Basilica Block Party Day Two, 7/12/14

Categories: Last Night

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
Basilica Block Party, Day Two
with Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, the Wild Feathers, Caroline Smith, Frankie Lee, BBGUN, and Jillian Rae
Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis
Saturday, July 12, 2014

Due to some well-timed divine intervention, Saturday afternoon's rain stopped as soon as the music started on day two of the 20th Basilica Block Party. The clearing skies ushered in plenty of glossy national acts to draw in both the crowds and the headlines, but the day was ultimately defined by the strong performances of the locals on the bill who rose to the occasion.

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Jillian Rae started out the day with a countrified rock set that drew mainly from her excellent 2013 record, Heartbeat. The five-piece band easily got the growing crowd into it. Rae's dulcet vocals took on a passionate edge when her songs hit their peak, as her deft violin work added a welcome flourish to the material. The keys-laden title track and the slow-burning spirit of "Don't Want You Back," both resonated strongly in the afternoon sun, while "Chains" had a definite O Brother, Where Art Thou? bluegrass vibe that emphatically got the festivities underway.
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Nashville quintet the Wild Feathers returned to a Minneapolis stage after delivering a strong opening set for Gary Clark Jr. at the end of last year. They started out with guitars blazing during a Zeppelin-esque intro before their harmony-driven opening number, "Hard Wind." The band clearly was thrilled to be playing to such a sizable audience, and made the most of their opportunity, delivering the best set of the day from a band not from the Twin Cities.

"Backwoods Company" has a snarling grit to it, while the bells of the Basilica chimed in fortuitously on the Band-like "Hard Times," giving the track a mournful undertone. For their bluesy anthem "Left My Woman," the lonesome tale from the road was personalized for the local crowd with "Minnesota is where I'll be" worked into the lyrics.

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

BBGUN expanded to a quintet for their set. Joey Kantor on keys gave their countrified rock songs an added texture and warmth. Their rich, bluesy numbers incited the crowd, who joyously danced in front of the stage. "Tire Fire" had a George Thorogood-like stomp to it that really ignited the set, before they brought out Jake Hanson to add his guitar flourishes to spirited renditions of "SEA/TAC" and "Everybody Smokes." The band mentioned that they had their debut CD for sale for only $5, but that they would accept food tickets instead of cash, as well.
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Caroline Smith played to one of the biggest local audiences of her career. With Jake Hanson occupied and missing from Smith's band, her songs took on a more lush, soulful sound with the help of keyboardist Eric Mason, as well as backing vocalists Mina Moore and Hannah von der Hoff. The set started with a few tracks from Smith's breakout record, Half About Being a Woman, before she dug into her back catalog for "Tanktop" and "Tying My Shoes," which both sounded glorious.

Smith joked around at one point with her friend/collaborator Lizzo, who was in the front row of the crowd dancing and singing along to Caroline's set. On "Bloodstyle" and "Child of Moving On" Smith's resonant vocals carried the tracks home. Smith vocalized her support for equality and fair wages for women, and encouraged us all to look into the work of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota, before playing her catchy empowerment anthem, "Magazine." The set ended with a strong trio of new songs, as the title track, "Walking Off Strong," and "All That I Know Is (I'm Your Baby)" all soared. Smith stood in stark contrast to the polished glossy pop of Ingrid Michaelson, who was next up on the main stage. While Michaelson's buoyant but vacuous pop hits clearly held an appeal over the large crowd of fans, Smith's passionate, incisive songs ultimately towered over hers in comparison.

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