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The Flaming Lips at Rock the Garden: 360 Degrees of “Race for the Prize”

Smoke guns and confetti cannons were out in full force during the final set of Rock the Garden 2016—and videographer Chuck Olsen of Visual was there to capture the experience in immersive, 360-degree video. Watch as Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips perform “Race for the Prize,” off the 1999 album The Soft Bulletin. (See if […]

The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne at Rock the Garden 2016. Photo: Gene Pittman

The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne at Rock the Garden 2016. Photo: Gene Pittman

Smoke guns and confetti cannons were out in full force during the final set of Rock the Garden 2016—and videographer Chuck Olsen of Visual was there to capture the experience in immersive, 360-degree video. Watch as Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips perform “Race for the Prize,” off the 1999 album The Soft Bulletin. (See if you can spot the Walker bumpersticker—“Think about honking if you [heart] conceptual art”—on the leg of Coyne’s duct-tape pants.)

Held on Minneapolis’s Boom Island on June 18, the fourteenth edition of our annual festival featured eight bands on two stages: Plague Vendor, GRRRL PRTY, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Hippo Campus, M. Ward, Poliça, Chance the Rapper, and the Flaming Lips.

Rock the Garden 2016 was a copresentation of the Walker Art Center and 89.3 The Current.

Chance the Rapper Colors Outside the Lines

There is no single voice in DIY music culture making as much of an impact as Chance the Rapper. As an artist who has given away the majority of his music, without major label influence, Chance has been able to speak directly to the soul of young people without having his hand forced by the […]

Chance the Rapper at the Pemberton Music Festival, 2014 Photo: Rob Loud, Flickr, used under Creative Commons license

Chance the Rapper at the Pemberton Music Festival, 2014. Photo: Rob Loud, Flickr, used under Creative Commons license

There is no single voice in DIY music culture making as much of an impact as Chance the Rapper. As an artist who has given away the majority of his music, without major label influence, Chance has been able to speak directly to the soul of young people without having his hand forced by the recording industry. On his new gospel-laced mixtape Coloring Book, that soul shines through from track to track. As he states on the song “Blessings,” “I don’t make songs for free/I make songs for freedom.”

On June 18, Chance joins Poliça, The Flaming Lips, and others at Minneapolis’s Boom Island Park for what is destined to be the largest Rock the Garden street festival yet. Over the past two years we’ve seen Rock the Garden diversify its lineup with acts like golden-era MCs De La Soul and Afrobeat legend Seun Kuti, among a handful of others—and with Chance’s inclusion the event further ventures into unchartered territory. Which begs the question: where does Chance fit in a festival that has boasted a past of mostly white indie-rock giants? And what does his presence mean to this coloring book and who gets the crayons?

Let’s take a minute and talk about the often-overlooked city within the city of Minneapolis. The Twin Cities has undeniably been heavily influenced by our closest major city neighbor, Chicago, Chance’s hometown. In the late 1800s, the Chicago, St. Paul, and Minneapolis railways were consolidated to create a consistent stream of people and goods throughout the region. Simultaneously, in 1865, you had the abolition of slavery, which quickly created the largest migration of people in the history of the United States. In the 1920s, more than six million formerly enslaved people traveled North for better wages and opportunity. My grandparents on both sides of the family moved from Mississippi and Arkansas during this period. Both of my parents relocated to Minnesota in the last year of the 1970s. Being Black growing up in inner city Minneapolis, you are constantly reminded of Chicago’s influence. Transplants from that city speak with such pride and sorrow in the same sentence. They speak of struggle, pain, and, ultimately, the hope for a brighter future. A similar duality is the somber playfulness that you find in Chance’s music. This is the spirit that touches Chance’s followers in a way that many outsiders may not understand. It’s an authentic voice piercing its way through a cloud of doubt.

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Cover image for Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book mixtape

In the city that produced the likes of the Smashing Pumpkins, Styx, Earth Wind & Fire, and Chief Keef, Chance the Rapper finds a way to walk the proverbial line musically. Inside of his productions you will find both a wide range of musicality and a blunt directness that only Chicago hip hop could produce. He slips back and forth between rapping and singing within the same line of thought. He also freely moves between preproduced instrumentals and his live band, The Social Experiment, flexing skills over odd time signatures. The amount of gospel influence may sound way out of the box for the fair-weather listener but makes perfect sense with someone like the Coloring Book author. At 23, Chance has been influenced by an age of direct access to the “other.” By this I mean young people are much more free to explore their tastes and interests in the privacy of their own homes without judgment, thanks to the internet. This gives young artists more time to explore their ideas and openly create. His do-it-yourself approach to creating music allows him to easily move between tracks with his soulful live band, songs with gospel icon Kirk Franklin, and tracks like “Mixtape” with viral stars Young Thug and Lil Yachty.

All throughout Chance’s new project you find hidden messages. You have to think of what a coloring book represents. Though mass-produced, a coloring book gives every person who utilizes it an opportunity to create their own version of reality. You can choose to use lighter or darker colors. You can draw inside the lines or stray away from the format. Either way we are all given some basic outline of how to exist, and we have to fill in that space with whatever makes the most sense to your personal experience.

