Words by: Zach Kobrinsky | Images by: Andrew Wyatt & Heather Barlin
10,000 Lakes Festival :: 07.23.08 – 07.26.08 :: Soo Pass Ranch :: Detroit Lakes, MN
Looking back on this year's 10,000 Lakes Festival, I have but one criticism: there was simply too much music for one person to possibly see. Having to pick and choose between the greats and the up-and-comers was difficult, and my decisions were often disheartening and guilt-ridden. However, only being able to criticize the presence of too much music can hardly be seen as a bad thing.
|Mickey Hart :: 10KLF 2008 by Wyatt|
10KLF is known for having a consistently heterogeneous lineup, even for a more modest festival. Past installments have ranged from jam, rock, hip-hop, electronica, jazz and everything in between. I used 10KLF's eclectic nature to my advantage by picking shows based strictly on individuality. I was determined to seek out every style of music my brain could possibly handle.
Wednesday, July 23
I arrived at the festival grounds later than I had hoped. It seemed like every time I was about to hit the road, I realized I had forgotten some vital piece of camping equipment. Between that and the lines and security checks, I'm lucky I still had enough daylight to pitch a tent.
Finally situated, I headed down to the Field Stage to see the Dark Star Orchestra. Jerry would have been proud to see his music performed with such intensity and enthusiasm. The lights and effects on the Field Stage were nothing short of awe-inspiring. There was a mild wind that created a Doppler effect at times. This organic waxing and waning of pitch only added to Dark Star's psychedelic presence. Beyond playing a straightforward Dead set, they expanded even further with their own improvisational style that can be described as a psychosomatic circus of sound.
At the end of Dark Star's set, I had just enough time to check out The New Mastersounds. Although not as intense as the Grateful Dead's material, their straight, funky grooves with heavy organ lines made for a good evening's end. After rocking my body almost to exhaustion at Dark Star it was a nice change of pace to take in the U.K. band's chill funk.
Everyone was in high spirits and glad to be alive as all the party freaks journeyed back to their respective campsites. Many were adorned in glow sticks, lighting up the path home in a most unusual way. Hand drums and party cries echoed throughout the campgrounds, and as I was taking it all in, I saw a sign that read: "Lobotomies 2 for $5" and "Magic Carpet Rides $1." I wasn't too keen on having a lobotomy, let alone two of them, but a dollar carpet ride sounded reasonable. I paid the man one dollar, but what I got was not what I expected. They sat me down on a rug and instructed me to close my eyes. Then all they did was sing "A Whole New World" from Disney's Aladdin and blow air in my face. All in all, I'd say it was worth the price.
Thursday, July 24
My day began with the Dub Trio, a three-piece metal powerhouse with underlying tones of reggae, marked by sporadic hip-hop beats. What they lacked in vocals they made up for with elusive, ambient noises. It's not very often that you see dreadlocks headbanging, but this set elicited such a response. The Trio's transitions were sudden, yet inventive and flawless. As quickly as they entered a double-bass-drum-pedal noise fest, they would drop the distortion and begin floating through syncopated beats and wah-wah licks. It was as if Metallica and Sublime were rocking out at the same party.
|Dub Trio :: 10KLF 2008 by H. Barlin|
I left a little bit early to catch the end of the Kelly Richey Band. There's something about blues in the afternoon that always goes down smooth. Kelley Richey's voice was as powerful and in-your-face as her guitar playing, and that woman clearly knows her way around a six-string.
After checking out vendors in the concert bowl for a while, I made my way over to the Mickey Hart Band featuring Steve Kimock and George Porter Jr. Their heavy beats and polyrhythms combined with dirty funk and blues made for a great start to the evening. Keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth took on a style reminiscent of Bernie Worrell when he was with the Talking Heads, and he used a voice modulator, which was truly impressive. Just when I thought the set was over, they came back out for an encore playing the old Motown classic "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." Not many people can cover Motown tunes and do them justice but these guys pulled it off with style.
Next was the rebel rock reggae of Michael Franti & Spearhead. Franti's message was symbolized by a stage display of a giant hand giving the peace symbol, surrounded by bullet holes. His lyrics carry a message of unity and mutual respect, but with the attitude of a true revolutionary. His shows produce an aura of ethereal meaning that surpass time and place. "Hello Bonjour" delivered a powerful message in such a way that nearly any human being could understand. As a general rule of thumb, live performances are better than recordings, but Franti's set at 10KLF gave a whole new meaning to that claim.
