Lyn Lake Street Festival, 6/8/14

Lyn Lake Street Festival
With Secret Stash Soul Revue, Rogue Valley, Dosh, Toki Wright & Big Cats, Ginkgo, and Ashley Gold
LynLake, Minneapolis
June 8, 2014

The Lyn Lake Street Festival had a success on its hands long before a band even played a note Sunday. The combination of a lovely summer day, scores of neighboring participants in Open Streets, and a diverse, top-notch lineup brought out thousands of good-natured revelers looking to soak in the sun and an afternoon filled with great music. After taking a year off, the Lyn Lake Fest made a grand return and proved just how vital an event the gathering is on the summer calendar.

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Slideshow: Top Dogs of Lyn Lake Street Festival 2014

Following an early set by Adam Levy's kid-friendly band, Bunny Clogs, Ashley Gold and her talented four-piece backing band (featuring Eric Mayson on keys, who would play later with Toki Wright & Big Cats) serenaded the sprawling, sun-drenched crowd with her soulful, passionate songs. Gold offered up a few new tracks from her forthcoming album, as well as a sultry medley featuring snippets of "Cry Me a River," Ginuwine's "Pony" and other classics, which certainly heated things up in the packed parking lot behind the Jungle Theater and Fuji Ya. But of course, the star of the show was always going to be Gold's rich, resonant vocals, which soared in the serene early afternoon, and got the day off to a lovely start.

There was a dual, side-by-side stage setup at the festival, which allowed for one band to set up while another was still playing. Josh Grier's side project, Ginkgo, were up next, and the band played a loose, experimental set that really found the quintet enjoying their day outdoors.

The large crowd was milling about at the various food trucks and beer vendors during much of Ginkgo's performance, so after angling for a warmer reception at the start of the set, the group instead retreated into an insular arrangement that found their songs growing more bold and exploratory as the show went on. Ginkgo tore through most of their lively debut album, Manopause, with Grier amiably bantering between songs, "That was a jazzy number, for those of you who like jazz in the sunshine. This next one is less jazzy, and more razzy." Jake Hanson, Rob Skoro, and Adam Switlick deftly traded off instruments throughout their set, which culminated in a rousing cover of Tame Impala's "Elephant."

Toki Wright and Big Cats have been teasing local music fans with rumors of their collaborative project for a while now, but their forthcoming album now has a title -- Pangaea -- and a release date, September 23. Their set together showcased many of those new tracks, with backing vocals provided by Bomba de Luz's Lydia Liza along with the soulful keys of Eric Mayson. While some of the numbers seemed like they were still coming together in a live setting with Toki experimenting with his rhymes, others had a tight polish that proves just how potent the combination of Big Cats' innovative beats and Wright's socially conscious flow truly is.

Liza's smooth backing vocals gave the tracks a luxurious undertone, while Wright explored themes of love, loss, and finding your way in the world throughout his expressive rhymes. The swelling crowd dutifully came to the front after Wright encouraged them to come closer, and the lively set got the audience moving. Wright even joined the masses toward the end of the dynamic performance, delivering older cuts "More Fiya" and "Higher Ground" from within the crowd, joking that "I don't know how I'm going to get back up on stage now." He eventually found his way, and led the group through an inspiring take on "Pangaea," with its topics of love and unity ringing out loud and true as their set came to a close. The group handed out free CDs after the performance, ensuring that their message and their music will continue to hit home until their full-length comes out in September.


Martin Dosh was joined by Mike Lewis throughout his experimental set, with the two virtuosos combining their musical talents in a smooth, melodic set that grew more inventive as the performance wore on. Lewis played bass, saxophone, and a small Yamaha keyboard during the set, adding sprightly flourishes to Dosh's avant-garde sonic fusion. While the start of their performance was plagued by small sound issues that prevented them from truly finding a spark, as the set wore on, the duo became locked in and grew more bold and expressive with their sound.

As Dosh crafted some fresh, beautiful melodies, Lewis's dynamic sax work gave the tracks a bebop flavor reminiscent of his style with Happy Apple. The performance gradually built to a cacophonous finish that featured Lewis rocking a sick fuzz-bass riff while Dosh pounded out an uptempo beat on his drums. They could have jammed that out for 20 more minutes and the nodding heads in the crowd wouldn't have complained one bit, but they eventually wound things down and left to a well-earned ovation.

The sonic direction of the day shifted dramatically once again, as the gentle rock strains of Rogue Valley washed over the crowd and the sun became hidden by the clouds. Their summery melodies and evocative arrangements went over well with the large late-afternoon crowd. The quintet was led by Chris Koza's resonant vocals, as their pop-rock gems like "Onward and Over" and "Red River of the North" all rang out gloriously.

There are moments during most day-long music festivals that inevitably start to drag a bit, but the temperate weather combined with tight, focused performances kept Lyn Lake from ever plodding along. The change in styles of music on offer also helped keep things interesting, as there was a little something for everyone's tastes within the well-curated lineup. Rogue Valley's well-paced set came to a lively close with the anthemic "Rockaway," as Koza gave a warm endorsement to Northern Spark and all the magic that happens during that event. Minnesotans have truly earned our festival season this year, and the calender is rightfully packed with terrific events to keep us all entertained throughout the summer.

The festival came to a rousing close with the Secret Stash Soul Revue, which featured the record label's talented house band, the Lakers, bringing out Sonny Knight for a string of songs that were augmented by guest vocalists Mina Moore, Sarah Witte, and PaviElle French. The band got the party started as they launched into an instrumental cover of "Sweet Leaf" while Knight was introduced and made his way to the stage, looking resplendent in a stylish pink suit. Knight led the group through scorching takes on "Juicy Lucy," "Get Up and Dance," and "Sonny's Boogaloo," which all had the enormous crowd getting down to their irresistible grooves.

Moore took over lead vocals for a passionate run through of "Valerie," the Zutons' song made famous by Amy Winehouse. It was swinging and soulful, and one of the clear highlights of the set. Knight ceded the stage to his talented backup singers many times during the performance, with Witte and French both taking spirited turns leading the group, with Sarah doing an impressive job on the Lead Belly classic "In the Pines." Knight returned to keep the crowd moving with a lively, horn- and organ-drenched take on the Beatles' "Day Tripper," which flowed smoothly into "Baby, Baby, Baby."

The spark the group provided was just what the crowd needed, as the Secret Stash band closed the day down impressively with a cover of Rodriguez's classic hit "Sugar Man" and their own lively jam "Hey Girl," which was a perfect way to bring the fun, entertaining day of music to a close.

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