Rock the Garden Braves The Heat


I was a bit worried when I woke up to the sound of thunderstorms just hours before this year’s Rock The Garden. Sure, going to outdoor music festivals in the rain is romantic but it always ends in a bout of strep throat for me. Furthermore, festivals won’t happen if there’s lightening in the area and, where there’s thunder, there’s bound to be lightening. Fortunately, the skies started to clear and, with only an hour long delay, Rock the Garden kicked off a day of beautiful music, a great sense of community, and a whole lot of fun. Full disclosure- I wasn’t stoked for the line-up. There were only two acts that I absolutely had to see with the other six acts being bands I’ve seen too many times to count or that just weren’t my cup of tea. That being said, my mission was to catch every act that took one of the two stages yesterday and give them my undivided attention. I may not have been stoked going into it but I was more than satisfied as I walked home.

Kicking the day off was Philadelphia based Low Cut Connie on the mainstage. They were the absolute perfect opening act for a day full of music and sun. With a high energy show and music that made you dance and had you forgetting just how damn hot and humid it was outside, LCC definitely got the packed audience in the mood for the day. With anthemic songs and singer Adam Weiner’s infectious energy, their set was highlighted with songs sung as Adam stood on top of the piano and then made his way into the crowd (I mean literally into the crowd– no leaning over the barricade– he jumped right on in). Although it hasn’t been announced officially yet, Adam announced that LCC will be at First Avenue on November 1st. You best believe I will be there ready to dance!

Second to the mainstage was outlaw country darling Nikki Lane. Nikki’s voice rang through the grounds with ease and was the perfect greeting for some of the late comers that were waiting to see what the weather was going to do. Nikki’s powerful voice mixed with her over the top cuteness had me stuck where I was other. Other than a couple trips to the free water stations, my eyes were on the stage and I found myself completely captivated by her music. Even though her set was definitely a bit more subdued than Low Cut Connie’s there was an undeniable sense of energy that had the crowd eating up every word.

After a quick walk to the side stage, it was time for U.S. Girls. Don’t let the name fool you, singer Meghan Remy is actually from Canada although she lives in Chicago now and Meghan was the only female in the group. That being said, there was something strange about these guys that had me in the palm of their hands. U.S. Girls’ music is very experimental pop. They use samples between songs to make statements whether political or just about living your life. Meghan’s voice was so unique that I’m still trying to figure out if I loved it or hated it (although I’m leaning towards the love side). It was clear that majority of the audience was in the same boat that I was as far as figuring out if this was something we loved or not but, when push came to shove, the entire audience seemed to keep creeping towards the stage just to check it out.

Garden Stage Photos

After U.S. Girls, is was back to the mainstage for an act I was super excited to see– Kamasi Washington. Kamasi’s music stood out from the already ecclectic line-up as being the sole jazz musician. Although it was jazz, Kamasi had the entire main stage area rocking along to the beat. His talent on the sax is truly impressive. Add in the rest of his talented band and a visit from his dad Rickey Washington (who is also a famous jazz musician) and you are left with a set that was perfect for that mid-day rut. It was laid back and easy to listen to from the grass but it was also up beat and a bit in your face for those that wanted to dance.

Local darling Chastity Brown was up next on the side stage. I feel like she has been missing from the local scene lately but it all made sense when she was introduced as having just gotten done with a tour throughout the UK including a couple of shows with Ani DiFranco. Chastity is one of those acts that is truly making the Twin Cities proud right now. Her powerful and soulful voice mixed with the pure passion that you feel as she performs makes her an extremely bright spot in the dark world we live in. 

A quick walk and another fill of the waterbottle and it was time for Feist on the mainstage. I honestly had no clue Feist was still around and only knew her for her “1234” song that was on the iPod commercials back in 2007. I was alone in this mindset. The crowd was clearly excited as the Canadian took the stage and whisked the audience into a dream-like world with her sensitive yet energetic voice and performance. The chatter in the crowd made it clear that Feist was a highlight of this day and would reign supreme even as the sun set and the headliner closed out the night.

P.O.S was the final act to take the smaller second stage. He wasted no time in jumping into his energetic and unique hip-hop/rap sound. It was obvious that some of the audience had decided to stop wandering due to the sheer heat exhaustion we were all facing but that’s on them. This was a can’t miss set of the day and ended up being my favorite. The energy was high from both the stage and the jumping crowd. Although it was beyond hot and miserable, everyone was giving this local their all. With a surprise appearance from local Dwynell Roland (who is taking the local hip-hop scene by storm), P.O.S’ set was short and sweet but definitely packed a punch. 

Closing out the night on the mainstage was the one and only Father John Misty. Regardless of my personal thoughts on him and his music, there’s no denying the power he had on the sold out crowd that had filled the entire area in front of the stage. His set was calm and soothing for a closing set but was also somehow perfect. Exhaustion was clearly getting the best of the people who had been there all day so being able to lay in the lush grass of the Walker Art Center’s yard and have Father John Misty whisk you into a sense of calm. With the audience swaying back and forth to the sound and FJM’s signature dry humor, this closing set was just the icing on the cake of an already eclectic and amazing day.

The fact that I was able to walk to this great of a festival from my apartment is truly amazing. I love the fact that I live in a city where people come to a festival just to come and end up enjoying all of the acts of the day. Whether you were there for the music or there for the drinks, there was a smile on your face. It was hot as hell, I’m pretty sunburnt and I still feel sticky and sweaty but I wouldn’t have traded yesterday for anything else. Minneapolis is a beautiful city with a beautiful and supportive music scene. Get out there and see it. 

Main Stage Photos