On “All We Got,” the first song of Coloring Book, Chance features Kanye West and the Chicago Children’s Choir. Constantly shrouded in controversy, West is arguably the biggest artist to ever represent the working poor in the city. The Chicago Children’s Choir was founded in the mid-1950s at the height of the Civil Rights movement, serving more than 4,000 youth annually. Through the choir, young people have been able to travel throughout the world and perform with acts like Beyoncé, Luciano Pavarotti, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. In the center sits Chance rhyming, “This for the kids of the king of all kings/This is the holiest thing/This is the beat that played under the Word/This is the sheep that ain’t like what it herd.” This alludes to the idea that we are all children of a higher power but do not need to be followers to anyone’s ideas. Later on in the chorus, Kanye sings, “Music is all we got/so we might as well give it all we got.” This is the metaphorical rose growing from concrete.

Chance the Rapper. Photo: Zoe Rain

Chance the Rapper. Photo: Zoe Rain

The historic brutality that has plagued the city of Chicago traces back to segregation, Al Capone’s rampant rule of the streets, police violence, and the violence inflicted by neighbors upon each other. We constantly hear the statistics about the loss of life in the city. Rapper King Louie coined the phrase “Chiraq” as a response to statistics that showed more people killed in the Chicago than in active combat in Iraq. There most certainly is a problem and everyone has their own way of dealing.

Chance states that he’s here to “clean up the streets so my daughter has somewhere to play.” That is the beauty that is rarely seen or heard in the way Chicago is portrayed. We have to ask why the most negative images of the Black community are so freely bought and sold for profit. This is at a time when young artists of color in both the Twin Cities and Chicago are literally dying because they don’t feel like they have any other way into the music industry except through displays of violence. Much of Chance’s new album sounds like a prayer for the youth of his city and proof that you can make it out of hard times when you express your best self. Don’t miss your chance to join the choir live at Rock the Garden.

Chance the Rapper performs June 18 at Rock the Garden 2016.

Rock the Garden 2016 Lineup: The Flaming Lips, Chance the Rapper, Poliça, and more

On Tuesday, April 5, the Walker and 89.3 The Current announced the lineup of Rock the Garden 2016. Due to construction at the Walker, this year’s concert will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at Boom Island Park in near Northeast Minneapolis, and will feature two alternating performance stages for our eight amazing bands. We liveblogged the announcement […]

RTG16 cover photo text

On Tuesday, April 5, the Walker and 89.3 The Current announced the lineup of Rock the Garden 2016. Due to construction at the Walker, this year’s concert will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at Boom Island Park in near Northeast Minneapolis, and will feature two alternating performance stages for our eight amazing bands. We liveblogged the announcement all morning, and you can see the entire list of bands below, along with a few fun facts about them.

BUY TICKETS HERE.

For more updates, follow the action on Twitter at @walkerartcenter@RockTheGarden, and @TheCurrent, and make sure to RSVP on Facebook.

The Flaming Lips, Oklahoma City

The Flaming Lips. Photo: George Salisbury

The Flaming Lips. Photo: George Salisbury

Chance the Rapper, Chicago

Chance the Rapper. Photo: Zoe Rain

Chance the Rapper. Photo: Zoe Rain

  • Chancelor Bennett has become one of hip-hop’s biggest successes at only 22. He recorded some of his first raps on an outdated laptop used by the 2008 Obama campaign, and he released his breakout 2012 mixtape 10 Day during a ten-day school suspension in his senior year.
  • Chance rode the wave of false-alarms drama surrounding Kanye’s newest record, The Life of Pablo, initially snubbed, then blamed for the record’s tardiness, and finally dropping a triumphant verse on epic opener “Ultra Light Beam.”
  • If The Current ever entered the realm of reality TV, we’d have the perfect pitch: Chance shares an LA residence with electronic artist (and collaborator) James Blake.

Poliça, Minneapolis

Poliça. Photo courtesy the artists

Poliça. Photo courtesy the artists

  • Locals may recognize the name of the group’s most recent LP, United Crushers, from the graffiti on the side of a grain elevator east of the University of Minnesota campus, but it’s an appropriate title to be shared by the album’s eerie, defiant, and politically aware style.
  • Singer Channy Leaneagh and her partner Ryan Olson have another big project in the works: parenthood! Their son Schwa was born in October and is already living the life of a baby rock star, as evidenced by the group’s Instagram.
  • Parenthood and political action collide in the group’s fascinating video for “Wedding,” set in an alternate Sesame Street where adorable puppets talk to children about the realities of discrimination and police brutality.

M. Ward, Portland

M. Ward. Photo: Sarah Cass

M. Ward. Photo: Sarah Cass

  • If the mid-June weather turns less than ideal, it might not phase this artist, whose recent eighth album is called More Rain. The Line of Best Fit called it “a therapeutic record, one where you can see through the darker moments to when the clouds begin to clear.”
  • Ward’s vintage sound comes with his devotion to analog recording. He told Time that every song begins as a demo on the same 4-track recorder he’s been using since his teens.
  • Many may be more familiar with Ward as half of She & Him, alongside sitcom sweetheart Zooey Deschanel. The actress cast Ward as a coffee-shop curmudgeon (or maybe just himself?) in a colorful video she directed for the duo, but unfortunately, a role for him on New Girl has yet to follow.

