Rock The Vine 3 at the Saint Croix Vineyards, 6/09/12

Rock The Vine 3
Featuring Halloween, Alaska, Solid Gold, White Light Riot, and Haley Bonar
Saint Croix Vineyards, Stillwater, Minnesota
June 9, 2012

Sometimes, it's just nice to get out of the city. Rock The Vine 3 was set in the picturesque grounds of the Saint Croix Vineyards in Stillwater, and treated music fans to a sun-kissed day filled with good wine, or wine fans to a day filled with good music, depending on which way you looked at it. Either way, it was all for a good cause due to the benevolence of local non-profits Rock The Cause and Compatible Technology International, as Halloween, Alaska, Solid Gold, White Light Riot, Haley Bonar, and Farewell Milwaukee (amongst others) all put on entertaining performances to delight the radiant crowd on a sweltering summer day in Stillwater.

Farewell Milwaukee were just finishing up their well-received early afternoon set as we got settled in, taking a moment to check out the rustic but still regal grounds of the Saint Croix Vineyards. It was a glorious day and setting, with the trees blowing tranquilly in the wind behind the stage, and the vineyards stretching out along the gorgeous St. Croix River valley. It was certainly a change from the dark, dank clubs of the city, and was a sure signal that the outdoor festival season was in full swing.

Haley Bonar was up next, accompanied by Halloween, Alaska's Jacob Hanson on guitar/bass, and Luke Anderson on drums. Bonar's buoyant, summery songs were a perfect fit for the cloudless day, and she treated her fans to a splendid mix material from throughout her career, both old and new. Bonar introduced a lovely version of "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy" by mentioning it was from The Size Of Planets, exclaiming that the record, "came out ten freaking years ago already." She also played a brand new track that she wrote just a few weeks ago, "Bad Reputation," which she performed alone on electric guitar, giving the delicate new number an added punch.

Rock The Vine 3 at the Saint Croix Vineyards, 6/09/12
Photo By Jennifer Thompson

Most of the rest of the set was from Bonar's terrific recent record, Golder, as "Silver Zephyrs," "A Piano," "Raggedy Man," and "Before The Dark" all soared in the sultry summer air, as Haley deftly bounced from acoustic guitar to keys throughout the set. Bonar even endearingly dedicated "Wendy Bird" to her family who were in the crowd. "Candy Machine Gun" brought her engaging set to a strong close, as many of the fans scattered to seek out some shade or more wine (or both).

After a lengthy delay to work out some sound issues, White Light Riot brought a spark to the heated afternoon with a spirited set featuring catchy, electronic-tinged pop rock songs. The band has consistently been big supporters of Rock The Cause, with drummer Mark Schwandt even serving on their Board Of Directors. So the quintet seemed right at home throughout their 40-minute set, which the boys brought to an emphatic close by delivering a spot-on, raucous cover of Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean," whose "Singing in the sunshine" lyrics were more than appropriate for the balmy outdoor afternoon.

Solid Gold attracted the largest audience of the day, and got a good portion of the crowd up off of their lawn chairs, wine crates, and picnic tables in order to dance along to their infectious rhythms. Their 40-minute set started with the dynamic pulse of "Armoured Cars," before they launched into their sprawling, inventive cover of the Beatles "Love You To." Most of the rest of the performance featured the quintet working through some textured, keyboard-driven new songs from their long-awaited forthcoming record. The new tracks were hypnotic and sounded stellar in the outdoor setting as the heat of the day finally broke.

Rock The Vine 3 at the Saint Croix Vineyards, 6/09/12
Photo By Jennifer Thompson

The band dusted off "Bible Thumper" towards the end of the set, and the bass-heavy track really got the crowd up and moving, generating a strong momentum which continued through another new song as well as the vibrant set closer, "Get Over It," which was a rousing way to finish off their performance, and certainly one of the day's many high-points.

Halloween, Alaska closed out the day with a lively set, even though the heat and the wine had clearly taken its toll on some festival-goers. Tapes 'n Tapes drummer Jeremy Hanson filled in admirably for the absent Dave King, and the band didn't miss a beat as it churned through a mercurial version of "Hot Pink" to open a set which mainly focused on material from their expansive recent record, All Night The Calls Came In.

"Dance By Accident" and "Empire Waist" both brought a pop elegance to the proceedings, and wound down the festive day stylishly. All the bands involved (and hopefully everyone in the crowd) realized the good cause they were playing for, and in addition to a day filled with good times, great music, and homegrown Minnesota wine, all of us could feel good about doing our part to better the lives of not only the local youth, but those across the world that need our help as well.

Rock The Vine 3 at the Saint Croix Vineyards, 6/09/12
Photo By Jennifer Thompson

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I was going to have a good time no matter who was playing, but I was really excited to see Solid Gold play live again. It had been a while.

The Crowd: Estimates of 1200 attendees throughout the day are circulating from the Rock The Cause folks, with upwards of $20,000 raised. Great work to all of those involved, and everyone who came out.

Overheard In The Crowd: "Wait, what's the cause again?"

Random Notebook Dump: A slip 'n slide was set up to ward off the heat, but I wisely steered clear of any of that shenanigans. Also, the wine on offer from Saint Croix Vineyards is actually quite tasty, especially the chilled Summer Red. Kudos to those good people making locally grown wine available in Minnesota.

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