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Festival Review - 10 000 Lakes Festival


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10,000 Lakes Music Festival

Everything a Festival Should Be

July 19-22, 2006

by: Lara Purvis

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Trey Anastasio

photo: Lara Purvis

Big festivals definitely have their place in the music scene. The energy as tens of thousands get down to their favourite music is indescribable and cannot be matched. But at the same time, huge festivals carry an enormous responsibility as safety, environmental impact and producing quality musical entertainment for thousands, are serious issues. 10K Lakes Festival organizers not only managed to juggle four stages, exceptional bands and 18000 music fans, but they made it look easy.

10 000 Lakes Festival takes place in Detroit Lakes, about 4 hours outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. For a week the small town of cottage-goers and retirees is flooded with festival goers, painted vans and busses. The festival is held at Soo Pass Ranch, a triangular shaped 300 acre property sided by two highways to facilitate the thousands that arrive simultaneously. Soo Pass is a permanent festival venue that includes four huge campgrounds, two along each highway and a massive concert bowl area in the centre.

Wednesday, July 19 2006

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We were there as a family, two adults and a waddling toddler in the scenic Northwoods Campground. Heavily wooded, the campground spans rolling hills and hides many a hidden nook behind the trees. We found one such shady spot behind tall trees, at the back of the campground, conveniently located right at the bottom of the hill upon which the Saloon Stage was housed. Over the course of the week this spot proved to be perfect; while secluded and shady, we enjoyed the music rolling down the hill from the Saloon stage when we rested.

Once set-up it was time to explore the grounds and catch some music. The concert bowl holds four very different stages. The gargantuan Mainstage, the always rocking Fieldstage, the shady Barn Stage and the indoor, often steamy Saloon Stage. The stages were within a five minute walk from each other and thankfully, there was never a musicless moment. In fact, it almost became stressful having so much music around and feeling the need to make the best of every moment. This became my biggest concern, and frankly, as far as concerns go, this one rocked.

The music began on Wednesday night. While the hordes were still arriving it was an incredible time slot for these up 'n coming bands as the crowd was hyped and waiting to let loose. As one concertgoer exclaimed, “You could stand there holding up a cellphone, kicking a pail to the dialtone and these guys would get off…” While it may have been true, thankfully the bands provided so much more from The New Primitives' world beats, to the lively bluegrass by Trampled by Turtles energizing the crowd for the deep funk of The Breakfast's late night show. Day one was, quite simply, a perfect warm-up for the weekend.

Thursday, July 20 th 2006

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Fareed Haque - Garaj Mahal

photo: Lara Purvis

While I had originally planned to focus on the smaller stage bands and share the details on the new names on the scene, my plans were sabotaged by the headlining bands playing the field and mainstage. How could I have thought I'd be able to stay away? While 17 bands played Thursday, starting in the early afternoon I immersed myself fully in five. It was my first time seeing Garaj Mahal and it was a real treat to be enveloped in their catchy jazz. The dialogue between Kai Eckhardt's grooving bass and Fareed Haques' expressive guitarwork demanded my attention and it was not possible to leave. These are four detailed and sophisticated musicians who should not be ignored. Running to the shade of the Barn stage I arrived in the middle of Tea Leaf Green's first song, “Harvest Time”. As a newly media hyped bands, I had been initially resistant, but that feeling dissipated with the dancing melodies and before I knew it I was hooked. I would happily see Tea Leaf Green again. Their new success can be seen all over their smiling faces and injected a dizzying vibe into their rock. Although I was reluctantly to leave I knew that the guitar master, Steve Kimock had taken possession of the Field Stage so I headed back into the sun. While Kimock couldn't play badly if he tried, I was disenchanted by the set in general. There are days where Kimock steals your soul in the midsong bliss, but not today. Still an excellent show, but by Kimock standards this particular experience was disappointing.

It was time to hit the mainstage for OAR (…Of a Revolution). The last time I heard OAR was about five years ago. Boy have they evolved, from fun pop to a mature band with heartfelt songs. I noticed they had a particularly dedicated fan base, so dedicated in fact, it was hard to hear where singer, Marc Roberge's voice ended and their singing along audience began. After that great show there was just enough time to grab a drink and a slice of pizza in the shade before returning to the stage for String Cheese Incident. SCI was everything folks had been waiting for and more. Despite the scorching heat, hippies twirled, skipped and danced and I, looking through my camera laughed at the giddiness of the band, who obviously truly love what they do.

There were two days to go so it was necessary to pace myself. Rather than staying up for Mutaytor and Railroad Earth I headed back to the tent and was somehow lulled to sleep by the mayhem of the Northwoods Campground.

Friday, July 21 st 2006

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Phil Lesh and Friends

photo: Lara Purvis

Having now settled into the festival routine I was so ready for Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey who started off the Field Stage just after midday. The trio includes Kimock's bassist, Reed Mathis who is an exceptionally competent musician. This band, creative to the point of being delightfully weird, is also incredibly expressive and needs to be seen live. I very much enjoyed my hour in the shade as I watched them contort themselves through their experimental jazz.

Having chatted to Kimock backstage where he sat, guitar in hand, I was excited to see him play again with the Everyone Orchestra and hopeful it would be the kind of stellar performance it normally was. This is an incredible improvisation concept, headed up by Matt Butler. The EO features different artists each time, based on the line-up at the festival. At 10KLF the line-up featured Vince Herman, the members of Hot Buttered Rum, Souleye, Tea Leaf Green, Railroad Earth and Steve Kimock with Matt Butler conducting. Matt holds the band and audience together using a whiteboard that gave signals such as, “faster” for the band or “cheer” for the audience. The Everyone Orchestra proved to be a rejuvenating musical experience and truly exceeded my expectations.

