Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Between Changing Diapers and Introducing Bands...

by Doug MacRostie

While it looked potentially rainy that morning and the sun didn't shine (steady) until the last band, the 5th Annual 91.7 KAXE Mississippi River Festival was a huge success. I don't actually know the final numbers (I think we had around 200 people at the amphitheater), but the main goal was to break even, and I feel confident we did. But, that's not my job to figure out; I view this from a musical perspective and what fun it was!!! You can see a Highlight Video here and check out the pix in our Online Photo Album. Thanks to everyone who came out and spent the day enjoying MN music in our backyard :D

I heard a lot of feedback during the event from the crowd, 99% positive. I have to say, while Hans Blix and Hobo Nephews are more 'traditional' KAXE crowd-pleasers, most were very open to the high energy rockin' sounds of Clawthroat and Sick of Sarah, which was encouraging to see. Also, the crowd had a lot of new (and younger) faces than a typical KAXE event and youth is the future, so that was great to see too!

Hans Blix and Weapons Inspectors put on a great set of traditional old-time and fiddle tunes with duo fiddles, duo guitars, mandolin and stand-up base with 3+ part harmonies and excellent instrumental pieces. It was the perfect beginning for the concert as they got toes tappin' with old-time rhythms along with some great Old Crow Medicine Show interpretations.

I had pretty high expectations for each band, and none of them disappointed. But, I have to say that The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank blew my expectations out of the water - the music and performance was excellent, their musicianship shined and their drummer was phenomenal! Everything about them is so unique - from the singing voices of Ian and Teague, the sound and style of the tunes and excellent chemistry the band had pulled everyone into their top-notch performance.

Clawthroat came out and nailed it. Seriously, they were so tight and spot on! With complex music matched by flowing melodies and clever lyrics they put out more energy than MN power (snap...). Kris was so much fun to watch on drums; my highlight being when one of his sticks shattered and went flying and he kept rockin' with just one hand - it was awesome, he kept not just the rhythm going, but did the fills and rolls too (video highlight of that coming up later).

Sick of Sarah rocked out and while everyone would have liked to see them play for another half hour, the set the put on was high energy and highly entertaining. The onstage antics and personality of singer Abisha added the right amount of humor and entertainment to an in-your-face rockin' band. But, I have to say I enjoyed Brooke's drumming the most - she was just FLYING and ended the evening with a rousing drum solo. When the band first kicked in and I was up front recording some video highlights, a nice 50+ gentleman was standing next to me doing the same. When we went and sat down I heard him say, "Wow, what a voice and such energy! Amazing" to which his companion responded, "It's not really my kind of music." He replied, "it isn't my kind of music either, but WOW" (which is, to me, the ideal KAXE listener: open-minded to different kinds of music beyond your fav).

Each of the bands brought a different sound and style to the stage, and the progression from traditional, to interpretive roots, to crazy folk-rock and in your face rock-n-roll was definitely worth the ride, and I think everyone had a high appreciation for local radio supporting local MN musicians.

Also, a BIG thanks to Penny Holcumb (who was working on her birthday!) and Jennifer Poenix who took care of volunteer organization and more of the business end of managing the event, including the Green Room for the artists which was a beautiful spread. As the Hobo Nephews said, "We're going to write down everything you guys have on this table and use it to come up with our Rider...this is excellent." Penny did say this years festival was the best b-day party a girl could ask for, and Sick of Sarah even wished her a happy 22nd b-day :D Also thanks to John Bauer for lining up our sponsors U Care and Hawkinson Redi-mix, who truly made this event possible and thanks to Dan Houg who managed the onsite set-up and technical issues. And another BIG thanks to all the volunteers who helped with the box office, merch sales, security and more.

What's next? Well, I'm heading off to 10KLF and I intend to do some video highlights (like the video for the MRF) which should be fun - stay tuned for more info on that.

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