiral Bound, by Dessa.

Rock the Garden 2014 takes place on Saturday, June 21, and Sunday, June 22. See the full lineup and buy tickets here.

Rock the Garden 8-Ball: Jeremy Messersmith

Singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith once told The Current that as a kid, he dreamed of growing up to be a biochemist, of creating vaccines and curing diseases. All grown up, that’s not exactly where he finds himself, but his music, including this year’s Heart Murmurs, may still provide a remedy to those titular afflictions of the heart. He […]

Jeremy Messersmith. Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford

Jeremy Messersmith. Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford

Singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith once told The Current that as a kid, he dreamed of growing up to be a biochemist, of creating vaccines and curing diseases. All grown up, that’s not exactly where he finds himself, but his music, including this year’s Heart Murmurs, may still provide a remedy to those titular afflictions of the heart. He assures on “Tourniquet,” the album’s first single: “When you feel like dying, think you won’t be missed / I will be there in an ambulance.” Messersmith’s music is highly personal; “songs are a way for me to process and understand things,” he told the Star Tribune. The songs of Heart Murmurs are buoyantly melodic and consistently catchy, whether depicting joyous love or aching heartbreak. He has been touring these songs across the country, including two sold-out shows at First Avenue this February, and on Saturday, June 21, he’ll stop by the Walker for the first day of Rock the Garden 2014.

After Dessa’s consideration of life’s questions both big and small, Messersmith gives us our next installment of Rock the Garden 8-Ball, describing some of his Twin Cities favorites and providing some wise words from Terminator 2.

What’s your best kept Twin Cities secret you don’t mind sharing?

The Midtown Global Market. It’s funny how many of my friends in Minneapolis have still NEVER been there. It has The Salty Tart, The Rabbit Hole, Hot Indian, Holy Land, Sonora Grill, and so many other fantastic food options. It’s also a venue and community space. It doesn’t get much better than that!

What are three of your tour necessities?

A slanket, a jumprope and a giant bottle of hand sanitizer.

Do you have a favorite park/green space in the Twin Cities?

I’m not sure if this counts, but I’d pick the Greenway. It’s beautiful, functional and busy. It’s still one of the greatest urban bike paths I’ve seen.

What are you afraid of?

I’m not a particularly brave person, but most of my little fears about things (heights, public speaking) pale when compared to the big picture. My biggest fear is simply that we humans will not outlive our adolescence as a species and we may never get to travel the stars. We are rapidly making our own world uninhabitable through reckless and short sighted environmental destruction. That’s the fear that keeps me up at night. Okay, that and clowns.

What is your favorite sound?

I think my first impulse is to say silence, but that’s been done to death by John Cage already right?

Apparently, I’ve been conditioned by the advertising industry because I find the sound of a can of soda opening to be profoundly satisfying. The worst part of that is that I never drink soda!

If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?

My last meal would consist of a glass of Pinot Noir, a chocolate tart, and a mushroom crostini with amanita mushrooms. Of course, amanita mushrooms are fatal, but I’d much rather go out on my own terms than give satisfaction to whoever was trying to execute me!

What fictional character do you most relate to?

Any Haruki Murakami protagonist. I’m cheating a little, but I often find them to be fairly passive, introverted males in their mid-30s. They also seem to spend a lot of time cooking and eating while crazy things are happening all around them. Sometimes being a traveling musician feels an awful lot like that.

What advice do you have for young people?

I’m going to quote Terminator 2, the film I try to live my life by: “No fate but what we make.”

Rock the Garden 2014 takes place on Saturday, June 21, and Sunday, June 22. See the full lineup and buy tickets here.

Rock the Garden 8-Ball: Dessa

Bringing the Twin Cities music scene’s definitive earnestness to a national audience, Dessa’s solo work in alternative hip hop is long overdue for a slot at Rock the Garden, where local artists have maintained a crucial presence since its inception. Dessa, though, is no stranger to the festival, performing in 2012 as a part of […]

