Rock the Garden at Walker Art Center, 06/16/12

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Erik Hess
Rock the Garden
With the Hold Steady, Trampled by Turtles, Doomtree, tUnE-yArDs, and Howler
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Saturday, June 16, 2012

10 gorgeous GIFs from Rock the Garden 2012
Slideshow - Rock the Garden 2012: Music
Slideshow - Rock the Garden 2012: People/Scenes

Reverence for the Twin Cities music scene was in overflowing supply during the 2012 running of Rock the Garden. With more than 10,000 people packed into the lawn next to the Walker Art Center, this is always one of the largest music gatherings of the year.

Not only did the day feature four Minnesota-connected acts (and another adored by the locals), but much-discussed garage punks Howler kicked things off with a reverent cover of a classic song that burst from this lake-filled land a half-decade before singer Jordan Gatesmith's birth.

The day's opening song, a rework Hüsker Dü's "Don't Want to Know if You Are Lonely" from Candy Apple Grey, proved to be one of the most overt statements of the day. Even if Gatesmith's supposed disloyalty to the mighty Twin Cities scene is very old news, this cover found him honed in to get into the Grant Hart mode of the song. Although it would be fun to see Howler do the Dü again, it'll be even better once they can throw it in with the same level of raw kinetic energy that filled their own "Black Lagoon" or "Told You Once" later on.
Photo by Erik Hess
Notably, this date also officially marks Howler's split with bassist France Camp. His energy was missed, but the guys' mix of cocky banter -- about Ritalin and the pastel look of the day, this time --  and raw chops got people moving early. As the Prairie Vodka and fruit punch started making its way through the crowds' veins, the threatening clouds kept moving up above.

tUnE-yArDs proved to be the closest act to a typical show indoors at the Walker Art Center. Though the rest of the day was filled with various "alt" signifiers, there's no doubt that mulleted Merrill Garbus represents one of the most progressive performers in pop music right now. Critics (aside from Chuck Klosterman) love her for the scope of her massive voice -- Nina Simone, Bob Marley, and Shirley Bassey come to mind within a single song -- and forward-looking beats and melodies that nod to and subvert Afrobeat, hip-hop, reggae, and R&B. But audiences love the face-painted Garbus because she creates everything even more thrillingly on the stage.

Photo by Erik Hess
With precision that puts her among the great drummers of our era, the barefooted Garbus performed each tUnE-yArDs song -- many from last year's ebullient w h o k i l l -- standing behind a small kit and triggering sample pedals with her feet. No motion was wasted, and no sound from her vocal chords went unused as songs grew from loops into enormous things. Electric ukelele and some jazzy backing instrumentation was intense enough to have a pit of devotees dancing fiercely, but Garbus was okay with the majority of the crowd just chilling on their blankets -- until the three-song closer of "Gangsta," "Bizness," and "My Country." These she delivered with joy, and a reminder to vote in the fall. 

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