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The Current at Taste of Minnesota

3 Jul

You know, nothing helps as a pick-me-up from agonizing World Cup underdog defeat (and as Minnesotans, you know that we’ve got the underdog fighting spirit) than some of the best that Minnesota has to offer. It was a day that makes our Januarys worthwhile, high sun, a fleck of a cloud and a breeze, the mini-donut and deep-fried cookie ball stands were out and on Harriet Island next to the Mississippi, The Current had put together a killer lineup for the first day of the Taste of Minnesota.

Haley Bonar was just finishing up her set when I arrived, backed by her excellent band of Mike Lewis on bass, Jeremy Ylvisaker and Jacob Hanson on guitar and Luke Anderson manning the sticks. She had also sung with Spaghetti Western String Company for their CD release/final show last Saturday, premiering a new tune “Wendy Bird” and it is lovely to have her voice back in town.

Circus Juventas from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Across the way, Dawes, a band that has become very familiar to Twin Cities audiences with shows at the Triple Rock and First Avenue already this year kicked of their set of warm California country-rock tunes. Their debut record North Hills has had a lot of play on The Current and their mix of songwriting, harmonies and killer guitar licks was perfect for the festival setting, giving some recorded cuts as well road tracks like “Fire Away” and “Time Spent In Los Angeles” that should be a part of the new record they promised would be coming soon.

Dawes- “Love Is All I Am” from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

After they were done with a roaring sing-along version of the stellar album track “When My Time Comes”, the audience wouldn’t let them go and so the band came back on stage for a six o’clock encore and played their call and response ditty that they closed out their First Ave show with. It’s pretty simple refrain, “I’ve got a feeling/Everything’s gonna be alright,” and damn if that doesn’t feel good when howled along with a couple hundred other voices on a gorgeous summer day.

Dawes- “I’ve Got a Feeling” from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Over on the Main Stage, The Walkmen were languidly and nonchalantly tearing their way through their set, with frontman Hamilton Leithauser calmly breaking into his great wail.

The Walkmen from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

The crowd built up quickly as people streamed over for the two Minnesota headliners, P.O.S. and Atmosphere, but you know what, it wouldn’t be an outdoor festival without that guy, who was not the only that guy.

Dancing Guy at the Taste of Minnesota from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

After a decent wait spent listening to highschool kids make fun of eachother and surreptitiously smoke cigarettes, Current DJ Mark Wheat came up to introduce P.O.S. Wheat made a point to note that this was the first year that The Current had been involved with Taste, and said that he hoped that they would be there for years to come, and he’s right- despite the Janelle Monae drop, the lineup was excellent and each of the stages had great crowds in the time I was there. P.O.S. came up onstage to the chant of his name, accompanied by DJ Plain Ole Bill, Ryan Olson of GAYNGS and his Building Better Bombs/Marijuana Death Squad cohorts Ben Ivascu on drums and Isaac Gale on guitar. As a quintet they worked some of the noisier experimental stuff into the set and Stef also had MC guest help from Sims and Astronautilus, who managed to transform from a Teutonic choirboy to a red-faced roaring gorgon at the drop of a hat. P.O.S. and Astronautilus are just finishing up a collaboration (Stef said it would be done Thursday) so look for that fire soon.

P.O.S.- “Graves (We Wrote The Book)” from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Then came the main event, Atmosphere, Slug and Ant with Nate Collins on guitar and Erick Anderson on keys, the capstone of Minnesota music in the last decade. The set was filled with a lot of older tunes; “Trying to Find A Balance” from 2003’s Seven’s Travels kicked it all off, “Modern Man’s Hustle”, “Guns and Cigarettes” and “God Loves Ugly” all made appearances, as did “God’s Bathroom Floor”, a personal favorite that I haven’t seen live in a long time, and “Say Shh”, which, if memory serves, was the first tune they played when The Current switched to it’s format 5 years ago.

Atmosphere- “Say Shh” from Carl Atiya Swanson on Vimeo.

Ending with a medley of “‘Day’ songs” as Slug put it, the sun slipped away into a cool night time breeze, everyone warm and aloft singing along with songs that are part of the underpinning of local music and culture. How very Minnesotan of us to close it out singing about how not every day can be perfect, when this one really did come so damn close.

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