Review: Slater-Kinny, Ratliff lights up Rock the Garden comeback after two years of lull

With mope kings like Bon Iver and The National among the headlines of the past, Rock the Garden isn’t exactly known as the pure summer music festival.

What a perfect year to break this mold.

Returning from a two-year hiatus — it was the first major Minnesota music festival to be canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, and one of the last to be held in 2021 — the eight-hour, seven-band marathon outside the Walker Center for the Arts benefited from livelier and happier performances in 2022 plus the general happiness of finally being together for a big outdoor concert again. You’ve never seen Gen-X fans act so lovingly toward each other as they did during the Saturday Festival.

The closing of Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats certainly enhanced the warm and cheerful vibe.

The big Denver Soul rock band that broadcasts Van Morrison could have made a tax law seminar look like a party with their high-energy, groovy 75-minute set they gave on Saturday. The no-nonsense front-runner Ratliff wasted no time walking off the stage for an appearance and instead thundered to the potential national anthem “Out on the Weekend.”

“Send the kids to bed and let the drinks go,” Ratliff sang. “We’ll play favorite records and kiss on the mouth.”

And Slater-Kenny the Angster leaderboard looked dead on having a good time, too.

When singer/guitarist Corinne Tucker shouted “Get me out/out of this mess” to intense cheers near the end of the tight ensemble for her influential hour-long punk band, her smile appeared sharply like beach balls being hit by many of the 12,000 or so in attendance. .

Crumpled between two major stage two headliners at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minnesota Low’s indie rock influencers delivered the most emotionally charged performance of the day.

A far cry from his previous appearance on Rock the Garden in 2013 — when his improvisational, slick performance of one song rattled audiences — the Duluth trio hit steadily, triumphing through five songs from his highly innovative new record “Hey What,” including “Days”. Such “harmonious.

This was followed by a brief set of the greatest hits. Even closer “Canada” was hand-synchronized clapping in an oversized audience like something from a Bon Jovi video.

“Do you think we’ll be here all these years after that and lead the applause?” Low striker Alan Sparhawk cracked deservedly.

The rest of Saturday’s lineup was as eclectic as any lineup in RTG’s 19-year history; Or 24 if you count the years the fundraising event was intermittently canceled before 89.3 Stream signed up as a partner with Walker in 2008.

Nigerian guitarist Bombino kicked off the music on Saturday, followed on the main stage by Londoner pop-rocker Bibadoobi. More than a few attendees mixed these names on paper, but the artists definitely stood out on stage.

Bombino (also known as guitarist/singer Omara Mokhtar) and his great band put together a great mix of desert blues, afrobeat and reggae spoken in the universal language of funk. The audience would have loved to hear more, but bassist Yuba Dia admitted: “We have to get on a plane to Morocco.”

Newcomer Bipadoobi (aka Filipino-born and London-based Beatrice Laos, 22) put on a surprising 45-minute rocker set emblazoned with sinister guitar action atop straight pop hooks. Her stage performance belied louder her viral songs “Coffee” and “Sorry” on cute TikTok, both of which are still played in a minimalist style that made it easy to hear all the young fans singing in the crowd.

On stage – his other works were “orchestrated” by Low – Australian duo Divide & Dissolve played rock bands with clarinets and saxophones over guitars and drums. Looper Takaya Reed (of Cherokee ancestry) established his stale, desolate voice between songs by alluding to various grievances, including those against the Dakota people whose land the sculpture park is located.

Also on the park stage, California musician Damon-Funk (also known as Damon Riddick) paid homage to Prince, a Minnesota ancestor, channeling his playful glee throughout his set and then culminating in a cheery style about “controversy.”

Of all the very different Saturday combos, Sleater-Kinney’s has to go down as the crown jewel for RTG ’22.

The band that helped launch the riot-grrrl movement in the 1990s in Olympia, went through a tough group in 2019 with the exit of drummer Janet Weiss and the addition of three new members. They sounded tighter and sturdier on Saturday than they did at the Palace Theater party in 2019, though, and new songs “Worry With You” and the opening show “High in the Grass” find them moving forward with verve.

Of course, a lot has happened since 2019 which may have sparked new energy in the group.

“We are all here to appreciate this easy experience of playing music again for all of you,” singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein said before the aptly chosen closing song, “Entertain”.

“Cathartic” could have been printed on this year’s Rock the Garden commemorative T-shirts.

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