Still jacked on adrenaline from Franti, I strolled on over to check out George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. I regret not seeing EOTO at that time, but the choice was easy for me. Clinton has sorta reached that age where you don't really know which show is going to be his last. I didn't want to take that chance.
|George Clinton :: 10KLF 2008 by A. Wyatt|
Some friends of mine who chose EOTO said that they had seen P-Funk pretty recently and Clinton was only onstage for all of fifteen minutes. All I wanted in the world that night was to hear him sing, "Shit, goddamn, get off your ass and jam!" It wasn't long after the show began that I got my wish. Clinton's voice sounded a little old and haggard, but his spirit and rainbow wigs were still the same. Not only that, but contrary to what the naysayers had said, ol' George graced us with at least an hour of funktastic mayhem. I will admit that the band carried Clinton's weight quite a bit. The horn players were sharp and always on point, while the rotating case of characters kept the energy on the rise. The band was flat out kick ass, and it didn't really matter how Clinton sounded. It's an honor to be in his presence whether he's at the top of his game or not.
That night the party scene was out of control. The psychedelic freaks were out in full effect, and I doubt anyone got much sleep. Around six in the morning, some madman near our campsite was ranting in his underpants about how zippers would be phased out in the future, and that Velcro would reign supreme. You gotta love festival season.
Friday, July 25
The first two days of 10KLF had beautiful, moderate weather. I awoke on Friday, however, to a scorching sun. I hadn't bathed since my arrival at the festival, so I went down to Lake Sallie to get cool and wash off. The water was perfect and the scenery even more so. The beautiful thing about this particular part of Lake Sallie is how incredibly shallow it is. You can walk almost 200 feet out into the water and still have your feet on the ground. It's not very often you get to stand in the middle of a lake without treading water. As I stood there I noticed a bald eagle flying overhead, apparently fishing as I swam. At this point I thought to myself, "This is what Minnesota is all about."
|Panjea :: 10KLF 2008 by A. Wyatt|
Now refreshed, and smelling slightly better, I made my way to the concert bowl to check out Panjea with SCI's Michael Kang. It's hard to attract a full crowd for an afternoon show, especially on a hot day. Even so, Panjea did pretty well. I would have expected a bigger turn out with Kang present, but it was hot as hell, and the Field Stage didn't have much shade cover. Dominic Lalli, Panjea's saxophonist by way of The Motet, is remarkable. His style, tone and musical ideas are lyrical and eloquent. When combined with Panjea's rich vocal harmonies and Kang's contribution, they created an unstoppable force that quenched the blazing sun.
After hiding from the sun for a few hours I made my way to The Flaming Lips, which was easily the best show of the festival. It also happened to be The Lips' last show in the United States for a long while. Their stage setup was as over-the-top as always. There were all kinds of lights, confetti cannons, at least twenty dancing Teletubbies and six-foot-wide, confetti-filled balloons bouncing and exploding all over the audience. At one point there were even four completely nude women dancing onstage.
As the show began, you could see Wayne Coyne in his notorious grey suit entering his even more notorious human hamster ball. The band vamped as he walked on top of the crowd, hovering above them in an almost godly fashion. The crowd was showered with bliss as he exited the ball and began to sing. It quickly became apparent that these guys have way too much fun. When not singing, Coyne spoke ever so poetically with the audience. Early in the set he explained the meaning of a song about believing in a friend when no one else will. He reminisced about a time when an audience sang that song to him, and how powerful an effect it had on him. That song was "Yoshimi."
|The Flaming Lips :: 10KLF 2008 by A. Wyatt|
I felt guilty because I had lost my voice the night before at the P-Funk show, and I desperately wanted to answer Coyne's call. As awful as it sounded, and as painful as it was, I sang his song to him the best I could, and something amazing happened at that moment. The audience, the band, and everyone who could hear were completely in love with one another, if only for a moment. This atmosphere prevailed throughout the rest of the show. A feeling of calm and unity overtook us all. I overheard a fan saying everything about that show was epic, and that the world could've ended at any moment and it wouldn't have mattered because we were all going down together. As we left the concert grounds, this feeling that the Flaming Lips had stirred within us carried on into the night.
