Words by: Patrick Knibbs & Brian Heisler :: Images by: Tobin Voggesser
10,000 Lakes Festival :: 07.18.07 – 07.21.07 :: Soo Pass Ranch :: Detroit Lakes, MN
Tucked away in Northwestern Minnesota's serene woodlands, the small town of Detroit Lakes hosted the fifth annual 10,000 Lakes Festival on a beautiful late July weekend. The Soo Pass Ranch, which has been throwing massive summer gatherings for years now (10KLF and the WE Fest), welcomed 20,000 music fans and nearly 40 bands over the four-day span. Festival headliners Umphrey's McGee, String Cheese Incident and Ratdog shared the stage with a handful of quality regional and touring juggernauts like Gov't Mule, moe., as well as a special performance by Zappa Plays Zappa featuring Dweezil Zappa. -PK
Zappa Plays Zappa :: 10KLF
In the second year of the festival's new midweek schedule, the sounds kicked off Wednesday rather than Thursday allowing the early arrivals to feast on a slew of striking performances. With the Main Stage yet to be lit up for the festival, the other three stages took precedent, filtering crowds to such christeners as New Primitives, Family Groove Company, and Gypsyfoot. That 1 Guy took his unique, avant-garde sound to the Barn Stage, making use of saws and whatever else was in sight. Wookiefoot captured the Minnesota contingency at the Field Stage with costumes, fire dancers and a combination of funk and hip-hop. The best treat of the night came at the Barn Stage with Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. The soulful New Orleans singer and keys player graced the night with an all-star cast of musicians on bass, drums, and guitar, keeping a very tight sound with smooth melodies throughout. -BH
As would soon become the daily custom, those close enough to the stages to hear music were awakened to the great practical joke (or so we hope) of Seal's 1991 pop hit "Crazy." The first full day of music was packed with new bands as well as heavy hitters. Super American Happy Fun Good-Time Jamband piqued the interest of many people scouring the daily schedule with by far the longest, most obscure name on the bill. It turned out the boys from the South Side of Chicago did not stray too far from the band's descriptive name. The happy, full sound of "The Super" boasted great instrumentation, percussion and good overall stage presence, receiving great praise from a packed Saloon Stage in response to an accurate cover of the Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime." -BH
Dubconscious :: 10KLF
Green Lemon cut some of the first electronica sounds of the weekend at the Barn Stage. For the first time, the sun reared its head, threatening to sweat out the crowd, which took refuge under the shade of the Barn Stage. Drummer, Chris Cox, shed his shirt, pumping in a trance to thumping bass and bouncing bodies in the sizeable crowd. Particle continued the electronica theme with the heaviest crowd yet. Despite the upbeat nature of Particle's sound, the band found a range of music to share. Ben Combe strung out electric guitar jams pushing the band to an emotional peak as Steve Molitz added funky, distorted key fronts, giving things a breath of fresh air. -BH
Speaking of which, the hippest part of 10KLF, the Saloon Stage, was off and running in great fashion with St. Louis surprise Fresh Heir. While the majority of the music seekers flocked to the big names of Particle and Galactic, the little-known Fresh Heir brought energy and a fresh sound to the Saloon. For my money, this young group was the best catch of the three bands mentioned, led by drummer Nick Savage fusing jazz, funk, salsa and a little bit of playfulness with Skee Lo's one-hit-wonder "I Wish." Galactic was awaiting a start at the Field Stage, which came 15 minutes late due to Zappa Plays Zappa's conflicting soundcheck on the Main Stage. Few surprises came from Galactic, but the seamless closing cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" certainly capped off the set in style. -BH
Stanton Moore - Galactic :: 10KLF
Finally the opening of the Main Stage brought none other than the offspring of the great Frank Zappa in Zappa Plays Zappa. The band brought special guest Ray White, an original singer and guitarist from Frank Zappa's ensemble. It was impressive to see not only how well Dweezil has adapted to his father's style but also how flawlessly the band recreates Frank's original music. Maybe less of a tyrant than his father and yet to be much of a composer, Dweezil's understanding and command seemed to reflect that of his legendary father. "Willie the Pimp" rang through the grounds with its harsh, unconventional and sometimes offensive tones just as it would have almost 40 years ago. -BH
While clearly there was much more to come of the festival, for many, the highlight came in the first headliner slot. Umphrey's McGee blew the doors off on the Midwest crowd in a way no one else could quite replicate all weekend. It was perhaps the largest headlining audience the band had ever played in front of. Like the rock stars they have become, the Umph came out without a word, firing on all cylinders. The band opened with nearly 35-minutes of the jamming instrumental "Utopian Fir" into "40's Theme." A set-encompassing version of fan favorite "Divisions" provided highlights within highlights. Drummer Kris Myers took a solo into "Plunger" that included the more recent "woo" crowd cheers and a ripping Jake Cinninger guitar solo accompanied by Brendan Bayliss' finger tapping. "Jajunk" was tucked into one of the best Umphrey's jams in recent memory, which is certainly saying something.
Umphrey's McGee :: 10KLF
At the point of the Umph's set when the darkness gave way to the densest glow stick war since Phish toured, the idea that the torch had been passed was impossible to ignore. Over the years, as powerhouse acts like the Grateful Dead and Phish stepped down, we've witnessed a plethora of bands claiming "next in line status." As the Umph took control of their headlining slot and moved the masses in a manner we've only seen bands like Phish, Widespread Panic, moe., and String Cheese do, it appeared that perhaps the Umph really is the new king of the jam scene. It was all the more euphoric from here on out. "You guys look damn sexy from right here. I wish you could see yourselves," Bayliss complimented. But all eyes were on the stage. "Intentions Clear" into a "Jimmy Stewart" jam brought about the Talking Heads' "Making Flippy Floppy" into the special Cinninger work in "Glory" and back into "Divisions" to sandwiching the set. The encore kept the bookend feeling alive with "Wizard Burial Ground" slammed between an opening and closing "Nemo." With that, everyone else was playing for second best at 10KLF.
Jon Gutwillig - Disco Biscuits :: 10KLF
As suggested by Bayliss, the majority of those still up for more tunes after UM's set filtered over to The Disco Biscuits. Swirling purple lights engulfed the crowd lost in the Bisco trance-dance. Highlights included "Home Again," "Caterpillar," a closing "Story of the World" and a much-deserved encore of "Highwire." -BH
For those looking for a lil' late night foot stompin', Chicago's new-grass pickers Cornmeal performed at the Barn. Cornmeal's intense energetic stage presence, dominated by fiddle player Allie Kral, was infectious. Whether frantically shuffling to the beat, jumping around the stage or sawing her fiddle like a lumberjack, Kral was a firecracker. Their set focused on material from their most recent release Feet First but the highlight was a Bluegrass-y rendition of Pink Floyd's epic "Dogs."
Continue reading for Friday and Saturday at 10KLF...