The mainstage performances were about to begin and it already felt like I had had a musically full day. The Keller Williams Incident was a lively set carrying the same happy energy from SCI's set the day before. This combination features the normally solo troubadour Keller Williams, backed by the rollicking joyous String Cheese Incident. There was little time wasted between sets and the crowd leapt easily from Keller's poetic lyrics to the songs of the Grateful Dead as Phil Lesh and Friends took the stage. Phil Lesh is a true icon and was treated as such. He took to the stage with a grin that never left his face and played two solid sets leaving me hoping that I could be that energetic at that age. Any moment seeing one of the Dead's members is a moment to soak in entirely as these days are numbered. I soaked it all in, almost entirely…as I needed to head to the Field stage in preparation for Umphrey's.

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Jake Cinninger - Umphrey's McGee

photo: Lara Purvis

Umphrey's McGee had experienced a crazy day. After their flight got canceled in New York they had almost had to cancel their set at 10K. But a last-minute flight to Minneapolis , gear and car rentals meant that they did arrive, with only about an hour to their set. Standing beside the stage I watched them rush to set-up. Phil was going later than originally planned which bought Umphrey's some time. Yet despite the stress of the day, as they rushed through set-up and soundcheck, the band members stopped to smile, chat and respond to the calls of their fans. What would normally have been a recipe for disaster was obviously just another day in the lives of Umphrey's as they delivered a rocking show featuring a dual guitar showdown between Bayliss and Cinninger, a moment of such joy that had both fans and musicians roaring with joy. Shaking my head as I left, I had to wonder how they did it.

Saturday July 22, 2006

The shade of the Barn stage was a welcome treat as we sat back to enjoy the first set of the day, the Wood Brothers . The three hot and full days before had finally caught up with me and I lay back, eyes on the blue sky enveloped in the nostalgic blues of Chris Wood's upright bass. The moment ended too soon and rather than head to the blazing heat of the Field stage I headed back to the tent to rest up. There was still much to be seen and heard in the evening.

The first mainstage act was supposed to be Mike Gordon and The Duo. After a long wait, after the cheering and stomping had begun and ended and after the crowd actually started getting distracted The Duo finally took the stage. In the expectant pause as the crowd waited for Mike, Joe Russo announced that it was Marco's birthday. What a wonderful diversion, worked like a charm as thousands sang Happy Birthday to Benevento's delight. Diving into their music is always great, over the past few months The Duo have definitely entered my top five list. Not only is their music creative and groovable, but they are also entertaining and approachable people – the perfect combination for winning over new fans. It wasn't till their final song, a Phish cover, “Foam” that they dedicated to Mike, that he finally came out and played. A nice surprise perhaps, but we would have loved to see him sooner.

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Mike Gordon

photo: Lara Purvis

Few left the mainstage area as the stage crew readied for Trey Anastasio . The schedule simply had Trey's name for two sets, so rumors had been flying all week on who would be supporting him. Unfortunately, there were no earthshattering surprises as once again The Duo took the stage, followed by Mike Gordon and Trey. Having just finished with The Duo, the crowd seemed initially disappointed. But the halfhearted cheers turned into a roar at the sight of Trey, who looked genuinely astonished at their reaction. Leaping straight into “Goodbye Head,” they continued on to play a selection of Phish, Shine and Duo tunes. While this set wasn't incredible, it was respectable. Only a critic would have complained, as the level of energy just wasn't quite there. Still, it's necessary to acknowledge that The Duo had just played a set, and the band had to towel themselves off between songs due to the heat. You wouldn't have caught me leaping around the stage either.

With the festival practically over as headliner Trey Anastasio rocked the mainstage, ending with the cover ‘Who Are You', I thought back over the past days and realized that I had not a single complaint. With 18000 attending, 10 000 Lakes is a huge festival with a small festival feel. Despite the fact that thousands were partying in the blistering heat, I had not once been concerned about my safety or health. You could not have gone five minutes without running into security. It was simply a bonus that that even the security guys seemed to be laidback and organized. Together with security the presence of chaplains, buzzing around on their 4-wheelers, keep the vibe amusing and peaceful. And while some may have been frustrated with the bag searches every time you headed for the stages, I for one appreciated the care the venue took to ensure that everything went smoothly. By handing out recycling and garbage bags to every camper, and having a green team traveling the campgrounds, the festival had also minimized its environmental impact. In short, 10K Lake organizers left no stone unturned in their effort to put on a safe, clean and fun festival.

Best of all, the killer line-up included much loved headliners, jambands, some serious funk and experimental jazz ensuring that the weekend held many of blissful moment of true improvisation. For that I say thanks to the promoter, Gene Hollister, who stayed true to the essence of music exploration when he selected the 2006 bands. So at running the risk of sounding like a paid commercial, if you love big festivals, unique and creative music head to 10K. It's quite the distance but the destination is sweet.

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great review! :)

just one suggestion from a writing perspective: proofread for comma errors. i kept running into them.

like what? perhaps there is an HTML conversion problem. I don't see anything noticable. The worst error I saw was that I spelled Mcgee with a small 'G' in Jake's caption.

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