Rock the Garden Day 2, 6/22/14

Categories: Rock the Garden
Photo by Erik Hess

Rock the Garden Day 2
With Spoon, Guided by Voices, Dessa, Kurt Vile & the Violators, and Valerie June
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Sunday, June 22, 2014

The garden has proven fertile for the Walker Art Center and 89.3 the Current. On the second day of an unprecedented weekend-long Rock the Garden, the festival spanned soulful and psychedelic indie rock, the rap/R&B hybrid of Dessa, and a heaping of Southern hospitality via Valerie June. It benefited from stellar weather, strong attendance, and a lineup that wouldn't quit. Rain threatened early, but June's rootsy "Rain Dance" -- a tribute to departed blue guitarist John-Alex Mason -- proved to keep the storms away.

See also:
Rock the Garden 2014: The Faces of Day Two

Photo by Erik Hess

The pleasures of Valerie June were numerous. From her swirling, serpentine dreadlocks nestled atop her head down to her turquoise boots, the Tennessean had flourishes aplenty to entrance the early arrivals. With an inflection-rich voice splitting the chasm between Joanna Newsom and Odetta, June intertwined old-time folk, blues, and gospel into her own language. The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach co-produced her 2013 album, Pushin' Against a Stone, but almost none of his flashier aesthetic was felt here.

See also:
Recap: Rock the Garden Day 1, 6/21/14

Her songs came without grand gestures, aside from an occasional curl of her lip. She let the intricate strumming of an acoustic guitar, a banjo ukulele, or a regular banjo -- plus a two-piece accompaniment of bass and drums adding subtle touches when needed -- provide the movement for her. Undaunted by the large crowd, June did most of the flexing on "Workin' Woman Blues" and a cover of the standard "Rollin' and Tumblin'" -- popularized by Muddy Waters. She's going to be a headliner in a lot of places before much longer.

Photo by Erik Hess

The afternoon hit its stride with the feel-good dizziness of Kurt Vile and the Violators. Slow, circular strummer "Wakin on a Pretty Day" was a pretty accurate portrayal of the current climate. Nodding behind his long, curly hair and wearing a military-green shirt, Vile looked a bit like a psych-rocking Lieutenant Dan. Mellow proved only half the story for the Philly-based act, though.  His glistening cover of Richard Hell's "Monkey," off 2009's Childish Prodigy, signaled a rougher patch ahead. The vintage Vile of "Freak Train" brought out his raspiest vocal, and got more than a few cool dads banging heads along.

Photo by Erik Hess

Minnesota's own Dessa returned to the Rock the Garden stage -- she performed with Doomtree in 2012 -- with her ever-tight touring band. After a bit of teasing of the camera men on either side of the stage, she laid her vocals bare through a lengthy set of opportunities to harmonize deeply with backing vocalist Aby Wolf and strike emotional poses. The darkness of her material -- "Call Off Your Ghost" and "Dixon's Girl," especially -- was admittedly offset by the lightness of the day. By the time her Doomtree cohort Cecil Otter hopped up to do "Little Mercy," her feverish local fans were right there in the tumultuous fray. 

Sponsor Content

Now Trending

From the Vault