by Doug MacRostie
The 4 days of music that is the 10,000 Lakes Festival is one of my favorite weekends of the year, and it was made all-the-more special this time around as my 6 month old son Escher was along for the ride with my wife Sarah and I (last year he was in utero, so he could probably hear the music better this time around...). With amazing music and excellent people-watching, we had an outstanding time. You can see a highlight reel I put together on KAXE's YouTube Channel including most of the bands I'll be mentioning, or check out pictures in KAXE's Online Photo Album.
We arrived Wednesday morning to set up camp at a friend of a friend's place and worked our way over to the camping area by Soo Pass Ranch to meet up with some friends of ours - then it was off to catch the 10K kickoff w Gomez and Widespread Panic on the main stage. Sunny skies, a happy crowd of hippy-types and live music...perfect! Panic did a great set (surprise surprise :p) and Escher made it all the way into their second set (this being his first camping-festival) before we decided to head back to camp. He did sleep AT the concert some, but we figured we didn't need to push it the first night.
The first night of sleep in a tent went great for all of us - I'm sure the wonderful over-stimulation of a music festival helped tire the little guy out; he did wake up a little when a train went by, but was easy to get back to sleep. That's important, because he had 3 more days of music to rest for...
Usually I have a general idea of the bands I plan to see each day, and Thursday had Mason Jennings and Atmosphere at the top of my list. But, one of the fun things about festivals is the bands you haven't heard, and I was pleasently surprised by the Akron Family Band; a crazily rockin' group! When we first walked up, there were a lot of people sitting as they started to play, and not 15 minutes later they had the crowd on their feet and gathering at the front of the stage. In that previously mentioned YouTube Reel, you can see their bass player eating his guitar :D Very orignal, very experimental and very high energy, it was great.
After the Akron Family, we headed over to Blue Ox camping and randomly caught the MN band Dalia playing on the stage there. Wow, cool stuff. Hip-hip lyrics, vocal harmonies, hand drums, & acoustic guitars - they had a hoppin' crowd when we came wondering over and it was another wonderful find wandering the festival.
We made it back to mainstage to see Mason Jennings, one of the first mainstage bands to have intelligable vocals (not to bash Panic or Gomez, but they were less about words and more about vibes) . Mason did some new songs from his upcoming release and also slowed things down and did some solo songs with his electric guitar. Then it was Wilco, who did a higher-energy set than I was expecting, but we decided to leave maybe halfway through. It was a bummer to miss Atmosphere, but having a well rested baby was worth it. There was a thunderstorm that night, and Escher slept right through it, which was awesome. Day 3, here we come...
We made it to the concert bowl in time to catch Cloud Cult and WOW - they were awesome! They had so much energy with such a unique style, made all the more interesting with the "string section," which I heard getting a lot of positive exclamations during their performance. Another cool thing during their show was two people painting with-the-music; as in - painting to the rhythm of the music, and the paintings were then auctioned off afterward. And seriously, they were on the Barn Stage (the 3rd largest) and SHOULD have been on the Field Stage (2nd largest) because they had that area packed full of people.
I was really looking forward to seeing Trampled by Turtles on Mainstage Friday night, but things got uber-cool when Rich Mattson (founder of The Tisdales, owner of Sparta Sound recording studio) bumped into me and told me he would be singing a couple songs with Turtles that night. He took me backstage and I got exclusive footage of a warm-up of Rich & Turtles in the dressing room backstage at 10K (that video highlight is on the way :D) - VERY cool. Turtles put on an excellent, high-energy performance and the crowd was lovin' it! I don't think I've ever seen a band rock that hard without even standing up :)
Widespread Panic was on again after Turtles, and while I enjoy them; two nights was a little much and we snuck out early (bummer to miss Wookiefoot, but again - good to let the little dude get some sleep - we was LOVIN' the festival experience and didn't want to miss a thing, heh).
The final day of 10KLF was a very good day; which is important, considering we missed a wedding to attend - but hey, Dave, Banjos and Snider? hard to pass up! The day started off with Todd Snider saying "People tell me my music keeps get more and more opinionated...I'm not here to change your mind or tell you what to think, I'm going to sing these words because they rhyme," and he did an excellently raw solo-acoustic show.
Then we were off to see Two Many Banjos back at the Blue Ox Stage. I have wanted to see TMB for a LONG time and they were everything I was hoping to see. Authentic music complete with two banjos, washboard, stand-up bass and fiddle. They had the biggest crowd I saw at a campground stage and the majority of them were dancing. TMB's feet were stompin', fingers were flyin' and the harmonies rang out to an eager crowd. And it was nice finally getting to meet Marc Gartman in person (he's been on Centerstage MN 3 times and counting), and he gave me a new CD he recorded with a different band that we'll be hearing in the coming weeks. Anyway, I know Sarah said they were her favorite band from 10KLF 09, and I agree - TMB was just great!
I forgot to mention that before Todd Snider, we went ahead and set up our chairs to have good spots to watch Dave Matthews Band close the Mainstage. I had never seen Dave before, but had heard only good things...nothing could have prepared me for how awesome it was!
Dave Matthews Band probably had 20,000 people packed into the concert bowl (the biggest crowd I'd seen at a 10K yet...) and even the people in the very back could feel the emotion and energy they put out. The musicianship was second-to-none and just as much as I enjoyed Dave's singing and playing, I enjoyed his antics and dancing on stage. I don't know how 10KLF plans to top Dave next year.... It seemed like I was the only person in the world who hadn't seen DMB before and it's nice that I am now past that stage in my life, hehehe. The single coolest moment though was when they broke out into a cover of The Talking Heads "Burning Down the House." It was phenominal!
Would I call it the best 10KLF yet? Yes, but that's true after every one I've been too, hehehe. I really liked the variety of MN bands and of course, the national acts like DMB and Panic. The crowd was friendly, the weather was great and the music rocked... what more could we ask for? I know! A KAXE booth by the entrance to the Soo Pass Ranch next year...then it would be perfect...
Still to come, some highlight videos (as mentioned) and some amazing pictures taken by KAXE Photographer Forrest Ross (seriously, just wait 'til you see his pix!)
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