Hippo Campus, Minneapolis

Hippo Campus. Photo: Sarah Hess

Hippo Campus. Photo: Sarah Hess

  • Minneapolis’s most recent breakout band have already toured extensively, appeared at festivals like Reading and Lollapalooza, and sold out a headlining show at First Ave. The group’s median age? Around 21.
  • A set at last year’s SXSW caught the eye of a Conan music supervisor, who invited the band to play on O’Brien’s TBS late-night program only days later.
  • Despite the success, the group’s Wikipedia page remains humble: the article makes a point to list the quartet’s “street names” of Turntan, Stitches, Espo, and Beans.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Hermann, Mo.

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Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Photo: Brantley Gutierrez

  • Nathaniel Rateliff and his band have been launched into the spotlight after a Late Night performance of their single “SOB,” a barnstorming country-soul anthem that’s actually a tongue-in-cheek recounting of the singer’s experience with alcohol withdrawal.
  • Among the single’s fans are Britney Spears, who posted a video of her dancing to the video to Instagram. Rateliff responded in kind.
  • Rateliff’s career began upon his move to Denver, but he spent his childhood in Hermann, the “sausage-making capitol of Missouri.”

GRRRL PRTY, Minneapolis

Grrrl Prty. Photo: Kyle Kotajarvi

Grrrl Prty. Photo: Kyle Kotajarvi

Plague Vendor, Whittier, Calif.

Plague Vendor

Plague Vendor. Photo courtesy the artists

  • This LA-area punk quartet just released their sophomore album, BLOODSWEAT, a little over a week ago. It was recorded with engineer Stuart Sikes, who also manned the board for another raucous, gritty garage knockout: the White Stripes’s White Blood Cells.
  • While the group’s name invokes images of pestilence and death, lead singer Brandon Blaine actually attributes it to misreading a Mexican folk tale entitled “Plaque Vendor.” Of course, many can attest that dental plaque can sometimes be just as bad as biblical wrath.
  • When asked what genre the band would classify themselves as, they choose the label “Graveyard Groove.”

BUY TICKETS

Tickets are on sale to Walker and Current members starting today, Tuesday, April 5 at 10 am. Any remaining tickets go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, April 6, at 10 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 Moves to Boom Island in 2016

Rock the Garden—which has featured unforgettable performances by dozens of bands over the years, from Wilco and Sonic Youth to Bon Iver, Dessa, and De La Soul—returns Saturday, June 18, 2016, but not to its usual location: we’ll be moving the concert to Boom Island Park in near Northeast Minneapolis. For the first time, the […]

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Rock the Garden—which has featured unforgettable performances by dozens of bands over the years, from Wilco and Sonic Youth to Bon Iver, Dessa, and De La Soul—returns Saturday, June 18, 2016, but not to its usual location: we’ll be moving the concert to Boom Island Park in near Northeast Minneapolis. For the first time, the festival will feature not one but two alternating stages for eight bands in a larger park-like setting along the Mississippi River. Backdropped by the downtown skyline, the event will also feature the best of Twin Cities food trucks and local beer.

The 2016 Rock the Garden lineup will be announced April 5. Copresented by the Walker and 89.3 The Current, Rock the Garden tickets will go on sale to members of the Walker Art Center and MPR on April 5, with remaining tickets going on sale to the general public on April 6. Rock the Garden returns to the renovated Walker campus in 2017.

Indie Pop Meets International Pop: A Conversation with Lucius

Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe met in 2005 and immediately discovered their common interests. Ten years later, as the founders and lead singers of Lucius, they dress identically, sing in unison, and maintain near-perfect symmetry on stage. In other words, Lucius is a band that revels in careful synchronization. It seemed appropriate, then, that Lucius’s arrival at the Walker […]

Lucius posing in front of Evelyne Axell's Ice Cream

Lucius with Evelyne Axell’s Ice Cream. L–R: Andrew Burri, Holly Laessig, Jess Wolfe, Peter Lalish, Dan Molad

Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe met in 2005 and immediately discovered their common interests. Ten years later, as the founders and lead singers of Lucius, they dress identically, sing in unison, and maintain near-perfect symmetry on stage. In other words, Lucius is a band that revels in careful synchronization.

It seemed appropriate, then, that Lucius’s arrival at the Walker for Rock the Garden 2015 should offer its own opportunities for synchronicity. The Walker’s ongoing exhibition International Pop provided one such moment. One of its most iconic worksEvelyne Axell’s 1964 Ice Cream (1964), adorns the cover of Lucius’s most recent album, Wildewoman.

Lucius's Wildewoman

The cover of Lucius’s album Wildewoman (2014)

Before Lucius hit the stage on Saturday, the band took a personalized tour of International Pop. They clearly enjoyed the opportunity, pausing in reverent awe to examine works like León Ferrari’s iconoclastic La Civilización Occidental y Cristiana (Western Christian Civilization)Afterwards, Laessig and Wolfe agreed to an impromptu round-table conversation about music, visual art, and ice cream. Joining me for the discussion were Walker Web Editor Paul Schmelzer, Performing Arts Senior Curator Philip Bither, and Visual Arts Curatorial Fellow Mia Lopez, who helped curate the exhibition.

