Rock the Garden at the Walker, 6/19/10

Categories: Last Night
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Photos by Nick Vlcek
Sharon Jones
See that face? That is the face of pure joy. The supremely talented Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings had the crowd effectively whipped into a frenzy of cheers and waving arms during the second-to-last set at Saturday's Rock the Garden. A crowd of 10,000 gathered on the grassy hill next to the Walker Art Center for the annual festival, which has upped the ante in recent years by partnering with the Current to present of-the-moment acts.

Tickets for Rock the Garden never even went on sale to the general public, so everyone in attendance was a member of either MPR, the Walker, or both. Damian Kulash of OK Go perhaps said it best when he scanned the crowd and exclaimed "Look at all you pale people!" Kulash later pulled out a camera and took a snapshot of the crowd, apparently a ritual at every OK Go show, and joked that we should all find it online later and tag ourselves.

The photo turned out to be pretty extraordinary:

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Kulash was one of the most energetic performers of the day, jumping around on stage with jazz hands flexed, wading out into the crowd, and timing the band's downbeats with blasts from a giant confetti cannon. But for all of OK Go's antics, no one on the bill could rival the performative abilities of Ms. Jones, who came out to great fanfare from her band, the Dap Kings, and proceeded to capture the attention of the entire, sprawling audience with her soulful voice, flirtatious hip-shaking, and playfully antagonizing banter.

At one point toward the beginning of her set, Jones shuffled over to the edge of the stage, cooed directly at photographer Brian Grenz, and leaned down to plant a giant kiss on his lips:

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Photos by Nick Vlcek
Jones was so charismatic that she even prompted Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak to tweet his approval: "Sharon Jones, former prison guard, has Rock the Garden crowd in custody. Love her sound!"

It was really no surprise, then, that the band that followed Jones was a buzzkill. When the Rock the Garden lineup was first announced, I expressed my trepidation about MGMT's ability to give a festival-sized performance, especially given their low energy levels at their last two Twin Cities shows. That said, even with my expectations sufficiently lowered it was still a letdown to see just how mellow their set was. Lead singer Andrew VanWyngarden could barely work up enough energy to finish a complete sentence between songs, often trailing off mid-thought before apathetically starting up another tune.

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Photo by Nick Vlcek
But the fans were still pleased for the most part, as the band worked their three radio hits into their set of mostly newer material, giving the tired audience one last chance to shake their tail feathers as the sun went down.

Personal Bias: MGMT are probably my least favorite band to enter the pop culture sphere since Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
The Crowd: Twentysomethings with an unquenchable thirst for Summit beer.
Overheard in the crowd: "Who wants to have sex??"
Random Notebook Dump: I missed openers Retribution Gospel Choir after spending the afternoon at the Stone Arch Festival across town, but by all reports they performed a blistering set, punctuated by Alan Sparhawk's intense and enigmatic stage presence.
For more photos: See our complete slideshow by Nick Vlcek.
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