City Pages 10 Thousand Sounds Festival
Featuring Poliça, Sylvan Esso, Allan Kingdom, Carroll, Frankie Teardrop, and Tree Blood
Saturday, July 26, 2014
On a day that started out sweltering and gradually cooled comfortably in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, a talented cross-section of local bands -- some on the verge of breaking out, and others nationally recognized -- delivered disparate but inspired sets at the second annual 10 Thousand Sounds festival. With the city skyline towering majestically over the proceedings, the intensity built all day long until Poliça's last area show of the year.
The Music of 10 Thousand Sounds 2014
As the day's first arrivals slowly filtered in, Minneapolis punk trio Tree Blood played one of their first outdoor performances in broad daylight. The group has reared its forceful sound and impressive reputation through a series of rousing basement and club shows, but the festival allowed for the band to win over a new set of fans. During their rapid-fire 20-minute set, Tree Blood tore through tracks from their First and self-titled cassettes, as well as the new tape they were selling at the festival.
Guitarists Simon Brooks and Colin Wilkinson traded off vocals throughout the breakneck performance, while a shirtless Walker Neudorff played his drums standing up. Their volatile sound is reminiscent of Strap It On-era Helmet, and the band does a great job carrying on the proud hardcore pedigree of their Amphetamine Reptile forebears. After their 20 minutes of fury, the band exclaimed, "Stick around, there's a lot of cool shit happening. Support local music." While there was indeed a lot of cool shit going down throughout the day, Tree Blood emphatically ignited the festivities.
The members of Frankie Teardrop were dancing around while watching their buddies in Tree Blood, and the front of the stage was filled with their own friends when the garage-rock quartet took the stage. After an impressive opening set at Howler's record release party, Frankie Teardrop hit the road for a lengthy tour, and those shows really honed their rollicking, riff-heavy sound. The group consistently teeters on the ramshackle edge during their shows, so you can never quite call a Frankie T performance tight, but the band was clearly focused as they stormed through their impressive set.
Frankie sardonically introduced the band as they took the stage, "Hey, what's up? We're Poliça," before leading the band through a series of catchy, simply titled jams like "Lines," "Chicago," and "Stop." Frankie kept the banter to a minimum, just briefly introducing each song and taking a moment to say, "We played a dirty, sweaty house show last night. There's a little bit different vibe here today." The band delivered some impressive renditions from their just-released Raiders EP, including the title track, "100%," and "It Takes Time," but it was their rousing, set-closing cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" that got everyone's attention. The band stretched the song out nearly twice as long as the original version, soloing away on their backs as they relished their moment on the big stage. Petty's classic summertime anthem proved to be a great way to end the performance and add to the celebratory spirit of the day, especially when Frankie announced "Tom Not Bombs" as they left the stage -- in reference to Low's infamous 2013 RTG set.
After the blistering start to the festival, Carroll's measured indie-pop sound gracefully slowed things down a bit as the hot afternoon sun began to weigh heavily on the swelling crowd. The quartet played a set of songs drawn predominantly from their forthcoming record, so the unfamiliarity of the numbers played a part in the material not resonating as much as the recognizable tracks from their Needs EP. But fans of the band -- on both a local and national level -- will know these new songs by heart soon enough, as their textured, keys-laden sound elegantly serenaded the crowd.
The band really hit their stride at the midway point of their set, as a spirited version of "Alligator" gave way to the Current hit "Bad Water," which got the crowd grooving. But it was their expansive, experimental take on the set-closing "Easy Target" that proved to be the highlight of the set, as the band locked in on a psych-rock jam that stretched on intoxicatingly. Carroll's set was a great first taste of many of their new songs, and big things are clearly on the horizon for this emerging young band -- including a big show at First Avenue on August 8 with last year's 10K Sounds stars, Strange Names.
Allan Kingdom was the festival's lone hip-hop artist, and the talented 20-year-old delivered his inventive flow backed by DJ Fundo. Kingdom's songs have some punk elements to them, as they are all quite short and incisive, and they mostly lack choruses and easily identifiable hooks that fans can grasp on to. For those unfamiliar with Kingdom's sound and style, the performance might have been a challenge to fully get into, because just as you start nodding your head to his beats and rhymes, Allan switches things up and is quickly on to the next jam. But the young MC has such a distinctive rhyming style and effervescent personality that you can't help but get drawn in to his boundless creative energy.
Kingdom was sharing a series of songs with us that started out in his bedroom, and they truly blossomed on the big stage (though the beats could have been turned up even louder). The set drew from the just-released Future Memoirs album, along with some fresh Talk to Strangers jams. Standouts were numerous, including "The Dwelling," the James Blake-like "Wavey," and "Evergreens," which got the crowd into it and joining Allan on the lively chorus. Kingdom is taking Twin Cities hip-hop in an exciting new direction, and he's got an ever-expanding catalog of hits to draw from for such a young artist.
