Your guide to 10 Thousand Sounds Festival

The Walkmen kick off City Pages' inaugural music festival in the heart of downtown Minneapolis

Your guide to 10 Thousand Sounds Festival
Mike Davis

When City Pages set out to launch a new music festival in downtown Minneapolis — one that was chic, dynamic, and vibrant — we picked a name to reflect that: 10 Thousand Sounds. After all, the Land of 10,000 Lakes is as fertile in arts and culture as it is in natural resources.

As a leading voice within the Twin Cities music community, we felt responsible to hold the festival to the highest standards — not only for a diverse lineup and gorgeous gig poster, but also for affordability, accessibility, and plenty of food and drink. Put together, these pieces encapsulate everything we love about our fair cities in the summer.

The rationale for our headliners at this inaugural installment goes without saying, but the local artists on the bill hold a special place in our hearts too — each scooped from regular Gimme Noise coverage and our yearly Picked to Click poll. With a caravan of food trucks on hand, this is a day to eat, drink, be merry, and (wink) be surprised. But above all, it's a love letter to you, Minnesota.

The Walkmen

The Walkmen
The Walkmen
The Chalice
The Chalice


General admission: $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and includes admission to the 10 Thousand Sounds Afterparty at Mill City Nights. Both events are 21+.
Available for purchase at the Electric Fetus and online at

VIP: Pamperings include all-you-can-eat Pizza Luce artichoke dip, wings, lucky Luciano pasta salad, a variety of pizzas, and dessert. Plus, there’s exclusive seating in the shade, a viewing deck next to the stage, an exclusive bar with shorter lines, and private restrooms. It includes admission to the 10 Thousand Sounds Afterparty at Mill City Nights. Plus, you will be entered into a drawing to win a limited-edition festival poster designed by Burlesque of North America’s Mike Davis. Tickets are $45 in advance online only, and not available at the door.

Mill City Nights (111 Fifth St. N., Minneapolis) presents the official City Pages 10K Sounds Afterparty. DJ sets by Free Energy & BadNraD. 21+, free with 10 Thousand Sounds wristband or $5 at the door. 10 p.m.–2 a.m.

8:30–10 p.m.

On a late morning in St. Louis over 100 years ago, three newsboys with their shirt collars popped out of their sack coats are puffing cigarettes. Photographed in 1910, the oddly alluring scowls in Lewis Hine's "Newsies at Skeeter Branch" showed that society needed child labor reform and tobacco regulations — but also rock bands like the Walkmen.

Nearly a century later, the East Coast indie act used the black-and-white shot for the cover of their first full-length album, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone. Instead of just another record by a group of party-hungry art school buddies, the 2002 record inhabits these scrappy, resourceful newsboys. Except today, they're not "Age 19 with some dumb haircut from 1960" as described in the album's centerpiece "We've Been Had."

"I think it's funny — it's a different life," frontman Hamilton Leithauser says. "It's a business. We have a family and have to pay the bills, you know? But it's also like, I didn't want this to become just some job that I'm stuck in, that I don't enjoy."

Led by Leithauser's fractured tenor, the rest of the band — Paul Maroon, Peter Bauer, Walt Martin, and Matt Barrick — wrenched atmospheric, embittered melodies out of dusty electric guitars, vintage organs, a haunted piano, and a Ludwig drum set. In the ensuing years Maroon's guitar has softened, glistening brass arrangements have emerged, and that teeth-gritting urgency of their early songs has gradually evolved into a kind of haberdashery folk-rock found on last year's Heaven.

Even as their musical style has refined, the Walkmen have stuck to earning their hustle in button-up coats, albeit nicer ones. "I don't know if I have a choice, though," Leithauser says of his wardrobe during a call with City Pages from the home he shares with his wife and young daughter in Brooklyn. Seeing a band in that more formal garb — even if the guys play like they're fighting their way out of it — is an intense reminder that a rock concert is a show, after all.

The occupational hazards of developing a signature — be it a choice in attire or a particular guitar pedal — showed up with the Walkmen's most successful song, "The Rat." Released in 2004, it was a roaring, goosebump-inducing hit that paid the bills for a while, according to Leithauser. Major League Baseball used it for dramatic highlight reel promos for years. The song's buzzy vitriol has never been replicated on five subsequent albums, and perhaps that's why Leithauser still likes playing it. "It is annoying sometimes when all the drunk guys are just screaming, 'Play "The Rat"' when you're trying to play some quiet song," he says, and then quickly deflates. "But, you know, whatever. It's just another one of our songs."

For any expert on the Walkmen, it is just one of their songs. From their novelty "Christmas Party" single, to the chipper horns on "Louisiana," to the meditative "Southern Heart," theirs is a rippling catalogue that holds up in solitary listening or a packed, live squall. Credit the consistent recording output to an unchanged lineup. They've survived large and small record deals since they formed from the shards of Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Recoys during New York's early-aughts alt-rock boom. Since then, they're more apt to draw comparisons to the chameleonic songwriting careers of Johnny Cash, Harry Nilsson, and Leonard Cohen as opposed to, say, the Strokes.

After releasing their last two via Fat Possum, Leithauser says they're ironing out yet another label deal now, and the plan is to hit the studio for their eighth album in July with "big orchestral material" inspired by Cohen and Frank Sinatra he's been stockpiling at home.

Even as a new dad, Leithauser still commands his words with the competitive fire of a guy dressing up to win over yet another crowd: himself. Five guys who were just those kids in the sack coats puffing smokes now have kids, and an artistic legacy, of their own. "There used to be a point where it would be a big blast of a show, a party for us, and kind of a wild night," Leithauser says. "That doesn't happen as much anymore, but you find other ways of liking it a lot better — and you play better. Any one way will get old after a while." —Reed Fischer

Free Energy

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