Paul Schmelzer: I’m curious what the role of visual art, or other disciplines of art, is on your music?

Jess Wolfe: It’s a big thing for us. Both of us come from visually artistic families, so it’s something we’re always thinking about. Obviously, our stage setup and the way that we dress are taken into consideration as far as the marriage between the visuals and the music. So, when we were looking for album artwork, we went through a bunch of stuff, Evelyne Axell’s Ice Cream initially stuck out—and we kept going back to it, and eventually we decided that was the image that was calling.

Holly Laessig: Once you see it, you can’t think of anything more iconic. The colors and the feelings you get looking at it were things we wanted to express: this playfulness, this joy, this feminine strength. And some humor. I think those things, while also being bold, were really important in our choice of album cover. And luckily, Evelyne’s son, Philippe, was so generous in offering the piece to us. We really lucked out. It seemed like fate.

We actually didn’t know much about Evelyne Axell before picking the artwork, but when we went to visit Philippe in Belgium, he brought us some books and we starting flipping through them. There were all these triptychs and groupings of paintings she’d done with symmetrical women. Many, many different pieces: it was just another “a-ha” moment. It was so fitting in every way, it felt like kismet. He thought that we knew that already, that we were aware of her fascination with the duality of women and these symmetrical figures, but we had no idea.

Schmelzer: Where did you first encounter the work?

Wolfe: A friend of ours, a graphic designer who we had been working with for a long time, had brought lots of different pieces to the table to see what stood out. And, as Holly said, we kept returning to Ice Cream. At first, I think it maybe made the boys uncomfortable.

Laessig: Which was kind of the idea.

[Laughter]

Wolfe: We actually thought we were going to get so much more dirt for using it.

Mia Lopez: We have it on the side of our building. We have this huge phallic image on the side of the Walker.

Wolfe: And people are like, “You know that’s not really an ice cream cone, right?” That’s the comment they’ll make. [Laughter] I’m like, “It looks like an ice cream cone to me.”

Mark Mahoney: To go back for a second, I was wondering if there were particular artists that sort of turned your world upside down or influenced you as teenagers.

Wolfe: Both Holly and I grew up loving old-school soul music, the boldness and simplicity of those songs and singers. We also grew up with visual artists, so I think we were always fascinated by artists who had a strong visual representation of their music: artists like David Bowie, Björk, Prince, and even James Brown, Sam Cooke and the Supremes. When we first started working together, maybe because we weren’t completely comfortable in our stage presence at the time, I think it was a good way for us to transport ourselves into something else together, and also hopefully to transport the audience at the same time.

Philip Bither: We’re working on a festival next year with Devendra Banhart. He’s bringing together people from across disciplines: visual artists, painters, installation artists, and musicians. Do you find that to be increasingly common in independent music, that more and more people are blurring the lines between making visual culture and making music?

Wolfe: I wouldn’t say it’s new, but I definitely think it makes sense. For artistic people, that impulse comes out in all different ways. I’ve always used my hands since I was a little kid and been fascinated by visual culture. My mom worked at museums since she was a young person. That was something that was always around me, that I was always inspired by… It’s also an easy way to escape everyday life.

Bither: It’s an individual pursuit, rather than collaborative.

Laessig: Yeah.

Wolfe: And then you go away and you find the like-minded people, and you realize you’re not alone. There are a lot of weirdos. A lot of weirdos.

 

Eight Questions with The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, who together comprise The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASTT), have a unique chemistry. As both musical and romantic partners, their collaboration has inevitably drawn comparisons to other musical couples—to Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, and especially to Sean’s legendary parents, John and Yoko. These comparisons, however, do little justice to the freshness of […]

RTG_2015_GOASTT_1_PP

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASTT). Photo: Courtesy the artist

Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, who together comprise The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASTT), have a unique chemistry. As both musical and romantic partners, their collaboration has inevitably drawn comparisons to other musical couples—to Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, and especially to Sean’s legendary parents, John and Yoko. These comparisons, however, do little justice to the freshness of The GOASTT’s concept. Their music, steeped as it is in the sounds of ’60s and ’70s psychedelia, skillfully interweaves the whimsical and the dystopian, the pedestrian and the cosmic into something singular, adventurous, and immensely enjoyable. According to NPR’s Peter Macia, it is music that is “made for sunny summer weekends.”

Ahead of their Rock the Garden performance Sunday, I had the chance to ask Sean and Charlotte a few questions about their writing process, their history together, and the role of politics in their work.

Can you tell us how the name “The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger” came about?

It was the name of a play Charlotte wrote at seven years old.

You run the label Chimera Music. What led you to establish your own label?

Being at a major label felt so corporate and impersonal, so we created our own family-run label from our kitchen and basement. It was a lot more work than we realized, but ultimately very rewarding.

How has your relationship to one another, musically and personally, evolved over the course of the seven years since The GOASTT’s formation?

We’ve become fused at a subatomic level.

It is clear from the diversity of your output that your influences extend beyond psychedelic folk and rock. What are some influences or inspirations of yours that might be less apparent to listeners?

Prog rock, definitely. Classical. Experimental instrumentalists like Harry Partch, and even pop bands like The Beastie Boys. Also the surrealists, like [Salvador] Dalí and [Luis] Buñuel.