Dessa. Photo: Bill Phelps

Dessa. Photo: Bill Phelps

Bringing the Twin Cities music scene’s definitive earnestness to a national audience, Dessa’s solo work in alternative hip hop is long overdue for a slot at Rock the Garden, where local artists have maintained a crucial presence since its inception. Dessa, though, is no stranger to the festival, performing in 2012 as a part of Doomtree, their set of homegrown hip hop energizing the sold-out crowd like none other in Rock the Garden history. Lately, she has been taking her intensely personal music around the country as a part of her Parts of Speech tour, and on Sunday, June 22, she brings her verses and melodies to the Vineland Place stage. A lover of writing from Seneca to David Foster Wallace, Dessa is an expert wordsmith herself outside of her musical life. This fall saw the release of A Pound of Steam, a poetry chapbook published by Rain Taxi Review of Books, and a visit to the Walker to read her work. Like her poetry, Dessa’s music is both intelligent and viscerally emotive, often getting to the heart through the head. “And for the most part,” she told The Rumpus in an interview, “my songs are about true lived experiences, are true stories.” We sent her an 8-Ball questionnaire, and she took the time to answer some questions about lived experiences both big and small, from working her with fear to being forced to sit through The Deer Hunter

What is your current musical obsession?

Eastern European and Indian scales. I don’t have any foundation in music theory, so I’m sort of freestyling a study regimen, but I love the sounds–dark, melancholic, a little sinister. 

What’s your best kept Twin Cities secret you don’t mind sharing?

Maybe not quite a secret, but Sugar, Sugar on Grand Avenue definitely warrants a visit–custom made exotic candies and chocolates. The chocolate bar with lime tortilla chips doesn’t sound like much, but is damn good. 

Write a haiku about your current location.

Nobody should watch

The Deer Hunter on a plane.

Window seat, crying.

What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of falling short of my creative ambitions–afraid I might reach the limits of my talent, or become too discouraged to make brave, passionate material. Nothing to do but carry on, though. I think a career in the arts often asks a person to learn to coexist comfortably with fear and uncertainty. 

What is your favorite sound?

Human voices, in harmony. (A quarter’s worth of Reese’s pieces in a vending machine might be a close second.) 

Do you think you were anyone specific in a past life?

Nope. Hard enough trying to figure out who I am in this one. 

If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?

Half a dozen little courses: sushi; the melty, smashy sandwiches they serve in Brazil; cashews and avocados. Then a half dozen desserts: peanut butter cups, cake with buttercream frosting, maybe some marzipan. This game is making me both hungry and sad. 

What’s the last (or favorite) book you read?

Just finished Myra Breckenridge by Gore Vidal. 

Rock the Garden 2014 takes place on Saturday, June 21, and Sunday, June 22. See the full lineup and buy tickets here.

Rock the Garden 2014 Lineup: Spoon, Guided By Voices, De La Soul, and More

This afternoon, the Walker and 89.3 The Current announced the lineup of Rock the Garden 2014. For the first time in Rock the Garden history, the festival spans two days: Saturday, June 21 and Sunday, June 22. As Associate Curator of Performing Arts Doug Benidt said, “the only thing better than live music is more live […]

RTG14

This afternoon, the Walker and 89.3 The Current announced the lineup of Rock the Garden 2014. For the first time in Rock the Garden history, the festival spans two days: Saturday, June 21 and Sunday, June 22. As Associate Curator of Performing Arts Doug Benidt said, “the only thing better than live music is more live music.”

On Tuesday, April 15 at 4 pm, Walker Performing Arts Curator Philip Bither joined Mary Lucia and Jim McGuinn on The Current airwaves to reveal this year’s two-day lineup. We liveblogged the announcement, and you can see the list of bands below. For more, read “27 Facets of the Rock the Garden Lineup.”

Saturday, June 21

Jeremy Messersmith (Minneapolis, MN)

Jeremy Messersmith. Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford

Jeremy Messersmith. Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford

Best Coast (Los Angeles, CA)

Best Coast. Photo: Courtesy the artists

Best Coast. Photo: Courtesy the artists

Matt and Kim (Brooklyn, NY)

Matt and Kim. Photo: Caleb Kuhl

Matt and Kim. Photo: Caleb Kuhl

De La Soul (Long Island, NY)

De La Soul. Photo: Courtesy the artists

De La Soul. Photo: Courtesy the artists

Sunday, June 22

Valerie June (Memphis, TN)

Valerie June. Photo: Matt Wignall

Valerie June. Photo: Matt Wignall

Kurt Vile and the Violators (Philadelphia, PA)

Kurt Vile. Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Kurt Vile. Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Dessa (Minneapolis, MN)

Dessa. Photo: Bill Phelps

Dessa. Photo: Bill Phelps

Guided By Voices (Dayton, OH)

Guided By Voices. Photo: Courtesy the artists

Guided By Voices. Photo: Courtesy the artists

Spoon (Austin, TX)

Spoon. Photo: Courtesy the artists

Spoon. Photo: Courtesy the artists

BUY TICKETS

Tickets go on sale to Walker and MPR members on Thursday, April 17, at 11 am through Etix.com only. Any remaining tickets go on sale to the general public Saturday, April 19, at 11 am.

