Rock the Garden 2011: Live blogging from the Walker Art Center

Tapes 'n Tapes frontman Josh Grier

Tapes 'n Tapes frontman Josh Grier

Welcome to Rock the Garden 2011! There's a steady rain here right now, and all along the hillside in front of the stage there are brightly colored rain jackets and ponchos as far as the eye can see.

Gimme Noise is set up in back of stage at the press tent where we'll be bringing you live blog updates of all the proceedings after each set, starting with Tapes 'n Tapes at 4:15. The Current also has a live feed of the show for those who can't be here in person today.

[jump] Jill Riley and Steve Seel from the Current's Morning Show just finished doing their introduction and Tapes 'n Tapes are walking on stage. Hang on tight, here we go! 

4:17 Tapes 'n Tapes walk onto stage, they're all looking a little wet (surprise!) but our first thought is: Eric shaved the stache. Oh well. They launch into "Freak Out"... We'll be back when Tapes 'n Tapes are done to give you a breakdown of the show.

4:25 The band just went straight into playing once they came out, but now Josh finally greets the audience. "Thanks for coming out early and in the rain," he says.

4:28 To the most part, the set is relying on songs from The Loon and Outside. The last time any of us at Gimme Noise saw these guys play was when they played our SXSW showcase at Skinny's; since then they've been touring and sound pretty tight today.

Tapes 'n Tapes

Tapes 'n Tapes

4:30 Mini-drum solo!

4:35 Walk It Off got slogged a lot harder than it ought to have, didn't it? At any rate, the songs from that album fit in pretty well live alongside the others.

4:38 The audience seems into things on and off. The doesn't help, but when something comes on from the first album it gets a reaction. How many of the people here do you think got their first real taste of Twin Cities music (particularly rock music) from The Loon? Probably a lot more than you might think.

4:45 Josh talks for the second time. The guy next to me isn't impressed though. "Disappointing banter," he sighs.

4:49 We have a horn section on stage now, courtesy of Chooglin'. They're going to sit on the next couple songs, starting with "One in the World."

4:54 Last song. It's "Insistor." The crowd is finally warming up, singing along to the chorus and pumping their fists.

4:58 TNT just wrapped up their set. Booker T. Jones goes on in about 20 minutes. We'll give you the lowdown on his set in about an hour and a half.

5:12 The rain has finally relented and everyone has a chance to dry out a little bit. David Campbell and Bill DeVille come out onto stage and introduce the next act, Booker T. Jones.

5:15 Jones and his band start things off with a couple songs off his newest album, which he recorded with the Roots. It's all about getting a groove going at this point, and the audience is more than happy to start dancing.

5:25 It's time for "Green Onions," undoubtedly the most famous of all Jones' songs and the best showcase for his organ playing. Where does the set go from here?

5:28 Guitar solo, and the crowd digs it. Something tells me we'll be hearing a lot more from this guy today.

5:30 Jones has worked with an absurd number of people over the years, so he's bound to play some of their songs, right? Right. He plays "Born Under a Bad Sign," which he wrote for Albert King. It's the first song with vocals.

5:40 It's starting to rain again. We might be in this for the long haul now.

The drummer gets a turn at the mike and he raps for a couple verses over "Hip Hugger." "We just playing for the hell of it!"

5:47 Now we have a little Al Green in the mix, "Take Me to the River." Jones steps away from his organ and plays a little rhythm guitar on this one.


The drummer does a little more rapping midway through this one, and asks the crowd to make a little noise. Seems like a strange choice for this song, doesn't it? Oh well, it works well enough.

5:56 The nice thing about all the instrumentals is that it gives Jones more time to smile at the audience. What a guy.

6:00 Time for another song from Jones' days with the MGs, "Time is Tight." After a slow, gospel intro, it's another one of those, "Jeez, he wrote this song too?" moments.

Halfway through Jones says this is last song, which seems a little sudden...

6:08 ...And then he realizes he still has more time, so the band keeps playing.

6:13 They play, among other things, "Hey Yeah," which he introduces as a song he recorded with Neil Young and the Drive By Truckers. The rest of us probably know it from elsewhere.