Your lyrics fuse autobiographical details with poetic musings and even Greco-Roman mythology. What is the writing process like for you? Do you write the lyrics collectively, or do you independently work on them?

We do every aspect together, so one of us may write a verse and the other may write the chorus. It’s a real Frankenstein of both our minds.

Sean, you have lent your talents to a remarkably wide range of projects, one of my favorites of which is your improvised duo with Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier. (That project culminated in the release of the phenomenal album Mystical Weapons.) Does that sort of improvisatory spirit figure into the initial stages of your songwriting process with The GOASTT, or do you take a different approach altogether?

Charlotte and I jam a lot of ideas together with her on bass and me on drums in the initial phase. Or else we both have an acoustic guitar in bed. But The GOASTT is a lot more composed than Mystical Weapons.

Charlotte, I read that when you began dating, Sean was unaware of your musical talent. When and how did that come to light?

He knew I loved music, but I was extremely shy (still am), so a year in he finally coaxed me to play him a song I had written called “Cold Sun.” After hearing it, he declared he wanted to be writing partners, but neither of us had any idea it would become so serious.

You have both been politically engaged, performing at Occupy Wall Street and penning op-eds in opposition to fracking. Would you say your activism informs your music?

We are not like the activists of the ’60s certainly, because that paradigm has changed a little, but we still are very involved with finding solutions to environmental and cultural issues. We research what’s happening in the world every day on as many sources of alternative and mainstream news possible. Humanity has its back to the wall right now, but we are a resilient species so it will be fascinating to see what plays out over the next 50 years. And yes, that post-apocalyptic melodrama does inspire our lyrics very much.

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger plays Rock the Garden at 3:45 pm on Sunday, June 21.

Rock the Garden 2015 Listening Mix

In anticipation of this summer’s upcoming Rock the Garden, Walker Marketing Intern Samantha Sacks created a playlist that aims to capture the spirit of the festival’s unique lineup. These are twenty songs, both classic and contemporary, from the ten musical acts that will take the stage in July. From Afrobeat to psychedelic pop, this year’s Rock the Garden […]

Rock the Garden 2012

Rock the Garden 2012

In anticipation of this summer’s upcoming Rock the Garden, Walker Marketing Intern Samantha Sacks created a playlist that aims to capture the spirit of the festival’s unique lineup. These are twenty songs, both classic and contemporary, from the ten musical acts that will take the stage in July. From Afrobeat to psychedelic pop, this year’s Rock the Garden lineup offers a wide variety of sounds. Whether it’s the fresh faced newcomers or the seasoned pros, the festival seems to cater to folks young and old, with something for everyone finding their way to the garden this year.

Modest Mouse

“Float On” has been a massively popular hit since it was released over ten years ago. Its quirky anecdotes about life’s hassles and the positive message that “we’ll all float on okay” make this track a bit different from Modest Mouse’s typically darker moods.

In March, the band returned with their first new full-length album in eight years, Strangers to Ourselves. On “Lampshades on Fire,” lead vocalist Isaac Brock adds his classically punchy delivery to a highly danceable post-punk drumbeat. The vocals break down into numerous strands of soft, wordless sound, a technique that also appears all over Good News for People Who Love Bad News.

Belle and Sebastian

Like Modest Mouse, Scottish indie-pop outfit Belle and Sebastian have had a long career, spanning nearly 20 years. This year, they are back with their ninth studio album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. With a hypnotic ’80s synth-pop vibe, “The Party Line” is a perfect tune for any dance party.

“Lazy Line Painter Jane,” the title-track from their 1997 EP, is a classic of Belle & Sebastian’s early material. The song has the hazy groove of classic ’60s psych, along with the lo-fi pop genius of the ’80s Flying Nun discography.

Babes in Toyland

Local punk legends Babes In Toyland have also stood the test of time. They recently reunited for the first time in fourteen years. The trio will proudly represent the storied history of the Twin Cities underground this year at Rock the Garden.

“He’s My Thing” is an excellent example of the trio’s feminist subject matter. Lead vocalist Kat Bjelland screams and growls, “He’s my thing, stay away from my thing.” Clearly inspired by Patti Smith, Bjelland’s stark lyricism and vocals are totally unapologetic. Michelle Leon’s dark yet groovy bass line weaves prominently through the song.

One of the band’s most well-known songs, “Bruise Violet,” was thought to be about Bjelland’s grunge rival, Courtney Love, who almost joined the band early on in its formation. Although Bjelland denies these rumors, it’s certainly an angry song.

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Seun Kuti, son of Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, has led his late father’s band, Egypt 80, since he was 14 years old. Egypt 80 and many of its original members have remained together since its formation around 1980. Their latest album, A Long Way to the Beginning, takes cues from the afrobeat sounds Seun grew up with, yet manages to avoid coming off like an exercise in nostalgia.

Like all of the band’s material, “African Airways” has an incredibly funky rhythm that will undoubtedly get the whole Garden dancing.

The rhythms of each instrument in “African Solider” seem to be very complex. However, they somehow come together as a very cohesive whole. Like much of Kuti’s catalog, his lyrics here are very political, exploring Nigeria’s deep history of militarism and corruption.

