The 2018 Basilica Block Party kicked off Friday night and the weather was nearly perfect. The annual fundraiser for The Basilica of St. Mary and the St. Vincent DePaul outreach has been going strong since 1995 and offers a diverse lineup of artists both local and national. There were a bunch of local food trucks to choose from, and plenty of adult beverages. Gates opened at 5, and the music stared very shortly after at 5:10. You definitely needed your running shoes to catch all of the wonderful music!
Star Tribune Stage
The Star Tribune Stage is the location to catch the hottest local artists at the Block Party. First up was singer-songwriter Lena Elizabeth. With her ukulele in hand and backup band of happy hipsters, the folky-blues music had a surprising edge to it. “Stranded At The Station” and Cold Coffee” were highlights of the set
Next up was longtime local favorite Kid Dakota. While appearing to have the weight of the world on his shoulders, I think I saw him crack a smile once during the set. Raw, introspective and deep were what emanated from the stage during Kid’s set. Addiction, healing, and all that comes between were themes that could only have come through living them. All in all, a very powerful and moving set. Was that Brother Ali’s brother on drums?
Lady Lark closed the night on the Star Tribune stage on an upbeat note with her high energy funk -soul sounds. It was easy to see why City Pages named her in their 2018 Picked to Click list. She had a dance party going on in front of the stage, as people of all ages moved and grooved like nobody was watching. The set we fun, her band was tight, and the crowd was totally into her set.
First up on the Preferred One Stage were Blain, MN’s own Now,Now. With their latest release Saved , Now, Now have switched gears from guitar infused folky rock and roll to synth rich poppy bounce. They still have an edge, and the set was at times intense. Breathy, mature electro pop could be used to describe their Friday set.
The Revolution were up next, and just killed it, end of story. Playing all of the favorites, the crowd was in purple heaven. The goosebumps moment of the evening was 20,000 people singing “Purple Rain” in unison,
Fitz and the Tantrums were the final act on the PreferredOne Stage Friday evening. From the first notes, lead singer Fitz and vocalist Noelle Scaggs were boogying around the stage and they didn’t stop during the entire performance. Encouraging the audience to get down with them, Fitz was a natural born showman. The band was super tight, and the audience was totally enthralled.
Great Clips Stage
Leading off the night at the Great Clips Stage were Minneapolis based TABAH. Cecelia Erholz has a voice that is as unique as it is familiar and was the vehicle the band used to carry the audience on a melodic journey. The 5-piece band was super tight, with a jazzy sax and an enigmatic groove that captivated the crowd.
Next up were the North Carolina southern rockers Delta Rea. Half of this six-piece band are siblings, and the sense of closeness among the band members was evident throughout the set. The music was true Americana, kinda rock kinda country, honest and heartfelt, the harmonies amazing. There was also a message behind the music, and this wasn’t lost on the audience.
Alternative blues roots rock jam band or whatever adjective you want to use, the John Butler Trio strait up rocked the house. Actually 5 musicians, Butler said he had a hard time with numbers, don’t judge. He opened up with a didgeridoo like drone on a lap guitar, a nod to his Australian roots. While he captivated the crowd with his story telling prowess, it was his six string gymnastics that truly carried the day. Whether it was the six string, 12 string, banjo or lap steel Butler’s dexterity was hypnotizing.
Closing out the evening was current king of Americana, Jason Isbell and his band The 400 unit. Expertly crafted songwriting are the cornerstones of an Isbell performance. Each song is an intimate story, straight forward and gritty, and the crowd was immediately sucked in. There were a bunch of diehard local fans who sang along with each word Isbell belted out. While his vocals were rich and mature, his guitar skills were on full display this evening. His slide work on “Decoration Day” sounded like molten glass flowing out of the PA’s. The 400 Unit’s set was the perfect cap to an exceptional night of music.
Our local weatherman called Friday a Top 10 Weather Day, and it will be hard to top the warmth and musical variety of Day 1 of the Basilica Block Party.