Skyline Music Festival at Target Field, 7/26/13
|Photo By Erik Hess|
Skyline Music Festival
With Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Soul Asylum, Matthew Sweet, and Gear Daddies
Target Field, Minneapolis
Friday, July 26, 2013
Target Field has proved its worth to Major League Baseball, winning the right to host the 2014 All-Star Game, and to the 40,000-plus country music fans who attended both Kenny Chesney concerts, but the Twins' new ballpark hasn't fully linked with the rock community here in the Twin Cities. As Chicago's Wrigley Field and Milwaukee's Miller Park put on massive concerts by Pearl Jam and Paul McCartney within the past few weeks, our downtown park still awaits a full-fledged rock show.
The inaugural Skyline Music Festival was a smaller (and much safer) endeavor than any of the big tours currently making the rounds, but the nearly 7,000 people who sold out the 3rd base side of the ballpark were treated to the venue's remarkable views and good sound on an enjoyable night of outdoor music from a series of '90s rock titans.
Austin, Minnesota's beloved Gear Daddies opened the festivities with a folky, countrified set of songs that certainly pleased their longtime fans who were anxious to see them perform again and packed the ballpark straight from the start. The sound was a bit muddy and bass-heavy at first, especially back near the concourse, but those issues were worked out as the night wore on. Frontman Martin Zeller joked a bit self-deprecatingly about the band's place on the notable bill, "In 23 years we probably sold as many albums as the three bands could dream of selling in two hours."
|Photo By Erik Hess|
But the celebrated local heroes, who claimed to be working from a setlist for the first time in their long career, certainly didn't have to justify their inclusion to their loyal fans, who cheered on their regional hits like "Color of Her Eyes," "Goodbye Marie," and, of course, the set closing, "(I Wanna Drive the) Zamboni," which got most of the crowd up and dancing. "And we're going to end on that triumphant note," Zeller exclaimed, in an effort to keep the festival running on time.
The one troublesome issue of the Skyline Music Festival was that it was part of the LP Tour, with the final three bands on the bill (who are touring the country together along with the Wailers) all playing their most celebrated albums from start to finish. And with veteran bands who are already pretty set in their ways to begin with, knowing exactly what songs they will be playing and in precisely what order takes much of the thrill out of the proceedings from a fan's perspective. There are very few surprises or unplanned moments that happen during these type of performances, with the bands staying on script as they go through the routine of tackling their most popular work from beginning to end.
However, Matthew Sweet certainly made the most of his time on stage while working his way through his 1991 hit record, Girlfriend, proving to everyone in the crowd that he still can wail away on guitar with the best of them. While there were definitely some sluggish moments during the slower portions of his set, they were thankfully few and far between, as Sweet and his cracking three-piece backing band (featuring Dennis Taylor on guitar, Paul Chastain on bass, and Ric Menck on drums) tore it up on the opening number, "Divine Intervention," with Sweet leading the way with a scorching solo as the song drew fitfully to a close. "I've Been Waiting" soared in the early-evening setting, but it was the title track that got everyone going, with Sweet's deft guitar work blending fluidly with Taylor's, as the track erupted in a blissful guitar squall.
|Photo By Erik Hess|
Fervent takes on "Evangeline" and "You Don't Love Me" gave the set a spark, amid more downtempo tracks like "Looking at the Sun," "Winona," and "Day for Night," with Sweet's impassioned vocals and expert guitar work ringing true throughout the ballpark. During particularly rousing guitar solos, Sweet would turn his back to the audience while losing himself completely in the spirit of the song. "We're going off-album for this last one," Sweet announced at the end of his 55-minute set. "It's one of my favorite songs to sing because it always remains true." And with that, Sweet led the band through a raucous "Sick of Myself," complete with a few false endings, before Sweet left some experimental feedback ringing in the speakers as they left the stage to a well-earned ovation.
Set changes at events like this can sometimes take forever, and kill the momentum of the festival. But the stage crews worked hard on each changeover, ensuring that there was a quick, smooth transition between bands. As night slowly settled in over the stadium, Soul Asylum took to the stage to the Rocky theme song, with the band clearly in the mood to deliver a knockout performance. But rather than launch directly into their 1992 classic, Grave Dancers Union, frontman Dave Pirner took a moment to honor his departed bandmate, Karl Mueller, with the touching "Oh Karl," assisted by Cloud Cult's Sarah Perbix on French horn. It was a moving moment, with Pirner repeatedly looking into the heavens while he sang the song's simple but poignant lyrics.