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MUSIC | Rock the Garden: 10,000 Decemberists fans can't be wrong
One couldn’t have asked for a better day for Rock the Garden, Saturday's outdoor concert jointly sponsored by the Walker Art Center and the Current. The sun shone down brightly all day and inspired good cheer amongst the bands and audience alike. Nearly 10,000 packed the Walker’s grassy hillside for the show—which sold out quickly after tickets went on sale—drinking cool beers and getting suntans while Solid Gold, Yeasayer, Calexico, and the Decemberists played spirited sets.
The Walker grounds opened at 3 p.m., giving concertgoers plenty of time to get in early, alleviating last year's swollen lines. Solid Gold played the first set, and they hit it out of the park as they have been doing all year. They played a number of tunes from their debut album Bodies of Water, all songs that they have been playing for quite some time but really caught fire only recently.
Following Solid Gold, Brooklyn experimental rock band Yeasayer took the stage, one of the youngest bands on the bill but also one of the most engaging. An aviator-clad Chris Keating drove his band through much of their fantastic, though limited, discography. Most notable was their performance of “Tightrope,” one of the standout tracks from this year’s Dark Was the Night compilation record.
Calexico, a classic-rock-meets-mariachi group out of Tucson, took the stage next. The band displayed a great deal of musical talent, tearing through a high-energy set with the help of a steel guitar, bass, and a small but power-packed brass section. The sun still hadn’t started to go down as they drew their performance to a close, leaving plenty of light for the headlining band, Portland-based the Decemberists.
Among music aficionados, the Decemberists are well-known for their highly literate indie pop confections. Led by bespectacled troubadour Colin Meloy, they certainly didn’t disappoint. The band clocked through an enthusiastic execution of their recent recordings, concluding with an impassioned cover of Heart’s “Crazy on You.” Perhaps the most unusual thing about their set was vocalist Becky Stark’s vintage bridesgown, which gave her a downright eerie appearance in the colored stage lights.
As the band left the stage around 10 p.m., the thousands of satisfied audience members exited the park orderly and peacefully. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Rock the Garden was its organization. The whole thing came off like clockwork—an impressive feat.
Correction: The Decemberists vocalist wearing a white gown was Becky Stark, not Jenny Conlee as this article originally stated.
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©2009 Jon Behm