REMEMBER

Last year’s Rock the Garden sold out in less than an hour, so mark your calendar and make sure that your Walker membership is up to date. Walker/MPR membership ID numbers will be required for all pre-sale purchases.

Walker membership: 612.375.7655 or membership.walkerart.org.

MPR membership: 1.800.228.7123 or mpr.org/support.

In 2014, Rock the Garden Expands to a Two-Day Festival

A rain delay that turned into an impromptu parking-ramp rave with Dan Deacon. Low’s now-infamous 27-minute, one-song, “drone-not-drones” set. A homecoming for former Hüsker Dü front man Bob Mould. After Rock the Garden 2013, it’s hard to imagine the event getting any more memorable. But next June, we’ll try: In 2014, the Walker and 89.3 […]

rtg2012_0616_332

A rain delay that turned into an impromptu parking-ramp rave with Dan Deacon. Low’s now-infamous 27-minute, one-song, “drone-not-drones” set. A homecoming for former Hüsker Dü front man Bob Mould. After Rock the Garden 2013, it’s hard to imagine the event getting any more memorable. But next June, we’ll try:

In 2014, the Walker and 89.3 The Current are expanding Rock the Garden to a two-day festival for the first time in the event’s history. Mark your calendar for Saturday, June 21 and Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Held nearly every summer since 1998, Rock the Garden has welcomed a diverse array of bands to its stage. including David Byrne, Stereolab, Sonic Youth, Wilco, Bon Iver, Doomtree, Trampled by Turtles, and the New Pornographers, to name a few. Be the first to get the announcement this spring about the on-sale date and lineup for 2014’s two-day festival by following Rock the Garden on Facebook and Twitter. Or sign up to receive Cross Currents, The Current’s weekly newsletter, and Walker emails.

Tickets to the two-day event will be available to Walker Art Center and MPR members first, with an exclusive pre-sale to be announced at a later date. To purchase Walker memberships visit http://www.walkerart.org/membership; The Current/MPR memberships can be purchased at mpr.org/support.

Low: Rock the Garden’s own Rite of Spring?

Defying expectations and offering courageous, surprising, pure, extreme, heartfelt, and sometimes even beautiful expressions are some of the things we count on artists to do. The fact that Low was able to do them all in one 27-minute set at Rock the Garden I found remarkable. Others apparently weren’t so thrilled with the extended version […]

Low's Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker at Rock the Garden 2013. Photo: Amy Fox

Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker at Rock the Garden 2013. Photo: Amy Fox

Defying expectations and offering courageous, surprising, pure, extreme, heartfelt, and sometimes even beautiful expressions are some of the things we count on artists to do. The fact that Low was able to do them all in one 27-minute set at Rock the Garden I found remarkable. Others apparently weren’t so thrilled with the extended version of the band’s 1996 song “Do You Know How to Waltz?”: Angry tweets and blog posts appeared, and before the band had even arrived back home in Duluth, Low’s Alan Sparhawk was on the phone doing an interview about the set. (Listen to Low’s Saturday performance and tell me you can’t find dark, redemptive beauty there.) I guess the kind of riots that erupted in Paris after Stravinsky’s premiere of The Rite of Spring in 1913 now happen online.

Rock and roll long ago transitioned from solely entertainment into an art form, one that often serves as a wake-up call to boot. When Low walked on stage, the deluge had just passed, dark clouds were still hanging low but beginning to break, and wet, straggling fans were finding their way back from the underground onto the wet field. At that moment, their decision to play an extended version of “Do You Know How to Waltz?” felt inspired — one that fit the unsettled day and our unsettled times. How does a band better create a transition from Dan Deacon’s equally memorable underground parking lot digital throw-down to what would surely be more song-based, hits-oriented, high energy music coming later in the day?

