None of the bands on the line up - Solid Gold, Yeasayer, Calexico and the Decemberists - are household names but to an indie music fan or Current listener they represent some of the most exciting bands of the summer, plus established acts with new albums who continue to delight their growing fan bases.
At previous Rock the Garden events, the stage faced towards the Walker Art Center, directing the noise away from the houses on the hill above the art gallery. While lowering the decibels received by local residents, it also frustratingly made no use of the natural amphitheater of the hill behind the Walker. This year, with consent of nearby residents, the stage was located at the bottom of the hill and turned to face south for sightline views just about anywhere on the hill. It also increased the capacity of the festival to nearly 10,000, and allowed the choice to stand at the front, or sit and relax on the slope.
The only local act, openers Solid Gold, despite being the newest band in the line up, appreciate that playing outdoors in the middle of the day is very different to playing to a dimly lit venue late at night. The band dropped some of their moodier songs from their set in favor of their crowd-pleasing danceable tracks, and they have plenty of those. Yeasayer, fronted by a self-proclaimed "art nerd" played what they describe as "Middle Eastern-psych-pop-snap-gospel" which sounds partly like it came from the 1980s, and partly like something far into the future.
Calexico's Southwestern influenced rock ranged from soulful to headbanging. They are a band I wasn't too familiar with, but based on the intensity of their live performance, their latest 2008 release Carried to Dust is going to be on my playlist. The headliners, Portland-based folk-rockers The Decemberists played their entire new album, The Hazards of Love then encored with favorites from past releases before finishing with a cover of Heart's Crazy on You before the music had to stop at 10 p.m. sharp.
And then the crowd clapped and cheered politely, and went home quietly. Rock the Garden is a Minnesota Nice indie rock music festival.