River's Edge is off, but First Ave's fest and more are on


The club will launch its inaugural summer bash on July 20, just a few weeks before another new fest, Summer Set, returns.

Umphrey's McGee played Summer Set at Somerset Amphitheater last August.

After yesterday’s disappointing news that the River’s Edge Music Festival has been canceled for this summer on Harriet Island -- with the hope it will return next year -- Twin Cities music lovers were left wondering what big outdoor gigs might be left for them in 2013. Last year also saw the abrupt cancellation of the SoundTown festival in Somerset, Wis., just a year after it began (and just two weeks before it was to happen again; give Live Nation props for not stringing fans and bands along with this year’s River’s Edge). Plenty of Minnesota rock fans also still lament the loss of the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, which ended a seven-year run in 2010.

At least one new festival will be launched this summer from a very reliable source: The first annual First Avenue Festival is on, confirms the club’s g.m. Nate Kranz. An outdoor offshoot of Minneapolis’ landmark nightclub in the vein of Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Fest, it's slated for July 20 at Parade Athletic Fields near downtown Minneapolis (adjacent to the Walker’s Sculpture Garden).

You may remember, the First Ave fest was put off last year after approval to use the fields took longer than expected. That left extra time to plan for this year, though. Kranz said they already have several key bands lined up but want to nail down some more before making the formal announcement. While not exactly meant as any kind of substitute for the Tool/Dave Matthews-level mega-festival that Live Nation was trying to put together (think instead: First Ave regulars past and present), Kranz boasted, “I think people will be really excited once we announce.” He expects to keep it a one-day event to make it a “slam-dunk” first year before expanding to multiple days in the coming years.

At least one of last year's new festivals will return for a second act, too: The Summer Set electronic/jam-band/hip-hop fest will be back at Somerset Amphitheater one weekend in August, promised co-promoter (and performer) Jack Trash. “We exceeded all the marks we wanted to hit the first year,” the Trash Man happily reported. Last year’s peculiar but surprisingly popular lineup included Umphrey’s McGee, Nas, Big Gigantic, Zed's Dead, Cloud Cult and lots and lots of DJs.

As for anything else at Somerset, SoundTown's organizers left open the possibility it could be reborn this year, but that seems unlikely given the ill will it caused. Amphitheater owner Matt Mithun said it’s too early to make any firm announcements on that or any other summer music events there.

There are also the old reliables to count on this summer, including: the all-hip-hop Soundset fest on May 24 (Rhymesayers is currently in the thick of lining up acts); Rock the Garden on June 15 (look for a lineup announcement on April 16); the Basilica Block Party on the weekend of July 12-13, and once again Harriet Island’s only annual fest, Irish Fair, Aug. 9-11.

Of course, none of these other events promise the kinds of top-tier performers Live Nation had in mind for River's Edge. Except for fans of Kenny Chesney (who returns to Target Field for the second summer in a row on July 12), it seems Twin Cities fans still need to plan road trips to catch acts at that level outdoors. Case in point: Pearl Jam just announced a July 19 date at Chicago's Wrigley Field. Hey, at least we got the Twins to their Cubs. That's still saying something, isn't it?

[Photo: Kyndell Harkness]