10,000 Lakes | 07.22 - 07.25 | MN

Words by: Herschel Concepcion | Images by: Norman Sands

10,000 Lakes Music Festival :: 07.22.09 – 07.26.09 :: Soo Pass Ranch :: Detroit Lakes, MN

10KLF 2009
The 7th annual 10,000 Lakes Music Festival saw the return of Widespread Panic (who last played the fest in 2005) as well as newcomers Wilco and the Dave Matthews Band. The caliber of these world-class acts ensures 10KLF's position as a major contender in the festival circuit. With an attendance of 18,000 devoted music fans, 10KLF 2009 proved to be just as big a party as it ever was.

Wednesday, 07.22

We arrived Wednesday morning somewhat exhausted from the marathon drive the night before but surprisingly refreshed. Whether it was from the bright shining sun of a new day or the collective energy from an excitable crowd eager to get in, I couldn't tell. Maybe it was both. The line to get into the Lake Sallie campground stretched for about two miles, and within an hour we were inside.

I've always enjoyed the camping at 10KLF, which has plenty of trees for shade – one of the key elements when determining the quality of your festival experience. A good camping spot can make or break your weekend, and 10,000 Lakes has plenty of choice spots if you know where to look. "The Soo Pass Ranch is a privately owned piece of property," says Dave Weissman, media coordinator for the fest. "It comprises over 600 acres of land – mostly wooded – but also fields, the concert bowl, and more."

Originally used as the site for WE Fest, a country music festival that draws upwards of 60,000 attendees every year, the Soo Pass Ranch was eventually chosen to host the first 10,000 Lakes Music Festival in 2003. Headliners that year included Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers Band, Gov't Mule, Leftover Salmon, and OAR. A resounding success, that crucial first year would pave the way for the evolution of this popular Midwest festival.

10KLF 2009
The crowd this year was a good one, full of purely positive individuals who shared a mutual love for music. I didn't meet a single asshole all weekend. Comprised of people from all over the country (and even some from other parts of the world), the bulk of this year's attendees consisted of Midwesterners from Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, and of course, Minnesota. It seems that Detroit Lakes is happy to host the festival, as many of the locals look forward to 10KLF as a weekend vacation.

The festival staff I encountered over the weekend was all friendly and in good spirits. The vendors, a mix of both local and regional suppliers, offered the standard festival fare, which was pretty much everything from funnel cakes and hot beef sundaes to hammocks and $6 sunglasses. And for the lazy, tired or hopelessly intoxicated there were cab rides on decked out golf carts for three bucks per person.

But, the best part was the stages. Situated within proximity of one another in the concert bowl, 10KLF's stage setup makes it easy for one to float around and catch music while minimizing travel time between stages.

As for the music itself, it was clear that much thought and effort was put into the scheduling this year. There were very few conflicts between the major artists' set times. This is one of the most important aspects of a well-planned festival. So with my gear unpacked and my campsite in order, it was time to slam some drinks and head down to the concert bowl for 10KLF 2009.

Gomez kicked things off at the Main Stage at 6 p.m., and although it was still early in the festival and the crowd for the set was at far less than capacity, the five-piece British outfit nevertheless set the tone for the weekend with their heavy, psychedelia-tinged blues rock.

John Bell - WSP :: 10KLF 2009
Next up was Southern rockers Widespread Panic, playing the first of two shows for the weekend. To be honest, I found myself disappointed with Wednesday's show. Although it had its moments - it's Panic, I can't really see them playing a completely rotten gig - the playing seemed uninspired and lacked passion. I saw the boys six times last year (twice in Chicago, Rothbury and all three nights in Milwaukee to close out their fall tour) and was blown away every time. So, it was disconcerting to see them play the way they did that first night, especially when you know what they're capable of. It's always great to hear a solid "Bear's Gone Fishin'," and the "Maggot Brain" > "Chainsaw City" encore was good, but overall it seemed the boys were just having an off-night.

After Panic I walked over to the Field Stage for the first time, where Colorado-based duo Pretty Lights was well on their way to getting the crowd heated up and ready for a weekend of partying and pure debauchery. The sun was down and the critters were out in full force. Glow sticks and flashy toys were everywhere as I moved through the throng of people - a giant, moving mass of bodies completely under the control of the heavy beats of electronic producer Derek Vincent Smith and drummer Cory Eberhard. Now I'm not normally the biggest fan of DJs, but this was something else, and thanks to those two for helping to get the party started.

10KLF 2009 by Reistroffer Designs
Over at the Barn Stage was another Colorado group that was bringing it just as hard. In their fourth year at 10KLF, Kinetix played to a packed house and one of the most responsive crowds all weekend. Although I had never seen them play before, I had heard a lot about Kinetix and was interested in checking them out. I'm glad I did, and I would like to see these guys at more festivals. Right from the start it became clear that Kinetix had put a lot of hard work into their set, and it paid off. I would later find out that they had spent a month preparing for the show. To me that is the pinnacle of live music – focus, dedication, effort and a true appreciation for one's fans. The highlights of the show included "People Start Hoppin'," a song that seems to capture the core essence and philosophy of the band's musical approach, as well as a cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" that they more than did justice to. Their style is completely rockin', with just a dash of pop so that it's catchy without being cheesy; and their compositions are well crafted with proper build-up and execution, not just a bunch of noisy, repetitive jamming. And their instrumentation is top-notch and tight, with each member finding his niche and working with the rest of the group as a whole to create a very unique and powerful sound. I can't recommend these guys enough.

Playing the late night show over at the Saloon was Carney, a Los Angeles four-piece that features Reeve Carney on lead vocals and guitar and his brother Zane on lead guitar. I was only able to catch the last couple of songs because although the band was slotted to play till 2 a.m. they were cut off at 1:40. I don't know whether it was from technical problems or they were just shut down, but from the little bit I did see I was impressed. Reeve is a great singer. He was howling into the mic when I walked in, pouring sweat and putting everything he had into that voice of his, which is one of the best I've heard recently. Pure emotion. His brother Zane is no slouch either, and was shredding on the slide guitar on one knee when the sound cut out. I'm not sure what Carney's style is as a whole (since I witnessed less than 10 minutes of their set), but based on what I did hear these guys are pure rock & roll.

Continue reading for Thursday's coverage of 10KLF...

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