Dawes at Taste of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota July 2, 2010

Peace in the valley

There’s a river running through the city
Gently reminding me what’s what.

- Dawes, When You Call My Name

Dawes at Taste of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota July 2, 2010I’m heading out fishing in a short while, whenever Gabe gets here. The river is up high from a wet stretch of weeks and in fact the tornado sirens reportedly went off briefly out in Stillwater an hour ago when a fierce line of storms blew across eastern Minnesota. I swam in the St. Croix yesterday, no better way to beat the heat on such a muggy day. I want to get back in it today, though I’m afraid I may be confined to the canoe with the good beaches all underwater.

This is the first weekend in perhaps a month in which obligations have been outnumbered by unplanned hours. It was a busy June and I just need to accept it and acknowledge that the commitments were positive: a wedding in Portland, my mom’s retirement party, a successful canoe trip with journalists for work.

Katie and I took Friday afternoon off work to go to the Taste of Minnesota where we saw Retribution Gospel Choir and Dawes play. We wanted to stick around for the evening when Minneapolis hip-hop stars Atmosphere and P.O.S. were playing, but we had a sick dog that we didn’t want to leave at home too long.

The two bands we did see were worth the vacation time, the ticket price, and any effort of getting ourselves to Harriet Island. Retribution Gospel Choir (featuring Alan Sparhawk [and Steve Garrington] of Duluth band Low) was typically face-melting, as the kids say. Melody climbing out from under noise, masterful guitar work, chaos coalescing into harmony. It was an atypical venue, a tent at a family-friendly event on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend. When we arrived, folk-country singer Justin Townes Earle (son of Steve Earle, named after Townes van Zandt) had recently finished, and the seats were full of middle-aged couples and others who didn’t look much like the crowd the last time we saw RGC at the Triple Rock Social Club on Minneapolis’s West Bank.

It felt strange to sit down and take in a show by a rock band like them, but I honestly couldn’t complain. We scored a couple chairs at a table and I drank my Summit EPA and enjoyed the craftsmanship–even though I’m not sure everyone else did; several folks found it not to their liking and excused themselves from the tent.

We went right up to the front for Dawes and I don’t think many people stayed sitting. The band from Los Angeles’s Laurel Canyon then proceeded to defy my expectations. As most good electric alt-country-folk-rock acts do, they turned up the volume from their album recording (“North Hills”) and really put on a show. The crowd returned the favor.

The guys in the band seemed genuinely blown away by the audience reception–wild cheering and big smiles. They even played an obviously unplanned encore, which is really the only good kind of encore. We got our hands on a vinyl copy of the record afterward and shook hands with the lead singer, who enthusiastically autographed it.

If I don’t find peace in the valley
I’ve got no place else to look.

- Dawes, Peace in the Valley

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