J.D. McPherson

The influence of rockabilly and early soul music on J.D. McPherson is very apparent. “Let The Good Times Roll” will take you from 2015 to a 1950s prom. This track is a fun homage to the sound of the early rock n’ roll era McPherson admires so much. He still manages to give the song a modern twist with a guitar solo that nearly explodes in punk rock energy.

“North Side Gal” tells the story of how he and everyone else is “crazy about a North Side gal.” McPherson’s vocals are incredibly soulful, reminiscent of rockabilly greats like Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

Conor Oberst

Prolific singer-songwriter Conor Oberst has been involved in many different bands over the years, but he is best known for founding the legendary indie-folk outfit Bright Eyes. Recently, Oberst has been focusing on his solo career, releasing music under his own name and also with Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band.

“Cape Canaveral” is just one example of Oberst’s talent for heartbreaking lyricism and unclassifiable arrangements.

“Zigzagging Toward the Light” stays true to Oberst’s folk roots, with sliding guitar melodies reminiscent of the cowboy psychedelia of Lee Hazlewood and the Grateful Dead. The song ends with a furious, distorted solo, proving Oberst has the firepower to melt a festival crowd’s collective face.

Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett has received much praise and attention from critics with the release of her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit. The Aussie slacker-rock goddess is anything but lazy when it comes to songwriting.

“Avant Gardener” exemplifies Barnett’s offbeat humor and surreal lyricism. She sings of her attempt to be productive by gardening, which is foiled when she ends up having an asthma attack. The song is comical, with references to Uma Thurman’s character in Pulp Fiction and clever rhymes like “Anaphylactic and super hypocondriactic.” Yet, there is also honest vulnerability in this song, as Barnett admits that she would much “prefer the mundane.”

With self-deprecating lyrics like, “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you,” and “I’m a fake, I’m a phony, I’m awake, I’m alone, I’m homely, I’m a Scorpio,” it’s clear that Barnett isn’t trying to impress anyone. “Pedestrian at Best,” with its stream of consciousness lyricism, reveals her insecurities and inability to make up her mind. Its dark humor is met by powerful guitar riffs that seem to ramp up over and over again.

Lucius

Indie pop band Lucius consists of frontwomen Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who sing in perfect unison and perform in matching outfits. They are another newer band in this year’s Rock the Garden lineup. They made waves with their 2014 debut album, Wildewoman. Coincidentally, their album artwork, the 1964 painting Ice Cream by Belgian pop artist Evelyne Axell, is featured in the Walker’s International Pop Exhibition.

“Turn It Around” is a punchy pop gem with strong singing from Wolfe and Laessig. Their harmonies are tight, showing off the duo’s remarkable vocal control.

“Two of Us on the Run” is a stunning combination of Wolf and Laessig’s delicate vocal harmonies and two hauntingly beautiful acoustic guitars.

Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger

Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger, or GOASTT, is the duo of Charlotte Kemp Muhl and Sean Lennon. The band has been active since around 2008, but only recently did they release their first full length album, Midnight Sun. With parents John Lennon and Yoko Ono, it is easy to understand where Sean gets his musical and artistic chops. Not straying too far away from his Beatle father, Sean and Charlotte blend folk with a heady serving of ’60s psych-pop.

It is hard to not hear John Lennon’s iconic tone in Sean’s singing, and on the track, “Animals,” Muhl’s voice compliments it with a more ethereal sound.

It only seems fitting to include a song about a famous garden. “Jardin Du Luxembourg” is the opening track of their 2011 EP, La Carotte Bleue.  Sean and Charlotte sing delicate harmonies together throughout the entire song, pausing only for a short guitar solo.

Thestand4rd

Thestand4rd is Bobby Raps, Allan Kingdom, Psymun, and Corbin (formerly Spooky Black): a local super group of rappers, singers and producers who have joined forces to create songs that lie somewhere in between rap and indie R&B.

“Simple Needs” soothes us with the soft, melodic croons of Corbin and Allan Kingdom.

“Binoculars” is more rap-heavy than “Simple Needs.” Boasting about the group’s DIY roots, Allan Kingdom raps about how they’re all just some “kids with computers.” The beats and melodies that producer Psymun crafts are darkly smooth, creating a doubly eerie and enveloping atmosphere.

Rock the Garden has made it a tradition to showcase local favorites alongside national and international acts. Local acts like Thestan4rd and Babes in Toyland highlight the Cities’ deeply rooted DIY ethic, while acts such as Lucius and Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 exemplify some of the freshest currents in contemporary independent music.

The artists of Rock the Garden 2015 share a common disregard for barriers of genre and a willingness to follow their own muse, wherever it might take them. The result is a gratifying, challenging, and remarkably eclectic array of musical output that deserves to be experienced in person.

Rock the Garden will take place at the Walker Art Center/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on June 20 and 21, 2015 from 2 – 10 pm. Tickets are available here.

