Before the summer begins to wind down, one of the true hallmarks of the people watching season in the Twin Cities opens up, as last night Halloween, Alaska played the first of four Music & Movie nights in Loring Park. Blustery winds and gray clouds could have scared away these annually avid picnickers, but with this local event becoming such a staple of the season, you couldn't beat back these people with two sticks or even a little rain in the forecast.
This show, the local quartet's second to last of their summer tour, didn't seem like it or at least, they played like they're in full swing. Sure, it was a standard 45 minute lead up to the after-dusk movie with nothing too abrasive or so entrenched in esoteric styles that it would upset either the stroller crowd or the elders of the audience. Not only was this choice of band apt for the eclectic audience that tends to gather for the ensuing film (in this case, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), they also paralleled the feeling of anxiety in the air as everyone was abuzz about the looming, ever darkening clouds overhead.
After the first few songs, seeming to sense this tension, lead singer and keyboard/guitarist James Diers thanked the crowd "for coming out... on this supernaturally nice evening." While the mood and the tempos rose and fell, more and more people filled the natural amphitheater beyond overflowing. Just as the specter of rain came and went, so did the constantly milling mass of the crowd: rolling strollers down the run-way like walkway through the middle of the crowd; the guy with the frisbee bounced it from his hands, to his foot and back again; the guy who's always there dancing unabashedly to every group I've seen play here bopped around as he's always done; the group of young girls and their older sisters and mothers playfully dance off to the side of the stage; the hula hoops were in full swing. Just a few of the expected sights one sees each and every year.
The band geared up for a few more tunes, leaning into it a bit more for the last few. The wind picked up, the clouds grow darker and the sun was now completely obscured from view. The feverish thundering that lit up the crowd for their final number was an ideal choice, especially for the hip kids toward the front, noticeably more here for the show than the movie. Maybe the remaining three nights of the series will also be lazy summer evenings or just a prelude to the crème-de-la-crème of mingling Minnesotans at the Great MN Get-Together. I didn't stay for the movie, unlike the majority of those who made the pilgrimage, yet I had gotten more than my fill of picnic-ana for the evening and prefer to watch my films without the threat of rain.