After its January branding shake-up — 96.3 FM was rebranded from K-TWIN to Go 96 — the Twin Cities' Pohlad-owned radio station needed a makeover for its music fest, too. Enter 2015’s inaugural Go Fest, which hosted acts ranging from Allan Kingdom to Matt and Kim on Friday at Target Field. Though some good bands played on Friday, it was hard to get a read on the heart behind their music.
Priced from $9.63 to $96.30 (cute), Go Fest seats were far from sold out; even though the stage only faced the third-baseline crowd, plenty of concert spots sat empty. The pit by the stage was packed, though, especially during Yelawolf and Matt and Kim.
Allan Kingdom, a rising rapper from St. Paul, started playing at 4:30 p.m. Along with DJ TIIIIIIIIIIP and an entourage, Kingdom performed a set that could have lasted much longer than 15 minutes, featuring songs like “Evergreens” and Kanye West’s “All Day” (he is a featured MC on that track). The few people who arrived early got into the music, clapping and dancing along with Kingdom’s crew.
Meg Myers is a rocker chick who seemed to belong in the ‘90s — choker necklace, fountain hairstyle, and all. Her set was going fine, even if she hardly addressed the audience (and the Avril Lavigne aesthetic seemed weird for a 28-year-old newcomer to pursue). But after Myers started her seventh song, “Heart Heart Head,” other music started to play over the PA.
At first the overlapping song seemed like a sound/tech mistake, but as it continued, she knew she’d run out of time. She made a “cut” sign across her throat and stalked away; the audience gasped and she shrugged, frustrated. Staff had literally played her off the stage.
It seemed like not many of the Go Fest crowd knew either Big Data or MS MR (except maybe the former’s song “Dangerous”), but both bands would be great fits at smaller venues in town. Big Data is Alan Wilkis’s electronic project, which features a “paranoid” aesthetic (according to its website) and lots of plummeting groove.
MS MR is a pop duo featuring Max Hershenow as producer and Lizzy Plapinger as vocalist; coincidentally, Plapinger wore the same dress as Ryn Weaver at the Triple Rock. Both acts kept the crowd dancing, and Big Data played an awesome, drum-heavy cover of “Private Eyes” by Hall and Oates. Plapinger speculated, “This is what rock bands feel like all the time!”
Both Big Data and MS MR teased upcoming shows at the Varsity Theater, though only the latter's is confirmed. MS MR will play on October 15; according to a Go 96 DJ onstage, while Big Data should be back in town on November 12 (spoiler alert!).
Yelawolf set things on fire during his 10-song hip-hop/country/rock set. He screamed into the mic, covered Garth Brooks, and dropped dozens of f-bombs, encouraging the audience to put their middle fingers in the air. But the act felt strangely genuine, especially because Yelawolf talked with the crowd so much.
“I see a Dixie flag in the crowd,” said the Alabamian, citing a Confederate banner. He defended its owner. Where he came from it represents “Dukes of Hazzard, not the KKK,” he said, before making the statement that it’s all about love. He implored concertgoers to “stop listening to your fakeass gangster rap,” and he roasted Chevrolet and Ford drivers before “Box Chevy V.”
Californian rock quintet Cold War Kids played a 15-song-set with several highlights. “Hang Me Up To Dry” is always fun to see live, and I’d forgotten that Florence + the Machine’s B-side “Hospital Beds” was a Cold War Kids cover until they played it late in the performance. That said: Nathan Willett’s vocal delivery (over-enunciation of vowels, lots of broad yells) — which was so endearing on “Hang Me Up To Dry” — became a little predictable. His style was solid but strained.
Pop duo Matt and Kim were the most hyperactive performers I’ve ever seen. Given the simplicity and sameness of their songs, I’m still not sure how they managed to capture thousands of people’s attention so completely. But it definitely has to do with their copious props (a parachute, confetti) and short freak-outs between songs (dance breaks set to “All I Do Is Win” and other random interludes). Vocalist/keyboardist Matt Johnson and drummer Kim Schifino captivated nearly every concertgoer, getting them to jump, hold their cell phones in the air, and even blow up balloons. “Summer is alive right here,” cried Johnson.
Matt and Kim didn’t stop bouncing for over an hour. “Can we take this ... zero to a hund real quick?” asked Johnson, quoting Drake. Before a cover of “Ignition,” he cried, “If R. Kelly won’t play R. Kelly songs, Matt and Kim will play R. Kelly songs.” The encore began with T.I.’s “Bring ‘Em Out” and Kim dancing on the hands on the crowd.
It was fun, but Matt and Kim’s blasting energy was fairly one-note. Vaguely encouraging songs like “Get It” and “Let’s Go” lack any lyrical substance. Also, Schifino’s stand-on-drums-and-twerk trick became predictable, though I was shocked by Johnson’s unabashed climb up the stage’s side at the end. That said, the crowd certainly enjoyed the sugar-coated, keyboard-heavy pop set. “Daylight” earned massive cheers.
Describing himself and Schifino, Johnson put it better than anyone. “We are like the Benjamin Buttons of maturity,” he said. “We just get less and less mature.” However, he and Schifino used plenty of f-words and innuendos — a slightly confusing choice for a band I would’ve said was family-family.
To sum it up: Big Data uses pre-recorded A.I. voices and a technologic façade to embellish their sets, which does obscure Wilkis’ individuality. Between the A.I. theatrics, Meg Myers’s too-old-to-be-Avril problems, and Matt and Kim’s manic schtick, it felt like Yelawolf was the only artist to let his whole personality through. Is that what we want Go Fest to be?
Critic’s bias: I wasn’t particularly interested in any of these artists before the show.
The crowd: Much older than I’d expected. Hundreds of people in their 30s lost it during Matt and Kim.
Random notebook dump: “Matt and Kim must do a lot of cardio.”
A Bolt From The Blue
Heart Heart Head (cut off)
Think of You
How Does It Feel
Good to Go
Box Chevy V
Growin’ Up in the Gutter
Friends in Low Places (Garth Brooks cover)
Pop the Trunk
I Wish / Whole Lotta Love / War Pigs
Cold War Kids
All This Could Be Yours
One Song At A Time
We Used To Vacation
Louder Than Ever
Hang Me Up To Dry
I’ve Seen Enough