The Festival, conceived and curated by Duluth bluegrass/Americana folk band Trampled by Turtles, was a major success, despite the occasional glitches of a first-time presentation and being chased indoors by the wrath of late summer’s often unpredictable weather.
Held on an initially warm and sunny Saturday (September 20, 2014), with a name like Festival Palomino (besides being named after TBT’s 2010 album, Palomino), it HAD to be held at a horse track and so, Canterbury Park in Shakopee was the ideal location.
Instead of taking place in the nearby grassy field or parking lot, like previous concerts (Warped Tour), a main (called ‘Stars’) and secondary (called ‘Satellites’) stage were set up in the grass inside the oval racetrack, a location not used for music events since the radio concert shows of the early ‘90s.
Stages were within earshot and easy walking distance of each other and framed by sponsor and food booths and rows of port-a-pottys. Festival goers could also retreat to the track’s grandstands for a more distant but all-encompassing view, or for the other indoor amenities. The site itself was outside of the metro, but not overly so, and easily accessible from the highway.
An entire day (and night’s) worth of music for +/-$40 seemed like more than a good bang-for-your-buck. VIP upgrades were available for an approximate $60 more, which added a tote bag, lanyard, drink tickets, and private food/drink tent and restroom area, to the experience. Food/drink vendors seemed reasonably priced for this type of event as well.
Parking was free and well-organized coming in and the day’s events were dutifully planned and timed. First Avenue and promoter Rose Presents were responsible for much of the staging and logistics and most things ran seamlessly; perhaps a good sign of the upcoming promised, but still yet-to-see First Avenue Festival, happening hopefully in 2015.
Though both stages were close to each other, set times were scheduled such that as soon as an act would finish on one stage, the act on the other stage would immediately start, so that there was no music overlap or having to decide which band to see (unlike at the Basilica Block Party). Many people set up a blanket in the middle of the festival area, and were able to enjoy all the acts by simply turning their head towards the appropriate stage. Restrooms, food and water options, and related needs were all plentiful and easy to locate.
It is Minnesota in late summer, which means a good degree of unpredictability. The day started as sunny and warm, only to have the skies darken and evolve into a strong 2hr. thunderstorm, followed by a clear but very chilly evening. In other words, a normal late September day here.
FIELD REPORT: To keep with the schedule, music started right on time at 2pm with Milwaukee's Field Report, playing tracks from their just-released album Marigolden (Partisan Records). The band returns to town this week for the monthly Communion series at the Varsity on Tuesday.
ERIK KOSKINEN: Immediately after Field Report stopped playing at the Stars stage, local alt-county troubadour Erik Koskinen started his set over at the Satellites stage.
Hurray for the Riff Raff
Segarra filled out her songs with a four-piece band, which included a fiddle and upright bass to accompany her own banjo playing. Highlights included one of the first songs she’d written on banjo, ‘Here It Comes’, ‘End of the Line’ which featured Segarra on harmonica, and ‘Little Black Star’, from her previous album, that became a crowd clap and sing-a-long.
The Apache Relay
The effort paid off, as when they reached their end of their intended set, they realized they had enough time to squeeze in one more, much to the encouragement of the newfound fans near the stage, who yelled out loudly, "You guys ROCK!"
Bradley and His Extraordinaires are still out in support of last year’s Victim of Love (Daptone Records) and the showman and his 7pc band (incl. two horn players and three guitarists) shone on songs like ‘Strictly Reserved For You’, the psychedelic ‘Confusion’, ’You Put The Flame On It’, and a song he described as “my favorite”, ‘Let’s Give Love a Chance’. “Without you, there will be no me”, Bradley emoted wearing a black suit with screaming eagle belt buckle and a pharaoh t-shirt, “and we mean what we say”.
Spirit Family Reunion
“I know they didn’t plan it, but that’s how the best things happen”, co-lead singer Nick Panken announced, with the band huddled around a single microphone for songs like ‘It Does Not Bother Me’ and an impassioned and appropriate Beatles cover of ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, showing how unfazed they were about the storm just outside the window. “We’re going to keep going until someone tells us to stop”, Panken remarked during their elongated set, which also included a rising cover of The Band’s ‘Up on Cripple Creek’, which brought up TBT’s Ryan Young to play.
The Head and the Heart
“Hope the drinks inside were free…or at least cheap”, the band remarked, before playing ‘Ghosts’ with its lyrics, “all my friends are talkin’ about leaving”. Violinist Thielen even called out a Little Falls, MN meat shop to show her familiarity with the area, and ‘Another Story’ had perhaps the days’ most appropriate lyric with “I'll tell you one thing, we ain't gonna change love, the sun still rises even through the rain” amidst a timely gorgeous amber sunset. Fittingly, ‘Rivers and Roads’ from their debut album, about friends and separation ended their set, which found evening setting in and the temperature falling.
TRAMPLED BY TURTLES: The high-speed bluegrass of Trampled by Turtles closed what had become a chilly night, with a 90 min. set of songs both old and new in support of latest album, Wild Animals (Banjodad Records). The new album is a bit slower and more melancholy than recent previous releases, but the songs (including single ‘Are You Behind the Shining Star?’) came more alive in concert and amidst the older tracks.
Trampled by Turtles with Caroline Smith
A Loudon Wainwright III cover of ‘Swimming Song’ brought bassist Tim Saxhaug up to do lead vocals, ‘Winners’, the closer from the new album with its winter in Duluth lyric “pretty little city, nothin’ coming in” especially resonated, and the band was accompanied by Lee “Big Country” Martin on steel guitar for most of their set.
Their Pixies cover of ‘Where is my Mind’ brought cheers, as did ‘Midnight on the Interstate’ and radio hit, ‘Alone’, which was also perfectly featured during the closing of recent film, The Way Way Back. The band came back to the stage and began their encore with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m Goin’ Down’, before bringing Smith and Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker from Low up, for the festival-closing ‘Codeine’.
The weather notwithstanding, Festival Palomino was expertly executed, a fine value for the dollar, and a more-than-worthy, day long concert experience. Plans are already underway for the 2015 version, which we’re already looking forward to.
A few suggestions:
More variety of acts- most bands (except for Charles Bradley) fell into the Americana/alt-country category, a result of TBT being on other festival bills with these acts, and then asking them to join theirs. Hopefully, a wider spectrum of music (both new and old) can be presented in the future.
A third stage indoors- because of the rain, it was inadvertently proven that a potential third stage could be constructed indoors, to allow fans an alternative for newer and/or more appropriate local acts (i.e. The Pines) to help fill out the bill.
VIP overhaul – a few paying for the VIP upgrade didn’t feel they got their additional money’s worth, with liquor sales ending early as a result of the weather, and not as privileged access. A separate seating area to the side of the stages would not be out of order, early entry and VIP-specific parking areas, would be just a few possible added value ideas.
Shuttle Service – being the first festival, some of the ideal extras were obviously not in place, but some kind of shuttle service and/or drop off point from both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, might have brought more city and student crowds in, that may not have had access to cars.
Trampled by Turtles at Festival Palomino, Shakopee (20 Sep 2014)