Skyline Fest @ Target FieldAug 09, 2014
Local loop magician Martin Dosh took the stage just after 5:30 for a short set of beautiful, dreamy compositions. His first song was played over an audio broadcast of the 1991 World Series game 6 in which Kirby Puckett hit a walk-off homerun to force game 7, which any Minnesota sports fan knows was won by the Twins. Dosh used a few other samples as well, pairing clips of saxophone lines with his juicy synth sound to create ambience, while intensifying his sound with break beats on his drum kit. Dosh treated the thin crowd to 3 long songs, making for about a 20 minute set. Luckily this wouldn’t be the last time Dosh was on stage that night.
Sean Carey may not be explicitly from Minnesota, but hailing from Eau Claire, WI, he carries with those Midwestern vibes that Minnesotans dig. These vibes were created by a five-piece ensemble that performed material from S. Carey’s two beautiful solo albums, Range of Light, and All We Grow. The first song they performed, "Glass," comes from Range of Light, Carey’s most recent album. Sean sat behind two keyboards, and was primarily in charge of vocal responsibilities; however he had help from his bandmates on several songs that featured beautiful harmonies and interesting countermelodies. The beauty of the songwriting was paired with several moments of intense, deeply layered songs, usually driven by percussion. S. Carey got 35 minutes on stage, and made the most of them, despite the still sparse crowd.
THAO AND THE GET DOWN STAY DOWN
The Friday sunshine was a perfect match for Thao and the Get Down Stay Down’s particular brand of indie pop. The energy they put out was very well received by the growing crowd of Target Field, and made sure everybody was ready for a fun night. Touring with a three-piece backing band, including Minnesota’s own Johana Kunin (who I could find surprisingly little current information about online,) Thao began the set with a super tasty little guitar lick that could have just been repeated for a half hour and I would have been happy. Thao Nguyen’s unbridled guitar romping was on full feature, as well as her flexibility with other instruments, which was showcased by playing four instruments in four songs (banjo, mandolin, slide guitar, and guitar.) They closed with standout track "We the Common," which featured its stadium-ready chorus loudly and proudly. It was a super fun set which contrasted well with the softer acts from before.
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS
At this point, I headed up to the suite that was provided to media personnel where I was greeted by some blank stares from members of CityPages and the Pioneer Press. New kid on the block syndrome I guess. I mostly wanted to be in the suite so I had a table on which to eat my chicken fingers (I have yet to go to Target Field and not eat chicken fingers.) It gave a cool overhead view of the stage, but definitely diminished the concert experience. Regardless, the music from The New Pornographers was stellar, and I got enough visual stimulation from the video feed up on the jumbo-tron.
The eight-piece group was definitely the most stadium-worthy group of the festival so far, and proved that by rocking out and creating a huge sound. Despite playing many old familiar tunes that brought me back to my high school years, we were also treated to a performance of their new awesome single "Brill Bruisers," which made me very excited to hear the rest of their new album that is due out in just two short weeks. This was the first time ever seeing The New Pornographers, and was taken aback by how intricate and constant their vocal harmonies and overlapping melodies are really occurring. It was eye opening to see all of these voices continually playing off one another in person. The band was having fun too, and even got the on stage cameramen to pick some people out of the crowd for an impromptu “kiss-cam,” a baseball stadium classic. As a nearly full moon rose above the Minneapolis skyline, The New Pornographers finished their amazing set, and gave way for the main event, Andrew Bird.
Just before 10pm, the surprisingly not-sold-out crowd of Target Field was treated to a simply mesmerizing performance of the one and only Andrew Bird. I had meandered back down to the lower level to take in this show, because I knew there would be intimate moments that would be lost in a suite. Taking the stage alone for two songs, Bird immediately showcased his abilities on the violin, as well as showing off his whistling chops. After this short solo performance, 4 others joined Bird on stage, including Martin Dosh on drums. Tift Merritt joined Bird on stage as well, and her harmonies stuck to Bird's melodies on nearly every lyric, adding a new element to some of his familiar songs. These harmonies were especially apparent during a short set of acoustic songs, which found all four musicians (other than Dosh on drums) around a single microphone at center stage. This allowed for some folkified versions of some classic Andrew Bird songs as well as some covers, such as When That Helicopter Comes, written by the Handsome Brothers, and featured on Bird’s 2012 album Hands of Glory.
After the acoustic songs, Bird and company began to pick up the pace, and peaked on “Danse Caribe,” a fantastic tune that sounded incredible on that huge stage. One of the most exciting parts of Bird’s performance was being able to see him create the melody he would double between his violin and whistling. These melodies will jump up and down and go on long fast runs, but he would never miss a beat. It is extremely impressive. After Bird’s final song, the crowd mustered up enough claps to get the group on stage for 3 more songs, each one more energetic than the last, which finished up the evening. Andrew Bird was the perfect culmination of upbeat, danceable music and ambient, technical music, each of which were seen performed earlier by the other artists.
All in all, Indie Night at the Skyline Music Festival was a success. The crowd was a bit sparse, but made for a more relaxed atmosphere. The lineup was incredible, and each group showed that they belonged on that big stage. This was another great night of live music for Minneapolis music fans, and one I feel fortunate that I was able to attend.