Lucius, Ice Cream, and the Pop-Feminist Twist

Set to return to Minneapolis at Rock the Garden this summer, the Brooklyn-based indie-pop band Lucius will no doubt bring a fresh twist to their debut album Wildewoman. Released in 2013, the record was met with widespread acclaim; Rolling Stone called the quintet “the best band you may not have heard yet.” Featuring layered harmonies and […]

Lucius, Photo: Mom+Pop Music

Lucius, Photo: Mom+Pop Music

Set to return to Minneapolis at Rock the Garden this summer, the Brooklyn-based indie-pop band Lucius will no doubt bring a fresh twist to their debut album Wildewoman. Released in 2013, the record was met with widespread acclaim; Rolling Stone called the quintet “the best band you may not have heard yet.” Featuring layered harmonies and catchy pop aesthetics, Lucius creates a free-spirited ride through waves of carefully crafted instrumentation and substantive lyrics.

Usually seen adorned in matching retro outfits, lead vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig met while attending the Berklee School of Music and have been writing and singing together ever since. In their early days in New York, they moved to a Victorian house in Brooklyn that has served as both a music school and a recording studio over the years. There the duo met bandmates Peter Lalish (guitar), Danny Molad (drums), and Andrew Burri (guitar).

I had the pleasure of seeing Lucius last year during a blizzard one bitter February evening at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. The concert took place shortly after the release of Wildewoman, and I had spent the better part of the month listening to the album on repeat. I felt prepared to dance and sing along with my favorite songs (“Hey, Doreen” and “Turn it Around”), but I could never have anticipated what I experienced that evening. Their stunning visual presence and percussive surround-sound floored me. Wolfe and Laessig’s dynamic stage presence, alluring vocals, and deep lyricism were captivating. The joint percussive effort between all band members (both lead vocalists also play the drums while standing at the microphone) and the multi-instrumental score put an infectious spin on indie-pop music.

“Lucius is fueled by taut percussion—the quadruple drum assault…raised hairs,” Billboard wrote about the band’s performance at the 2014 Newport Folk Festival. At the Cedar, they encapsulated pop, indie, folk, and rock, with snapshots of a distinct ‘60s influence in every song. The album recording doesn’t do justice to the attack of live sonic elements and their symmetrical visual aesthetics. While they sent out invitations to shout back in a call and response throughout “How Loud Your Heart Gets,” I remember thinking, why isn’t the entire room dancing? It was as if the Minnesotan crowd on that cold winter night couldn’t match the spirited stamina and energy found on stage. Lucius was on fire.

Lucius, Photo: Peter Larson

Lucius. Photo: Peter Larson

It was not until over a year later, when I heard the announcement of the International Pop exhibition coming to the Walker, that I encountered the source of Lucius’ album cover and began to dig deeper into their music. I now believe that Lucius defies the categorization of just another millennial girl-pop band by leading an ambitious project to take pop in a new direction through the careful orchestration of aesthetic and sound. The strong female duo takes the visual representation of their music seriously; their lyrics, imagery, and public presence combine to present a fearless yet inviting feminism for all to enjoy.

You can currently view the original painting that inspired the cover of Lucius’ Wildewoman in International Pop. Based on Belgian artist Evelyne Axell’s 1964 painting Ice Cream, the pop/feminist connection is not coincidental.

Axell’s painting of this provocative and intrepid female figure was first unveiled a half-century before the album’s release. Lucius asked permission from the artist’s son for the rights to the image. He responded positively to the request, pleased to see the painting taking on another life after the tragic death of its creator, who died in a car accident at 37. As Lucius guitarist Peter Lalish recalled:

When we reached out to [Philippe Axell] to ask if he would be open to us using his mother’s artwork for the album cover, he immediately responded and seemed grateful that her artwork would be associated with pop culture 50 years after it was created… Finding the right artwork that would fit this album was a long process and it was the last step in finishing the record. To hear that from him felt like it had come full circle.

Evelyne Axell, Ice Cream, 1964. Collection of Serge Goisse, Belgium; ©2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Evelyne Axell, Ice Cream, 1964. Collection of Serge Goisse, Belgium; ©2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

The painting seen on Lucius’ album cover is definitely worth a stop at the International Pop exhibition. Ice Cream occupies the gallery called “Love & Despair,” which curator Darsie Alexander notes features a collection of artworks that suggest “an emerging understanding of the body as a battlefield, and of culture as something to be shaped and made anew.” When asked whether or not the Lucius album cover was intended to be “suggestive,” Holly Laessig responded:

It’s not meant to say, ‘We’re sexual.’ It’s meant to say, ‘This is a painting that was done in the’60’s by a Belgian pop artist named Evelyne Axell.’ At the time, she was making a statement that was incredibly bold, and we think our show is bold, we’re strong women. There’s nothing shy about the way that we sound and the way we put ourselves out there. It’s a strong image. And if you’re looking at fifteen record covers on iTunes, what’s going to stick out to you? You’re not gonna see a dick—sorry, for lack of a better word. When I first saw that image, I didn’t even think about that. I literally thought, ‘Here’s this overly joyful expression. There’s this ecstasy in it.’