Of course, strong artistic statements inevitably spark strong counter-responses, especially when presented to large, unsuspecting audiences. To my mind, Low’s set was one of the most exciting moments in Rock the Garden history. Yes, it served as a jolt to some listeners who had expected something different. It introduced noise, distortion, and drone in an artful, low-keyed, actually rather peaceful manner — cascading, swelling layers of sound, floating electronic harmonics, and patience-inducing stoppage of time. Low chose to place themselves in the company of sonic renegades from rock’s history: Hendrix, John Cale, Lou Reed, Brian Eno, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Sunn O)))), Patti Smith, Sonic Youth, and dozens of others, including some of today’s most popular rock artists — Neil Young, Wilco, and Radiohead, to name a few. They opened a dialogue with the avant-classical side of the aisle as well, represented by artists/musicians familiar to Walker visitors: Yves Klein, John Cage, La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, Philip Glass, Yoko Ono, Rhys Chatham, even Tim Hecker. The success of Rock the Garden has for some time brought commercial and broad-based expectations of accessibility to an event never intended to exclusively carry such, certainly not with all or even most of its chosen bands.

The Walker and The Current both strive for diversity and innovation in the RTG lineup. The event grew out of a 50-year old Performing Arts program at the Walker dedicated to new sounds, new movements, and new forms of theater and interdisciplinary art, where traits like innovation and audacity rank high. Equally, on the radio, The Current has helped open up the airwaves, forging a new model for public radio nationally, actively supporting independent artists from Minnesota’s strong rock scene and far beyond. While I find some of the angry, closed-minded online responses to Low’s set dispiriting, I remain thrilled with the debate that ensued — seeing directly what the power of art, in this instance a strongly made musical statement, can evoke. Low’s set is in line with both Rock the Garden’s roots and its ongoing efforts to champion innovators like tUnEyArDs, Yeasayer, Bon Iver (then an unknown with a brand new sound), Howler, Andrew Bird, The Bad Plus, Retribution Gospel Choir (Alan Sparhawk’s last RTG appearance), and Calexico, all Rock the Garden performers in recent years.

Witnessing Low’s set Saturday, I admit to my own initial confusion, which melted quickly into gratitude and then awe as the piece unfolded. So much so that when the set ended I rushed backstage to give Steve, Mimi, and Alan my thanks and my well wishes before anyone else could reach them, wanting to counter in advance any unhappiness or criticism I assumed — correctly, it turns out — was likely to follow.

Philip Bither is the Walker’s Senior Curator of Performing Arts.

 

How Dan Deacon Decided to Go Underground: Rock the Garden 2013

It wasn’t going to stop raining. The radar flashed a train of yellows and reds that churned toward and over Minneapolis. The doors to Rock the Garden 2013 had opened 20 minutes earlier and decisions had to be made. An hour before, Dan Deacon and I had a conversation about the dodgy weather that was […]

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Parking-garage dance party. Photo: Greg Beckel

It wasn’t going to stop raining. The radar flashed a train of yellows and reds that churned toward and over Minneapolis. The doors to Rock the Garden 2013 had opened 20 minutes earlier and decisions had to be made. An hour before, Dan Deacon and I had a conversation about the dodgy weather that was headed our way. He was fine playing in the rain and would ask some kids to hold a tarp over his gear during his show. I thanked him for his adventurous spirit. “Gotta keep it punk somehow,” he smirked.

Rain is one thing; lightning changes plans.

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Dan Deacon talks to Philip Bither, the Walker’s Senior Curator of Performing Arts, after covering his gear with a tarp. Photo: Greg Beckel

The storm helped us make an easy decision (safety first, right?). A volunteer evacuation to the parking garage was announced over the PA by Jill Riley (The Current host and voice of god), and she then kept the audience informed with storm info and ETAs for sun. But now it was raining quite hard and was looking like we’d have to play it safe and skip Dan’s set, hoping at that point to somehow salvage at least one song by Low.

At 3:30 pm, the rain had become torrential and I was huddled in the production tent with the key decision makers, including RTG production manager extraordinaire Maury Jensen, Randy Levy of Rose Presents, and Walker tech staff genius Ben Geffen. We all agreed: we couldn’t ask Dan to perform in such conditions, but we’d wait another five minutes or so before pulling the plug. It’s not a pleasant moment for any of us — we try to keep the mood light, buoyed with half-formed jokes and optimistic reads of the radar, but we all know this totally sucks. Months of work have gone into this one seven-hour period, and it’s taking a turn for the worse.

