A hopeful debut at River's Edge
It boasted unbeatable summer weather, top-notch audio and visual production, many nifty diversions and doodads, and an agreeable layout and setting. Now all the ambitious River's Edge Music Festival needs is a better lineup -- one that's worth spending 10 hours (or two days) on St. Paul's Harriet Island. Or 6 to 10 bucks on a beer.
This weekend's inaugural rock bonanza felt more like a concert by each day's headliner than a true, mosaic-like festival. As groundwork-laying goes, though, it was a solid start.
On Saturday, psychedelic and harrowing crunch-metal band Tool treated more than 20,000 fans to a Cliffs Notes set of its signature tunes. Each song was lit up with a wow-inducing arsenal of lights and video, and with the festival's own dramatic backdrop: the city skyline, a reddish crescent moon and even a mayfly swarm on the river.
Sunday, maybe 25,000 fans turned out for the climax: nearly three hours of music by the feel-good kings of outdoor venues, the Dave Matthews Band. It took the stage 20-some minutes late, but connected instantly with its horn-accented funk.
As festival settings go, we'd rank Harriet Island above those of the biggest "urban" fests, including Chicago's Grant Park (home to Lollapalooza) and Austin's Zilker Park (Austin City Limits Festival).
But attendance came up short, with the total reaching perhaps 45,000. That means promoter Live Nation probably lost more than $2 million in what one official called "an investment year." (It signed a five-year commitment to the city.)
There were more than two dozen other bands and plenty more enjoyable performances. You couldn't find much more colorful acts than the Scissor Sisters or Flaming Lips. The former turned the far-removed Raspberry Island stage into a truly far-out affair with its retro soul-pop disco tunes while the Lips brought their full psychedelic circus.
Aside from those bands and '90s radio staple Sublime, name-brand recognition dropped off as quickly as the sobriety level Saturday night. That wasn't entirely a bad thing. The fest offered many pleasant discoveries, from Baltimore rap/romp princess Rye Rye to Georgian grunge-boogie rockers the Whigs to Mexico City's rowdy techno-punk trio the Mexican Institute of Sound.
A few local bands got to play to big crowds, particularly hypno-electronic rockers Poliça and punky power-poppers Motion City Soundtrack. Poliça debuted several strong songs to go along with its thundering "Leading to Death." Motion City inspired audience sing-alongs with old favorites while making a strong case for the climactic new gem "Timelines."
To rise to the level of a Lollapalooza or Austin City Limits, River's Edge needs more marquee names, however. With more time for planning next year and a good reputation, that shouldn't be a problem. - CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER AND JON BREAM
Trampled by Turtles lends Duluth a hand
The roll-out for their latest album, "Stars and Satellites," started in the shadow of the Aerial Lift Bridge with their appearance on "A Prairie Home Companion" back in February, and now Trampled by Turtles will return to their home turf for an even more special occasion. The nationally burgeoning string pickers just announced a July 8 performance at Duluth's scenic Bayfront Festival Park as part of the Twin Ports Bridge Festival, all proceeds of which will benefit the recovery efforts from last week's devastating flooding. Single-day passes to the fest are $35, with two-day passes going for $60.
Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles, the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, Trapper Schoepp, Solomon Witherspoon, Sarah Krueger, Mary Bue and more are also all on the Sunday lineup for the festival. The Jayhawks, Honeydogs, Charlie Parr, Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps and others were already set to play the fest on Saturday. Proceeds from Saturday's show will go toward the previously designated charity, the Music Resource Center. Sunday's money will go to the United Way's flood fund, as will any extra proceeds from Saturday's show after the $10,000 goal for the center. - C.R.