The bright, blissful painting certainly exudes a delicious ecstasy with its dizzying monochrome blocks of green, yellow, and blue shapes spiraling throughout the background. The fire red hair of the figure contrasts with the black and white brushstrokes that comprise the face. Through both a figurative and abstract approach, the face acts like a photograph collaged on top of the competing background shapes. The psychedelic shapes swirl around the face, privileging the emotive and individualistic quality of the woman featured in the painting. Her tongue shamelessly sticks out to lick up the drips of what looks like mint and strawberry ice cream. In Ice Cream, the figure’s eyes look down, sealed shut to reject a male gaze. Entirely focused on the task at hand, the woman remains unconcerned with the viewer. Axell presents a subject that refuses to pleasure the viewer and occupies a space outside the mediation of the male gaze. Unadorned and unapologetic, the woman takes pleasure in her own actions.

As her paintings gained credence in the male-centered Pop Art movement, her choice to focus on a self-sufficient woman in sheer pleasure was a deliberate, liberating gesture on the artist’s part. Axell strove to deviate from the representations of women generated by her male counterparts. The artist rejected portrayals of women that rendered them passive, sexualized, or objectified. She adopted Pop motifs, tropes, and aesthetics, while also undertaking a rigorous assessment of the representation of gender and sexuality in art. Lucius’ Jess Wolfe explains the significance of appropriating the painting for the album: “[Axell] was really at the forefront of the Pop Art scene in Belgium…She was obviously a feminist, and it was really important that that aesthetic and that feeling was sort of projected in the artwork. It might be bold for some people, but that was the point.”

Lucius’ music also adopts the feminist themes that the album cover conveys. Their performances serve as a positive example of audacious women holding ground in a male-dominated music arena. When asked why they were inspired to choose the name Wildewoman for their album, Wolfe mused how they wrote the song before they selected a record title: “We’re like ‘wildewomen’…A lot of the women we surround ourselves with also share those same qualities: very free-spirited, very much feminists, strong-minded, strong-willed and strong-charactered people.” She continues, “Holly’s mom used to call her a wilde-child, wilde-girl, and we were like, ‘Well, we’re like that. But a little older.’ So, it became Wildewoman.” The lyrics of the title track also deliver this message:

Her smile is sneaky like a fiery fox

It’s that look that tells you she’s up to no good at all

And she’ll say whatever’s on her mind

They’re unspeakable things and she’ll speak them in vain

And you can’t help but wish you had bolder things to say

She’s a Wildewoman.

Wolfe describes how some of their lyrical content originated from their childhood experiences: “Holly and I grew up sort of feeling outcasted and feeling like we were different than other people and didn’t really know how to vocalize that, how to feel comfortable.” She continues, “When we met, it was the first time we actually felt that we were in a place that we felt comfortable with ourselves, that we could really figure it out. And we just wanted to honor that sort of free-spirited, awkward, uncomfortable aspect of youth and growing up and being a woman.”

While offering resounding beats frosted with enduring lyricism and soft guitar chords, their initial music video for “Turn It Around” addresses feminist concerns about absurd standards of beauty. The music video lays bare the incredible pressure and stress of beauty standards idealized through popular culture and mainstream media by following a young girl’s coming of age story.

When asked outright whether or not their band is feminist, Laessig answers: “I think feminist in saying that we’re pro-women and on the side of women our band absolutely is feminist but not in the sense of the word that it’s like anti-man. Some people use that word in different ways.” Wolfe follows up, stating:

We want to be open to everybody. At least half of our audience is male, and I think they get it too, and we have such a diverse crowd at our shows, older men and women and young girls and middle-aged guys, and it’s not just in the U.S., and so we don’t ever want to abandon those people. Not to say that if we had strong feminist values or view-points that that would happen, but we just want to make it clear that any woman—I hope—should feel empowered and strong as a woman. And there [are] two of us, and a lot of the things that we’ve written about involve femininity and in that respect we’re feminists.

With public figures adopting and disavowing the “feminist label” left and right, I listen to Wolfe and Laessig’s response and recognize the weight that the branding of “feminist” entails for their band’s reputation. By providing the caveat that they don’t want to exclude anyone, I sense a desire not upset any potential fans. I wish that they could unapologetically take the stance of being feminists publicly without fear of excluding audience members. This comment is less a statement on their careful stance taken in an interview and more about the public arena that stigmatizes those that call themselves feminists. As Roxane Gay, author of the essay collection Bad Feminist, aptly puts it, “…celebrities are generally vigorous in their disavowal of feminism. They recognize the scarlet F that comes with publicly embracing it, the taint to professing a desire for gender equality.” I want Lucius’ statement about feminism to match the fierce feminist convictions they uphold on stage and in their lyrics. Ultimately, I appreciate Lucius’ welcoming presentation of feminist values, because their intoxicating indie-pop music speaks to broad audiences. Roxane Gay also reminds us that there are many ways to be feminist: “We don’t all have to believe in the same feminism. Feminism can be pluralistic so long as we respect the different feminisms we carry with us, so long as we give enough of a damn to try to minimize the fractures among us.”

The feminism that Lucius puts forth on stage is bold and empowering, but not in your face. Just as Axell brought politicized concerns of sexual freedom into her works through the bold visual reinterpretation of women as subject in Pop Art, Lucius contributes to the movement of de-stigmatizing feminism. By embedding strong personal narratives into their lyrics and delivering them with ambitious performances that enrapture many, their music presents a feminism for all to enjoy.

Lucius will perform on Saturday, June 20 at Rock the Garden 2015. Ticket information available at walkerart.org

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.

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