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Rock the Garden attendees waiting out the rain in the ramp. Photo: Gene Pittman

Then I see a beautiful sight — a purple hoody and the bespectacled and bearded face of Dan Deacon making his way toward me through our tiny tent. He’s Cheshire smiling. I’m flummoxed. I’m about to launch into my friendly chat about how it’s not going well with the weather when he blurts out, “I can play in the garage.” A moment of clarity hits me. “Of course you can play in the garage!,” I think to myself. Turning to Maury, I ask if he can pull this off and, without doubt or hesitation, he says, “I can make it happen.” We all thank Dan and experience a collective bit of much needed cheer. A generous twist of fate is at hand and the rest of us agree quickly to suss out if this is possible, with little time to waste. We confer with the MPR broadcast team and the TPT filming crew and realize this might just work. Ben Geffen and his team deploy to the garage to find a proper space and power to set up Dan’s gear. Ten or so minutes later, Ben radios up that they’re all set and Jill makes the announcement that Dan will be “rocking the underground,” sparking the remaining weatherproof stalwarts on the hill to quickly hoof it to the garage. A bullhorn is found and Current host Steve Seel agrees to do the intro for Dan.

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“Electro Pied Piper” Dan Deacon. Photo: Gene Pittman

What ensued in the depths of the parking garage is one of the most spontaneously joyous performance moments I have witnessed. Electro Pied Piper Dan Deacon led an ecstatic dance party with thousands of wet and ponchoed people – all dancing, drinking, and feeling the relief of being dry just for a moment. Deacon also concocted a dance contest and prodded thousands of people to make a giant circle within the cars and pillars — “Keep moving, all the way back to the Acuras!” This well-executed salvation and truly remarkable moment was all captured by hundreds of phones — check YouTube today.

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Dance battle. Photo: Gene Pittman

Dan ended his set right on time, the crowd spilling out of the garage as the rain lightened and eventually stopped, allowing Low to take the stage a mere 10 minutes behind schedule. Midway through Low’s (now also legendary) set, the sun broke through as the cheer of thousands echoed throughout the neighborhood.

Many thanks (and virtual hugs) to Dan Deacon for his inspired improvisation that set the perfect tone for RTG 2013 and clearly showed us how the essential the artistic perspective can be. And even more thanks to all the staff and crew (and audience!) who made this wonderful and super fun moment happen so fluidly. Dan’s performance became instant Rock the Garden lore and will certainly be hard to top next year.

Doug Benidt is the Walker’s Rock the Garden programmer and band wrangler.

The 2013 Rock the Garden Lineup

The Rock the Garden 2013 Lineup has been announced! On April 16, Mary Lucia and Jim McGuinn (89.3 The Current) with Philip Bither (Walker Art Center) revealed this year’s bands. Here’s who’s playing the festival: 5. Dan Deacon (Baltimore, MD) 4. Low (Duluth, MN) 3. Bob Mould Band (San Francisco, CA) 2. Silversun Pickups (Los […]

The Rock the Garden 2013 Lineup has been announced! On April 16, Mary Lucia and Jim McGuinn (89.3 The Current) with Philip Bither (Walker Art Center) revealed this year’s bands. Here’s who’s playing the festival:

5. Dan Deacon (Baltimore, MD)

Dan Deacon. Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Dan Deacon. Photo: Shawn Brackbill

4. Low (Duluth, MN)

Low. Photo: Zoran Orlic

Low. Photo: Zoran Orlic

3. Bob Mould Band (San Francisco, CA)

Bob Mould Band. Photo: Peter Ellenby

Bob Mould Band. Photo: Peter Ellenby

2. Silversun Pickups (Los Angeles, CA)

Silversun Pickups. Photo: Autumn Dewilde

Silversun Pickups. Photo: Autumn Dewilde

1. Metric (Toronto, ON)

Metric. Photo: Justin Broadbent

Metric. Photo: Justin Broadbent

BUY TICKETS

Tickets will be on sale to Walker and MPR members only this Friday, April 19, starting at 11 am. Any remaining tickets go on sale to the general public Saturday, April 20.

REMEMBER

Last year’s festival sold out in less than an hour, so be sure to mark your calendar and double-check that your Walker membership is up-to-date. Walker/MPR membership ID numbers will be required for all pre-sale purchases.

Walker Membership: 612.375.7655 or membership.walkerart.org. MPR Membership: 1.800.228.7123

THE FESTIVAL

Rock the Garden 2013
Walker Art Center
Saturday June 15, 3–10:30 pm

Haiku the Garden (part 2)

But WAIT!  There is more! Also left behind this year… The Hold Steady’s list!

But WAIT!  There is more!

Also left behind this year…

The Hold Steady’s list!

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