Saturday, July 26
I've been a Medeski Martin & Wood fan for years, so I was familiar with Chris Wood. I even had a run-in with him a couple 10KLFs ago. I think I laid the fanaticism on pretty thick, and I might have creeped him out a little. I only mention this because I wouldn't have guessed by looking at the guy that he had such an incredible singing voice. I had never seen the Wood Brothers before, and I was blown away. I don't want to say it was completely bluegrassy, but it definitely had a Southern feel. The vocal harmonies were astounding, and with the power of Chris Wood's progressive bass style, they put bluegrass music to bed.
|Billy Martin :: 10KLF 2008 by H. Barlin|
Unfortunately, I had to bail out to see The Bad Plus. I was overjoyed when they played two of my favorite covers, Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." However, their live performance didn't stray much from their recordings. It was a little disappointing, but it was still a blast just to see these guys do their thing with such aplomb.
After The Bad Plus, MSMW immediately followed at the exact same spot. Having seen MMW on a number of occasions but never with John Scofield, I was eager to witness the union. The ace guitarist seems to add a little more form to an otherwise freeform performance; although I've heard other people say the exact opposite. They mostly played songs from their newest album, Out Louder, but there were a few A Go Go tracks thrown into the mix. I think the audience would have reacted a little better with some evening ambience, but what can you do? The truest of heart still got into it, and my mind was bent into a double helix.
Still recovering from the mind-melting, I went to the Saloon Stage, a tightly-packed indoor venue reserved for smaller acts. One of the beautiful things about 10KLF is the "Cosmic Break Contest," where local bands from several U.S. regions are given a chance to compete for a slot on the Saloon Stage. When I arrived, Fargo, ND's Sovereign Sect was jamming hard. Sovereign Sect is a groove-oriented electronica band with organic drums and synth effects. Just as they were gaining momentum, an MC from Minneapolis jumped onstage and began to bust it out. The show was already bumping, but once this guy chimed in, the show jumped to a whole new level.
After that was another group from Fargo called WBPN. These guys won the Cosmic Break two years in a row prior to this one, but this year they were asked to play on merit alone. WBPN is an instrumental groove-oriented group, but they are not as heavy on the electronica vibe. They kind of have a Particle sound, but with more complex rhythms and intense guitar solos.
|10KLF 2008 by Heather Barlin|
Up next on the Saloon Stage was Minneapolis' Pert' Near Sandstone. These guys are straightforward bluegrass, complete with fiddle, upright bass and banjo. The crowd was dancing with incredible fury, more than any bluegrass show I had seen at the fest. This could be because of the largely local makeup of the Saloon audience, but it could also be that Pert' Near is just that good.
The next Saloon show was easily one of the best sets I had seen all week. Heatbox is a one-man-show beatboxer/rapper from Minneapolis. His song "Bitches From the Milky Way" was a dirty hip-hop jam that instantly became one of my favorite songs. That night we listened to it over and over again, having bought his album, Entertainment, and I could hear other patrons doing the same all around the campgrounds. He even did a cover of Razel's "If Your Mother Only Knew" with complete accuracy, which means beatboxing and singing at the same time out of the same mouth. He even did Snoop Dogg and Coolio covers. Towards the end of his set, he brought out what looked like a Nintendo Glove from back in the day; it was some kind of synth glove. As he made various movements with his glove hand you could hear all kinds of synth effects coordinating with it. Like I said, it was easily one of the best sets I had seen all week.
Having been sucked into Heatbox's repertoire, I had unfortunately missed most of Phil Lesh & Friends at the main stage. I was pretty bummed, because I heard that John Scofield was up onstage for the entire first set. Just as I was walking toward the show, I heard them singing The Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down." I only got to see a little of that set, but what I saw was good. However, a lot of other patrons had some complaints about Phil's set. I heard a lot of people saying that he just played for too long. He played close to a four hour set. Lotus' performance and the fireworks show had to be delayed because of it.
|Phil & Friends :: 10KLF 2008 by H. Barlin|
The fireworks display was phenomenal. It was only a fifteen-minute show, but every second was intense. Every shot fired was a big mother. The grand finale lasted almost half of the entire show. There were a solid five minutes of constant firing of the biggest and best sky bombs possible.
Lotus began shortly after the fireworks. These guys are a really good instrumental techno group. They can go from trance to drum & bass in the blink of an eye. After the first fifteen minutes or so, it seemed like the intensity died, however. They built up too quickly and had nowhere to go. Even so, they still rocked and impressed everyone who was there.
Sunday, July 27
We all woke up the next morning in a daze. Nobody dared discuss the realities that waited for us at our respective homes. We packed up our camping gear, for the most part in silence, and just like that, 10,000 Lakes 2008 was over as if it had all been a dream.
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