Over the Weekend: September 19-21, 2008

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The big event this weekend was the McNally Smith River Rocks Festival over on Harriet Island, where everyone from Ozomatli to Jakob Dylan to the Roots and the Twin Cities' own Heiruspecs, Semisonic, SKIRT, Maria Isa played to a sizable gathering of music fans.


I didn't make it down to the festival for Friday's festivities, but Tony Nelson, who was photographing the event for McNally Smith, told me that the audience was lively and that both Ozomatli and OAR attracted big crowds.

Saturday provided a great mix of music from both local and national acts, and set times were laid out so that it was possible to run between the large stage and the side stage and see at least part of everyone's set. Back-to-back performances by Heiruspecs and the Roots presented two different takes on live hip-hop; the former warmed up the crowd with their familiar, danceable, keyboard- and guitar-driven songs while the latter sprawled out their jams with extended saxophone and bass guitar soloing.

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Black Thought and ?uestlove of The Roots. Photo by Steve Cohen.

A trip over to the smaller stage, which was set up in a tent toward the back of the concert area, provided a nice respite from the sun and a performance by keyboard driven indie-pop band SKIRT. Though I had seen the members of SKIRT play before -- Linnea Mohn in Coach Said Not To and Scott Hefte in Seymore Saves the World and Superdanger -- it was my first time seeing their new group live. I was immediately intrigued by drummer Michelle Roche, who stood behind her drumkit rather than sitting and spent the set banging, yelling, and beaming. Mohn took on most of the lead vocal duties, but the most enchanting moments came when Hefte added harmonies to the choruses; the two played off each other remarkably well and created a strong, unified sound.

Back on the main stage, Mike Doughty stumbled through a set accompanied by his cello player, and the two seemed to spend more time providing dry, self-depracating stage banter than they did actually playing. Doughty had many false starts and derailings, making it hard to feel engaged while he was playing, but the crowd seemed to like it when he played his old Soul Coughing songs like "Circles."

The highlight of the night for me -- and, it appeared, a good portion of the increasingly intoxicated crowd -- was a reunion set by Semisonic. Though they officially disbanded following their last studio album, All About Chemistry, in 2001, Semisonic seem to reconvene every couple of years for a performance, and fans know that we have to catch them when we can.

Semisonic played a nice range of material, including songs off each of their major albums, and the band sounded just as tight and polished Saturday night as they did seven years ago when I saw them touring behind Chemistry. I would run down the list of highlights from their set, but, as a fairly committed Semisonic fan, I might just list every song. Here's the setlist:

FNT
Sculpture Garden
Chemistry
In Another Life
Secret Smile
Never You Mind
DND
Great Divide
Made to Last
Delicious
Singing in My Sleep
Closing Time


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