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Red Stag Block Party, 8/5/12

Red Stag Block Party, 8/5/12
Photo By Kyle Matteson

See Also:
Chastity Brown on the Red Stag Block Party, her residency in Germany, and the local music scene
Alexei "Crescent Moon" Casselle on Duluth, Coloring Time, and the Red Stag Block Party

Red Stag Block Party
Featuring Rogue Valley, Kill The Vultures, The Honeydogs, Mayda, Chastity Brown, and Romantica
The Red Stag Supper Club, Minneapolis
August 5, 2012

The organizers for this year's Red Stag Block Party could not have asked for better weather for their day-long music/food/drink festival on Sunday, and everyone took full advantage of the glorious day by packing the grounds throughout the festivities. The music lineup featured an eclectic mix of talented local bands who all seemed energized by the perfect afternoon and the large turnout, and rose to the occasion by delivering energetic sets that only augmented the open, welcoming vibe of the Block Party itself.

Romantica were the second band on the bill, and got things going strongly in the mid-afternoon sun. The quartet was expanded to include frontman Ben Kyle's sister-in-law Jayanthi on backing vocals, and she added a soulful, spirited undertone to Romantica's more plaintive, countrified Americana numbers. The first three songs in their strong set were all from their 2007 album, America, and they all soared, with "Queen Of Hearts," "I Need You Tonight," and a tender version of "The National Side" (which Kyle said he wrote for his Mom, who was, appropriately enough, an Olympic athlete) all clearly resonated with the growing crowd.

Red Stag Block Party, 8/5/12
Photo By Kyle Matteson

After a couple of odes to overcoming isolation, "Lonely Star," and "Your Lonely Heart," Romatica busted out a brand new track, "Let There Be Mercy," which bassist Tony Zaccardi announced would be part of a long-awaited new album that the band will be celebrating with a CD Release show at the Cedar Cultural Center on September 11. The set closed with a stirring, countrified cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," which brought the performance to an impassioned conclusion.

Red Stag Block Party, 8/5/12
Photo By Kyle Matteson

Chastity Brown followed with a rich, bluesy half-hour set that showcased her burgeoning talent as well as those of her skilled three-piece backing band. Brown's all-too-brief performance drew mainly from her excellent new record, Back-Road Highways, with Chasity switching from acoustic guitar to steel banjo towards the end of the performance. The captivating set became unforgettable during the anthemic, spiritual closing track, "After You," which turned into a lively singalong with the crowd and surely stopped everyone in their tracks as the poignant song truly hit home.

Mayda was next, and she took to the stage sporting a colorful pink wig which gave the start of her set a playful tone. But when she started getting into her music, she lost the wig, joking, "My head fell off. That's OK, it's actually my pet." Backed by only a DJ and a duo of dancers who gave the performance some lively visuals, Mayda delivered a distinctly Prince-like version of "Sylvia" which got the crowd moving along to her sprightly guitar riffs. "Rubies" was another dynamic highlight of the set, and highlighted the boundless charisma of Mayda and the unshakable vibrancy of her songs.

The Honeydogs brought a lively kick (and some truly special guests) to their early evening set, which drew mainly from their excellent 2012 release, What Comes After. And that was just fine for everyone in the swelling crowd, as the title track and "Aubben" both soared towards the fine summer sky. After a rollicking version of "Particles Or Waves," frontman Adam Levy introduced his two daughters, Ester and Ava, to sing backing vocals on the Beatles-esque "Always A Long Time." 

Red Stag Block Party, 8/5/12
Photo By Kyle Matteson

Levy joked about the girls' flourishing musical talents, "I'm about ready to let them start their own band, as long as I can be the Reuben Kincaid," referring to the manager who helped make the Partridge Family famous. After a buoyant rendition of "Better Word," Levy quietly stated, "Here's a song about my son," before leading the band through a tender, Latin-flavored run through of "Truth Serum." The song featured a euphoric, hopeful coda that helped bring a positive finish to a track with decidedly mournful undertones. A boisterous version of "Devil We Do," and a Squeeze-like "Fighting Weight" closed out the Honeydogs' emphatic set, one which left everyone smiling.

 

Kill The Vultures soon followed, and while the stylistic shift in tone, tempo, and technique was a bit  bracing for some members of the audience, frontman Alexei "Crescent Moon" Casselle soon won over the crowd with sheer will and raw talent. Backed by the subtle beats of DJ Anatomy, Casselle launched headfirst into his determined set with "The Vultures," and an urgent, a cappella version of "Death Don't Put Me In The Grave," which started to get the crowd into it.

Red Stag Block Party, 8/5/12
Photo By Kyle Matteson

A fiery run through of "Spare Parts" was followed by a spirited version of "Walk On Water," which Casselle dedicated to his daughter, saying "I don't think I've ever performed this for her before." It was a poignant, inspiring moment, and definitely caught the attention of everyone in the crowd. Casselle brought out John Davis to play baritone sax on an as-yet-unnamed new song, and he brought a rumbling low end to the rousing track. Casselle brought a resounding finish to the Kill The Vultures set by jumping into the crowd during an untamed version of "Moonshine" that was one of the best moments of the day, as Crescent Moon clearly and defiantly won the crowd over at the end.

Red Stag Block Party, 8/5/12
Photo By Kyle Matteson

The mood of the festival once again switched up considerably as the breezy harmonies of Rogue Valley washed over the crowd as the sun finally set. The sextet brought a polished, summery sound to the Block Party, which went over well with the pleasantly-lubricated crowd. The set opened with the blissful bounce of "Rockaway" and "The Color Wheel," which both sounded lush and provided the perfect soundtrack as night settled over the city.

Red Stag Block Party, 8/5/12
Photo By Kyle Matteson

Frontman Chris Koza explained that "Jar Flies" is about summer love, and the shimmering song sounded right at home in the outdoor festival. "Onward And Over" was the stirring highlight of Rogue Valley's set, as the moving, deeply evocative track absolutely soared on the pristine summer evening.

All Tomorrow's Petty brought the night to a fitting end, letting everyone in the crowd sing along to the rousing anthems of Tom Petty, while getting silly along with the band. The Red Stag Block Party brought plenty of diverse, spirited music along with fantastic food and drink options to a engaging crowd who soaked up every last bit of the glorious summertime festival.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I came in knowing I was going to have a good time based on the past Red Stag Block Parties, and I wasn't disappointed in the least.

The Crowd: A large turnout based partly on the great lineup and fine food and drink offerings, but also because of the sublime summer day.

Overheard In The Crowd: "It's like a Ray Ban factory exploded in here."


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