Basilica rides the recycling Train
Record heat, cooling rain and a popular radio band blessed the opening night of the 18th annual Basilica Block Party Friday evening. With a sellout crowd of 16,500, the benefit concert for the Basilica of St. Mary sold out its VIP tickets in advance for the first time ever. There's a one-word explanation: Train.
In their weather-shortened 65-minute set, the San Francisco hitmakers had too much momentum to be derailed. Frontman Pat Monahan and crew are crafty, borrowing top-40 tricks from some of the best -- Elton John, Billy Joel, Santana, Paul Simon, Zac Brown Band and even Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. It was an approach that the sing-along crowd loved.
Among the other bands Friday were Las Vegas' Imagine Dragons, with a booming epic pop sound, and Seattle's the Head and the Heart, whose harmony-loving organic folk-rock evoked the Fleet Foxes with more of a campfire vibe. Violinist/singer Charity Rose Thielen welcomed her family, mentioning that Mom grew up in Roseville and they used to live in Arden Hills.
Beat-up acoustic instruments and pristine weather reigned supreme on the block party's second day Saturday, but mostly it felt like the sold-out crowd was never really that plugged in to the music.
Main-stage headliners the Avett Brothers did draw a small diehard crowd that sang along to cheery favorites such as "Kick Drum Heart." Their rootsy, folk- and bluegrass-inflected sound set the tone for Saturday, heavy on string-picking, chord-strumming bands.
Opener the Lumineers performed a nearly all-acoustic hourlong set. Even their cover of Bob Dylan's gone-electric classic "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was played acoustic (which missed the mark and the point). The Denver band still had too small and raw of a sound to draw in the big crowd. Hopefully, they won't add the cheesy soft-jazz coating that did nothing to liven up London band Graffiti6's drab, downbeat folk-pop songs.
Los Angeles' R&B boppers Fitz & the Tantrums certainly livened things up. The only problem was they played the basilica just last year and didn't change things much. At least frontman Michael Fitzpatrick wore a T-shirt instead of a sweaty sports coat.
There was also a same-old vibe for the little-known, locally reared Stuart D'Rozario, who unjustifiably made it to the large second stage while the more popular and active Twin Cities bands were on the small Vita.mn Stage. Opening band the Boys N' the Barrels started with its bouncy, bluegrassy, banjo-led barnstormers. Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles incorporated some of the electricity from their new album along with their old, folky, ukulele-plucked charm. Twangy Americana rockers Farewell Milwaukee pulled off one of the night's highlights when they truly went unplugged and jumped in the crowd for "Lovable/Kind."
"Lovable" was a suitable word for the Avetts, even though they, too, are recycled, from 2009. Their songs from an album due in September showed more sophisticated twang-pop power. Scrappier, more rustic old tunes such as "Live and Die" and "Pretty Girl at the Airport" fit the night's breeze-swaying summer vibe and the crowd's romanticism. No wonder they were asked back.JON BREAM AND CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER
SoundTown festival canceled
Organizers of SoundTown at Somerset Amphitheater in Somerset, Wis., have announced the cancelation of their July 27-28 music fest. Full refund info will be issued soon on the festival's website, www.soundtownfest.com.
"We just didn't hit the [ticket sales] threshold that we needed to," said Somerset Amphitheater owner Matt Mithun, who debuted SoundTown last summer as the flagship event for his newly expanded, renovated event and camping grounds (formerly Float-Rite Amphitheater).
Last year's Flaming Lips-led fest only drew about 2,500 the first day and 5,000 the second. Mithun came back with a fuller and better lineup this year, including Jane's Addiction, Weezer, Florence + the Machine, Girl Talk, Andrew Bird, Dr. Dog, Mayer Hawthorne and Doomtree. Meanwhile, Live Nation mounted its own grander-scale festival (last month's River's Edge), and the usual summer music bashes (Rock the Garden, Basilica Block Party, Soundset) continued to draw heavily.