With an oppressive cold snap at full bore, let's shift our focus to summery concerns. Specifically, July 22, 2017, when Grammy-winning indie-folk experimentalist Bon Iver will headline Rock the Garden outside the Walker Art Center's freshly renovated Sculpture Garden.
Next year's edition of the annual Walker/89.3 the Current-organized music fest is threefold significant:
First, it marks a return to the Walker, as last year's sweaty, largely successful event took a construction-related sojourn to the gardenless non-island known as Boom Island Park in Minneapolis. Second, it's a return to the single-day RTG at the Walker format (the '13 and '14 installments were two-day affairs). Finally, it's the feel-good story of a regionally beloved returning champion -- Eau Claire, Wisconsin's Bon Iver performed at the fest back in 2008.
Tuesday's early reveal of the marquee RTG act comes with some strings and/or perks, depending on the status of your Walker and/or Minnesota Public Radio membership. That's because a pre-sale scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday -- just in time for your gift-focused holiday of choice! -- will be exclusive to those tote-bag crowds. Tickets -- $64 general admission; $300 VIP -- can be scooped up here. Expect the rest of the lineup to be unveiled in April.
The Bon Iver myth should be familiar to anyone who's read this far. The group's mastermind, Justin Vernon, found inspiration amid the mononucleosis, heartache, and isolation of his family's Wisconsin cabin a decade ago, resulting in a surprise folky hit, 2007's For Emma, Forever Ago. The ambitious sophomore follow-up, 2011's Bon Iver, Bon Iver, scored a Grammy, and September's fractured, beautiful, and bold 22, A Million is nominated for two of 'em.
Live Bon Iver dates are something of a rarity -- the last Minnesota show came five years ago. Vernon's extracurricular ambitions probably have something to do with that. Outside of side gigs with Volcano Choir, the Shouting Matches, and Kanye West, the principled 35-year-old became a budding boutique hotel magnate and made time to launch a critically lauded music festival in his hometown, the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival.
That latter accomplishment presents an interesting question for next summer. Vernon headlined Eaux Claires for its first two runs, even debuting 22, A Million live from its Chippewa Valley grounds in August. However, the fest, which is located about 1.5 hours east of the Twin Cities, was bumped up to June 16-17 for 2017 -- almost exactly a month ahead of Rock the Garden.
So, will we get back-to-back months of Bon Iver, or will Vernon decide to hand over Eaux Claires headlining duties? That answer is as unknowable as Bon Iver lyrics ... at least for now.