6:20 Jones wraps his set up with "I've Been Loving You For Too Long," stopping the song at one point to switch once more from organ to guitar for a little extra dramatic effect.

Now it's time to wait for Neko Case, who's set to play in about 25 minutes. Things have been pretty well on time so far, weather be damned!

6:51 Neko Case and her band have just come out on stage. She has a guitarist, a drummer, an upright bassist, and a backup singer with her. And, what do you know, the rain has stopped again. Just in time.

6:58 "Man Eater" time.

7:03 In between this set and the last, we seem to have lost our place in the crowd. From our new vantage point, it's virtually impossible to hear what Case is saying in between songs. Or maybe it's just the mix?

7:05 There's a bit of a delay between songs now as Case grabs a guitar and tunes up. (This happens a couple more times during the show; maybe the set list could have accounted for that a bit better?)

No worries, though, because now they head into "Hold On, Hold On," which mostly makes up for the delay.

7:17 Case keeps apologizing (sarcastically, of course) for being such an "afternoon bummer." Granted, everyone seems to be unwinding a bit, with plenty of people going to get drinks and chatting with their neighbors, but really it's a perfect break in the day before My Morning Jacket. Time for "That Teenage Feeling," as a matter of fact.

7:29 We also hear that there's supposed to be a big finale with some new songs being rolled out, so it'll be worth it stick around regardless.

7:37 Wow, just noticed the totally sweet, huge, white beard on the bassist.

7:40 Things are picking up a little bit now. The bearded bassist grabs a banjo and we have "Star Witness" to enjoy--after Case and her backup singer, Kelly, dance a little bit.

7:43 Maybe it's just me, but it doesn't really matter what the hell Case says in her songs; she's got the kind of voice that makes for a good instrument. Listening to her songs reminds me of an old Emmylou Harris Duets tape my parents used to listened to on long car rides...

7:44 Maybe it's just me, but the drummer looks like the bassist from Pink Mink.

It's just me.

7:49 Whoa, and that's that. Seemed like there was more coming, but that's the end of the show. No big finale either, apparently. Maybe MMJ will start a little early.

8:25 Looking out over the hill, there's a mass of people for about as far as you can see. The place is packed now and everyone's buzzing as we head into the final stretch here at Rock the Garden.

8:29 My Morning Jacket are onstage now and they start things off with a long drone of guitar feedback. Makes sense, yes?

8:32 Still on the first song and Jim James lets out his first howl. A preview of things to come.

8:35 I may be a little late on this one, but yes, the beach balls are out in full force. And an inner tube.

8:42 James sheds his guitar for a song, and it's "Wordless Chorus." They drop the stage lights and, at least from a distance, it looks like James is wearing a cape. The perfect way to bring out the most ghostly qualities in his voice.

8:45 The sun is going down just off stage left. Standing further up the hill, it makes for a pretty scene looking out over all the people. You can still see people standing on their balconies, as well. Best seats in the house?

9:00 James decides to do a little talking. "I went and looked at the cherry sittin' on the spoon this morning," he muses. "You could just look at the thing all day..." Some people start laughing at his drawl; some people are just culturally insensitive.

9:03 Slow things down a little bit? Yes. Get some steel pedal guitar in there? Yes, please.

9:08 James gets a little solo time singing "Wonderful."

9:24 Time to pick things back up again with "I'm Amazed" followed by ""It's All ABout Twilight Now." The guitar solos start coming out, but things aren't sprawling out too much, either.

9:32 Okay, things are sprawling out a bit now...

9:46 James gets rid of the guitar again and sits down with a little keyboard on his lap. The crowd starts cheering.

9:50 Only ten minutes left and James starts saying his than you's. Obviously the finale is coming, so what will it be?

9:51 The answer: "One Big Holiday." Natch.

James starts jumping around stage, the lights are going crazy, and hair is flying everywhere. These guys know how to put on a finale, anyway.

9:56 My Morning Jacket finishes up "One Big Holiday" and there you go. The band heads off stage and music starts playing over the PA, so the crowd makes its way toward the exits. It was a somewhat subdued lineup this year, but we stayed relatively dry given the forecasts.

The Garden has been sufficiently rocked--at least for this year. See you in June 2012!

Slideshow: More photos from Rock the Garden 2011