North Carolina-based Sylvan Esso were the surprise show-stealer of 10 Thousand Sounds. Their beat-heavy, electro-pop sound got a big early-evening crowd dancing along to their infectious rhythms. The crowd took their dance cues directly from singer Amelia Meath, who never stopped moving straight from the start of the show, ushering in the glorious opener "Hey Mami." Meath is also a singer in Mountain Man, who backed up Feist at her 2012 MN Zoo show, but the sound in Sylvan Esso is a radical departure from the refined vocal elegance of that band. Beat-maker Nick Sanborn also takes a wild sonic detour from his other group, Megafaun, and the duo both seem inspired by the change in sonic direction that they have taken with their new creative partnership.
The crowd was completely with them straight from the start, as each tune from their stellar self-titled debut was greeted with rousing applause and gyrating dance moves. "Coffee" kept the strong start of the set going, before Sanborn forever endeared himself to the local crowd. "I was born here," he announced proudly. "And I went as Kent Hrbek for Halloween when I was five years old. My mother was worried that no one would be able to tell that I was Kent Hrbek as opposed to another random Twin, so she hung a sign around my neck that said 'Kent Hrbek.'" That hilarious story segued into a spirited take on "H.S.K.T." that featured a banging, EDM-like breakdown in the middle that had both musicians and a good majority of the crowd getting loose. Before a dynamic version of "Play It Right" closed down the set, the band announced that they will be coming back for a show at First Avenue on September 3, and based on the strength of this set, the whole damn Twin Cities music scene should be there.
Darkness slowly started to descend on Minneapolis as headliners Poliça took the stage. The crowd was quite large at this point, turning out in strong numbers to see the final local show of 2014 by the dual-drum electro-rock quartet. Poliça's textured, atmospheric sounds sounded massive under the evening sky, as Channy Leaneagh sashayed at the front of the stage while delivering her anguished vocals. Bassist Chris Bierden locked in with drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu, and they kept the towering beats steady throughout the performance, with sonic alchemist Ryan Olson adding flourishes from the side of the stage. But Channy was always the center of the show. She was less reliant on the ghostly distorting effects than in past performances, as her pure, golden voice repeatedly rose above the moody din the band was generating behind her.
The start of the 85-minute set was devoted to Shulamith material, as "Smug" and "Vegas" bookended the bold title track to their new EP, "Raw Exit." The well-paced set churned along forcefully, as "The Maker" and "Dark Star" both lit up the downtown with their intoxicating pulse and mercurial perspective. The band was born just a few blocks away at the dearly missed musical breeding ground of Nick and Eddie. And the songs that the band workshopped in that intimate space have captured the attention of music fans everywhere, allowing the band to travel the world in support of their beguiling material. In fact, the group is set to leave for another European tour on Wednesday, so this show served not only as a warm thank-you to their loyal local fans but an enchanting sendoff before they hit the long road ahead.
"We're from here, and this song is all about Minneapolis," Channy announced before a smooth take on "I Need $," which led to a mournful version of "Tiff" and a showstopping rendition of "Amongster," which exploded with Leaneagh's raw, unguarded emotions driven along by the relentless beats. The main set ended with the funky new song, "Baby Blue," and the spirited combination of "Lay Your Cards Out" and "Chain My Name," which garnered the band a well-earned ovation as they left the stage.
"We've got 11 minutes to play a few more songs for you," Channy announced, before prefacing a glorious cover of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me," by saying they haven't played this song in a long time. They didn't show any signs of rust and needn't have worried, though, as Leaneagh's soulful vocals exquisitely carried the song to the stars above. "Wandering Star" ended the set and the festival on a transfixing high, as Poliça -- and the rest of the local bands on display throughout the day -- proved that the Twin Cities music scene is currently flourishing and only getting better.
Personal Bias: I had already seen all of the bands on the bill except for Sylvan Esso, and came away impressed with not only the Durham duo but all of the other groups, who all stepped up their game for the festival.
The Crowd: While it took a while for the crowd to swell (perhaps due to the intense heat of the afternoon), by the time the headliners came on the place was full.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I need to find some shade quick, yo!"
Random Notebook Dump: The change in location really added a lot to this year's 10 Thousand Sounds, as the backdrop to the stage was the glowing skyline of Minneapolis. The sound benefited as well, without other buildings and skyways to bounce off of, the mix rang out true throughout all areas of the festival.
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